Beautiful Key West is a favorite port of call for most cruise lines. The island is compact, with tons of things to do near the Key West cruise port.
The Key West cruise terminal is right in the heart of the island. So, no matter who you cruise with–be it Royal Caribbean, Carnival, or Disney–the best excursions in Key West are only steps away for cruise passengers. Of course, you can book your Key West cruise excursions through the cruise line or just walk around town and find things that suit you.
Most excursions can be booked same day, from walking tours to catamaran snorkeling trips. But for the best excursions in Key West, you’ll probably want to book ahead to get those private tours and special experiences.
Don’t Miss These Top Things to Do in Key West Cruise Port
As with most cruise destinations, there’s plenty to see and do near the Key West cruise port. But a few shore excursions should be on everyone’s itinerary, regardless of how long your port call is. You can jump on a tour trolley, rent a bike, scooter, or golf cart, or simply stroll the streets for hours and see what you find.
Sunset at Mallory Square
Every afternoon, as the sun dips toward the horizon, the citizens and visitors of Key West migrate toward the westernmost part of the island to watch the proceedings. Mallory Square is the epicenter of the famous Key West sunset celebration, and if it’s your first time on the island, you shouldn’t miss it.
Key West Conch Tour Train – Hit All the Historic Sites and Famous Landmarks
Want a fun way to see the sights and hear the stories of the island? The Conch Tour Train is a fixture of the island, whether you’re riding in it or waiting for it to pass while strolling down Duval.
The train tours the island on a 75-minute tour and hits all the top sights, like the Southernmost Point marker and Duval Street. There are only three stops along the way. You can hop on and off the train at any stop to explore more on foot.
Duval Street runs through the length of Old Town Key West and is a must-see spot for every visitor. Sure, the Conch Train passes down the street, but to explore, you’ll really want to hop out and visit some of the stops along the way.
Stroll the street at your own pace, or join one of the great tours of the area. The Hemingway Food and Walking Tour is a great choice for those looking for a little food, drink, and history with their stroll.
Art Galleries and Island Shops
Duval is lined with attractions for everyone. There are plenty of places to grab a memento from your trip to bring home. Be sure to check out galleries filled with island-inspired pieces from local artists and international superstars like Wyland.
Sloppy Joe’s (And a Million Other Bars)
Duval has been the heart of Key West for decades. Follow in the footsteps of famous island residents and find your perfect bar. Each has a specialty, be it drink, food, music, Key Lime pie, or whatever!
- Start small at the Smallest Bar in Key West
- Enjoy a glass of wine at Grand Vin Wine Bar
- Sit on Hemingway’s favorite barstool at Sloppy Joe’s.
- Share stories with locals like Jimmy Buffett once did at Captain Tony’s Saloon
- Drink naked at The Garden of Eden
- Live the island life at the original Margaritaville
Key West Florida Excursions – Island Museums and Points of Interest
Did you know that Key West is the second oldest town in Florida? (Saint Augustine is the oldest town in the US) With so much to cover in the island’s history, it’s no wonder that many people enjoy a quiet day in Key West, visiting many of the island’s historic and educational museums.
Ernest Hemingway, the famous American writer, spent many years in Key West. He spent his time here like anyone else, baking in the sun, deep sea fishing, drinking too much at Sloppy Joe’s, and writing some of the best pieces of literature ever put on paper. Ok, he may have spent his time differently, but you get the idea.
President Harry Truman began visiting Key West in 1946 and wound up spending 175 days on the island during his time in office. Also called the Winter White House, the Little White House was his island getaway. Over the years, other presidents used the residence occasionally, including Eisenhower, Kennedy, Ford, and Carter.
The Audubon House got its name from the famous painter of birds. It wasn’t actually his house, but he stayed here in the 1830s and painted birds in the tropical gardens.
The grand houses on the property belonged to several local families and some of the island’s founders, Strobel, Greene, and Geiger. They are restored and look as they would have during the town’s early days of wrecking.
The author of A Streetcar Named Desire and many other plays started visiting Key West in 1947. He bought this house in 1949 and lived in this modest bungalow until he died in 1983.
Want to get a glimpse of the marine life that lives around Key West and the Florida Keys? The Key West Aquarium is one of the town’s top attractions and is home to stingrays, fish, turtles, and sharks. The aquarium opened to the public in 1935.
Mel Fisher was Key West’s local treasure-hunting legend. In the 1970s, Fisher and his son found silver bars and canons from the lost Spanish Galleon fleet of 1622. The most famous of the ships Fisher found was the Atocha (Nuestra Señora de Atocha), and all told, the wreck produced a $450 million cache of treasure that came to be called “The Atocha Mother Lode.”
The museum is an accredited research foundation that continues work into marine archaeology and conservation in the Keys.
Key West Tours – Small Boat Tours and Jet Ski Tours
It’s impossible to visit Key West without spending time on the water in a small boat. Boat tour operators are everywhere on the island, with good reason. The Keys are home to the US’s only living coral reef, so the snorkeling and scuba diving are extraordinary here. And, of course, Key West is world-renowned for its deep sea and backcountry fishing. Sunsets and sandbar excursions are great, too.
See the Reef – Glass Bottom Boat, Scuba Diving, and Key West Snorkeling Tours
Many water tours in Key West are about getting you out there to see the reef. It’s always best to pick the type of adventure that best suits your group–don’t sign up on a boat full of scuba divers if you’re a group of snorkelers. Yes, you probably will be allowed to go, but they’ll take you where the diving is great, but the snorkeling sucks.
Glass bottom boats are often the best way to see the reef, and you don’t even have to get wet. These large boats have an underwater observatory with seats all around. As the boat passes over the reef, you’ll see tropical fish and critters like sharks, rays, and sea turtles in their natural habitat. A guide will narrate the tour and point out the good stuff. Maybe the best part? Most boats are air-conditioned!
Snorkeling is good if you want a more personal and quiet experience at the reef. You don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer, but it helps if you are comfortable in water too deep to stand in.
Scuba diving is best left to, well, scuba divers! You’ll need to get certified if you aren’t. If you’re interested, check out Key West resort scuba diving courses and book one before you come. Or, better yet, book a course at one of the local dive shops and become open-water certified while you’re in town!
Deep Sea Fishing or Backcountry Fishing
The fishing is great in Key West, but there are three different types to suit any angler.
Deep sea fishing happens in the blue water well past the reef. Troll for dolphin (fish, aka mahi-mahi), wahoo, tuna, or even sailfish and marlins.
Near-shore or reef fishing happens in shallower water close to shore. This is usually bottom fishing or jigging for snapper, grouper, and the occasional hogfish.
Backcountry fishing happens on the grass flats. There are many styles, but backcountry fishing is most famous for saltwater flyfishing. Can you captivate the elusive bonefish enough to get a nibble? You might also find tarpon, permit, or pompano.
No matter which type of fishing adventure you like, experienced guides can show you where to cast your lines. Tours are usually booked by the half day or full day.
Jet Ski Tour
Key West has placed limits on jet ski rentals in the local waters due to the damage caused to the fragile Keys’ ecosystems in the past. So today, you can only join organized jet ski adventure tours.
These jet ski tours are led by a local guide and will take you around the island or into the backcountry to see the sights. Some tours will focus on sandbars and beaches, while others will stick closer to town.
Key West is the end of the road–literally! The Overseas Highway ends in Key West, making the island a favorite stop for everyone wanting to see the sunset. From Key West harbor, you have an unobstructed view across the Gulf of Mexico and a great chance of seeing the infamous Green Flash.
Taking a sunset cruise is a great way to make a memorable event out of your Key West sunset. You can book a cruise as a private group on a small boat or jump on one of the many big boats that tour the harbor every evening. So take your pick–sail a classic schooner, or dine on a luxurious motor yacht.
Sandbar and Eco Tours
Finally, there are tons of eco tours on the island that will take you to see marine life in its natural habitat. You can paddle kayaks or paddleboards along the mangrove shoreline. Dolphin watching cruises are a favorite, as are bird watching tours during the season.
If you’ve got a specific type of activity you’re looking for, there’s an expert guide on the island who can take you out and do it. For example, a private sandbar charter is a great option since you can book specific tour times that match your cruise plans.
You can also make requests with an experienced guide, combining beach combing, birdwatching, and dolphin sighting!
Key West Cruise Ship Shore Excursions
Whether you dream of Instagraming from the Southernmost Point monument, cruising the island on the town trolley or taking the plunge with a snorkeling excursion, Key West has plenty of options for cruise ship passengers.
Key West Shore Excursions FAQs
How far is the beach from Key West cruise port?
If you want to see the best beaches in Key West, your best bet is to book a private boat charter to a nearby sandbar. If you have time, these half-day trips take you into the backcountry to some of the most exotic and beautiful beaches you’ve ever seen.
From the cruise port, you can walk to several city beaches, including Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, Higgs Beach, and even Smathers Beach–although that one’s more of a walk. The walk to the beautiful beach at Fort Zachary Taylor is only a few minutes, depending on which pier your ship docks on.
How far is Duval Street from Key West cruise port?
Cruise ships dock on the west end of the island, near Mallory Square. Duval Street begins near Mallory Square and runs 1.1 miles across the island.
What is the best time to go to Key West?
Key West is a popular destination year-round, with a moderate subtropical climate similar to The Bahamas or the Caribbean. As a result, there are activities and things to do in Key West happening all year.
How to tour Key West?
If you’re looking for a quick land tour of the island’s top sights, you can’t beat the Key West Conch Train. But there are tons of specialty walking tours available as well. Plus, many boat charters will take you on eco tours, like snorkeling or dolphin watching.