Florida Middle Keys Things To Do
The Florida Middle Keys are a group of islands located in the middle section of the Florida Keys, a coral cay archipelago extending southwest from the southern tip of the Florida mainland. The Middle Keys are roughly situated between the Upper Keys, roughly just south of Islamorada and the lower Keys from Big Pine Key to Key West
There are no specific markers, maps or directions. If you look at Florida Travel Blog’s mile markers of the Florida Keys, the estimates would be from Mile Marker 72 to Mile Marker 35. Certainly, these aren’t fixed numbers but inclusive of fun things to do in the Florida Middle Keys.
What Are The Middle Keys of The Florida Keys Known For?
The Florida Middle Keys are known for their scenic beauty, outdoor recreation, and marine activities. Some key aspects include:
- Water Activities: The Middle Keys are renowned for their clear turquoise waters, coral reefs, and abundant marine life. Visitors can enjoy snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and fishing in this vibrant aquatic environment.
- Marathon: As the largest city in the Middle Keys, Marathon serves as a hub for tourism and offers various attractions, including the Dolphin Research Center and the Turtle Hospital, where visitors can learn about and interact with marine life.
- Seven Mile Bridge: This iconic and historic bridge connects the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys, offering stunning views and becoming a symbol of the Florida Keys. It’s a popular spot for sightseeing and photography.
- Reefs and Wildlife: The Middle Keys are part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, known for its vibrant coral reefs. Visitors can explore marine ecosystems and encounter diverse wildlife, including tropical fish, sea turtles, and dolphins.
- Outdoor Recreation: The Middle Keys provide opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts, including hiking and birdwatching in areas like Crane Point Hammock and Curry Hammock State Park.
- Fishing: The Middle Keys are a renowned fishing destination, attracting anglers for both offshore and backcountry fishing. The area is known for its sportfishing opportunities, including the chance to catch tarpon, bonefish, and other species.
Overall, the Florida Middle Keys offer a diverse range of activities and natural attractions, making them a popular destination for those seeking a mix of relaxation and outdoor adventure in a beautiful coastal setting.
Finding Things in The Florida Keys
The state of Florida maintains green and white mile marker signs along US Route 1, better known as the Overseas Highway. The 113-mile stretch of Route 1 from Florida City to Key West is the Overseas Highway.
Each mile from mile 0 at Key West is marked by a green and white mile marker sign along the side of the road. In other words, 20 miles east would be MM20.
Places along the Overseas Highway correspond to the mile marker. For instance, the famous Worldwide Sportsman department store entrance is located at MM 81.3. That means the store is 81 and 3/10ths miles from Key West.
Almost all major attractions, restaurants, parks and retail shops advertise their mile marker. Addresses can change, but the actual distance marked by the mile markers never does.
Use the mile marker system to determine distances and locations. The Marathon end of the Seven Mile Bridge is at MM 47.0. How far is that from Key West? And how far is the bridge from Robbie’s Marina at MM77 in Islamorada? If your answers were 47 miles and 30 miles, you now understand the mile larker system.
Fun Things To Do in the Florida Middle Keys
The Florida Middle Keys offer a diverse range of activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are 20 things to do in the Middle Keys:
Explore Bahia Honda State Park: At Mile Marker 36.8, this is one of our favorite Florida State Parks. Great place for kids. Home to beautiful beaches, nature trails, and historic bridges, Bahia Honda State Park is a must-visit destination. Excellent place to teach children how to snorkel, swim, and about sea life.
Snorkel or Dive at Sombrero Reef: Discover vibrant coral formations and marine life by exploring Sombrero Reef, a popular spot for snorkeling and diving. This is one of the most popular reefs in the Florida Keys. It is just 3.5 miles offshore. More about the reef is here.
Tour the Turtle Hospital: Learn about sea turtle conservation and rehabilitation efforts at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon. This is a fascinating stop in the Middle Keys at MM 48.5 Marathon.
Dolphin Research Center: Interact with dolphins and sea lions while learning about marine life conservation at this educational facility in Marathon at MM 58.9.
Visit Pigeon Key: Accessible by the Old Seven Mile Bridge, Pigeon Key offers historical tours and beautiful views of the surrounding waters. You and the kids will love the ride.
Kayak in Florida Bay: Explore the calm waters of Florida Bay, discovering mangrove islands and marine ecosystems. There are dozens of places in the Middle Keys to rent kayaks.
Fishing Charters: Charter a fishing boat to experience deep-sea or backcountry fishing for a chance to catch various species.
Enjoy Water Sports: Try paddleboarding, jet skiing, or windsurfing in the Middle Keys’ clear and warm waters.
Sunset at Sunset Grille: Experience breathtaking sunsets while enjoying waterfront dining at Sunset Grille in Marathon. The Bar and restaurant is located at the base of the Seven Mile Bridge on the ocean side of the Overseas Highway. Unique swimming pool in front of the bar!
Crane Point Hammock: This is a must-visit for anyone traveling the Middle Keys. Plan on a morning or afternoon to fully see and experience everything on the property. Explore nature trails, visit the Museum of Natural History, and observe wildlife in this tropical hammock reserve.
Overseas Highway Drive: Take a scenic drive along the iconic Overseas Highway, crossing the Seven Mile Bridge and enjoying stunning views of the ocean. Before taking the drive, read the history of the bridge and Henry Flagler who started the Florida East Coast Railway.
Visit Marathon Community Park: Enjoy recreational activities, sports, and family-friendly amenities at Marathon’s community park.
Curry Hammock State Park: Experience the natural beauty of this state park, known for its coastal habitats, birdwatching, and kayaking opportunities.
Rent a Boat: Discover hidden coves, sandbars, and secluded beaches by renting a boat for a day of private exploration.
Feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s: While technically just east of the boundaries of the Florida Middle Keys, Robbie’s is a must-see stop for anyone traveling the Keys. Have fun feeding the massive tarpon that gather around the docks for an exciting and unique experience. Don’t forget the dozen shops and restaurants at Robbie’s.
Enjoy Waterside Dining: Try fresh seafood and enjoy waterfront dining at the Middle Keys’ numerous restaurants and seafood shacks.
Go Parasailing: Experience the thrill of soaring above the water and enjoying panoramic views of the Middle Keys by going parasailing.
These activities showcase the diverse range of experiences that the Florida Middle Keys have to offer, from natural wonders to water-based adventures and cultural attractions.
The Beaches of the Florida Middle Keys
The Florida Middle Keys, particularly in the Marathon area, are not primarily known for long stretches of sandy beaches like those found in other parts of the Florida Keys.
However, there are some smaller beaches and waterfront areas. Here are a few notable ones:
Sombrero Beach: Located in Marathon, Sombrero Beach is one of the more popular beaches in the Middle Keys. It features a sandy shoreline, picnic areas, and a playground.
Coco Plum Beach: Another beach in Marathon, Coco Plum Beach is a scenic spot known for its tranquility and shallow waters. It’s a good location for walking and enjoying the views.
Anne’s Beach: While technically in the Upper Keys, at Mile Marker 73.4, Anne’s Beach is not far from the Middle Keys. It’s a beautiful and somewhat hidden gem with shallow waters and boardwalks.
Curry Hammock State Park – The park offers many amenities including a small beach and swimming areas.
Several hotels and resorts have private beaches and sandy swimming areas for guests.
Remember that the Middle Keys are more renowned for their coral reefs, marine activities, and water-based adventures rather than long sandy beaches. The focus in this region often centers around exploration of the water, such as snorkeling, diving, and enjoying the picturesque views of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Best Restaurants in the Middle Keys
As you will quickly discover, there are restaurants lining both sides of the Overseas Highway. We haven’t tried them all, but here are the best restaurants in the Florida Middle Keys we have tried.
Breakfast Restaurant Middle Keys
The Stuffed Pig – At MM 49 in Marathon is our favorite breakfast place. How can you not like old Florida cooking like country fried steak and eggs, alligator tail and eggs, and shrimp & grits? Down-home meals at a reasonable price.
Best Seafood Restaurant in the Middle Keys
Angler & Ale – At MM 61.1, the entrance to Hawk’s Cay Resort, enter into a family fishing resort. On the left will be the Angler & Ale restaurant that serves the freshest seafood you will find in the Keys. Great service too! Waterfront tables.
Best Hamburger in the Florida Middle Keys
Burdines – This ramshackle waterfront bar and grill serves up a juicy burger that you won’t forget!
The Best Tiki Bar in the Florida Middle Keys
Sunset Grille – We mentioned this place before as the best place for sunsets but they also have the largest and best tiki bar serving typical bar food. The best waterfront views are on the menu too!
Best Lunch in the Middle Keys of Florida
Keys Fisheries – Off 35th Street on the bayfront is the best place to grab a lobster Rueben or a grouper sandwich. One of the largest seafood wholesalers in the Florida Keys has a restaurant serving great food.
Best Sushi Waterfront
Castaways – Everything you would expect of a Florida Keys waterfront bar and restaurant. In Marathon on the ocean side of the Overseas Highway.
Florida Middle Keys Hotels and Resorts
Hawks Cay Resort – At MM 61.1, Hawks Cay Resort is hands down the best family resort in the Florida Middle Keys. They have a large sprawling facility with various options for accommodations. Programs for kids, marina, fishing charters, and dolphins on site from the Dolphin Research Center. Don’t miss it!
Tranquility Bay Beachfront Resort – If you want relaxation, a private beach, quiet accommodations, and great views, Tranquility Bay is the place to stay.
Planning A Trip to the Florida Middle Keys
Planning a trip to the Florida Middle Keys involves several key steps to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here’s a guide to help you plan your trip:
- Choose Travel Dates
– Select the dates for your trip, considering factors such as weather, special events, and your personal schedule. It is important to have a schedule for bookings. Price is based on dates and availability.
- Book Accommodation
– Research and book accommodation in the Middle Keys. Options range from hotels and resorts to vacation rentals and campgrounds. The earlier you book, the more time you have to plan excursions. You can get the best hotel rates here.
– Decide on the mode of transportation. If flying, check flights to nearby airports like Key West International Airport or Miami International Airport, and if driving, plan your route.
- Renting a Car
– Consider renting a car to explore the Middle Keys and surrounding areas at your own pace. Reserve early, rental cars can be scarce seasonally.
- Create an Itinerary
– Outline the activities and attractions you want to experience. This may include water activities, beach visits, exploring nature reserves, and visiting local attractions.
- Water Activities
– Plan for water-based activities such as snorkeling, diving, kayaking, or fishing. Research local outfitters and book tours or rentals well in advance.
- Visit Key Attractions
– Identify key attractions like Bahia Honda State Park, the Turtle Hospital, or the Dolphin Research Center, and plan your visits accordingly. Also, a good idea to plan for rainy days.
- Explore Dining Options
– Research and make reservations at local restaurants, seafood shacks, and waterfront dining spots. The Middle Keys offer a variety of culinary experiences.
- Check Local Events
– Look for any local events, festivals, or activities happening during your visit. This can add a cultural element to your trip. There are seafood festivals, boat races, fishing tournaments, and other events throughout the Keys.
- Pack Accordingly
- Be Flexible
– While planning is essential, leave room for spontaneity and unexpected discoveries during your trip. The Florida Keys are an amazing group of islands. It is easy to find new adventures every day.
Remember that the Florida Middle Keys offer a unique blend of natural beauty, water activities, and a laid-back atmosphere. Tailoring your itinerary to include a mix of relaxation and adventure will help you make the most of your trip to this beautiful region.
Final Thoughts on the Florida Middle Keys
The keys in the middle of a group of connected islands are the heart of the region. Steeped in history, laced with natural beauty, and populated by friendly people, the Florida Middle Keys should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Start planning your Florida Keys trip now. Your memories of these islands will last a lifetime.