Key West for Kids, Too!

Top 10 spots for traveling in Key West with children

I will be honest. Key West is not the best place for kids. But it still is a great place for them! It still has lots to offer even at the wildest of times. I took my child during Spring Break in 2016. Don’t get me wrong- we had plenty to do and lots of fun. But we were in by 8pm every night and avoided the restaurants and bars that lined Duval Street. With that said, here is what we enjoyed the most. If you like relaxing by the pool in the evenings and plan to make dinners in, than this is still a great family destination. 

Find the cats at Hemingway House

Hemingway kitties!

Hemingway cats, also called Polydactyl cats, are known for their extra toes. Sailors believed polydactyl cats were good luck and Captain Stanley Dexter gifted one to Ernest Hemingway. I believe there are around 40-50 cats at any given time at the house. His first cat was called Snow White. Many of her descendants are at the house today.

Ernest Hemingway’s type writer.

Before you go, tell your child or children about this legendary writer. Here is a link to some facts about his life. Use discretion about what you would like your child to know or read. I think a starting point to share Hemingway with your child is to tell them about, “The Old Man and the Sea”.

Hemingway house grounds.
One of the many Hemingway cats. We really enjoyed finding all of the cats around the property.

We actually had our own black Hemingway cat, which we adopted from the Lakeland SPCA. He recently passed away. He was the coolest cat and also named after a Disney character, Bagheera.

Climb the Key West Lighthouse steps

Nearby is the Key West Lighthouse. It is a tight squeeze to say the least but a good view.

View from the top of the Lighthouse.

So this was after we hiked up the lighthouse. There are low branch trees on the Lighthouse property and my son enjoyed climbing around in them.

It was HOT though. You can note the swollen lip from my jellyfish sting. Ugh- feeling a bit stink here. But wait….

It is hot. I would say after two visits anywhere, take a break and an opportunity to cool down. Kids especially will tucker out easily under the Florida humidity. Keep on track of hydration.

Aww much better. Located on the north end of Duval street (opposite end of Hemingway House- near Mallory Square, so take an Uber, bike or the trolley) was Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. My son discovered he loves Key Lime pie while traveling down to Key West. He approved of the chocolate covered key lime pie popsicle. Now I on the other hand needed something cooler. This big fruity drink came from a stand on the side of the road and it was worth the 10 dollars I spent on it. Sorry I didn’t catch the stand’s name!  

Chickens, chickens, everywhere!

Chickens, chickens, everywhere! We thought it was a hoot. This guy was located at the Southernmost Point near some parking lot.

Mother Hen and her baby chick near Southern Most Point.
We found these two checking out our bikes in the back of my truck. (Sidenote: we didn’t ride our bikes around due to the amount of people drinking during the day. If I was without my child, I would have used a bike. Also, despite being chained in, someone did try to steal my bike.)

Catch a Key West Sunset

Take an early evening stroll along Mallory Square for dinner and/or shopping if its suits your fancy. This is where we caught this photo.

A must-do. Catch a Key West sunset. And don’t forget the Crazy Cat Man’s Crew. He AND his cats were very entertaining. My son got picked out of the audience and loved it!


We took a short snorkel tour with Key West Snorkel Adventure. I was a little worried about taking my child out there at his age so I opted for a short snorkel tour. I will say the water was deep for coral reef exploring. At least 20 ft. As you can see from my water camera it was not as clear as we wanted. However, we did see lots of tropical fish and a pretty large shark. I was terrified when I spotted it, grabbed my child and swam back to the boat, but the guide told me I should go back and get pics as it was harmless. So I did, but I am not sure I would do it again to be honest.  Also, the water is choppy as you try to get on and off the boat. It is a bit rough if you aren’t athletically inclined.  They do make you wear life jackets and provide noodles. I would say its a good idea even if you are a good swimmer. All snorkeling gear was provided. Wet suits were not. It was cold water. There are free drinks if you are so inclined.

Large Nurse Shark!

West Martello Tower and the Key West Garden Club (free).

The West Marello Tower was a fort created during the American Civil War. It is considered a National Historic Site. It holds some impressive trees and beautiful gardens, including a waterfall and butterfly garden. Did I mention its free?? Lots of trees for your kids to learn about here.

African Slave Burial Grounds at Higgs Beach

Cemetery marker at Higgs Beach

A quaint little stop on the south end of Key West (also a more quiet area). We found here some beautiful trees and garden. An unexpected but interesting find was the African cemetery right beside it. Located on Higgs beach, I didn’t see any tourist info on it until I read the sign outside the Martello Tower. In 1860, 3 illegal slave ships were intercepted by the US Navy. The conditions for the slaves among the ship were horrific. The slaves who did not survive are buried here and the remaining ones were cared for by the community. It is considered a historical and archaeological site. For more info check out I highly encourage a stop here with children to share this example of slavery and pay respect for the slaves who lost their lives.

Southernmost Point

As the picture says, here we are at the Southernmost Point of the Continental US. It is crowded and I would suggest going near dusk when the party goers are heading to the bars and restaurants for dinner and drinks. It is also free, just gotta find a good parking spot.  

The Key West Aquarium.

This little aquarium has a lot of hands on fun for both kids and adults. We fed sting rays shrimps which was different. They have a great variety of local marine wildlife and a resident tortoise below. He hangs out at the entrance.  

If your child loves the book, “Rainbow Fish”, you can show them the real deal here!
This sting ray has a face!
Feeding a sting ray shrimp.
Nurse sharks. Large and “docile” sharks. This is the type of shark we spotted while snorkeling.

Fort Zachary Beach

We saw a Portuguese Man-of-war in the water. And quickly got out. For you that don’t know, they are venomous and their stings are excruciatingly painful, possibly deadly. If you are looking for the famous sign with all the cities pointing in different directions, than look no further. It is here.

Others things that we saw included the Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum. It was good and it took a while to get thru it. Good female pirate section and if you like coins and jewelry, you’ll be impressed with the back. There are a lot of museums in Key West and if you only have a few days, I would only choose 1 or 2. Don’t feel the need to hit every one. Also, we did use the Old Town Trolley, but only on the second day. It was worth it, especially if you are planning on site seeing to a lot of places. We had bikes and I decided not to use them with all of the car traffic. Also, someone tried to steal them off the back of my vehicle 😦 Quickly, I will state what we should have skipped the Key West cemetery. Unless you are on a ghost tour it is deadly silent (pun intended), bit depressing, and hot as…

Okay heading back home but not before one more stop on our way out …Bob’s Bunz! Located in Islamorada, they have all kinds of yummy baked goods. They are known for their cinnamon and sticky bunz. They had me at bunz.

Have a safe and wonderful trip in one the best spot’s Florida has to offer!


August 16, 2019


Coming from Tampa we decided to break the drive into two days. I wanted to experience both “sides” of the Everglades since this might be the only time we were down there. I started off first on the west side of the Everglades, which took us to the Gulf Coast. We visited the Everglades National Park from Everglades City, FL. Inside the park is the Everglades Florida Adventures company which runs daily tours out onto the Gulf.

We took the Ten Thousand Island Cruise which runs about $40/per person, includes all ages and lasts 90 minutes. It’s an easy boat tour where we spotted dolphins and a variety of birds.

Side note. The boat did have a top or cover to help protect passengers from the sun. 

Next stop down Highway 41 South was the Miccosukee Tour. The Everglades are famous for their air boat rides. I chose this company to support a local, Native American tribe.  We did not go into the Village Shop or Cafe on Tamiami Trail but we were able to book an air boat ride on the spot. No reservation required (which oddly enough I can’t find a link to the air boat ride on the website), but you may have to wait 20 minutes or so. Make sure not to arrive right before they close (5pm). 

The boat ride itself was fun and windy. My son was a little, ummm, not blown away. But hot, so I guess it worked out that it was short. This may sound silly but I imagined the Everglades to be a Cyprus tree-filled swamp but it is not. It is very, very flat and wide open, with nothing but swamp grass and reeds. No trees whatsoever and in the boat you are kinda going too fast to spot any alligators or other wildlife. The highlight for me was not the ride itself but the little traditional village stop where you can walk on a board walk around a ton of gators (big and small) and see a village fire and some native crafts. All and all I would do it again if I was down there. But I will say that the Everglades aren’t really my thing. I need trees people.

This guy (or gal) was huge.
View of the village from the air boat.

Anhinga Trail- Everglades National Park
This is a great bike ride. I do not recommend it as a walk. Although it is flat, there is little to no shade and the sun beating down on you is hot no matter what time of year you go. If you want to see alligators than look no further. They line the paths (startling close actually) and we even saw an alligator nest. There are a lot of bird sightings as well.  I think this is a great place to stretch your legs (on a bike) and get a good feel for the Everglade ecosystem. Their visitor center is very informative as well.

I am going to be open about a parenting fail on this bike trip. There are some pretty large gators right beside the paved path. These gators are familiar with people and the park is familiar with them. But when I look back at some of these photos of my child stopping for a photograph near one of the alligators, I feel highly irresponsible. Even though these gators are “tame” they are still wild animals and very large. Gators do leap and climb and in a minute they can grab a child. So even though it seems cool to get an epic pic next to a wild, large gator, don’t take the risk. 

Blue Heron

So we had to stop somewhere to get some rest. Homestead, the town where the hostel is located, was desolated in the Hurricane Andrew in 1992 and the town, in my humble opinion, isn’t worth writing about. However it was a great stop for our night’s rest. Now back in my college days and late 90s, staying at hostels around Europe was the norm. Whenever I traveled all I could afford were hostels and I met a lot of backpackers and acquaintances along the way. But now traveling with a child and staying in a hostel in America (in Florida none the less) made me a bit weary of this place. 

The Everglades International Hostel is now called the Hoosville Hostel When I discovered this place online what convinced me to stay was the ability to get a private room. We stayed in “The Library” for a slightly higher price. When we got there my son took one look at the place from the outside and said, “No, it doesn’t look clean and safe”. I told him let’s go inside and take a look and give it a chance. Well boy was he glad we did. HE LOVED THIS PLACE. 

Get it? Potty Under the Stairs? And it was.
Fresh and free bananas anyone?

There was a very cool tree ropes course/canopy. He was all over this. Even though there were no kids around when we were there, this is a kid’s idea of heaven. Not so sure how stable and secure the ropes course was but he was fine 🙂 

A little lounge house with cushions and instruments to have a….jam session? haha. Or whatever floats your boat. There was a latter outside where you can sit on the top and star gaze if you fancy.

They also have free, unlimited pancakes. You do have to make them on your own but its a great way to meet people and swap traveling suggestions with fellow travelers around the picnic table in the morning. 

The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Next stop was the John Pennekamp State Park. I was really looking forward to stopping on the way down and having a refreshing swim. My son really enjoyed himself while I swatted away jellyfish. WARNING: Cassiopeia jellyfish were everywhere. Also known as the upside down jellyfish. Tiny little stings everywhere including my lip 😦 What they don’t tell you until you get there is that jellyfish are more abundant around mangrove shores. They wash in and hang out. If you go, stay on the beach or kayak or paddle board out. But a relaxing swim it was not. I also walked through some mangroves on a little back trail to head to a spot further out. Almost knocked myself out on a low hanging branch. Opened my eyes to see a giant iguana staring at me. I kid you not. Could not make this stuff up. Meanwhile the kid is walking on rocks with a bunch of college kids having a great time (wear water shoes it is slick on the rocks). See rocks below and the beach in the background.

The little stingers that ruined the day for me. 

I won’t be returning for a swim here ever again. Sorry but no.

Swollen lip from a sting ;(

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