In a town known for dive bars, drag shows and Jimmy Buffet, it quickly becomes clear that there is something in Key West for everyone. Here are some of the best opportunities to do as the locals do and get outdoors in the Florida sunshine if daytime is more your speed than nightlife…
1. Yoga on the Beach
Yoga on the Beach is an absolute joy in Key West. Don Bartone and Nancy Curran run this daily ocean-side yoga class. Most of the classes take place in Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, on a beach that’s preferred by locals. There are three styles of yoga: Yoga for Everybody, a more traditional hatha practice; Yoga Rhythms, a non-conventional yoga that focuses on dancing and movement; and YinYoga, which slows down movements and holds poses for five minutes or longer. Thanks to the contemplative music and the sound of waves lapping against the shore, the $18 class fee is worth every penny, as it includes park entrance and equipment rental in addition to making you feel as if you are practicing yoga on the set of the most tranquil DVD shoot. Check the website for dates and times as Dan and Nancy head north for the summer.
2. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is also a great place to explore on your own. The beach where the yoga practice takes place is, in my opinion, the most beautiful beach in Key West (a great find on an island not exactly celebrated for its beaches), and a perfect place to spend the day under the pines if you are looking for some seaside shade. The fort itself was built in the mid-nineteenth century as a defense against the Spanish and can still be visited, with tours available daily. Fishing and snorkeling are encouraged in the park, and there are bike paths and nature trails for visitors to enjoy.
3. Rent a Bike
Renting a bicycle is another great way to get out and enjoy the island. Key Lime Bike Tours has reasonable rates by the hour, day or week and offers a $39 guided tour (which includes bike rental for the day). The tour focuses on the history of the Conch Republic, stops at island sites such as the Southernmost Point and Ernest Hemingway’s House, and finishes off with a piece of Key Lime Pie. Lloyd’s Tropical Bike Tour is an “eco-tour” of Key West that takes visitors through quieter, lesser known streets and seeks out the tropical flora and unique architecture of the island.
4. Go Fishing
If you’re looking to go fishing independently while you’re in Key West, then you can rent equipment and buy bait at the Key West Bait & Tackle Shop in Old Town. For a little more adventure, why not try a boat excursion? The Tortuga IV departs Conch Harbor in Old Town for two fishing trips daily, from 9am-1pm and from 2-6pm. An additional night fishing trip leaves at 7pm. Rod, reel, bait and license are included. The galley is fully stocked and the crew will even clean your catch for you when you return to Key West. A fishing trip is a great idea if you are a fan of yellowtail snapper!
5. BYOF (Bring Your Own Fish)
A fun local trick is to bring your catch of the day to a restaurant and have the house cook it for you. The Hogfish Bar and Grill on neighboring Stock Island is a little tricky to find, but it’s a real local favorite. They charge $10.95 per pound to cook your fresh catch and serve it with rice and veggies, a fun alternative if you are craving a little island atmosphere and don’t feel like cooking at home. Also great are their buffalo shrimp, Baja-style tacos and daily happy hour – on an island that celebrates Jimmy Buffet, you deserve that margarita.
Mary-Elizabeth O’Neill is a New York based event designer who has lived in Paris and London. She travels frequently, loves writing about her adventures and appreciates your comments! You can find Mary-Elizabeth on Twitter as @m_oneill_nyc.