If you’re visiting Key West on a cruise ship, you’re in luck! There are so many exciting activities tailored perfectly to the limited time you’ll have on port. From water sports to cultural attractions, festive Duval Street and off-the-beaten path Bahama Village, you’ll easily fill your afternoon in Key West with fun things to do. The great thing about Key West is that at only five square miles, it’s easy to navigate by foot or by bicycle. You can book many of these tours as a shore excursion through your cruise ship or explore the town on your own. The port is located at Mallory Square, which is at the foot of Duval Street and Key West’s Old Town, so all of the island’s attractions are nearby.
All Aboard the Conch Tour Train
The Conch Tour Train can pick you up directly from your cruise ship or from the depot at Mallory Square, depending on where your ship docks. On our 75-minute tour through Old Town, the Conch Tour Train makes stops at three points along the way. You’ll have the option to hop on and hop off to explore the sights in depth like the Historic Seaport, the Hemingway House or the Southernmost Point. The tour itself is entertaining and informative, packed with fun facts from an expert narrator, who also serves as your friendly train conductor. You’ll learn about the history of Key West, its unique architecture and the fascinating people that shaped the island. Afterwards, treat yourself to a slice of frozen key lime pie on a stick dipped in chocolate from Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. And once your belly is full of authentic Key West treats, take a leisurely walk down the famed Duval Street.
And Conch Tour Train gets you to the fun even faster! Purchase your Conch Tour Train tickets from the cruise ship’s Shore Excursions desk. Our tours are designed to maximize your time here in Key West. You'll receive an overview of the historic district, covering 100 points of interest including the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum, the Audubon House, world famous Duval Street, the Southernmost Point in the continental US, the neighborhoods of Old Town, one of the largest historical districts in the US, the Key West Bight, West Martello Fort, and tropical flowers and plants. The tour ends in Mallory Square. And rest assured, when purchasing an excursion through the ship, it guarantees that it will wait until the tour returns.
For our cruise ship guests, the Conch Tour Train is pleased to offer one-hour, non-stop tours of Key West in select foreign languages - German, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.
Grab Your Mask and Fins
Key West is home to the world’s third largest barrier coral reef located just seven miles offshore. Snorkeling the aquamarine waters will surely top your list of favorite vacation memories. Fury Water Adventures, located directly on the cruise ship dock at the Westin Marina, offers three-hour trips that travel out to the reef aboard their state-of-the-art, custom-built 65' catamarans. Prepare to be enchanted by rainbow parrot-fish, yellow-tail snapper and maybe even a loggerhead sea turtle. You’ll spend a full hour in the water snorkeling so make sure you pack an underwater camera! These excursions include snorkel equipment and all you can drink beer, wine and soda on the sail back.
Float Above the Water’s Surface
Parasailing is a unique way to get a thrilling, bird’s-eye-view of Key West while sailing high in the sky. You’ll cruise out to sea where the views are incredible and float through the air harnessed to a parasail for a once in a lifetime experience. From this vantage point, you’ll see Key West and the surrounding islands. For an extra thrill, ask the captain for a dip in the water. There are multiple water-sport companies around Key West to choose from. One of the great things about the companies who offer shorter excursions, some even around one hour, is that it allows for plenty of time to explore the island once you’re back on solid ground. Search for the perfect souvenir at the shops around Westin Marina, grab an ice cream cone, rent bikes and continue exploring the popular attractions or make your way to Duval Street for an afternoon cocktail.
An Author’s Inspiration
Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway spent most of the 1930s in Key West with his second wife Pauline in a beautiful home on Whitehead Street. His Key West years happened to be his most prolific, completing A Farewell to Arms, For Whom The Bell Tolls, To Have and Have Not and other novels and short stories. Get a glimpse into the fascinating author’s life by touring the home, which features his writing studio and lush gardens. You may even catch a glimpse at a descendant or two of his famed six-toed cat, Snowball, wandering the property. Opt for a guided tour to get the most out of the experience. You’ll learn about how the Hemingways' pool came to be, the toilet that he carried home from Sloppy Joe’s one night and his travels to Africa and Cuba. An on-site bookstore allows for further reading if you’re feeling inspired after the visit.
Flutter Among Nature
At the far end of Duval Street, you’ll discover an enchanting world where butterflies flutter freely amidst flowering plants, waterfalls, exotic birds and tropical trees. Wander among these winged wonders as they fly about and, remember, it’s good luck if a butterfly lands on you. The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is a wonderful activity for families with children curious about nature and science. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the gallery, the learning center and the conservatory. There’s also a boutique filled with souvenirs, books, jewelry and butterfly art.
Nowhere to Go but North
Make a beeline to the end of Whitehead Street for the most coveted photo opportunity on the island: The Southernmost Point Buoy. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this is where the saying “90 miles to Cuba” is famously scrawled. In fact, while in Key West, you’re closer to Cuba than you are to mainland Florida, which is 150 miles away. Be patient if there’s a line; this is one photo opp you don’t want to leave Key West without. Enjoy the views due south to the Atlantic Ocean and wander one block over where you’ll find both the Southernmost House and the Southernmost Beach Cafe. At the Southernmost House, $10 will get you a cocktail and an afternoon pass to their beautiful pool at this iconic conch shell pink and sea foam green Victorian mansion that’s now a bed and breakfast. At the Southernmost Beach Cafe, you can rent loungers at South Beach, pull up a stool at the al fresco bar or snag a table for lunch of fresh fish surrounded by some of the best views on the island.
A Key West Staple
Key West’s most picturesque beach is also a beautiful and historic state park. Accessed through Truman Annex at the end of Southard Street, enjoy an afternoon at the 54-acre Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Whether it’s relaxing on a beach blanket along the rocky coastline, swimming in the crystal blue ocean, hiking through nature trails shaded by Australian pine trees or touring the Civil War era fort, Fort Zach is the perfect destination for those who want to be surrounded by nature. You can rent snorkel gear and beach chairs and there’s also a snack bar for when you get hungry.
Do the Duval Crawl
Key West has a reputation for its raucous nightlife, live music and an “anything goes” spirit. Just because your cruise doesn’t stay in post overnight doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of Key West’s wild side while you’re here. It’s never too early, or too late, for a Duval Crawl. Start at the base of this famous stretch by the Ocean Key House and let the live music lead the way to famous bars like Sloppy Joe’s, Irish Kevin’s, Captain Tony’s and Fogarty’s. Further up the street you’ll come across Margaritaville, Willy T’s, Jack Flats and the Green Parrot. How far will you get? From rum punch to cold beer, frozen drinks to mojitos, it’s easy to sample Key West’s nightlife in the broad daylight during your cruise vacation.
Discover a Hidden Gem
Venture off the beaten path and stroll down Petronia Street into the heart of Bahama Village. This historic neighborhood is where Bahamians initially settled in Key West. Today, adorable boutiques, local eateries and art galleries have popped up within this residential neighborhood, making it ready for exploration. Pop into Firefly, Santiago’s Bodega or La Creperie for a delicious lunch at these local hidden gems. Don’t miss Blue Heaven, where you can either have lunch or simply enjoy a drink at their beautiful patio bar with a ping-pong table shaded by boat’s sails. Sometimes there’s even live reggae music to really put you in an island state of mind. Swing into Besame Mucho for some of the best shopping on the island. This beautifully curated boutique boasts home goods, candles, skincare, jewelry, art and clothing. There’s also Wanderlust across the street for fashionable women’s apparel.
Peddle Around the Island
A great way to see the island as the locals do is by renting bicycles. All of the points of interest in Old Town are a mere five to ten minutes. Peddle through quiet lanes lined with conch cottages, palm trees and blossoming bougainvillea to experience the laid-back charm of the island. From the cruise ship port at Mallory Square, head past Duval Street to Simonton and get lost along the quiet residential lanes. You’ll come across the Key West Cemetery, where you can lock up your bikes and stroll around. Grab a pamphlet with a map and information about the cemetery’s history and keep your eyes peeled for a grave with the salty epitaph: “I told you I was sick.” From there, continue south towards the Casa Marina Resort and Key West’s famed beaches. You can tour the West Martello Fort and Garden Club and walk out onto White Street Pier. Then, make your way back towards Duval Street, where you’ll see the Southernmost Point Buoy and the Southernmost House. There are also some great places to stop for a bite to eat including Ana’s Cuban Cafe. Don’t leave the island without sampling conch fritters and a Cuban sandwich!