All of the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West are family-friendly.
With historic homes, beautiful sunset views, and family-friendly resorts, the Florida Keys are an incredible locale for a vacation.
Choosing the best one will depend on your specific travel needs, but there are a number of locations that offer the best experience all around. Notably, the islands are close together, so traveling to experience various activities is easy, especially with a car.
When deciding where to make your “home-base” in the Keys, two options are superior for families – Marathon Island and Islamorada.
- Marathon Island – For Young Kids
- Islamorada – For Pre-Teens and Youth
- Tips: Rent a Car For Day Trips
- Tips: Make Plans to Sit and Watch the Sunset
- Tips: Visit the Dry Tortugas National Park
Marathon Island – For Young Kids
Marathon is well-suited for family-friendly recreation, especially if you are traveling with younger children.
Dolphin Research Center
The Dolphin Research Center is a not-for-profit research and education facility. The experience includes viewing dolphins and sea lions in their natural habitats, and the experts and guides at the DRC offer educational sessions. For a more immersive experience, the facility offers programs where families can swim with the dolphins!
General admission to the center offers vast options for a day of fun, including visiting distinct groups of dolphins for guide-lead agility showcases and watching dolphins play in a natural setting. Additionally, visitors can visit sea lions, the center’s bird aviary, or splash around at the “sprayground.”
Finally, booking a Dolphin Encounter allows families to meet, swim and interact with dolphins in a safe and hands-on environment. In fact, the Dolphin Research Center is ranked as one of the best places to swim with dolphins in Florida. With shallow waters and dolphins guides alongside participants, the experience is secure and once-in-a-lifetime.
Explore Local Beaches
Finding a beach location in the Florida Keys and packing up for a day trip is a fun and exciting way for families to spend time soaking up the sun and maximizing the vacation experience.
Coco Plum Beach
Coco Plum Beach is an excellent option for a family day trip and is located on the Atlantic side of the island. Managed by the Marathon Parks and Recreation Department, Coco Plum Beach has free parking and public restrooms.
While the sand meets the seas, creating a lovely strip of beach on the island, plan to experience some seaweed and seagrass accumulation. Additionally, visitors need to bring water-safe shoes because of shells and some underwater coral. Finally, it is possible to see wild sea turtles along the beach since this is a turtle nesting location!
Compared to Coco Plum Beach, Sombrero Beach is more developed and a bit larger. Sombrero Beach is fully handicap-accessible and boasts a beautiful beach as well as amenities that will make your stay comfortable if your family likes to have showers and restrooms. You can also play volleyball on its courts.
Wildlife lives on this beach as well, and for about six months of the year, Loggerhead Turtles lay eggs on the beach during the night. The City of Marathon protects turtle nests and works to ensure that locals, visitors, and turtles can all experience the beauty of this locale.
Dine Out: Fish Tales Market and Eatery
Popular among locals and travelers alike, the Fish Tales Market and Eatery serves unique and fresh dishes and cater to even the pickiest little diner. This location allows visitors to order at a window, sit out, and overlook the water while enjoying fresh seafood. If seafood is not on your family’s menu, do not worry, the eatery offers steaks and burgers, too. The Kid’s Menu offers an all-beef hot dog, grilled cheese, chicken fingers, and fish sticks.
Fish Tales Market & Eatery is the oldest market and restaurant in Marathon and specializes in fresh fish, shrimp, stone crab, and lobster. Try the key lime pie and the conch fritters!
Stay In: Courtyard by Marriott in Marathon
The Courtyard by Marriott offers free Wi-Fi and a swimming pool; the hotel is close to kid-friendly attractions, like the Turtle Hospital.
Using this hotel as the base for your Keys adventure is simply perfect. Not only can you enjoy dedicated time at the hotel, enjoying pools and Gulf views, but the hotel is very centrally located – it is only an hour away from Key West! Friendly staff and various amenities make the Courtyard by Marriott a great place to stay in Marathon with young children.
Islamorada – For Pre-Teens and Youth
Traveling in the Florida Keys with older children could allow for a more adventurous vacation. Islamorada might be a more advantageous option for families with pre-teens and youth.
History of Diving Museum
The History of Diving Museum holds one of the world’s most extensive diving helmets, hand-operated air pumps, armored suits, photographs, books, and film. Indeed, the museum’s collection holds contributions from more than 30 countries!
In addition to the incredible collection of underwater paraphernalia, the museum has added activities to enhance a visitor’s experience. For instance, staffers hide miniature divers within the exhibits for visitors to count throughout their visit. Only once a person has finished counting will the staffers tell you how many hidden divers live within the displays!
The History of Diving Museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily, and tickets vary from $7 to $15, depending on age or distinction.
Family fishing trips are a great way to spend the day in the Florida Keys. A fishing charter includes a boat with an experienced caption, crew, gear, and prime fishing location services. Because Islamorada is recognized as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World,” it is nearly certain that visitors will be able to reel in a catch.
Several charter businesses operate within Islamorada. Prices and services vary from group to group, so some research is required before deciding which is best for your family. One of the oldest charter’s is Bud N’ Mary’s, which was founded in 1944. This business also has an outdoor cafe and a tackle shop on the premises, along with the charter fishing trip. From fishing charters to packages to a party boat, Bud N’ Mary’s can help accomplish your Florida Keys’ fishing goals.
Kayaking, boating, and snorkeling are fun options that everyone in the family can enjoy. As the fishing boat charters, many businesses operate to serve clients interested in getting out on the water, so researching companies that offer the experiences needed for a price within a specific budget might take some time but are certainly available.
For instance, the Islamorada Watersports Company specializes in boat and wave runner rentals and offers a guided jet ski tour. Additionally, the company has paddle boards and kayaks available for rent. Rentals are offered all day beginning at 8 am, so a day on the water is possible, accessible, and definitely a “must do” for any z Keys vacation.
Dine Out: Lazy Days Restaurant
Lazy Days Restaurant offers indoor, patio, and beach seating and serves incredible family-friendly food options. For lunch, the coconut fried shrimp will perfectly accentuate your vacation; options for children include chicken tenders and fried mozzarella sticks. Dinner adds even more options for both parents and children, including raw oysters, fried alligator, and tons of different types of fish like grouper, yellowtail tuna, and rotating daily catches.
If sitting outdoors, live music will serenade your lunch or dinner experience, and for the parents at the table, alcoholic drink specials are available at bars located throughout the restaurant.
Stay In: The Islander Resort
The Islander Resort is a tropical paradise with beachfront views and is ideal for families boasting amenities like free Wi-Fi, multiple pools, and beachfront access.
The resort offers additional amenities that will enhance your stay. For example, within the complex are two restaurants – Elements Lounge & Restaurant and Tides Beachside Bar & Grill – for stress-free dining options. Alongside the two saltwater pools, the resort also has a hot tub and a splash pad. If your family needs more action and less relaxation, the resort also offers on-site watersports, an activities tent, and an exercise trail.
Tips: Rent a Car For Day Trips
Marathon and Islamorada are the best options for families to stay during a visit to the Florida Keys. Still, there are so many other local adventures to experience up and down the island chain. The Overseas Highway itself is a fun experience to see the entirety of the locale. All of the Florida Keys are connected via an interstate highway. Renting a car for some or all of your vacation is a great option to experience everything the Florida Keys have to offer.
For instance, a day trip to Key West is well worth it for children of all ages. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is located in the heart of Key West and offers insight into the prolific author’s life and style – also, the home is filled with descendants of Hemingway’s cats! Key West is also home to the Truman Little White House, the first and original office of PANAM Airways, and the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. While the nightlife in Key West and the street-facing bars around Duval Street is not necessarily the best place for kids or families, a day’s visit to the island is more than worth it!
Tips: Make Plans to Sit and Watch the Sunset
Sunsets in the Florida Keys are breathtaking, with Key West’s recently having been ranked as the 7th most beautiful sunset in the world, and deserve a moment of reflection in the evenings. All along the Florida Keys are options for sunset viewing.
One option for families is booking a sunset boat cruise. The sunset cruises often include a chance to snorkel in the afternoon a few miles away from the island. Then the group will remain on board to watch the sun go down. Morada Bay Beach Cafe in Islamorada is a renowned spot for watching the sunset. The Beach Cafe offers various dining opportunities and includes a “Little Minnows” menu.
Tips: Visit the Dry Tortugas National Park
Via seaplane or sea ferry to see the Dry Tortugas National Park, connected to Fort Jefferson. Departing from Key West, Seaplane Adventures provides travel service to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Similarly, only one ferry travels seventy miles back and forth from Key West to the Dry Tortugas. Since there are only two public options to get back and forth to Fort Jefferson, it is essential to book your trip early.
Fort Jefferson is seeping with Civil War history, and the snorkeling around the Dry Tortugas is the best in the Florida Keys. As you prepare for your visit, consider packing reliable footwear, sunglasses, and towels – it is best to wear what ever swimwear and pack a change of dry clothes. Keep in mind that this is a day-long trip, so snacks and sunscreen are both necessary.
Visit the Florida Keys for Family Fun!
The entire span of the Florida Keys has something to offer for everyone at any age. From scenic views of historical homes, natural wildlife, and ocean views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, kids of all ages will experience a fascinating vacation. The Florida Keys have a diverse ecosystem and vibrant local attractions; a trip is a vacation well-spent.
Making your vacation home base in either Marathon Island or Islamorada is the best option for planning family vacations with children. These mid-Keys locales are ideal for a busy yet relaxing holiday with plenty of daytime fun, historical, and educational opportunities. Many resorts and hotels have pools and beachfront access for swimming, playing, and lounging in the sun.
The age of the children in your family helps shift and determine what activities are best suited for a trip to the Florida Keys. From swimming with dolphins to snorkeling over a living coral reef to visiting historic homes and civil war forts, every stop along the Overseas Highway offers a unique experience.
The Florida Keys are known for their fishing and, therefore, fresh seafood. Kids have the opportunity to try hand-breaded fish sticks and out-of-this-world coconut shrimp. Parents have the chance to simultaneously enjoy seafood, steaks, conch fritters, and key lime pie. The diversity and deliciousness of the food in the Florida Keys are often overrated but simply remarkable. One final food-related note, if you see Kermit’s Chocolate-Covered Key Lime Pie on a stick – buy more than one of them!
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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