For families based in the U.S., an island getaway to the Caribbean, Hawaii, or beyond can be a major investment. Fortunately, the Florida Keys offer a dose of turquoise waters and sunshine much closer to home. While these islands don't typically offer miles of sandy beaches, they more than make up for it with breathtaking views, fun watersports, and quirky pit stops you'll only find in the Keys.
Getting to the Florida Keys
Most travelers to the Keys fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale and then rent a car for the rest of the journey. The drive should take about one to three hours, depending on traffic and your starting point. The mainland road can get congested, but once you hit Key Largo, you're in for some scenic sites along the Overseas Highway. The road stretches 120 miles all the way to Key West, passing through Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, and the Lower Keys along the way.
Where to Stay in the Florida Keys
The Keys took a big hit in September 2017 with Hurricane Irma, and some places on the islands remain closed as recovery efforts continue. However, many hotels and restaurants have reopened, refreshed and better than ever. Families will find everything from luxury resorts to time-worn beach shacks and campsites peppered throughout the Keys.
Islamorada is a popular stop along the route, with several higher-end properties that are perfect for families. Amara Cay Resort (pictured above) is a recently refurbished property with a palm-lined beach, a zero-entry waterfront pool, an on-site restaurant, and plenty of kayaks available for paddling around the crystal-clear waters. Spring for a waterfront suite if you want plenty of space to spread out with your crew, plus a kitchen and a pair of balconies for taking in the breeze.
Fans of the Netflix series Bloodline will recognize the Moorings Village, a resort spread out over 18 acres with a pool, spa, and luxury villas with up to three bedrooms. If the villas don't quite fit in your budget, stop by the Morada Bay Beach Cafe, a laid-back spot known for its fresh Caribbean cuisine.
Cheeca Lodge and Spa is another classic Islamorada resort, and it's especially popular with serious anglers — this is considered the sportfishing capital of the world, after all. Families will love their kid-friendly pool, on-site restaurants, and the longest pier in the Keys, ideal for more casual fishing adventures.
If you're headed all the way to Key West, you'll find dozens of options suitable for families. Unless you're staying a month or more, you won't find a legal Airbnb in town, but there are plenty of charming inns, resorts, and guesthouses to make up for that.
The Marker Waterfront Resort has a central location three blocks from Duval Street, spacious guest rooms with soaking tubs, and two family-friendly swimming pools. Parrot Key Resort is another popular hotel close to the action with multiple pools and sand terraces for the little ones. If you're craving more space (and you've got the budget), check out Sunset Key Cottages, an upscale property on a residential island just off of Key West with an idyllic beach and clear waters.
Family Fun in the Florida Keys
You don't have to look far to find fun things to do with kids in the Florida Keys. Here are five ideas to get you started:
1. Search for the best Key lime pie. We're big fans of the slices served at Mrs. Mac's Kitchen in Key Largo (and their coconut shrimp is pretty good, too).
2. Get on the water. Whether on a boat, kayak, or paddleboard, venturing out into the clear blue waters of the Keys is a pivotal part of the experience.
3. Go fossil-hunting at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park. Get lost on the nature trails and marvel at the fossilized coral.
4. Feed the tarpon. Head to Robbie's Marina (mile marker 77.5) to feed these massive fish, and you might even see some sharks. It's the perfect entertainment while waiting for your food at one of the nearby waterfront restaurants.
5. Go on a Conch Train Tour. Little kids will love this playful train tour of Key West, which includes a stop to get ice cream.
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