Island sanctuaries teeming with wildlife, crystal-clear waters ripe for snorkeling, and a collection of unique museums make the Florida Keys a sought-after vacation destination. When vacationers aren’t laying on the beach in front of their Florida Keys vacation rentals, they have plenty of attractions and activities to enjoy, from adventurous kayaking excursions through mangroves forests to visiting rehabilitation centers for sea turtles and rare seabirds. Here are 10 must-do activities for your next trip to Florida’s wild islands.
1. Spot Dolphins and Snorkel with a Dolphin Watch Tour
Shoving off from the Historic Seaport in Old Town Key West, Dolphin Watch offers exciting catamaran tours for the whole family. The knowledgeable captains locate pods of dolphins so travelers can enjoy a close-up encounter, and you have a chance to snorkel in the calmer areas and see tropical fish, sea turtles, eels, and more amidst the crystal clear waters of the Keys.
2. Visit the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
This favorite attraction in Key West features an enclosed forest environment where you can stroll through the natural habitats of hundreds of fluttering butterflies as well as flamingos, turtles, and songbirds. The colorful collection includes 50 to 60 butterfly species from all over the world as well as 20 bird species, and the learning center lets visitors see developing caterpillars up close.
3. Stop By the Turtle Hospital
For a personal encounter with the sea turtles you see from your Florida Keys vacation home, plan a visit to this rehabilitation center for injured sea turtles. Families can view turtles undergoing treatment, learn about the center’s important operations, and even feed one of the endangered reptiles. You can even view the Turtle Hospital ambulance that staff members use to rescue injured sea turtles.
4. Kayak Through the Mangroves
With a with mangrove eco-tour with Lazy Dog Adventures in Key West, you can meander through the unique ecosystem by kayak on a 2-hour excursion that’s suitable for vacationers of all ages. Keep an eye out for jellyfish, bright-colored sea stars, sea cucumbers, and various species of seabirds during your laid-back adventure.
5. Visit the Hemingway Home and Museum
A short trip from your vacation home brings you to one of Key West’s most famous attractions. The tropical home of the famous author includes antique furniture, animal trophies, and other artifacts detailing the life and works of Hemingway, and the guided tours that leave every 15 minutes to deliver a fascinating half-hour journey through the home. Be sure to stop to pet some of Papa Hemingway’s six-toed cats that roam the premises.
6. Swim With Dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center
This research center promotes the study of and peaceful coexistence with dolphins, and visitors can stop by during the day to meet some of the residents. This attraction also offers a number of dolphin encounter programs during which families can swim with, pet, play ball with, or even paint with the resident dolphins. Kids can also become a dolphin researcher for a day or learn how to train dolphins with one of the more immersive dolphin programs.
7. Explore the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center
Stop here to meet a wide variety of rescued owls, parrots, hawks, and sea birds enclosed in a natural habitat. Visitors can see specimens that are unable to return to the wild as well as those soon to be released, and the marsh boardwalk on the grounds provides a great view of local sea birds. You might even catch the feeding of the pelicans and cormorants in the aquatic area.
8. Visit the History of Diving Museum
Whether or not you get a chance to go diving during your stay at your Florida Keys vacation rental, this local attraction in Islamorada is well worth a visit. The museum documents humankind’s journey underwater and includes old diving helmets, photos and various other artifacts collected from 30 countries over more than 40 years. Kids can even take a look at the museum’s live aquarium from inside a diving helmet. Be sure to check out the Treasure Room to see a silver bar, a chest, and other sunken treasures collected by famed treasure hunter Art McKee.
9. Check Out Harry S. Truman’s Little White House
Explore the winter home of vacationing President Truman that features photos, furnishings, trip logs, and other memorabilia. The home inhabits a refurbished naval station from 1890, and a 19th-century wrought-iron fence surrounds the ground. After enjoying a 45-minute tour of the home and the president’s personal quarters, explore more than an acre of botanical gardens landscaped with tropical plants. A few favorites along the tour include the president’s work desk, Truman’s custom poker table, and the 1950-era dining room.
10. Sail Into the Sunset With Danger Charters
After enjoying a day of visiting fun-filled Florida Keys attractions or just relaxing at your vacation home, end the day right with a sunset cruise from Danger Charters. Head over to Margaritaville Resort and Marina in Key West to shove off on a shallow-draft schooner, beginning your relaxing two-hour sunset cruise on the warm Atlantic waters. The cruise also includes a tasting of eight varieties of wine and a cheese buffet, but water and soft drinks are also available. Choose a clear day for your best chance of seeing a bright, colorful sunset.
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