Family Fun in the Sunshine State: Uncovering Hidden Gems in the Florida Keys

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If you're looking for a fun-filled family vacation, the Florida Keys should be at the top of your list. This picturesque archipelago is located at the southern tip of Florida and offers a wide variety of activities that will keep the entire family entertained.

boats in the harbour

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While the major tourist attractions like Key West and Key Largo are well-known, there are many hidden gems in the Florida Keys that are worth exploring. 

Exploring the Natural Sights of the Florida Keys with Kids

The Florida Keys beckon families with its Caribbean-esque climate, beautiful beaches, and natural attractions. This secluded chain of islands stretches from the uninhabited Dry Tortugas to the tip of South Florida, and enchants travelers with its wide range of adventures.

There is plenty of fun stuff to do with kids while visiting the Keys. Kids love animal encounters, and the Florida Keys boast plenty of them. 

Explore the unique marine environment of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on a snorkeling or diving tour, or just wade in the warm waters and look for sea turtles, manatees, sharks, and tropical fish. The park also hosts a number of walking trails, including the scenic Palmetto Trail.

On land, take the family to Key West's Hemingway Home and Museum for an intimate glimpse at a Nobel Prize-winning author's life. Or, see the southwestern-most point of the United States at the Key West Lighthouse.

For a more casual outing, visit Big Pine Keys Bahia Honda State Park and its expansive beach of crystal-clear waters. Enjoy balmy sea breezes, year-round kayaking and snorkeling, and camping in a beachfront campsite or rental cabin.

The sand at the park is ideal for building sand castles, and the nearby nature center offers a host of ranger-led activities and talks. 

The Eco Discovery Center is a fun, educational indoor experience that features hands-on exhibits and activities. A scavenger hunt is a great way to help kids learn about the environment while having fun together.

A Guide to Local Cuisine

Florida is a foodie’s paradise, and the Keys are no exception. A thriving region with plenty of local eats, the Key Largo and Key West areas offer cuisines that reflect the island chain’s tropical heritage and Caribbean and Cuban influences. 

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One of the top-rated Key Largo restaurants is Snappers, a family-friendly eatery that feels like a one-stop shop. The restaurant offers a slew of delicious and fun meals to share. 

Guests can dine on a variety of mouthwatering seafood dishes, including the Gator Bites, Bacon Wrapped Scallops, and Fire Shrimp. The restaurant also offers a “You Hook’Em, We Cook’Em” option for the ultimate Key Largo dining experience.

Located in the heart of the keys, Marathon is home to the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, a nature sanctuary that plays host to 84 protected species of plants and animals. The key attraction for families in Marathon is the Key Deer Wildlife Refuge, where visitors can see these adorable deer endemic to the Florida keys.

In Key West, a top destination for culinary delights is Blue Heaven, an al fresco eatery that is renowned for its country chic and quirky décor. 

The restaurant has a lowkey kitschy atmosphere and adorable critters, including chickens and cats that roam the property. This is the place to get a quiche, a dish that is popular in France and features savory egg custard with a choice of fillings such as goat's cheese, ham, or smoked salmon.

Discovering the Cultural Attractions of the Keys

The Florida Keys' medley of alluring natural wonders includes sparkling beaches, pristine national parks, and lush tropical gardens. 

The islands are also home to The Florida Reef, the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities for those looking to discover the stunning underwater treasures.

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The newest attraction in Marathon is the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, which features touch tanks with stingrays and tide pools with sea stars. This marine life museum is also the site of predator feedings that are sure to thrill kiddos and teens alike.

From the top of the Seven Mile Bridge, enjoy a scenic look at this fascinating chain of islands. Kids and adults can learn more about the ecology of the Keys at the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, where 84 species of plants are protected. Families can also visit the Key Largo Fishing Pier or go dolphin-watching.

Enjoying Fun Activities and Adventures in Key West

The Florida Keys may not have the same high-profile attractions as Disney World or Seaworld, but they offer plenty of family fun for all to enjoy. 

Key West, the last island in the Florida Keys chain off the southeastern coast of the state and the southernmost point of the United States, is home to a variety of activities and sights to see that will keep everyone busy.

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Key West is known for its beautiful beaches surrounded by turquoise waters and swaying palm trees. While soaking up the sun and taking a swim in the water is a must, families can also explore the marine life that makes this area special by cruising out to the reef on a snorkeling or diving trip.

Kids can learn about the rich flora and fauna of the area by exploring the 15-acre Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, where trees native to the Florida Keys and Cuba are nurtured and protected. Visitors can stroll the boardwalks to discover subtropical plants, dazzling butterflies and wild terrapins sunning on the shores.

Other outdoor adventures are available, including kayaking through the mangroves, bird-watching and fishing in select areas at Bahia Honda State Park and touring the historic buildings adorned with pastel shades of blue in Old Town Key West. Families can also learn about the area's history on a guided tour that includes stops at Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Audubon House and Tropical Gardens, Old Custom House harboring the Key West Museum of Art and History, Truman Annex Park and Captain George Carey House.

Closing Remarks

The Florida Keys offer endless opportunities for family fun and adventure. While the popular tourist spots are always a great option, there are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be explored. 

Snorkeling in crystal clear waters, or exploring local art galleries, the breathtaking scenery, unique culture, and diverse wildlife, the Florida Keys provide the perfect backdrop for creating unforgettable family memories.

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