What to See in Key West in 1 Day (Landmarks, Attractions, & More)
As a small island, only 8 square miles, many think experiencing all of Key West can be accomplished in a day. Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. The good news, however, is that we’ve broken down the best of the best in Key West for your traveling pleasure! Keep reading and discover what to see in Key West in 1 day, including popular must-see landmarks, attractions, and more!
Table of Contents
- Why Visit Key West, Florida?
- See the City
- City Tours
- Sailing Charters
- Snorkel or Dive the Barrier Reef
- Do it All!
- Try Delicious Key West Cuisine
- Cuban Coffee Queen
- Blue Heaven
- Key Lime Pie Company
- Southernmost Beach Cafe
- El Siboney Restaurant
- Take in the History
- Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
- The Southernmost Point
- Key West Lighthouse Museum
- Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
- Celebrate the Sunset
- Mallory Square
- Sunset Charters
- Latitudes on Sunset Key
- The Historic Seaport
- Experience the Nightlife
- Green Parrot Bar
- Hog’s Breath Saloon
- Sloppy Joe’s
- The Schooner Wharf Bar
- Make the Most of Your Day in Key West, FL
Why Visit Key West, Florida?
Beautiful view of Key West, FL, from a cruise ship by Roger W. via Flickr
Key West, Florida, is more than just a top U.S. beach destination, it also has a culture all its own. From Hemingway House’s six-toed cats, to roosters roaming the streets freely, to food carts with conch fritters, this small, island city is so unique and unpredictable, you never know what you’ll see!
Besides Key West’s fun and exciting surprise encounters, the city is also home to some of the world’s most beautiful sunsets, the country’s only barrier reef, and so much more. Whether you’re visiting on a cruise ship, driving down from Miami on a day trip, or are just looking for a fun way to spend the day, being prepared and knowing the best of Key West will help you plan an unforgettable day of fun and foolery!
See the City
While exploring Key West is a no-brainer, how you choose to explore it can make all of the difference! Venturing off on your own may lead to some incredible memories and stories for later. With only a day on this extraordinary island oasis, however, taking a guided tour is a great way to ensure you’re seeing the best sights Key West has to offer!
Trolleys, like the one pictured above with Historic Tours of America Inc, are a great way to see Key West
Taking a city tour when in Key West is a great way to be sure you’re seeing and experiencing the best of the city. With fun, knowledgeable, and experienced guides leading the way, you can walk away from your day on the island feeling more informed and well versed in the island’s culture. Popular city tours in Key West include:
- Food Tours
- Cocktail Tours
- Bike Tours
- Trolley and Train Tours
- Sightseeing Tours
Whichever city tour you decide to take, you’ll definitely be immersed in the local food, drink, history, cuisine, sights, and more! This is also one of the best ways to see a lot of the island, in a short amount of time. With each tour highlighting multiple Key West hot spots, city tours are a great way to get the most bang for your buck!
Sail off into the sunset on a stunning and scenic Key West sailing charter
Hop aboard a ship, hoist the mainsail, and enjoy one of Key West’s most popular pastimes, sailing! Just imagine sailing the beautiful, crystal-clear waters, watching Flipper and friends frolic in the waves, a tropical beverage in your hand, the wind in your hair, sun on your face, and the smell of salt air and sunshine. This is truly one of the best ways to experience Key West!
Not only that, with so many options and customizable charters to choose from, it’s easy to create the perfect sailing experience for you and your group. Spend the day sailing the seas and snorkeling the area’s underwater wonderland, or get a front row seat to one of Key West’s magnificent sunsets, the options are practically endless!
Snorkel or Dive the Barrier Reef
According to a recent Traveler Story, snorkeling is a great activity for solo-travelers, couples, and families alike
Key West is home to the only living barrier reef in the United States, making it a hugely popular snorkeling and diving destination! Millions of travelers visit the Keys from across the world to see the beauty and splendor of the Florida Reef each and every year. If this is something on your Key West bucket list, check out these interesting facts about the Florida Reef System:
The Florida Reef aside, Key West is home to many other artificial reefs, shipwrecks, and other picturesque snorkeling and diving locations. With each area hosting a vast array of incredible marine life, using your one day in Key West to explore their submerged sanctuary is time well spent.
Do it All!
Combination tours, like the sailing and snorkeling excursion pictured above, are a great way to experience more of what Key West has to offer
Wanting to make the most of your one day in Key West, soak up the sun, and do as many watersports as possible? Key West has you covered! Luckily, many tour companies will offer day trips and excursions, combining many activities into one tour. Popular activities that make up these combination tours include:
- Waverunner Rentals
- Island Hopping
This is a great way to sample the best of Key West, and experience it all in the time allotted. With the day planned out for you, booking a day trip or excursion takes away the stress of having to plan and schedule multiple activities for multiple people, as well. Find a more in-depth list of awesome watersports in the Florida Keys, we just wrote an article detailing the top Florida Keys watersports including where and how to book.
Try Delicious Key West Cuisine
While the island itself may be small, its appetite is not! With fresh-caught seafood, cuban influence, and, of course, delicious key lime pie, Key West is more than just margaritas in “Margaritaville.”
With hundreds of restaurants to choose from, and so little time, it’s important to be sure you’re making the most of your culinary Key West experience. With that being said, check out these delicious must-try dining options when exploring Key West in one day.
Cuban Coffee Queen
Image of Cuban Coffee Queen in Key West taken by Cayobo via Flickr
Start your morning off right with an authentic cup of Cuban coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen. Cuba is actually closer to Key West than Miami, and this can truly be seen in their rich taste in coffee. One of the smallest restaurants in Key West, this funky little coffee shop reflects Key West’s quirky charm, as well.
284 Margaret Street, Key West, Florida, 30040
Image of one of the stages at Blue Heaven in Key West taken by Sam Howzit via Flickr
After your morning coffee, Blue Heaven is the place to be when it comes to breakfast and brunch in Key West. With made-from-scratch pancakes and lobster eggs benedict, your tummy will be thanking you! A charming Key West favorite, besides delicious food, you can also expect long lines and locals, including the area cats and roosters!
Blue Heaven is located within a 100-year-old building that was once a bar where Ernest Hemingway himself was known to referee boxing matches. It’s safe to say this restaurant is the perfect combination of history and exemplary dining.
729 Thomas Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
Key Lime Pie Company
Key lime pie is considered the official pie of the Florida Keys
It’s truly not a trip to Key West without a slice of delicious, fresh key lime pie. Key Lime Pie Company is a great place to try this iconic dessert, as they hand-make their 100-year-old recipe using the freshest ingredients!
511 Greene Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
Southernmost Beach Cafe
Conch fritters, pictured above, are a Key West delicacy! Image by Sam Howzit via Flickr
Southernmost Beach Cafe is a great place to go for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or happy hour! This open-air restaurant is perfect for breathtaking views of the Atlantic and incredible photo-ops, as well. Don’t forget to try the conch fritters, a local favorite!
1405 Duval Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
El Siboney Restaurant
Pictured above is delicious Cuban food from El Siboney Restaurant in Key West. Photo taken by Elizabeth Nicodemus via Flickr
Last but not least, be sure to try some authentic Cuban cuisine at El Siboney Restaurant! Their authentic Cuban food has earned them the title of “Best Cuban Restaurant in Key West” every year since 1993. Not only is the food just what the doctor ordered, but it is located right in the heart of beautiful and scenic Old Town!
900 Catherine Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
Take in the History
Key West, Florida, has a rich history that can be seen throughout the island, dating back to the Age of Exploration! There is so much history in the area to take in from the coral and fishing industry to the Spanish and Cuban influence, it’s almost impossible to experience it all in one day. Keep reading and discover popular historic landmarks and places of interest, and choose which piece of history you want to explore!
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Image of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum by faungg via Flickr
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum was the residence of famous author Ernest Hemingway. Designated U.S. National Historic Landmark, this home allows you to step back in time and see where Hemingway wrote some of his literary masterpieces.
This home is also home to about 50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats! Ernest Hemingway loved these cats, and was given one by a ship’s captain, which he named Snow White. Today, many of the cats who live on the grounds are descendants of Hemingway’s beloved cat, Snow White. For more information about the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, click here: https://www.hemingwayhome.com/.
907 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
The Southernmost Point
The Southernmost Point, pictured above, is one of the most photographed and visited landmarks in Key West
The Southernmost Point Buoy marks the southernmost point on the island, and is one of Key West’s most iconic landmarks. It’s also where the famous line, “90 miles to Cuba” comes from, as you can see it written on the buoy itself. Don’t forget to snap a photo when you’re there, as this buoy makes for one of the best photo-ops on the island!
Whitehead Street and South Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
Key West Lighthouse Museum
In 1987 the Key West Lighthouse was renovated, and many eroded bricks were replaced with period bricks salvaged from a cistern at Fort Zachary Taylor
Originally built in 1847, Key West Lighthouse is the country’s 15th oldest lighthouse still standing, meaning it is packed full of history! Visitors can climb the lighthouse’s 88 steps for some of the most stunningly scenic views of Key West! Be sure to check out the museum, quarters, and grounds, as well.
938 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Visiting Fort Zachary Taylor State Park allows visitors to immerse themselves into U.S. history and into the beautiful, crystal-clear waters of Key West
The southernmost state park in the country, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is a great way to experience history and watersports all in one! Fort Taylor predates the Civil War and is a National Historic Monument that played an important role in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. Guided tours are offered daily.
Not only is this state park full of history, it is also full of fun in the sun, boasting one of Key West’s favorite beaches! This is a great place for swimming, snorkeling, paddling, fishing, and more.
601 Howard England Way, Key West, Florida, 33040
Celebrate the Sunset
If you’re wondering if the sunset is something you need to see in Key West, the answer is YES! Catching a sunset in Key West is equivalent to seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Colosseum in Rome.
The beauty of a Key West sunset is unmatched, you almost feel as if you’re in the sunset itself! With that being said, it’s important to catch this incredible view from the best vantage point.
Pictured above is a group gathered together for the Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square. Image by Matt Kieffer via Flickr
Mallory Square’s nightly Sunset Celebration is the place to be when it comes to catching a sunset in the Keys! Besides the beautiful sunset, visitors can expect the following:
- Live Music
This nightly festival has been around since the 1960’s, and is a must when seeing Key West in one day. Even celebrities like Mark Twain and Tennessee Williams have enjoyed the fun at Mallory Square at sunset.
400 Wall Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
Catching a Key West Sunset is a great couples’ activity for those on a romantic getaway to the Florida Keys
Catching a sunset while out on the water is almost an indescribable experience. Being surrounded by a sea of color with the waves rocking and the wind in your hair, makes for one of the most serene and scenic sunset views there is! With a variety of options and customizable sailing charters to choose from, choosing the right Key West sailing tour has never been easier!
Latitudes on Sunset Key
Image of the sunset view from Latitudes on Sunset Key, taken by Joel Sowers via Flickr
If you’re looking for the most romantic sunset and things to do in Key West, check out Latitudes on Sunset Key. The short ferry ride to get to the restaurant is completely worth it once you step out onto the back patio and see the awe-inspiring sunset views.
245 Front Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
The Historic Seaport
Image of the Historic Seaport in Key West taken by Roger W via Flickr
The Key West Historic Seaport is one of the best places to experience a combination of “old” and “new” Key West. With amazing dining, shopping, music, museums, and more, there is something to do for everyone! This is also one of the best places to catch a famous Key West sunset, as you can watch the boats come into the harbor and the sun set down over the water.
201 William Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
Experience the Nightlife
In Key West, the party doesn’t stop once the sun goes down! If you can make some time to experience the island’s nightlife, it is definitely recommended. If you have a limited amount of time to do so, be sure to check out one of these Key West hot spots:
Green Parrot Bar
The “no snivelling” parrot found in the Green Parrot Bar in Key West. Image by Sam Howzit via Flickr
The first and last bar on US1, Green Parrot Bar is a local’s favorite, mostly known for its delicious drinks and live music! From jazz to jam bands, the wide variety of talent they host is what keeps locals and visitors alike coming back time after time.
601 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
Hog’s Breath Saloon
Hog’s Breath Saloon is known for their delicious barbecue options
“Hog’s Breath is better than no breath at all,” as they would say. Hog’s Breath Saloon is a great place to stop for some mouth-watering barbecue, live, local music, and to dance the night away! With over 25 years in business, you never know what you’ll see at this Key West staple!
400 Front Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
Image of the famous Sloppy Joe’s taken by Roger W via Flickr
This historic bar opened in 1933, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and sees millions of patrons every year. Open until 4:00am, this local watering hole is nothing short of a good time. Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar during his time, Sloppy Joe’s also hosts the Annual Ernest Hemingway Look-Alike Contest!
201 Duval Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
The Schooner Wharf Bar
Image of the Schooner Wharf Bar in Key West by Richard Lopez via Flickr
The Schooner Wharf Bar is located on the Historic Seaport harbor and has been in business since 1984. Considered one of the last little pieces of old Key West, this funky island bar is the perfect place for great food, great drinks, great music, and great times!
202 William Street, Key West, Florida, 33040
Make the Most of Your Day in Key West, FL
Beautiful sunsets in Key West, FL, are just one of the many things to see in this magical island town
When deciding what to see in Key West, why not just try the whole (key lime) pie! With a slice of history, delicious food, stunning sunsets, nightlife, and nature, you’ll have a better and more comprehensive understanding of what makes Key West so special.
Just remember, however you decide to spend your day in Key West, be prepared for an amazing time, with equally amazing memories to bring home with you!