Photo: Maridav/Shutterstock

9 Things You’ll Miss Your First Time in the Florida Keys

Insider Guides Florida, United States
Photo: Maridav/Shutterstock
Joe Batruny
Sep 2, 2014
1. Diving the Adolphus Busch wreck

The Adolphus Busch (yes, of relation to the brewing company) is a sunken cargo ship near Looe Key. Adolphus Busch IV had the boat stripped and sunk as an artificial reef in 1998.

Considered a rather advanced dive due to its technical nature, the Adolphus Busch wreck dive isn’t visited by many tourists. At a depth of 80 feet (reaching a maximum of 100 feet), reef fish of all sorts can be spotted alongside the larger Atlantic goliath grouper, sawfish, and occasional shark.

2. Old Wooden Bridge Fish Camp

The Old Wooden Bridge Fish Camp, on Big Pine Key, is named after the wooden bridge that linked Big Pine Key and No Name Key. The cottages and docks are located at the base of No Name Key Bridge, allowing guests to fish off the bridge or take a boat out to catch larger fish. The quiet vibe is a stark contrast to the party atmosphere of Key West’s Duval Street.

3. Breakfast and a “Bloody Harry” at Harpoon Harry’s

While much of Key West is your typical tourist haunt, visitors who walk away from the commotion get a different experience. Take a seat at the bar at Harpoon Harry’s on Caroline Street and order breakfast and a “Bloody Harry.”

4. Spotting Key deer at dusk on No Name Key

The Key deer, as suggested by the name, is an endangered subspecies of deer than can only be found in the Florida Keys. The National Key Deer Refuge is on Big Pine Key, but the deer can be spotted in the wild on No Name Key due to the lack of heavy human presence. A bike ride around the island is ideal for spotting Key deer. The animal is notable for its ability to swim between islands.

5. A steamboat ride on the African Queen

Used as a tourist boat on Key Largo since 2012, the African Queen was featured in the 1951 film The African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. (The film was Bogart’s only Oscar-winning performance.) Rediscovered in Cairo in the early 1970s, the ship was purchased and sent to the United States. Recently refurbished, the African Queen is available for short charter cruises.

6. Kayaking around Curry Hammock State Park

One of the Florida Keys’ quieter state parks, Curry Hammock is a great spot to kayak through mangroves. Visitors can paddle around Little Crawl Key, on which the park is located, in less than two hours. While the Keys aren’t well known for their beaches, the park contains 1,200 feet of shallow, sandy beach.

7. A novelty tour of the Key West Cemetery

The Key West Cemetery houses the graves of many sailors, soldiers, and Key West locals. Among the plots, visitors will find several graves with rather peculiar headstone inscriptions. One reads, “I told you I was sick.” Another, “Devoted Fan of Singer Julio Iglesias.” At the entrance are pamphlets containing a map that indicates the “interesting” plots and headstones.

8. Camping in the Dry Tortugas

The Dry Tortugas, 67 miles west of Key West, are considered the westernmost islands of the Florida Keys. A 10-site campground can be found on Garden Key, the same key as Fort Jefferson. The basic campsites have picnic tables and grills but nothing more; everything must be brought with you and packed back out.

The Dry Tortugas are accessible by ferry, private boat, or seaplane for those looking for a quicker ride. The area has world-class snorkeling, diving, and bird watching.

9. A (quick) stop at the Perky Bat Tower

Officially known as the Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower, the Perky Bat Tower was built in 1929 by Richter Clyde Perky to combat the mosquito problem that plagued the Lower Keys. Unfortunately, the bats flew away shortly after being installed in the tower. The structure remains as an odd historic landmark at mile marker 17 on Lower Sugarloaf Key.

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