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snorkel charters in key west

Top 8 Things To Do With Kids in Key West + Free Key West Kids Activities

Is Key West kid friendly? You bet it is! While family fun might not leap to mind when you think of America’s southernmost island, this little town at the end of US-1 has plenty of kid friendly activities to make your family vacation winning.

Best Things To Do with Kids in Key West FL

If you’re coming to Key West with kids, you’ll want to check out these attractions. Key West is a tourist town for all ages, and there are plenty of things to do with kids in Key West. So, fear not—while the island has a reputation for its bars and nightlife, many other options exist to fill up your vacation. 

Things to do in Key West with Kids

Key West Butterfly Garden and Nature Conservancy

Nothing says “I’ve been to Key West” like the stories you’ll tell your friends about Rhett and Scarlett. You see, Rhett and Scarlett are a pair of friendly flamingos living at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservancy.

They are not alone, as the Conservancy is home to countless beautiful butterflies and birds. Walk through a lush tropical garden that seems right out of a fairy tale, with colorful critters flapping around. 

Key West Aquarium

Located on Mallory Square, the site of the famous Key West sunset celebration, the Aquarium is a must-see for families visiting the island. You’ll see exhibits featuring all the weird and wild critters that roam Key West’s oceans, but there are also touch tanks and many interactive displays. Hold an alien-like horseshoe crab, let a creepy sea star walk up your arm, or watch a shark feeding frenzy.

The Key West Aquarium isn’t huge, but it has been open since 1935. Plan for about an hour to see all the sights, but check their schedule before you go to see if there are any tours or feedings that you don’t want to miss.

snorkel charters in key west

Day Trip to Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas

Dry Tortugas National Park

The Dry Tortugas is an awesome adventure but not a cheap or easy one. Some planning is required because the Tortugas are 70 miles farther west than Key West, meaning you must book round-trip tickets on the fast ferry.

The Yankee Freedom Dry Tortugas ferry leaves Key West harbor every morning at 8 am and returns to port at about 5:30 pm. Day trips are the perfect way to see the Dry Tortugas, but ferry tickets sell out in advance during busy times of the year, and the trip will eat up a whole day. While you can pass the time on the ferry with board games and dolphin watching, it’s still a lot of travel!

 

Is it worth it? Absolutely, yes, it’s worth it! Dry Tortugas is one of three national parks in South Florida and the only one in the Florida Keys. The tiny islands that make up the park are as isolated as you can get—they feel like they’re in the middle of the ocean. The largest island, Garden Key, is occupied by an enormous Civil War fort, Fort Jefferson.

You can spend your day on the island roaming the nooks and crannies of the gigantic fort and taking in awesome views of the palm tree-studded island. You can also walk along the fort’s moat wall and view tropical fish and reef creatures as if you’re inside one of nature’s largest aquariums.

A faster alternative to the ferry is to take a seaplane ride to Fort Jefferson. Key West Seaplane Adventures leaves the airport for half or full-day excursions to the park. The flight only takes 40 minutes, as opposed to the 2.5 hours on the ferry, plus you’ll get the awesome experience of water takeoffs and landings in some of the most beautiful surroundings in the Keys.

Go Kayaking or Fishing

One of the best things to do with kids in Key West, and a great way to spend the day on the water in general, is to rent kayaks or take an eco-tour

The backcountry is the term locals use to describe the waters around the Bay side of Key West. Here, you’ll find calm waters surrounded by mangrove islands. Birds soar overhead, and dolphins splash in the distance. Don’t be surprised if you see sharks zipping through the shallow waters and tons of fish.

The key to a great kayak experience is finding one with a great kayaking location. Nearly every beach and resort has a kayak, but the best tours get you away from town and into the backcountry (at least a little!). 

 

Mangrove Eco Tours

If your Key West kids aren’t into ‘yakking but like fishing, consider taking a fishing charter. You can go out on a large light-tackle boat or book a private charter with a guide to learn more about fishing in the Keys. Choose from light-tackle fishing nearshore, backcountry flats fishing, or deep-sea fishing off the reef line.

Florida Keys Eco Discovery Center

Did you know that Key West and the Florida Keys lie within one of the nation’s largest Federally-protected marine sanctuaries? Administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects America’s only barrier coral reef, among several other important marine ecosystems. 

The Eco Discovery Center is an interactive spot where you can learn about what you see as you drive down the Overseas Highway. Learn about those crazy-looking mangrove trees and all the colorful fish and animals that call the reefs home. There are also shipwreck exhibits and information on ongoing research activities conducted within the Sanctuary. 

Treasure Hunt at the Shipwreck and Treasure Museums

Speaking of shipwrecks, Key West has had its share. That same coral reef that is so magnificent to look at has taken its toll over the years. Several famous treasure ships have been found here, and early Key West settlers made their livings by “salvaging” ships that had wrecked on the reefs. They were known as “wreckers.”

There are two museums in town worth checking out if you’re looking for gold doubloons and Pieces of Eight. The first is the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, dedicated to the work of its namesake, who discovered the treasure galleon Atocha and several other wrecks in the area. You can also pay a little extra to visit the museum’s conservation lab, where marine archeologists clean and preserve pieces of real treasure brought up from the bottom of the sea! The Mel Fisher Museum is located at 200 Green Street.

The Key West Shipwreck and Treasure Museum is the second spot worth a stop. This museum is a little more hands-on and interactive, with explainers describing life on the island for the Key West wreckers. You can touch genuine pieces of treasure and climb an observation tower for panoramic views of Key West harbor. If you plan to do the Aquarium, you can also save with a package ticket to the Shipwreck Museum.

Ride the Conch Train Trolley Tour

You can’t miss the Conch Train once you’re on island. These bright yellow tour trolleys roam the island constantly, offering a great introduction to all the unique places that make Key West Key West. The Shipwreck Museum is located at 1 Whitehead Street, on Mallory Square, across from the Aquarium. 

Kids in Key West

Hit the Water on a Key West Sandbar or Snorkeling Charter

Kid Playing At The Sandbar

Coming to Key West without spending a little time on a boat should be a crime! You won’t go to jail or anything, but come on—the water is why people come, and it’s an incredible experience to explore this paradise by boat. 

The best way to see the sights is with a private charter. At Casual Monday, we custom-build our charters based on what you want to do. Want to see the reefs and go swimming with the fishes? No problem! Want to wander around a tropical island sandbar, looking for sea stars, rays, and conch? We know where the incredible sandbars in Key West are and how to get to them!


Bonus: Free Things to Do in Key West with Kids

Still, wondering what to do in Key West with kids? Like any tourist town, Key West has its share of expensive attractions and free sightseeing. Everyone likes to mix and match their vacation, so here are ideas for some more things for kids to do in Key West.

Old Town and Duval Street — Duval Street, with its lively bars and clubs, probably isn’t the best place for kids after dark. But, during the day, the street is filled with tourists of all ages. There are tons of artist galleries and knick-knack shops to check out. Don’t miss the Key Lime Pie on a Stick and the fudge shop.

Take some of the side streets and check out the old Key West homes for a quieter stroll. Wander around the town, keeping an eye out for the famous Key West chickens

You can stand at the edge of the world at the Southernmost Point marker. What could be more invigorating? Well, ok, maybe it’s not the world’s edge, but it’s pretty close. And you’ve got to get a picture to show your friends or risk the whole “photo or it never happened” saga.

Sunset Celebration happens every night at Mallory Square. On busy nights it’s a crowded, happening place, with street performers and artists and lots of spectators. Wander the pier and check out the views of the harbor and the historic schooners sailing into the sunset. Check out some of the other best places to watch the sunset in Key West if you’d like a quieter spot!

Key West with Kids Beach Day — The Florida Keys have beaches, but they’re harder to find because they’re usually smaller than those in the rest of Florida. Higgs Beach, on the island’s south side, is a popular spot for taking a quick swim and building a sandcastle. You can rent kayaks on-site and fish from the pier if you’re into that sort of thing. Plus, there’s a playground, and everyone loves the fine white sand here.

While not precisely free, admission to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is only a few dollars and gets you access to one of the best beaches in Key West and a super-cool Civil War fort. It’s a cool place to spend the afternoon exploring, snorkeling, and hanging on the beach.

Key West Kids Activities 

Of course, there are tons of other fun things to do with kids in Key West. Use your imagination, wander a little, and see where the mood takes you. Key West is all about relaxing, no matter what age. 

If you want to spend a day on the water, give Captain Zak a call. He’ll be sure you don’t miss any of the best Key West sights, from roaming awesome sandbars to swimming with turtles, sharks, and tropical fish. 

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