After months of staring at the same walls, it’s only natural to dream of wide open spaces. Whether stuck in a studio or tired of walking the same well-worn trails, we could all benefit from sticking our toes in the sand and looking out onto the horizon. There’s no better place to feel the sun on your face and wind in your hair than Key West.
The island may be the perfect destination right now. Key West’s idyllic weather and indefatigable community make it an ideal destination for anyone looking for utterly unique outdoor experiences. Long loved by LGBTQ travelers for its vibrant queer community, Key West continues to offer visitors opportunity to explore its history, experience its culture and enjoy the natural splendor.
We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite places to get out, get space and get lost in the island’s charms.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Usually, a trek to Dry Tortugas National Park (100 square-miles of park across seven small islands) means taking at least half a day out of your Key West itinerary to travel about 70 miles west. Now’s the time to take advantage of the park’s exquisite clear waters and marine life. Getting there is a snap on a seaplane traveling a mere 500 feet above the water, which means masked passengers still have access to fresh air window vents, even in flight.
Less than one percent of the park is dry land, so once you arrive, you’ll want to get right in the water. Thanks to its remote location and currents running on the south of the park, Dry Tortugas boasts some of the most breathtaking corals and seagrass communities in the Keys. Swimming, snorkeling and diving are all excellent ways to glimpse massive corals, exotic lionfish and even shipwrecks. The park is also home to Fort Jefferson, a massive structure dating back to 1846 and known as the largest brick building in the Western hemisphere.
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
There are plenty of beautiful beaches and historic sites to behold without leaving Key West. Locals love Fort Zachary Taylor State Park for its serene beaches, winding trails and the picturesque views from atop the parks namesake Civil War fort. The fort is a breeze for a self-guided tour; helpful signage offers historical context and information throughout the structure.
Grab a sturdy pair of watershoes (the natural beach can be a bit rocky) for a relaxing walk along the water, or hop in with a snorkel to see marine life, including yellowtail snapper, parrot fish and corals.
Key West AIDS Memorial
Nestled beside Higgs Beach, the Edward B. Knight Pier is home to the gorgeous Key West AIDS Memorial. Dedicated in 1997, the Zimbabwe granite memorial was the first of its kind and includes more than 1,000 names of those lost to the AIDS epidemic and poems from Alfred Tennyson, Kahlil Gribran and Rachel Hadas. The bike- and pet-friendly pier is also a prime spot to catch the sunset after paying your respects.
Sunset at Mallory Square
The island’s most famous sunset spot is Mallory Square. Even today, street performers continue to entertain visitors (from a safe distance, of course) while local artisans and vendors showcase their wares. It’s a magical place to watch the sun disappear over the horizon, and now there’s more space to spread out without the crush of the crowds. Take a stroll around the nearby shops, treating yourself while supporting the local businesses.
Key West Cemetery
Located in the heart of Old Town, just a short walk from guesthouses like Island House, Alexander’s Guesthouse and Equator, the Key West Cemetery is a unique spot for an afternoon stroll. Walk among the chickens and iguanas that appear around the above-ground tombs, and look out for some of the most famous headstones. You can print out a map and self-guided tour online to find all the most famous headstones, like B.P. Pearl Robert’s with the epitaph “I told you I was sick.”
Thrillseekers can hit the water with FURY, thanks to comprehensive new safety procedures, including social distancing, sanitation and limited party sizes. Cruise around on a jet ski, fly through the sky parasailing or join a “reef and ‘ritas” snorkel expedition, including margaritas.
For the latest on health & safety protocols in The Florida Keys, please visit fla-keys.com.