One of the United States’ most scenic road trips is one through the Florida Keys and Key West. This incredible island chain in southwestern Florida is 161 kilometers long, and is connected by one road. This road is the Overseas Highway, and was once historic Overseas Railroad.
Henry Flagler was born in 1830, and became a principal in Rockefeller, Andrews and Flagler, a petroleum refiner company, and the largest in the United States at the time. Later, Flagler became the founder of Standard Oil.
Henry Flagler became a resort developer and builder once he returned to Florida in 1881. He helped develop many cities on Florida’s east coast, starting with St. Augustine. Henry Flagler moved his way south with development, helping develop Ormond Beach, Daytona Beach, Palm Beach, and was once known as the “father of Miami”.
In 1901, Flagler’s railroad development had made its way from St. Augustine to Homestead, which is south of Miami. In 1905 Henry Flagler became determined to link the Florida Keys to the rest of the state. Many hardships, including three hurricanes threatened Flagler’s overseas railroad. However despite the difficulties, the railroad connecting all the way to Key West was finally completed in 1912.
Unfortunately in 1935, the “Labor Day hurricane”, a category 5 hurricane, the overseas railroad was heavily devastated and damaged. Over 64 km of railroad track was washed away and the already bankrupt railroad was unable to be rebuilt, however many of the remaining railways were used to build the Overseas Highway (US-1), which is the road used today.
Are you planning a trip to Key West? Key West offers no shortage of beautiful scenery, clear blue water, fishing, boating, dining, shopping, and sunbathing. Here are the 10 best things to do in Key West Florida!
1. Southernmost Point of the Continental US
The southernmost point in the United States in here in Key West! Sitting only 18 feet above sea level, the southernmost point buoy is a tourist attraction featuring a large concrete painted buoy. The distance to Cuba from the southernmost point is approximately only 90 miles.
The southernmost point in Key West is a fun tourist attraction, and one of the most photographed and visited attractions in the United States. The concrete buoy withstood many hurricanes, and only had the paint job damaged once from hurricane Irma in 2017.
2. Smathers Beach
Smathers beach is Key West’s largest public beach, located on the southern side of Key West and sprawling approximately half a mile long. It is a picturesque beach with white sand, beautiful palm trees and clear, calm blue water. It is post card worthy scenery from every angle.
Smathers beach includes many amenities such as showers, restrooms, beach chairs, and volleyball courts.
3. Mallory Square
Key West has a large waterfront square that is known for nightly festivals and sunset watching it’s called Mallory Square. Mallory Square hosts sunset celebrations featuring live music and entertainment. This celebration has captured the hearts of many throughout the years, including Mark Twain in the 1800s.
There are over 30 shops to explore in Mallory Square; no matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find it here. You’ll find jewelry, apparel, tropical swimwear, and even key lime!
If you’re hungry, look no further because Mallory Square offers restaurants galore: seafood, Cuban, and Caribbean flavors as well as desserts and beverages.
4. Fort Zachary Taylor State Beach Park
The Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Beach Park is a wonderful way to unwind and enjoy a day at Key West. This awesome state park offers hiking, trails, beaches, cafe, and amenities such as restrooms and shower facilities. People come here for the birdwatching, biking, and fishing.
Bring your snorkeling gear and jump into the very comfortable, clear blue water! The water is perfect for snorkeling and swimming. Pack a picnic and eat lunch at one of the picnic tables in the park, or grab a delicious cheeseburger or Caesar chicken wrap at the cafe.
5. Key West Butterfly and Nature Preserve
Visit Key West’s butterfly and nature preserve, and set your sights on a magical environment with butterflies and exotic birds galore! With 60 different butterfly species and 20 bird species, taking a stroll through this glass enclosed environment is a relaxing and amazing experience.
6. Glass Bottom Boat Tour
Take a tour on a glass bottom boat, and experience North America’s only living coral reef, all while staying dry! With an air conditioned cabin, and a glass window on the bottom of the boat that is viewable by all passengers, this ride will be unforgettable. Prepare to see colorful exotic fish, sea turtles, rays, and coral!
7. Latitudes Restaurant
Latitudes is a piece of paradise on Key West’s Sunset Key. It has been voted as one of the most romantic, scenic, and overall best restaurants in the state of Florida. Located at Sunset Key Cottages Resort, this lovely restaurant features breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a pool bar. Enjoy fresh seafood while lounging on the waterfront.
8. Key West Sunset Snorkel Sail
For $49 per adult, you can relax, enjoy live music and tasty appetizers and beverages while sailing into the sunset..literally! This sunset sail takes passengers to Key West’s best coral reef location, allowing you to experience amazing snorkeling.
The 3- hour sailing experience will be unforgettable as you watch the legendary Key West sunset on the water. Did I mention that there’s an open well bar?!
9. Dry Tortugas National Park
Dry Tortugas lies about 70 miles west of Key West. It is a remote 100-mile national park that consists of mostly open water, and contains 7 small islands. The park is only accessible via seaplane or boat, but is a must see when visiting Key West!
In 1513 Ponce de Leon discovered the dry Tortugas. He named the national park Tortugas as he caught 100 sea turtles there. In the 1600s, pirates used these islands as a base!
10. Key West Dolphin Watch Cruise
Book a special sunset dolphin watching cruise and watch the bottlenose dolphins swim in their habitat! The shallow reefs of Key West offer glimpses of colorful fish, rays, and coral while you snorkel. Experts guide the tour, and the trip includes professional snorkel gear. Watch the world-famous Key West sunset as you look out onto the clear blue water!