Best Island In The Keys: The Florida Keys is made up of a string of sun-soaked islands off the coast of Florida, known for its coral reefs, fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving. If you live in the USA, paradise is closer than you think! You don’t need to jet off to Fiji, the Bahamas or Thailand for a tropical vacation, there is in fact one on your doorstep! While Key West is without a doubt the most well-known island in the Florida Keys and one many consider to be the best island in the Keys, there are many other beautiful spots to visit.
The Florida Keys consists of hundreds of islands so there are plenty of interesting places to stop along the journey from mainland to the Keys.
But first, here’s how to get there
A road trip is the most common and economical way to get to the Keys. If you depart from Miami, you can get to Key West in 3.5 hours along Highway 1. You can fly through to Key West’s airport but flights are quite expensive. If you fly into Miami, you can rent a car at the airport and take the scenic drive through to the Keys.
The Upper Keys start at Key Largo and end at Matecumbe Key, around 75 miles from the end of the Keys. The Middle Keys start at Craig Key and end at the Seven Mile Bridge near the city of Marathon. The Lower Keys start at mile marker 45 and extend through Key West where you’ll find the mile marker 0 landmark. Because the Keys are connected by one long main road, using the mile markers to pinpoint your location is the best way to get around.
Best Island in the Keys: Our Top 10
If you’re looking for sun, sea and a good party, the best island in the Keys for you will be it’s most famous island, Key West! From daily sunset celebrations at Mallory Square to Ernest Hemingway’s perfectly-preserved former home and monthly events on the go, Key West is a hive of activity in all the best ways. Most loved for its quirk and historical attractions, it also offers great boating, snorkeling and fishing experiences for water babies.
As one of the first islands along the Keys, Key Largo has that homely small-town feel that allows you to truly escape and unplug. Much of the water around Key Largo is protected so the coral reefs are thriving and teeming with marine life, a snorkeler and divers dream. Only an 18 mile drive from Miami, it is a popular destination for relaxed weekend getaways. Exploring the coral reefs in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is often the highlight of a visit to Key Largo.
30 minutes from Key Largo is a chain of six islands that make up Islamorada. It has a very chilled out, small-town vibe with fishing being the main attraction. The waters are brimming with excellent catches so sport-fishing is a popular activity here. The village is an up-and-coming foodie hub with a number of upscale, gourmet eateries and craft beer breweries.
Little Crawl Key
Located within the city of Marathon, Little Crawl Key offers adrenaline junkies some fun. Visit Curry Hammock State Park for kite surfing or choose to kayak along the mangrove tunnels and lagoons.
You’ll find the secluded Duck Key island at mile marker 61. It is known for its dreamy views of the Gulf of Mexico and tight-knit community of less than 500 residents. A big draw card in Duck Key is the lesser-known “snuba” diving. What is that, you ask? The creative folks in Duck Key created a simpler way for visitors to see the coral reefs up to 20ft below surface without having to go through a PADI certification. How? You breathe through a hose connected to your boat above the water surface. Neat!
Tiny Stock Island
Home to many young artists and hipsters, Tiny Stock Island has a rustic and bohemian feel to it. You’ll find many art galleries, the community garden, live music performances and homely boutique hotels in the town centre, Marina Village.
Also forming part of the city of Marathon in the Middle Keys, Grassy Key is the best island in the Keys for families for a low-key vacation that blends education with fun. A popular attraction on Grassy Key is the Dolphin Research Centre where you’ll find sweet bottlenose dolphins and sea lions. In fact, you can have a one-on-one encounter with a dolphin in the lagoon – an unforgettable experience.
You’ll find Big Pine Key at mile marker 29.5 to be exact, the home of the National Key Deer Refuge and the largest population of the cute, white tailed Key Deer. A natural rock quarry named the Blue Hole is one of Big Pine’s main attractions along with Jack C. Watson Nature Trail. In town, do yourself a favor and visit ‘No Name Bar’ where almost every surface is covered by dollar bills.
Bahia Honda Key
The uninhabited island is made up of the Bahia Honda State Park and known for its picturesque scenery of palm-lined beaches and crystal clear water. Rent snorkeling gear or kayaks at the concession stand or book yourself a snorkeling tour to the pristine reefs.
Located at mile marker 84, Windley Key is a small island that forms a part of the village of Islamorada. Its most popular attraction is the Theater of the Sea, a marine mammal park that first opened in 1946. Here you’ll be able to swim with dolphins, sea lions and nurse sharks. You’ll also find exotic birds, reptiles, crocodiles and sea turtles across the park’s exhibits or if you’d prefer to relax, hop aboard a glass bottom boat cruise.
There are no two islands in the Florida Keys that are alike. While many consider Key West to be the best island in the Keys, each one has its own unique atmosphere and attractions which is what makes stopping off at the various islands so much fun. You’ll never have the same experience twice when visiting the Keys.
Key West vs Key Largo: Key Differences