How To Spend a Day in Key West, Florida

Follow our one-day itinerary of the best things to do in Key West, Florida.

The Southernmost House in Key West, Florida
Photo: Courtesy of The Southernmost House

When you're in Key West, you're on island time, so cancel the morning wake-up call and let the crashing waves and beach breezes be your alarm. Put on your walking shoes and prepare for a day of blue skies and palm-shaded sidewalks. From brunch to the beach to cocktail hour and beyond, we have plenty of ideas for your stay, so let us put together your ideal itinerary for a day in Key West.

The first step? Put all your cares away. Key West is a worry-free zone. Trade your worries for a slice of Key lime pie on a stick. After sampling Key West's signature dessert, stroll the white-sandy beaches or visit one of the region's historic sites. There's something for everyone in Key West, Florida, so here are some suggestions to help you plan your next trip.

Mornings in Key West, Florida

8 a.m. / Stroll the Beach

Roll out of bed and onto the beach. Sugar-white sands and salty waves are the ideal supplements to energize your morning routine. Run, bike, or just meander down any Key West beach: Smathers Beach, Rest Beach, Higgs Beach, Dog Beach, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park beach. Keep walking—you'll find one.

9 a.m. / Have Brunch, Island Style

Wander to Blue Heaven—a fan-favorite breakfast spot at the corner of Petronia and Thomas—and order the Lobster Benedict or a seafood omelet. Keep an eye out because you might run into one of Key West's free-roaming hens and roosters. They tend to congregate on street corners. Then grab a cup of coffee from one of the town's Cuban Coffee Queen locations.

10 a.m. / Ride a Beach Cruiser

Two wheels are always better than four on the narrow streets of Key West. Traffic is slow in the island's historic downtown as everyone is on island time. Rent a beach cruiser and breeze all over town (it's only two miles wide by four miles long) to see the sights. Don't miss The Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S. and its brightly painted buoy proclaiming "90 Miles to Cuba." Also, catch a glimpse of the historic Key West Lighthouse nearby on Whitehead Street.

Bike on Higgs Beach Key West, Florida
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Midday in Key West, Florida

11 a.m. / Meet Hemingway's Cats

Legend has it that the felines that roam the Hemingway Home & Museum, a Spanish Colonial mansion where the author lived throughout the 1930s, are descendants of Snowball, a six-toed cat that a sea captain gave to Hemingway's sons. Take a guided tour of the property and peek at the author's antiques, which he collected during his travels around the world.

Ernest Hemingway
Key West, FloridaThough Hemingway was born in Illinois, he made his home in Key West for a time. His former home on Whitehead Street is now known as The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, and it is open to visitors who come to see where Hemingway wrote. Another draw is the opportunity to glimpse the six-toed cats that live there. Wolfgang Kaehler / Getty Images

12 p.m. / Eat Local

There are plenty of places to find a great meal in Key West. Check out Eaton Street Seafood Market for a lobster roll, Banana Cafe for a French bistro experience of crepes or the Florida Lobster BLT, and Onlywood for Neapolitan-style pizza.

Eaton Street Seafood Market in Key West, FL
Hector Manuel Sanchez

Afternoons in Key West, Florida

2 p.m. / Explore Indoor Gardens

Walk through a botanical wonderland at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, an indoor oasis where you can see birds, butterflies, and tropical plants galore. While you're there, see over 50 butterfly species from around the world and 20 exotic bird species, plus learn about the Monarch butterfly's migration patterns. Enjoy personal time with Rhett and Scarlett, the resident flamingos, by booking time to visit them with a group of six friends.

4:30 p.m. / Try a Classic Key West Treat

Remember that Key lime pie on a stick we mentioned earlier? Now's the perfect time to try one. Stop into Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe for a frozen, chocolate-dipped slice of tart Key lime pie. Breakfast and lunch are available until 3 p.m., including the fish and chips house special.

Key Lime Pie on a Stick
Caroline Rogers

Evenings in Key West, Florida

6 p.m. / Raise a Glass

Walk down Duval and grab a table on the front porch of Nine One Five, a bistro in an 1860s Victorian house located at (you guessed it) 915 Duval Street. Order a selection of tapas and stay to enjoy the late-night wine bar—and the people-watching from your table on the porch. Or make a reservation at Blackfin Bistro for fresh seafood and an extensive wine list.

7:45 p.m. / Catch the Sunset

There's a Key West tradition everyone has to do it at least once: After dinner, join the crowd at Mallory Square to applaud the sunset. If you're lucky, you might see the fabled green flash said to occur when the sun sinks below the watery horizon.

12 a.m. / Say Goodnight

When it's time to turn in, lay your head in the beautifully appointed rooms at The Marquesa Hotel, a gorgeous hotel in the heart of Old Town Key West. Or book a stay at The Southernmost House, an oceanfront B&B in a pastel-painted Victorian mansion.

How does your perfect Key West, Florida day look? Where are your favorite coastal destinations?

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