My family recently took a trip to the Florida Keys to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. We had originally wanted to go to the Caribbean, but the flights doubled overnight and it was just too expensive. Florida was our compromise of going somewhere warm and tropical without leaving the country… and it didn’t disappoint! We stayed at the amazing Hawks Cay, which just underwent a full renovation after the hurricane and is now open for business.
Here is a round-up of the top ten best attractions and activities to do with kids on the Florida Keys.
1. Mile Marker 88
This was hands-down everyone’s favorite part of the whole trip. This dreamy crescent shape beach has palm trees leaning over it so there is just enough shade if you want it. The water was like being in a bathtub. There weren’t any waves, so it was really safe for the little ones. We rented a paddle board and just cruised around for hours.
There is a restaurant and outdoor bar where you can order food and drinks to bring over to your lounge chairs (which you have to rent). Apparently it can get crowded but there was only one other family on the beach. We went for happy hour and didn’t leave until well beyond the sunset because we were just so content.
As we were all in the water, the sun started to set. It was a huge Florida sunset where the sun looks enormous and the sky is every shade of pink. A hush came over the crowd as everyone turned to watch the sun slowly slip away. I have never seen my 5 year old rendered speechless by anything. It truly gave me the chills it was so beautiful.
2. Feeding the Tarpon at Robbie’s
This was a great place to have lunch and hang out. The atmosphere is super laid back. The deck is on the water and there are sail shades to keep the sun off of you. There are little shops to buy souvenirs and shaved ice for dessert. But the real draw of Robbie’s is feeding the tarpon.
These fish are HUGE. You can buy a bucket of fish and see how brave you are dangling one over the wharf.
The fish jump straight out of the air and grab them out of your hand. I finally gathered the strength to try it and just as I did, a pelican came from under the wharf and grabbed it. I think it took 10 years off of my life.
3. The Sea Turtle Hospital
The turtle hospital was a favorite of mine. This fully functioning veterinary hospital cares for sick and injured sea turtles. We took a guided tour of the facility and saw the turtles undergoing rehabilitation in the hopes that they will one day be released back to the wild. At the end of our tour, we were given an opportunity to feed their permanent residents.
You can’t just walk around on your own- you must join a guided tour. Tours last 90 minutes and since space is limited, they suggest calling ahead to make a reservation.
4. Day trips to Key West
We made two day trips to Key West. There is so much to do there, I will write it up as a separate post. Many people just picture spring breakers on drinking on Duval Street, but there are many family friendly attractions there.
5. Go on a Key Deer Safari
These tiny deer are only found in the Keys. They are endangered and very well protected. Be observant and obey speed limits. You may see them by the roadside, but there are a few areas you can drive to that you are pretty certain to see them (see map below). They may even approach you but don’t feed them as it will only put them in danger.
6. Glass Bottom Boat Tour at John Pennenkamp State Park
This is a beautiful state park. There is a nice beach with a playground kids will like. The glass bottom boat tours are really fun and a great way for kids to get an underwater look if they are too young to snorkel.
7. The Dolphin Research Center
This is the only place you should visit dolphins on the Keys. The other places just do flippy shows for entertainment. This facility allows you to watch training sessions in a more respectful way. You can pay more to participate or even paint with a dolphin.
8. Dry Tortugas
This small group of islands are located 67 miles west of Key West. It is accessible via a high speed ferry that leaves from Key West. The Yankee Freedom III takes one trip a day to the island. Check-in time is 7 AM and arrives at the island at 10:15. It departs at 3:00 and arrives back at Key West at 5:15 PM. You will dock at Fort Jefferson, which was used as a prison during the Civil War. There are no facilities on the island, but the ferry will stay with you so you can use the bathrooms and they will provide lunch. If that is not enough time, you can arrange to camp overnight.
9. Watch the sunset at Sunset Grille & Raw Bar
Sunset Grille hosts a poolside BBQ every weekend starting at 1:00. It’s a great place to sit and watch the sunset over the famous seven mile bridge. Sit back and listen to the live music or join in a corn hole tournament. Finish off your night with a slice of homemade key lime pie.
10. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm
This Children’s Animal Farm is located on the grounds of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office Stock Island Detention Center. It is a very unique place where the inmates care for animals that have been abused or abandoned, creating a therapeutic environment for both.
The animal farm began in 1994 when the jail rescued a group of ducks. Word got out that they were taking in animals and before they knew it, they had rescued 150 homeless animals in their care.
The farm is open free of charge on the second and fourth Sunday of each month from 1-3:00 PM.
I hope you found this list of the top 10 activities in the Florida Keys helpful. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below.
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