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5 Off-the-Beaten Path Adventures in the Florida Keys

Adventurous ways to soak in the tropics in the Florida Keys.

The Keys are a string of islands that extend from the southernmost tip of Florida's mainland to distant Loggerhead Key in Dry Tortugas National Park. Many, but not all, of the Keys are connected by the spectacular 106-mile Overseas Highway.

The Florida Keys have a little bit of everything for the adventurous, including gorgeous camping, plenty of places to dive and snorkel, great swimming, beaches for relaxing, and plenty of bars, restaurants, and seafood shacks to keep you going.

Here are five off-the-beaten-path adventures to check out in this tropical paradise.

1. Snorkel at Sombrero Reef

Photo by Courtney Clemmons

Explore the treasure of the Middle Keys at Sombrero Reef, a reef formation where you will find coral, tropical fish, and a historic lighthouse, the latter built in 1858. Getting to Sombrero Reef is possible by private boat or via a catamaran tour that you can book from the town of Marathon. 

Snorkel or dive, depending on your experience and equipment. No matter how deep you get, the views will be spectacular!

2. Relax on Calusa Beach at Bahia Honda State Park

Photo by Toni Fletcher

The excellent camping available at Bahia Honda State Park is no secret (and it's hard to snag a spot!), but day-adventurers may be surprised to find some of the prettiest beaches in the Keys tucked into this unassuming park. 

Calusa Beach has a stunning view of the water and the historic Bahia Honda bridge, and its calm water is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and floating. Nearby Sandspur Beach, another beauty, is still under restoration from Hurricane Irna, but there are plans to re-open it in the future.

3. Camp in Dry Tortugas National Park

Photo by Jess Curren

If you're one of those people who holds that the more difficult it is to get somewhere, the greater the experience (raises hand), then Dry Tortugas National Park is your kind of place

Located nearly 70 miles from Key West, Dry Tortugas is accessible only via boat or seaplane (reservations for either a flight or the ferry is highly recommended). The national park consists of seven small islands and a whole lot of crystal-clear water. Primitive camping is available on Garden Key, which is also home to impressive Fort Jefferson.

4. Explore Hidden Fort Zachary Taylor

Photo by Alex E

The town of Key West isn't exactly off-the-beaten-path, but the quiet Fort Zachary Taylor is. Its sand-and-pebble coastline is a favorite of local beachgoers, but it's the fort itself that really shines. Originally a small naval depot established to control the area's pirates in 1822, it was built into a full-sized fort in 1845 and utilized throughout the Civil War, and all the way up to 1947.

The fort contains the "largest cache of Civil War-era seacoast cannons in the United States," and live historical demonstrations take place every third weekend of the month.

5. Kayak Islamorada

Islamorada is a town that stretches over six of the Florida keys. Head to Robbie's Marina to rent a kayak and maybe feed a tarpon. From there, either paddle atop the turquoise water of the shoreline, or duck into one of the mangrove tunnels and wind your way through the trees.

Back on land, you can grab a drink at the Islamorada Beer Company, or schedule a SCUBA workshop to explore one of the area's underwater shipwrecks.

Check out more adventures in Florida.

Cover photo by Jess Curren

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Sara SheehyAdmin

Writer | Nomad