Key West is located at the southernmost tip of the United States, at mile markers zero through four. Tourists congregate at the popular Southernmost point for photo-ops to commemorate their visit, marked by a colorful concrete buoy. Key West has attracted prominent writers such as Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway, and President Truman loved it so much that he made it his winter White House. You are sure to enjoy your visit to one of the most fun and funky ports of call in the Caribbean. Here is what we recommend doing at the Key West cruise port.
Cruise Ship Excursions
You won’t be able to enjoy everything Key West has to offer during your time in port, but you will first need to decide if you want to sightsee or enjoy outdoor activities. We have great suggestions for attractions to visit if you wish to sightsee, take pretty pictures, and enjoy the cultural side of Key West. If you choose the latter, you can book an excursion for these activities with the cruise line directly, or at kiosks in town.
Some of the most popular ones are scuba diving, fishing, snorkeling, parasailing, and taking a catamaran sail. Kayaking Key West offers a look at the mangrove creeks and seagrass beds in the Atlantic Ocean. Be on the lookout for bottlenose dolphins.
Another fun way to see Key West is via Old Town Trolley Tours. Enjoy hop-on, hop-off privileges for 12 stops around Key West and a fully narrated tour filled with humor, facts, and history. The loop takes 90 minutes to complete. You could also ride the world-famous Conch Tour Train, which starts at Front Street Depot at Mallory Square.
Key West Attractions
You will want to visit Old Town, Key West’s earliest neighborhood on the western side of the island, for two of the most important Key West attractions. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, (where the prolific writer lived from 1931 to 1939), is a big draw, often to see his six-toed cats.
The second is the Harry S. Truman Little White House. President Truman occupied it for 175 days of his presidency over 11 visits. Other US Presidents visited the Little White House, too, over the years, including Taft, Kennedy, Truman, Clinton, Carter, and Eisenhower. It is part of the National Parks System and Florida’s only presidential site.
In the Historic District, you’ll find Mallory Square. This is where locals and visitors gather nightly for amazing sunsets. Other points of interest in this district are Duval Street (the main artery of town) which is full of bars, restaurants, and shops, and Fort Zachary Taylor.
If you are interested in nature, visit Key West’s Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, with 60 varieties of butterflies, 20 kinds of exotic birds, and gorgeous flowering plants. Art lovers will swoon over the collections and galleries at the Key West Museum of Art and History.
Unique Key West Options
There is nowhere else in the country to have your picture made at Mile Marker Zero. Then, you can then explore the Key West Lighthouse, circa 1848, which is now a museum. It had the first women lightkeeper in the country. There are great photo opportunities after climbing the 88 steps to the top.
My favorite thing to do in Key West is to take the Yankee Freedom III to Dry Tortugas National Park, the most remote park in the country. The ride to get there takes nearly three hours in each direction, so time may not be permitting during your cruise.
You can learn more about Dry Tortugas in this post.
For an offbeat attraction, visit the 19-acre Key West Cemetery. The headstones have quirky and hilarious inscriptions such as “I told you I was sick,” and “I’m just resting my eyes”.
Be on the lookout for the giant kapok tree, a huge tree that is native to Africa. The silky down from the seed pods are used for stuffing (life jackets, pillows, etc.), and the oil from the seeds is used in foods and manufacturing soap. Also, don’t be surprised when you see chickens freely wandering the streets of Key West.
Key West’s sizeable LGBT population brings about an exciting festival in the fall called Fantasy Fest, where grown-ups artfully paint their bodies. Although a risqué event, there is nothing quite like it.
Getting Around Key West
A super fun way to explore the cruise port of Key West is to rent a golf cart downtown and set out on your own. The price is under $100 for the day, and with the island being so small, you can easily cover it all. Bonus, the golf cart can hold three additional passengers so you may be able to take your whole family.
Stop at Sloppy Joe’s, the infamous Hemingway hangout, for a cold beer or lunch. Chico’s Cantina (don’t miss the margaritas or sangria) and Santiago’s Bodega are two other delicious options for lunch and adult libations, a must in Key West.
You may want to do some shopping on Duval Street or browse the local art galleries, but sinking your teeth into Kermit’s iconic key lime pie is a must. Our favorite Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe treat is the frozen key lime pie cheesecake on a stick, dipped in chocolate. You can even get strawberry key lime if you wish. Better Than Sex (a dessert restaurant) is another fun choice for a variety of sweets and creative cocktails.
You can find more local restaurants, plus reviews in this post.
Key West, A Special Place
You’re going to love visiting Key West, even if for a few hours during your cruise. From incredible National Parks to unique photo-ops, beautiful beaches to fresh Key Lime Pie, you will truly enjoy Key West, Florida.
Be sure to apply adequate sunscreen and stay hydrated; the Florida heat can be brutal. Enjoy!
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