17 unmissable things to do in the Florida Keys with kids

Last updated on May 13, 2024

Shipwreck Museum Key West.

The archipelago of the Florida Keys is one of the most unique places we’ve visited in the USA – a land of turquoise waters, tropical vibes and a laid-back island pace of life that makes for a lush vacation. We had a gorgeous few days, relaxing into our first taste of Florida and the start of our bigger trip. I really couldn’t recommend a Florida Keys family vacation more.

While renowned for romantic retreats and the lively nightlife of Key West, the islands are a playground for all ages, and there’s plenty to do in the Florida Keys with kids. From water adventures to wildlife centers and kid-friendly museums, you could easily fill up your days with activities. But island life also calls for relaxation, so make sure to save some time to do just that, enjoying the beaches and the Florida Keys’ many family resorts.

Here’s our guide to the best things to do in the Florida Keys with kids. And we also have a guide to the best family resorts in the Florida Keys.

Also see our Florida Keys road trip itinerary, which has tips for kids and adults alike. And if you’re heading to Miami, see our guide to the best things to do in Miami with kids, and the best Miami

Things to do in the Florida Keys with kids

Eat Key Lime Pie!

Have you even been to the Keys if you haven’t tried some key lime pie? This was top of my list of things to do (of course!) and the kids were onboard too (also, of course!).

There are loads of places to try the iconic pie, and everyone has an opinion on the best. We went for Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shop, and the Key Lime Pie Factory, and both were excellent. Although, those are definitely pretty touristy, so I think there will be some smaller gems to be found. For example, our hotel, Baker’s Cay, had an elevated key lime creation that I wish I’d tasted (I was just too full!).

Plus there are also loads of other key lime flavour creations to try around the islands, from donuts to muffins to ice lollies. I tried a chocolate key lime muffin, which I didn’t love, but others say it’s the best. Each to their own, innit.

Feed huge tarpon fish at Robbie’s of Islamadora

Anyone who knows me and is aware of my fear of fish will know this was not high on my list of things to do. So of course I nominated Steve – and watched from a safe distance. Of course, not everyone has my fear, and feeding the massive tarpon fish at Robbie’s of Islamadora is one of the most popular family attractions in the Florida Keys. 

Visitors buy a bucket of fish and then feed the fish from the dock – there are nets so you’re fairly safe from falling in! To be honest the biggest threat are the massive pelicans that try to steal the fish from the buckets (we saw this happen a lot!)

Robbie’s is also a hub for boat trips, and has restaurants and gift stalls too. The whole place has a kitsch maritime theme with dollars bills lining the ceiling – it’s quintessential Keys style.

Visit the turtle hospital

Visiting the turtle hospital was one of our highlights from the Florida Keys. The conservation center and hospital takes care of rescued turtles and visitors can go behind the scenes to see the turtles and learn about how they’re cared for. 

It’s a great educational experience, teaching kids about the different species of turtles, the dangers they face and what can be done to protect them. 

The tour is about an hour, which might be a bit of a stretch for younger kids (we had to dip out early because our kids were getting restless – but even doing part of the tour is worth it). Be warned, lots of the tour is outside and the sun can be intense, so make sure you’re well protected. 

Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

We loved exploring the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory where you can walk through a beautiful glasshouse, filled with bright butterflies and even a few flamingos. It was really busy the day we visited, which somewhat hampered the peace, but it was still worth visiting. There’s a little butterfly exhibition at the beginning, which the kids (and I) loved. 

Ride the conch train in Key West

A fun way for families to explore Key West is via the conch train, a cute vintage railcar that does a guided tour of the town. Adults and older kids can learn about Key West’s colorful history while little ones are entertained by the ride and the chance to ring the bell.

The Key West trolley tour is another good option. Both stop at points along the way like the Southernmost Point, Hemmingway House and Mallory Square.

Celebrate sunset at Mallory Square

Every day a crowd gathers at Mallory Square to toast the sunset – it’s a tradition I’m fully onboard with and we all enjoyed the atmosphere and communal nature appreciation. It can get pretty packed, so arrive early for a prime position. There are lots of stalls selling gifts and drinks, but not so much food, so might be best done as a pre-dinner stop. 

Explore the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Dive or snorkel into an underwater wonderland at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the USA’s only barrier reef. While the reef isn’t as colourful as it used to be, this is still a world worth exploring. There are loads of guided snorkelling tours to choose from, but our kids can’t swim yet, so we opted out. 

An option for non-swimmers to explore the reef is a glass bottom boat tour, which lasts around two hours. You can do one of these tours from Robbie’s.

Key West Aquarium

Key West Aquarium.

The Key West Aquarium is small, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most popular Florida Keys family attractions. See fish, sharks, stingrays and alligators. And even have the chance to interact with sea life, like conchs, starfish and stingrays. It’s right next to Mallory Square.

Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters 

In Marathon at the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, you can get up close and personal with a variety of sea life. Keep it simple at the touch tanks, or don your dive gear and swim with stingrays or in a coral reef.

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Hemmingway House.

Ernest Hemmingway lived and wrote in Key West for over a decade and you can explore his historic residence, seeing personal artefacts and furnishings. While it might be a little boring for younger kids, especially a guided tour, there’s a collection of polydactyl cats that might keep them entertained.

Key West Shipwreck Museum

Shipwreck Museum Key West.

Here’s an easy cultural sell for kids – a museum all about shipwrecks and pirates! It’s a fun place to learn about the Key’s maritime past with costumed staff who tell stories of adventure. A highlight is the chance to salvage your own treasure from a simulated shipwreck. And it also has great views of the harbour.

Spend time at the beach

Beach at Bakers Cay Resort, Key Largo.

To my mind, beach time is an essential part of a Florida Keys family vacation. The Key’s beaches sometimes get a bad rap for not being as big or powder soft as the likes of Miami and Clearwater, but they’re still beautiful (albeit sometimes pebbly – the Keys are coral islands after all). 

Some of the most popular beaches for families in the Florida Keys are: Sombrero Beach in Marathon; Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key; Anne’s Beach in Islamorada; Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach in Key West, and Harry Harris Park in Tavernier. I also loved simply hanging out at the resort beach at Baker’s Cay.

Take a boat trip

Unsurprisingly, one of the most popular things to do in the Florida Keys with kids (or without) is getting out on the water by boat. There are so many boating adventures to choose from, including catamaran cruises where kids can help steer the ship, to dolphin watching trips and sunset sails. See a few popular options from Get Your Guide below.

One of the best sounding trips that we didn’t have time to do is a dolphin spotting tour with Honest Eco.

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Do a ghost tour in Key West

Ghost tour Key West.

Older kids will enjoy Key West’s ghost tour where you ride on a trolley and hear spine-tingling stories of the island’s haunted history. Hear about ghostly apparitions and unexplained phenomena that add to the town’s intrigue.

Visit the Southernmost Point of the Continental US

The USA’s most southernmost point has an iconic buoy where crowds queue to take a photo. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but it’s a classic photo opportunity and easy to visit as part of a journey around Key West. We popped by after visiting the butterflies, but decided not to join the massive line and took a photo from afar instead (see above!).

Visit Dry Tortugas National Park

Accessible only by seaplane or boat, Dry Tortugas National Park is 70 miles west of Key West. Visit the historic Fort Jefferson and enjoy the sandy beaches and pristine waters on the islands. Guided trips usually involve a tour of the fort and opportunities for exploring the island and snorkelling.

Florida Keys Wild Bird Center

Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center.

Learn about Florida’s native bird species at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, a sanctuary dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured and orphaned birds. Located in Tavernier, this non-profit organization has expansive aviaries and nature trails, offering encounters with a variety of different birds.

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Creative family travel guides

We don’t think you have to sacrifice creativity and style when travelling with kids. Browse our guides for creative family travel around the world. We also have a whole section on cool places to stay with kids in destinations worldwide.

Family travel tips: Tips for travelling with a baby | Baby packing list | Flying with a baby survival guide | Where to stay with a baby | Ultimate guide to Home Exchange | Bucket list family vacation ideas

UKBirmingham with kids | Bristol with kids | Cornwall with kids |London with toddlers Edinburgh with kids | Manchester with kids UK family Christmas trips

Europe: Barcelona with kids Barcelona with a baby | Majorca (Puerto Pollensa) family holiday | Croatia (Sibenik) family holiday

USA: Boston with kids | California with kids | Charleston with kids | Chicago with kids | Florida with kids | Florida Keys with kids | Hawaii with kids |  Los Angeles with kids | Miami with kids | New York with a baby | Orlando with kidsPortland with kids | Sacramento with kids | San Diego with kids | San Francisco with kids | Savannah with kids | Tuolumne County with kids

Asia: Koh Lanta with kids | Phuket with kids | Thailand family holidays

Family road trip itineraries: Boston to Maine |California road trip |Florida Keys road trip |New England road tripPacific Coast Highway road trip | San Francisco to Seattle road trip Southern USA road trip | Portugal road trip

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