A tropical vacation with the whole family is probably a dream come true for you and your kids. There’s something special about your kids telling all their friends that they’re heading to the Florida Keys for a few days.
Whether you have a few days or a whole week, a vacation in the Florida Keys is well worth the time and effort it takes to plan such a trip. Not only do you get to spend your vacation basking in the Florida sun, but you get to do it on beautiful, fun-filled islands.
Planning a trip to the Keys means knowing the best places to stay in the Florida Key for families with kids. Once those locations are narrowed down, the rest is deciding what you want to do first.
Your kids will have the time of their life down in the southern reaches of the Sunshine State. Let’s do the tricky part and find the best places to stay. After that, the rest should fall into place.
Places to Stay in the Florida Keys with Kids
Each Key in the Florida Keys has a different water-based activity that it’s known for, but the whole string of islands has a collective reputation for being something of a party hotspot. As a popular spring break destination, the Keys are sometimes overrun with rowdy college kids.
But if you avoid the peak tourist season, you can enjoy a relaxed and peaceful atmosphere in the Florida Keys. You can swim, sunbathe, fish, waterski, and do all kinds of amazing activities in one of the most beautiful parts of the United States.
With famous destinations like Key West and Islamorada, it’s no wonder that the Florida Keys attract so many tourists every year. The Keys offer great amenities, fresh seafood, a charming atmosphere, and luxurious hotels and resorts.
Key West – The Meadows
For a true Florida Keys experience, the best place to stay when you go to visit is on Key West. There are a few different neighborhoods to choose from, but the Meadows neighborhood is at the top of this list.
If you want to stay next to some of the nicest homes in the Florida Keys, consider booking your stay in the Meadows. It’s a somewhat exclusive neighborhood with desirable houses and fun activities.
The Meadows is part of Old Town Key West and allows visitors easy access to most of the island. You can walk from your vacation home to the beach, fun shops, local bakeries, or other unique Florida amenities.
Where To Eat
At Mellow Cafe & Gastropub, you can enjoy an adult beverage, a deliciously fresh seafood taco, and a relaxed environment with other island-goers looking for a good time. And after, you can check out their gear rentals for water sports!
If you’re looking for sushi, Thai Island is the best place to find it in the Meadows. They serve traditional Thai menu items and fresh sushi and offer their patrons a wonderful view of the marina from the patio seating area.
The Florida Keys is home to plenty of great seafood, but none so readily available as the offerings at Pescado. Their fried shrimp is a local favorite. This is a great option if your kids have never eaten from a food truck.
What To Do
Your first excursion to the Florida Keys should start with a stroll through the famous Bayview Park. You can stop and relax in the shade while your kids enjoy the playground for a while. Or you can start a family softball game as long as you remember your gear.
If you’ve chartered a boat to take you and your family exploring, you’ll likely end up at the historic City Marina. Even if you don’t have a boat ride waiting for you, it’s a lovely place to walk and let your kids admire all the ships at the dock.
Yankee Freedom Dry Tortugas Ferry offers two amazing opportunities rolled into one. The first is that you can board a ferry and sail across the Gulf of Mexico. Your kids will love it, especially if it’s their first time on a boat.
The second half of the Dry Tortugas Ferry takes you 70 miles through the Gulf to Fort Jefferson National Park, a Civil War-era fort used as a prison. When you arrive, you can tour, explore the fort, swim at one of the beaches, or climb the lighthouse!
When To Go
Winter is typically the busiest season in Key West, meaning it’s also the most expensive. If you want to avoid some of the crowds, consider taking your family for a trip in April or May. The weather will be nicer and the prices reasonable.
Key West – Bahama Village
Key West’s Bahama Village is set up like a paradise within paradise. If you thought your time in the Keys couldn’t get any better, just wait until you experience the open-air restaurants and charming little shops of Bahama Village.
The authentic feel of Bahama Village sets it apart from other parts of the island. It’s a little less tourist-focused and more historic. The Bahamian architecture celebrates the island’s connection to the Bahamas, and the local restaurants have a relaxed atmosphere.
You’ll love staying in Bahama Village. The views of the water are almost panoramic, giving you every opportunity to soak in the sun and the sea breeze. Plus, there are amazing historical activities that your kids are bound to enjoy.
Once you start exploring Key West’s Bahama Village, even if you don’t end up staying there, it will quickly become your favorite portion of the Florida Keys.
Where To Eat
If you want to experience authentic tapas when you’re visiting Bahama Village, then swing by Santiago’s Bodega. You’ll feel right at home in the cozy, eclectic environment. At the Bodega, everyone is treated like family.
A Key West favorite, DJ’s Clam Shack is just up the street from Bahama Village. It’s the best spot on Key West to find a hearty mix of southern and northern seafood. You can order everything from Maine lobster to calamari.
Rams Head Southernmost is one of those charming open-air eateries that give patrons a true island vibe. A featured item on their menu is Bahamian conch fritters, and if you go at the right time, you might experience some live island music.
What To Do
One of the key features of Bahama Village is The Hemingway Home and Museum. For a small fee, you can take your kids to walk through the Florida residence of one of America’s most famous authors. You might even run across a cat descended from Hemingway’s pet.
The Key West Lighthouse is a famous landmark on Key West, known to locals and visitors alike. This historic lighthouse opened in the 1840s and its first keeper was a woman. Today, you can climb the lighthouse and explore the keeper’s quarters.
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is known as one of Key West’s best attractions, as well as one of the best places to take your kids. So while you’re in the area, you should probably head down to experience some free-flying butterflies and exotic birds.
You can’t go to Key West without taking a family photo at the Southernmost Point of the Continental USA. It’s an immediately recognizable historical landmark, a painted buoy that makes the perfect backdrop for your next family Christmas card.
When To Go
It’s never a bad time to visit Key West, although you might want to avoid the busy winter months. Spring is a great time to visit for minimal crowds and temperate weather. That’s when most tourists make their way down south.
Key West – Historic District
It might surprise you to learn that all of Key West is historic. It was home to Native Americans and Spanish settlers and was regularly visited by individuals from the Bahamas and Cuba. While there were few permanent inhabitants in the late 18th century, there were many visitors.
As far back as the 1800s, it was a popular winter destination for many. In the 1820s, Commodore Matthew Perry claimed the Keys as part of the United States. After that, people began purchasing land in the Keys and building homes.
So even though all of Key West is steeped in rich history, it has its Historic District that is well worth exploring. It’s a wonderful part of town to find a hotel or rental. But even if you don’t stay there, you’ll want to spend time walking the streets and perusing the shops.
Where To Eat
Your first choice for delicious cuisine when visiting the Historic District is Jose’s Latin Food. It’s a relaxed Latin kitchen specializing in carefully crafted Mexican and Nicaraguan dishes. You’ll love the vibrant colors decorating the entire space.
What happens when you combine comfort food with fresh fish? You get the masterpiece Seven Fish, a dinner restaurant on Truman Avenue that offers an interesting take on fresh fish caught daily.
Finally, a trip to Key West would be incomplete without stopping by the family-owned El Siboney. It’s a charming Cuban restaurant that welcomes each patron with open arms. There’s nothing like enjoying authentic Cuban cuisine with housemade sangria on the side!
What To Do
Stop by the Key West Firehouse Museum for a fun tour of the original 20th-century firehouse that serviced the area. You can see old fire trucks and accommodations and learn about fire safety on an island like Key West.
A cemetery might not be at the top of your list of places to visit, but the Key West Cemetery is a unique experience you and your kids can enjoy together. The cemetery dates back to the 1840s and features numerous cultural traditions and religious symbols on the gravestones.
One of the best ways to experience most of Key West is simply walking the streets. To do that, why not hire a private tour guide from Hidden Key West Walking Tours? This award-winning operation will show you the hidden gems that make Key West fun.
The Basilica of St. Mary Star of the Sea is a beautiful basilica that dates back to the early 1900s. You can explore the building, the grotto, and the charming garden.
Americans were launched into the Spanish-American War when the USS Maine mysteriously exploded off the Cuban coast. If you have any history nerds in your family, they’ll love a stop to see the USS Maine Memorial. You can visit the memorial at the Key West Cemetary.
Finally, a trip to Key West would be incomplete without a beach day! You need to check out Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. You’ll find everything here: a family-friendly beach, beach rentals, walking trails, and a pre-Civil War era fort to explore.
When To Go
The best time to visit Key West, including the Historic District, is probably the late spring. You can avoid the winter rush and still enjoy near-perfect weather. It’s great for swimming and exploring.
Finally, moving off of Key West, the next Key on this list is actually on the opposite end of the Florida Keys. Key Largo sits at the north end of the archipelago, closer to the coast of Florida and the Everglades National Park.
There are lots of interesting things to see and do when you stay in Key Largo. One of the most stunning features includes the plethora of state parks surrounding you, onshore and offshore.
If you’re looking for a place with more natural beauty and less tourism or development, you will love staying in Key Largo.
There is one thing to be aware of when you’re taking your kids to the beaches of Key Largo: although there is no official nude beach on the Key, there are nudists who sometimes make appearances on certain beaches.
Otherwise, feel free to explore the island and take in all the natural sites of Key Largo! Your kids are guaranteed to have a wonderful time, and you can feel relaxed and at ease every step of the way.
Where To Eat
Kick off your Key Largo adventure with a seafood restaurant and tiki bar known as Buzzard’s Roost. It overlooks the sea with plenty of outdoor seating for patrons who prefer the fresh sea air. Make sure you check out their Sunday brunch if you can.
Shipwrecks Bar & Grill is another great waterfront restaurant option for you and the kiddos. It’s very laid-back and always has fresh seafood available. It also serves various home-style comfort food, so even the picky eaters will be happy.
Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill is the place for you if you want a sports bar atmosphere. Serving classic American food to the backdrop of Blackwater Sound, Jimmy Johnson’s is a great place to grab a bite, watch a game, and maybe even grab a beer.
Sharky’s Sharkbite Grill is known for opening early and closing late. They offer a range of classic American meals, including fresh seafood and unique housemade cocktails for adults. If you go at the right time, you might catch a live show.
Finally, you must check out Keys Bite while visiting Key Largo. It’s one of the best seafood establishments in the area, serving Mexican and hibachi cuisine. You’ll love the chill atmosphere and friendly customer service.
What To Do
A trip to Florida would be incomplete if you didn’t see some wildlife. That’s why you need to visit the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge. You can experience the varied wildlife of Florida when you visit, and you might even see an American crocodile.
Port Bougainville Campsite is a great place to call home for a couple of days if your kids are up for sleeping in a tent. You’ll find yourself surrounded by the natural beauty of tropical Florida in a secluded campsite.
Another great place to see Florida wildlife – including American crocodiles – is the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park on Key Largo. It’s easier to access than the wildlife refuge, and it offers visitors a chance to see the West Indian tropical hardwood hammock, a naturally enclosed canopy forest.
When you’re ready to take your kids for a swim, head over to Rowel’s Waterfront Park. It’s dog-friendly, in case you brought a furry friend with you. It’s also a safe place to let the kids swim and play on the beach for hours.
If you’ve ever wanted to visit an underwater state park, there’s no better time to do it than when you’re in Key Largo. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park offers opportunities for divers and snorkelers to see a vast underwater world. Glass-bottom boats are also available for tours.
A charter boat is the last thing to recommend when visiting Key Largo. There are plenty of options to choose from, depending on how you want to shape your experience. But there’s no better way to explore the open sea than with an experienced captain.
When To Go
The best time to visit Key Largo if you want the best weather is December through March. Winter months might see more tourists and higher costs, while things start to slow down in the spring.
Further south on Key Largo is a charming village known as Tavernier. Known as a special tropical paradise, Tavernier is great for swimming, surfing, other water sports, or simply lounging on the beach.
You’ll have a wonderful time staying in Tavernier. There’s a great selection of hotels and resorts, making it easy to find a comfortable spot to call home while you explore the great Florida Keys with your kids.
While you may not experience as much history as you can on other parts of the archipelago, plenty of fun outdoor activities are readily available to keep you and your family occupied.
Where To Eat
Situated right off the infamous Overseas Highway, the Old Tavernier Restaurant & Lounge awaits. You can find a mix of Italian and Greek influences and enjoy unique meals crafted for excellence.
Sunrise Cuban Market & Cafe is a traditionally styled Cuban establishment that serves a variety of seafood and sandwiches. They also have beer and wine available for the adults in your group.
If you want a place to look out over the ocean while enjoying delicious seafood, make sure you stop by Snappers Oceanfront Restaurant and Bar. It’s hard to beat the menu, and it’s really hard to beat the view.
When it’s time for dessert, you won’t find a better bakery than the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory. They serve more than just key lime pie, but your trip to the Keys won’t be complete until you’ve had at least one slice.
What To Do
Tavernier is known for the famous Harry Harris Beach and Park, a wonderful space to bask in the sun, play some beach volleyball, swim in the sea, or host a barbecue with the friends you’ve made on vacation.
If you have any anglers in your family, they’ll be pleased to know they can hire a boat to take them to the best fishing holes. Captain Dave Perkins Fishing Charters is a wonderful option with experienced an crew who can take you around the Keys and the Everglades.
There’s only one picnic table available at Old Settlers Park, so you’ll have to call ahead for reservations if you want to host a family meal. But otherwise, there’s a playground where the kids can run around and plenty of spots for you and your partner to relax in the Florida sun.
Finally, take the kids to the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary. It’s a marvelous place where you can spot a wide range of curious winged creatures who are injured or otherwise in need of attention.
When To Go
Staying in Tavernier means you won’t have to deal with as many crowds as in other parts of the Florida Keys. However, it’s still wise to consider going sometime between December and March to get the best weather.
If you cross Tavernier Creek onto Plantation Key, you’ll arrive in the lovely village called Islamorada. Sometimes called the sport fishing capital of the world, Islamorada is a great place to enjoy sunny beaches, long boat rides, and maritime museums.
Islamorada is a great place to stay, no matter who you travel with. The community caters especially to children and is constantly ranked as one of the best places in the Florida Keys to stay if you have kids.
From the family-friendly resorts to the entertaining amenities, Islamorada offers a great time for the whole crew.
Where To Eat
Exploring the famed Bass Pro Shops is especially fun when you’re in the sports fishing capital of the world. And what better way to top off the experience than a trip to the Islamorada Fish Company? Stop by for delicious seafood and classic American fare.
Let’s say you’ve been out fishing and pulled in quite the haul. But now you need to do something with the fish before it goes bad. Well, that’s where the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant comes in: complete with a cook-your-catch feature, the restaurant will put your spoils to good use!
Although it’s a resort restaurant, ReelCatch is about creating a highly personalized experience for every visitor. They’ll even make a customized blended treat if that suits your fancy. It’s a great place for dinner in Islamorada any night of the week!
You’ll fall in love with the island vibe when you stop by Lazy Days Restaurant on the oceanfront. Everything about this seafood joint, from the patio views to the nearby beach, is designed to make you relax and remember that you’re on vacation.
What To Do
Founders Park is a fun-filled destination with many amenities that kids of all ages will enjoy! From the basketball courts, the soccer field, and the baseball field to the beach park and the sand volleyball, Founders Park is worth at least a full day.
There’s nothing quite like experiencing a live dolphin show in the heart of the Florida Keys. So make sure you take your kids to Theater of the Sea, where they can watch dolphins perform as well as sea lions and parrots.
If you have any water sports fans in your family, they’ll love taking a quick tour of the History of Diving Museum. It’s small and unique, so it shouldn’t take more than an hour to get through the whole thing.
Another great spot to find solitude is the Island Key Historic Key State Park. It’s a tiny island that you’ll have to access by boat. But the trip is well worth it: you can swim, hike, and explore ruins all in one place!
When To Go
If you want to spend lots of time in the water, you should plan your trip to Islamorada sometime between March and May or October and December. The winter months will likely see more tourists.
Big Pine Key
Situated 100 miles south of Miami, in the southern half of the archipelago, you’ll find a great little island known as Big Pine Key. Staying at Big Pine Key means you are surrounded by excellent outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, and exploring.
Big Pine Key is a great place to stay if you need a relaxing vacation with plenty of sun and beach time. You’ll find great seclusion, as Big Pine Key is not as busy as other parts of the Florida Keys.
Despite the seclusion, you’ll still find plenty of amenities to keep you occupied. You’ll also find some wonderful restaurants to grab a bite and stay energized in between activities.
Where To Eat
Big Pine Rooster is a favorite local hub for various meals. You can find fresh seafood, perfectly cooked steaks, and even pasta for your family’s carb lovers. Enjoy the relaxed setting inside, or take advantage of the scenic outdoor seating.
Coco’s Kitchen is another beloved Big Pine Key institution. There’s no better place to find authentic Cuban fare in a relaxed, family-friendly setting.
You’ll love the unique environment of the No Name Pub, Big Pine Key’s oldest pub in operation since the 1930s. It’s very casual, serving classic American fare like burgers and fries.
What To Do
Loon Lake is a beautiful watering hole to visit on the northern part of Big Pine Key. You can walk around the lake or hop in for a quick swim with the kids.
Fred C. Manillo Wildlife Trail is one of many wonderful ways to experience Florida wildlife in the Keys. It’s a short, easy trail that’s part of a bigger animal refuge, meaning you have ample opportunities to see all the Florida wildlife.
When you visit Big Pine Key, you can stop by the National Key Dee Refuge Nature Center and learn about the environmental initiative in the Keys to protect and preserve wildlife of all kinds.
Stop by the abandoned rock quarry at Blue Hole, the only freshwater source on the Florida Keys. The observation platform is a great way to watch the wildlife that flocks here from a safe distance. Best of all, it’s a great place to see iguanas!
When To Go
If you want cooler temperatures and plenty of space for you and the family, try booking your stay some time in the late winter or early spring months. Like the rest of Keys, you’ll avoid some crowds if you go between March and May.
Staying in the Florida Keys: Final Thoughts
Going to the Florida Keys for a family vacation is guaranteed to create a memorable experience for you and the kids. There’s nothing quite like spending quality family time together, basking on a beach in the warm Florida sun.
The best part of visiting the Florida Keys is that you’ll never run out of things to do. Even if you get tired of the beach – although that seems unlikely – you’ll have plenty of other activities to keep you occupied.
The Florida Keys have something for everyone, from rich history to deep cultural roots. So now that you know the best places to stay with your kids, what are you waiting for? Start planning your dream vacation!