Stretching from the southernmost tip of the Florida in a natural arc of sandy, palm-lined islands, the Florida Keys are a world apart from the rest of the United States. The climate and the laid-back island lifestyle are more akin to the Keys’ Caribbean neighbours further south. The difference in style, culture and attitudes between the series of little islands is so vast that many Key West residents barely consider themselves part of the USA, preferring instead to recognise the symbolic independence of The Conch Republic, as declared back in 1982 by then Mayor Dennis Wardlow in protest of roadblocks and random searches of vehicles returning to the mainland – just one of many wonderful eccentricities of the Florida Keys!
For all of these reasons and a host of others, as soon as you set foot off the plane at Key West International Airport, you get the distinct feeling that you truly are entering another country, with its own unique cultures, traditions and personalities. For couples looking for a romantic destination with more to offer than the standard candle-lit dinner and sunset view, the Florida Keys offer more unique experiences to share than you can possible imagine.
Here are our suggestions to fellow travel couples for romantic activities in the Florida Keys!
1. Nighttime Kayaking or Paddle boarding in the Mangroves
Night time anything has a touch of romance about it; the light fading to darkness, the stars shining out from behind clouds spattered across the sky, the air cooling, so gliding along the water together through mangrove forests with colourful lights casting an eerie glow underneath you has to be one of the most romantic things in the world!
Whether you choose to explore the marine life by Stand-up Paddle Board or clear bottom kayak, both offer a serene yet fascinating experience. The kayaks with their see-through bottoms and LED lights allow you to see all sorts of sea-life from lobsters and crabs to octopus while the friendly guide shares his expert knowledge on the vast eco-system of the area. A truly unique encounter!
2. Dinner Date at Latitude’s at Sunset Key
We took a boat ride to this unique, atmospheric restaurant situated on a resort island in Key West Harbour. The journey is absolutely worthwhile to take in the tropical ambiance of its surroundings, which make Latitude’s a very popular destination for couples looking for a romantic dinner destination (be sure to make an advance booking!)
Any experience which is accessible only by private launch to an island covered in palm trees wrapped in golden lights, and tables on the shore of a tranquil bay, already has the recipe for romance.
The menu is always changing depending on what locally sourced fish and ingredients are available at the time. The award-winning executive chef Brendan Orr has perfected a blend of classical techniques and skilled preparation in each dish. On his ‘work of art’ menu, diners can expect to find combinations of local seafood like yellowtail snapper or grilled Florida lobster tail (our recommendation!) with tropical fruits and vegetables as well as many other meat and vegetarian options. A must-visit for a romantic, luxurious dining experience.
Romantic Activities in The Florida Keys – Dinner at Latitude – Sunset Key West
As well as sharing a three-tiered tower of starters, we tried the mixed seafood risotto and the Wagyu beef steak, followed by a selection of food coma inducing desserts!
To book a reservation in advance, them .
3. Seaplane Ride to Dry Tortugas
The southernmost tip of Key West also marks the most southerly populated piece of land in the United States. Just 70 miles west of that is Dry Tortugas, a remote coral reef island accessible only by ferry or seaplane and home to one of the most bizarre fortresses we have ever seen. The collection of small islands make up the Dry Tortugas National Park, home to dozens of bird species and other wildlife, like sea turtles.
The most romantic part of visiting Dry Tortugas has to be the journey there – while there is a ferry, the best way to get there is by seaplane, which adds a whole new dimension to the adventure. Walking out onto the tarmac, you feel a wave of excitement as you near the propeller craft with its big flotation pontoons underneath it, just begging to be dipped in the water. Climbing inside the simple, narrow, metal cabin and putting on your earphones as the propellers come to life feels like the start of an adventure.
The seaplane flight from Key West takes about an hour and practically skims over the surface of the blue green water, clear enough to spot sea turtles and shipwrecks under the surface. It’s an incredible experience in itself, but on arrival at the Garden Key there’s more still. Garden Key is home to Fort Jefferson, the vast, hexagonal construction which dominates the island, attracting your curiosity as a bizarre man-made addition to such a stunning natural paradise and the part it played in the story of the men who tried and failed to conquer the challenges the island posed. Today the fort provides the opportunity to climb to the top and walk the perimeter for a magnificent view over the area and to the neighbouring key, which is home to a bird and wildlife sanctuary. The island has several amazing beaches and snorkelling in the shallow blue water. The flight home feels much more relaxed, the initial adrenaline of your first seaplane flight replaced with quiet content, watching the sea pass by from the window.
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4. Bicycle Ride on the 7 Mile Bridge
A nostalgic ride along an historic icon. Originally one of the longest bridges on the old overseas railway when it was first built, the old seven mile bridge connected Knights Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key. Now replaced by a new, modern bridge, mostly of the old bridge is closed to the public, which started out its life as the Overseas Railway in the early 1910s, until the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, when it was converted for use by cars. We picked up our bicycles from Marathon and rode south west to the start of the old Seven Mile Bridge, now called the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, the view opening up to the sea on either side with the new bridge in the background. Now only a short section of the old bridge remains open to pedestrians, bicycles and fishermen, the cracked concrete and rusted metal guardrails give the road a lonely, post-apocalyptic feel which creates the perfect setting for some couples photography with the sea glimmering in the background.
5. Sunset Celebration in Key West
This nightly “street carnival” was the perfect end to an activity-filled day, seeing the sun setting over the Key West Harbor while exploring arts and crafts stalls and watching local street performers in the street. You can grab a bite to eat from the many food stalls offering all sorts of delicious snacks and even have your fortune told! We loved taking in the early-evening atmosphere among the many visitors and street performers at this romantic Sunset Celebration.
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6. Jet-ski Around the Island
Maybe not a classically romantic activity but what brings you closer than speed and danger, your significant other clinging tightly to you for dear life as you tear across the waves at high speed! This excursion with Barefoot Billy’s Water Sports was one of many options included in our VIP pass, from Key West Attractions. The guides took us on a 2-hour guided tour of the whole island, telling us the history and background of the area at regular stops along the way. This is no frustrating go-slow activity either like many other of its type – with a front and a rear guide, you can go as fast the guy in front of you, if you can keep up with him! There’s also a 30 minute free-ride waves smashing session, where you get to drive it like you stole it, as long as you don’t crash into each other!
7. Scuba Diving
Ibis Bay Resort where we stayed offers all kinds of activities with their awesome beach-side rooms, including the opportunity to discover an incredible variety of wildlife up-close and personal. The combination of shallow, clear water which is inaccessible to boats makes this spot perfect for Scuba Diving or even just snorkelling, meeting all sorts of beautiful local fish as well as lobster, crabs, stingrays and turtles! You and your partner will come away with life-long memories so make sure to take a waterproof camera, or buy one from their gift shop before you head out.
The Florida Keys are also one of the few places in the world where you can get married underwater!
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8. Key West Nature and Butterfly Conservatory
Once you’ve exhausted the marine-life excursions spend some time on land seeing a huge assortment of tropical butterflies, described by Key West Nature and Butterfly Conservatory as the “flowers of the sky”. This centre is a truly magical experience, to be surrounded by not only hundreds of butterflies fluttering overhead, but also to take time wandering through their amazing collection of plants, trees, exotic birds and even waterfalls.
Their Learning Center teaches visitors all about the life-cycle of the Monarch butterfly from its beginning as a caterpillar through the entire transformation process. Group tours are available here and their gift shop is also a great place to find souvenirs and art pieces to remember your trip.
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9. Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
An absolute must-visit destination in Key West is the beautiful former home of literary icon Ernest Hemingway. The lovingly preserved house, gardens and pool are now operated as a museum where you can learn about the life of Hemingway and his various wives, not forgetting their famous 6-toed cats – of which more than 50 descendants currently live in the house! There are guides on hand to offer fascinating tours every fifteen minutes and anecdotes about the author, from his eccentric and exciting life, to his tragic death.
Although unsurprisingly busy with visitors this literary landmark maintains a nostalgic charm and was a definite highlight of our visit. We could overhear some of the other guides and there was no hint of a standard script between them, each one putting their own personal spin, personality and Hemingway passion into their tours. It was an incredible insight into the life of a fascinating human being. The whole home is packed with history, yet the highlight of the tour is standing in the doorway of the ‘man cave’, where the man himself would retreat every day to write his literary masterpieces. For any couples planning a wedding, be sure to find out more about hosting it in this charming location, despite, or perhaps because of, the irony of getting married in the home of a man famous for his infidelity!
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10. Visit Key Largo Chocolates
The last stop on our unforgettable trip was this incredible chocolate emporium, run by Kristie & Bob Thomas. It was the perfect place to stock up on gifts for family and friends but mainly to treat ourselves to speciality chocolate creations and combinations with the famous Key lime and also pistachio. We got to see the intricate and painstaking process of creating the chocolate from scratch, which is more of a science than we ever imagined.
Don’t miss the impressive “chocodiles” which are white or dark chocolate in the form of a 9 inch crocodile, or the frozen Key Lime Pie on a stick. For extra points, ask to see how the white chocolate rose is made!
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Accommodation and Hotels in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys has some of the most unique and relaxing luxury hotel accommodation in the world, with unbeatable beachside views and true Caribbean vibes!
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Note: This trip wouldn’t have been possible without the help and support of the official tourism office of , who arranged the whole trip and coordinated with private companies for our sponsored hotel stays and tours. Thank you!
Thank you to everyone we met along the way who all helped to make this such a special experience. It was an incredible visit to the Florida Keys and we will never forget it!