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Destinations Within Florida

Florida Trip Itineraries

Florida Keys for First-Timers

Destination(s): Key West

Visitors are drawn to the Florida Keys to experience the island chain’s priceless natural resources to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul, and the Keys have celebrated a heritage of conservation - but let;s face it: it's a great place to dip your toes in the water and just have some fun. What other islands can your drive to?

You'll find kayaking and paddle surfing, kiteboarding, diving & snorkeling, unique museums, crazy street performers, and at night, comfy accommodations - everything from high end resorts to the smallest and most intimate of bed and breakfasts.

The islands' fishing, diving, arts and culture, history, nightlife and award-winning seafood and ethnic restaurants draw visitors back again and again, because after their first visit they catch the "Keys disease" that just won't go away. Like a strange rash.

This first-timer itinerary offers the must-sees. Rental car is convenient, if you intend to see the entire island chain - very easy and attainable to do within a single vacation.
Once you get to Key West though, park the car, rent a bicycle and get around the island easier. Even the pedi-cabs are more fun. Parking is at a premium (and small streets get clogged quickly) on the southernmost island, which lends to a very pedestrian community. The airport in Key West is only minutes away from anywhere, so you can lounge until the last precious minutes of your stay! read more about Florida Keys for First-Timers

Pigeon Key

Pigeon Key

  • Pigeon Key Foundation
  • P.O Box 500130
  • tel:+1 305 289 0025
  • Visit website
  • Marathon, 33050

Pigeon Key is a timeless, tiny island that played a tremendous role in the Florida Keys of today. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this five-acre property served as a home base for railroad workers erecting and later operating the final installment of Henry M. Flagler's Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway: the Old Seven-Mile Bridge. Pigeon Key is reached either by foot or ferry service. Vehicles are now prohibited from driving over the old Seven Mile Bridge, so walkers revel in the 2-plus mile scenic walk to the island. The Pigeon Key Visitor Center and Gift Shop is still located on Knight's Key, mile marker 47 oceanside. Admission to the island costs about $11 per adult and proceeds benefit the Pigeon Key Foundation and its preservation and restoration efforts. It is absolutely worth the boat ride over, and is ideal for outstanding photos of the Keys. read more about Pigeon Key

Looe Key Tiki Bar

Looe Key Tiki Bar

  • 27340 Overseas Highway , Ramrod Key
  • tel:305 872-2215
  • Visit website
  • Little Torch Key, 33042
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

  • Mile Marker 102.5
  • Overseas Highway
  • tel:+1 305 451 6300
  • Visit website
  • Key Largo, 33037

Kudos to the late "Miami Herald" editor John Pennekamp for helping to create the first undersea park in the United States. Key Largo's John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, established by the state legislature in 1961 to protect the miracle of America's only living coral reef, allows access to abundant underwater wildlife, large brain, staghorn and elkhorn coral formations and a four-foot barracuda who likes to be photographed. Only a 90-minute drive from Miami, Pennekamp is incorporated in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, a 2,800 square nautical mile span of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamp on both sides of the Keys island chain, Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. One of the park's most popular dive sites is the nine-foot bronze statue of Jesus Christ that rests in 20 feet of water. The statue is a replica of the "Christ of the Abyss" statue in the Mediterranean Sea and was donated to the Underwater Society of America in 1961 by industrialist Egidi Cressi. Underwater enthusiasts can take a reef adventure on a glass bottom boat, snorkeling or scuba diving. If you're not into the underwater scene, John Pennekamp offers two manmade beaches, canoe, kayak and boat rentals and nature trails, as well as 47 campsites, all with electrical hookups and water. read more about John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Curry Hammock State Park

Curry Hammock State Park

  • 56200 Overseas Highway
  • tel:+1 305 289 2690
  • Visit website
  • Marathon, 33050

At MM 56 Oceanside in Marathon is the unspoiled, uncrowded Curry Hammock State Park, with beach and picnic facilities. It is an uncrowded oceanfront preserve, with outstanding beach and recreational facilities, kayak launch site, and just an idyllic spot. Curry Hammock is fast becoming a site for launching kiteboards, a sport that is gaining momentum in the Keys, especially in Marathon and Islamorada. A small RV park has been built at Curry Hammock, with approx. two dozen sites, but the RV area's private beach is unrivaled. Quiet, quiet, quiet. And close to any and all day trips throughout the islands. Curry Hammock is still an unspoiled gem in the Middle Keys. read more about Curry Hammock State Park

Santiago's Bodega

Santiago's Bodega

  • 207 Petronia Street
  • tel:305 296 7691
  • Visit website
  • Key West, 33040
Virgilio's

Virgilio's

  • 524 Duval Street
  • Applerouth Lane
  • tel:305 296 8118
  • Visit website
  • Key West, 33040
Indian Key State Historic Site

Indian Key State Historic Site

  • Mile Marker 78.5
  • tel:+1 305 664 2540
  • Visit website
  • Islamorada, 33036
Theater of the Sea

Theater of the Sea

  • 84721 Overseas Highway
  • tel:+1 305 664 2431
  • Visit website
  • Islamorada, 33036

Theatre of the Sea, located at 84721 Overseas Highway (MM 84.5) in Islamorada, offers a sit-down parrot show that is surprisingly entertaining and hilarious to watch parrots playing with shapes, ringing bells, playing poker and taking part in guessing games. This is an educational and entertaining marine-animal park and shows are up-close and personal, and is the second oldest park of its kind in the world; the animals live there in natural saltwater lagoons, such as Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, California sea lions, sea turtles, tropical and game fish, sharks, stingrays, crocodiles, alligators, marine invertebrates and birds of prey. While some of the animals were collected and others were born at Theatre of the Sea, many cannot be released because of prolonged contact with humans and/or injuries sustained in the wild. This is hugely important during hurricane season when the animals need to be moved or secured. The care and maintenance of the animals is supported by patrons' donations. Theater of the Sea is open 365 days a year, with tickets available from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. This is the place that pleases everyone in the family! read more about Theater of the Sea

No Name Pub

No Name Pub

  • North Watson Boulevard
  • 1 1/2 mile north of U.S 1
  • tel:305 872 9115
  • Visit website
  • Big Pine Key, 33043
Red Barn Theater

Red Barn Theater

  • 319 Duval Street
  • Rear
  • tel:305 296 9911
  • Visit website
  • Key West, 33040
Robbie's Marina

Robbie's Marina

  • 77-5 Overseas Highway
  • tel:+1 305 664 9814
  • Visit website
  • Islamorada, 33036
La Trattoria Italian Restaurant

La Trattoria Italian Restaurant

  • 524 Duval Street
  • tel:305 296 1075
  • Visit website
  • Key West, 33040
Dockside Lounge

Dockside Lounge

  • 35 Sombrero Boulevard
  • Bayside
  • tel:305 743 0000
  • Visit website
  • Marathon, 33037
National Key Deer Refuge

National Key Deer Refuge

  • 28950 Watson Boulevard
  • Big Pine Key Plaza
  • tel:+1 305 872 2239
  • Visit website
  • Big Pine Key, 33043

The National Key Deer Refuge consists of approximately 9,200 acres of land that includes mangrove forests, freshwater and salt marsh wetlands, pine rockland forests and tropical hardwood hammocks, as well as more than 75,000 acres of state waters co-managed to support refuge objectives. Shallow nearshore waters are included as well. These native habitats sustain the tiny Key deer, a subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer, and 21 other threatened and endangered plant and animal species. Since the refuge was established, the Key deer, once nearing extinction because of over-hunting and habitat loss, has rebounded to a healthy population of between 600 and 700 animals. The refuge, which is over 50 years old, is also a stopping point for thousands of migratory birds each year, and a winter home to many North American bird species including the roseate tern and peregrine falcon. Birdwatching is one of the world's largest participatory sports, and the Keys are an ideal location for it, year-round. read more about National Key Deer Refuge

Pierre's

Pierre's

  • 81600 Overseas Highway
  • tel:305 664 3225
  • Visit website
  • Islamorada, 33037
Snappers Waterfront Saloon & Raw Bar

Snappers Waterfront Saloon & Raw Bar

  • Mile Marker 94.5
  • Oceanside
  • tel:305 852 5956
  • Visit website
  • Key Largo, 33037
Old Seven Mile Bridge

Old Seven Mile Bridge

  • Mile Marker 47, U.S 1
  • U.S. 1
  • tel:+1 800 352 5397
  • Pigeon Key, 33050
Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park

  • Mile Marker 37.5
  • Big Pine Key
  • tel:+1 305 872 2353
  • Visit website
  • Key West, 33043

In 2008, the New York Times listed this as one of the top '31 Places To Go This Summer' and it will not disappoint. In 1992, the beach there was named among America's Top 10 Beaches, by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a.k.a. Dr. Beach. Bahia Honda is a days-off dream. With 492 acres, Bahia Honda boasts three sandy beaches -- some of the best in the Florida Keys, which are rare. This one is rivaled only by Marathon's Sombrero Beach. Shallow-water snorkeling and fishing from the beach, plus an abundance of wading and shore birds, kayaking and great views of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge complement the Sand and Sea Nature Center. read more about Bahia Honda State Park

Island Grill

Island Grill

  • 85501 Overseas Highway
  • tel:305 664 8400
  • Visit website
  • Islamorada, 33036
Turtle Hospital

Turtle Hospital

Educational tours of the facility are offered to introduce visitors to the resident sea turtles and to the hospital's curative programs for loggerhead, green, hawksbill and Kemp's ridley turtles. Moretti credits Dr. Doug Mader, the hospital's current staff veterinarian, for bringing the facility to its present level. In addition to turtle rehabilitation and public education, the Turtle Hospital's goals include conducting and assisting with research that aids sea turtles in conjunction with state universities, and working toward environmental legislation that makes beaches and water safer and cleaner for sea turtles. read more about Turtle Hospital

Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden

Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden

  • 1 Free School Lane
  • tel:+1 305 294 0015
  • Visit website
  • Key West, 33040
Southernmost Point in the Nation

Southernmost Point in the Nation

  • Corner of Whitehead & South Streets
  • Key West, 33040
Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum

Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum

  • 200 Greene Street
  • Take U.S. 1 to Whitehead St. and turn left on Greene
  • tel:+1 305 294 2633
  • Visit website
  • Key West, 33040

Mel Fisher and his crew uncovered the "main pile" of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha, her treasure and artifacts, hailed by world press as the shipwreck find of the century, on July 20, 1985, after an exhaustive 16-year search. The galleon was wrecked during a 1622 hurricane in approximately 55 feet of water 35 miles southwest of Key West. Since then, almost four million people have come to Key West to see the artifacts and treasures - including gold and silver bars and coins, a 77.7-carat emerald and thousands of smaller stones, religious objects, rare navigational instruments and weapons - that were excavated and conserved under the auspices of the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society. Fisher died in 1998, but his family continues his legacy. Museum is open 365 days a year: Mon – Fri 8:30am – 5pm, Sat, Sun & holidays, 9:30am – 5pm. read more about Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

  • 907 Whitehead Street
  • tel:+1 305 294 1136
  • Visit website
  • Key West, 33040

Key West was to have been just a stopping-off point for Hemingway when he arrived on the ferry from Havana in 1928. But the Ford automobile that should have been waiting at the docks was delayed, so the embarrassed car merchant offered the author accommodations at the Trevor and Morris Apartments located above the dealership. During his stay there, Hemingway worked on "A Farewell to Arms" and became captivated by the island's easygoing ambiance.What he discovered fed his exuberance for living, heralded the beginning of the most prolific period of his career and inspired him to use Depression-era Key West as the locale for "To Have and Have Not" - his only novel set in the United States.In a short time, Hemingway moved into a Spanish colonial villa at 907 Whitehead St., which was his home through December 1939. Now a registered National Historic Landmark, the home is open to the public as a museum honoring the island's most famous literary resident.Ernest Hemingway wrote many of his best-known works in the second-story writing studio that adjoins the house. Among them were "Death in the Afternoon," "For Whom the Bell Tolls," "The Green Hills of Africa," "The Fifth Column," "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." Following his death in 1961, the unpublished manuscript that was to become "Islands in the Stream" was found in a vault in the property's garage. His zest for life, literary accomplishments and enduring affection for the island he called home throughout the 1930s are commemorated during the annual Hemingway Days celebration each July. The schedule includes a popular look-alike contest, authors' readings and presentations, an exhibition of rare Hemingway memorabilia, a three-day marlin tournament, an offbeat "Running of the Bulls" and the culmination of a short story contest directed by author and Hemingway granddaughter Lorian Hemingway. Hemingway Home & Museum open 365 days a year, 9am-5pm daily. read more about Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park

Visit the Dry Tortugas by charter boat, catamaran or (my favorite) high-speed ferry. The trip is a well-spent day and the crew of Yankee Freedom II knows how to show you a good time. Once at the fort, you can camp overnight on its small beach, or snorkel for a while among the nearby corals. The Yankee Freedom II is state-of-the-art comfort, lunch is included, you cannot go wrong! Even among residents of the Keys, this is one of the favorite things to do with family and friends that visit, or to just a wile away a day exploring, away from phones and work. Book before 3p.m. the day before you want to go! read more about Dry Tortugas National Park