A drive through the Florida Keys, a chain of islands connected by a series of 42 bridges south of Miami, offers a wealth of ocean scenery, quirky roadside attractions, and countless eateries serving up fresh seafood.
The region is often considered the sport-fishing capital of the world, and marlin, mahi-mahi, and tuna are so prevalent that many dining establishments will cook up freshly caught fish that you reeled in yourself. Top it all off with zesty key lime pie, which you can find in traditional slice form, as well as deep-fried, frozen, or covered in chocolate, and you’re in for a feast for the senses in this subtropical paradise.
Florida Keys is the perfect warm-weather spot for families to enjoy in any season. Here are a few essential places you won’t want to miss on your next road trip.
Related: Top 10 things to do in Florida
1. Rain Barrel Artisan Village
The Florida Keys has no shortage of fun roadside stops. From an underwater hotel to an imposing sponge man, giant wooden mermaid, and more, the quirky stops along this 125-mile drive make roadtripping through the Keys an interesting ride. On your way through Islamorada, you’re sure to spot Big Betsy, a 30-foot-tall lobster sculpture. Be sure to get a photo and check out the Rain Barrel Artisan Village located directly behind the larger-than-life crustacean. Here your family can shop for local art, handmade crafts, and souvenirs in a tropical garden oasis setting.
2. Florida Keys Brewing Company
A brewery may seem like an unlikely spot to linger on a kid-friendly vacation, but the Florida Keys Brewing Company offers fun for all ages. While grown-ups sip craft beers in the scenic beer garden with live music, younger visitors can hula hoop or play a game of giant Jenga and corn hole. The onsite taco truck, Tacos Jalisco, serves up some of the highest-rated eats in the area. Dogs are also welcome, making it an ideal destination for your family to enjoy together.
3. Robbie’s Marina
Robbie’s Marina offers parasailing, fishing, and snorkeling excursions, along with waterfront dining, shopping, and sunset cruises. But for many, the main draw is the tarpon; these “Silver Kings” can weigh up to 280 pounds, making them a true sight to behold. For a small fee, visitors can feed the enormous fish that jump from the water to snatch baitfish from your hands (if the resident pelicans don’t steal them first), offering an inexpensive thrill for all ages.
4. Bahia Honda State Park
Despite offering epic views of crystal blue waters as far as the eye can see, the Keys have surprisingly few beaches. Those looking to dig their toes in the sand can do so at Bahia Honda State Park: Bask on palm-lined beaches, kayak in crystal-clear waves, and snorkel among tropical fish. Boat excursions and camping spots are also available, although for RVers, the park’s precious few waterfront RV spaces are notoriously hard to come by due to their immense popularity.
5. Blue Hole
As you drive through Big Pine Key you’re sure to notice a drop in the speed limit; this is Key deer territory, an endangered species only found in the Florida Keys. Big Pine Key is home to the National Key Deer Refuge, where you can learn more about these small, white-tailed residents. But the best place to spot Key deer in the wild, along with some of the many alligators that also reside in the area, is the Blue Hole, a cenote-like pond and the largest body of freshwater in the Florida Keys.
6. Fort East Martello Museum
In Key West you’ll find numerous museums, including several dedicated to the region’s maritime past. But only one museum is home to Robert, a haunted doll. If your family enjoys a bit of supernatural and spooky fun, then Fort East Martello Museum is the perfect place to explore this local legend and see the infamous toy firsthand. This former battlement-turned-museum also contains a collection of relics from the Civil War, as well as artifacts that help to educate visitors about the wrecking and cigar-manufacturing industries that helped shape the Florida Keys.
Related: African refugees are memorialized outside of a Civil War fort in Key West
7. Mallory Square
The phrase “See you at sunset!” has long embodied the spirit and history of Key West, thanks to the beloved nightly Key West Sunset Celebration. Locals and tourists gather in Mallory Square, “where the sun sets, and the fun begins,” to watch the sun dip below the horizon and into the Gulf of Mexico. The celebration plays host to magicians, comedians, jugglers, psychics, musicians, artists, and food vendors who come together to offer an unforgettable experience for the whole family.
8. Dry Tortugas National Park
In terms of accessibility, Dry Tortugas National Park isn’t the easiest national park to stumble upon. A trip to this 100-square-mile park requires a journey on one of the ferries or seaplanes that make the nearly 70-mile trek over open water to Fort Jefferson. The 19th-century fort is just one sight to explore in the park, which spans seven small islands surrounded by breathtakingly blue waters teeming with coral reefs and marine life. Snorkeling is the star attraction of this picturesque remote destination, although bird watchers will also find plenty to see above the water.
Related: Visiting Florida’s national parks and forests by RV
9. Southernmost Point Buoy (90 Miles to Cuba)
No trip to Key West is complete without a photo op at one of the most-visited attractions in the U.S., the Southernmost Point Buoy. The concrete structure marks the lowest latitude land in the contiguous U.S., and signifies its location, 90 miles away from Cuba. Yes, it’s a popular tourist spot, but it’s worth adding a photo to your family scrapbook.
10. Boyd’s Key West Campground
If you’re traveling by RV, or prefer to save money on accommodations, you’ll find no better place to settle in for the evening than Boyd’s Key West Campground. Boyd’s, the closest RV park to Key West, is also the southernmost campground in the U.S., offering tropical waterfront camping and boating access to both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Onsite amenities include a food truck, heated pool, kid-friendly game room, boat ramp, and more.