Top Activities and Sights for a July Visit to Key West

Top Activities and Sights for a July Visit to Key West

With its laidback island vibe, beautiful beaches, and lively entertainment scene, Key West is a fantastic vacation destination any time of year. But the summer months, especially July, bring exceptionally hot weather and hordes of tourists. Even so, July is one of the best times to visit Key West if you plan accordingly and take advantage of the ample things to do. Here are some of the top attractions and activities for an amazing Key West vacation in July:

Hit the Beach

Key West is surrounded by gorgeous blue waters and home to some beautiful beaches perfect for relaxing, swimming, and taking in the sunshine. Two of the most popular are Smathers Beach and Fort Zachary Taylor Beach. Stretching a full mile along the southern shore, Smathers Beach features soft white sand, towering palm trees, and areas for volleyball, paddleboarding, and other water sports. Meanwhile, Fort Zachary Taylor boasts crystal clear snorkeling waters as part of a Florida state park with picnic areas, nature trails, and Civil War era ruins to explore. Both beaches have on-site food and drink vendors to keep you fueled for hours of beach bliss.

Explore Key West History

July is a great time to dive into the rich history that shaped Key West into the vibrant island it is today. Start at the Key West Shipwreck Museum to view artifacts from ancient shipwrecks and learn about Key West’s maritime legacy. Then visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum where the famed author lived and wrote some of his most famous works in the 1930s. Today, the property houses a museum with guided tours and descendants of Hemingway’s famous polydactyl (six-toed) cat colony that still roam the grounds. Other historical highlights include Harry S. Truman’s Little White House, the Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters, and Fort East Martello Museum.

Party on Duval Street

The epicenter of Key West’s action is Duval Street, a bustling stretch filled with open-air bars, live music venues, drag queen shows, and more. Come July, the party really heats up. Stop into Sloppy Joe’s, a historic bar frequented by Hemingway, for the nightly entertainer lineup and flowing cocktails. Down the road is another Key West landmark, Captain Tony’s Saloon, which was originally an ice house in the mid-1800s. Here you’ll often find live bands rocking on the backstage and drunken patrons scrawling autographs on the walls. For a more risqué experience, enjoy drag queen cabaret performances and laughs at 801 Bourbon Bar.

Go Fishing

Key West is world-renowned for its deep sea fishing, especially in summer when sailfish, mahi-mahi, grouper and other prize catches are biting. You can easily book fishing charters departing from local marinas like the Galleon or Conch Harbor. Typically four to six hour trips, these charters provide all the bait, gear, instruction for beginners, and license requirements. Or try shore fishing right off Key West Bight, Higgs Beach, or the White Street Fishing Pier. No charter needed – just bait, tackle, and plenty of patience. Those lucky enough to reel in an impressive catch can have it cooked up for dinner at local spots like Half Shell Raw Bar.

Snorkel or Dive the Reefs

The tropical waters surrounding Key West are teeming with exotic marine life just waiting to be explored on a snorkeling or scuba diving trip. One of the best reefs is at Western Dry Rocks, seven miles off the coast. Here you’ll encounter a kaleidoscope of fish plus coral, sponges, and shipwrecks encrusted with dazzling sea life. Captain’s Corner Dive Center and Fury Water Adventures offer snorkel/dive trips to the reefs via catamaran. For shallower waters closer to shore, try Snorkeling Eco-Tours at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park or DIY snorkeling at Higgs Beach.

Catch a Sunset Celebration

No trip to Key West is complete without watching a legendary sunset, and the nightly Mallory Square Sunset Celebration provides the perfect backdrop. As the sun slips into the Gulf of Mexico each evening, artists, musicians, jugglers, tightrope walkers and other street performers put on a lively open-air show as crowds gather to applause, cheer, and relish the festive atmosphere against the setting sun. Grab a front row oceanfront seat at one of Mallory Square’s waterfront bars or restaurants and toast to the sunset with Key West’s unofficial “drink of choice,” the margarita.

Take a Boat Tour

Key West has no shortage of boat tour options for daytime or sunset cruises showcasing the area’s natural beauty and history. Top picks include Sebago Watersports’ catamaran tours and sailings like their Panoramic Boat Tour looping around the island. Fury Water Adventures provides glass-bottom boat excursions for up-close viewing of shipwrecks, reefs, and marine life. For a floating pool party vibe, hop on the Duo Catamaran Cruise with DJ music, all-you-can-drink offerings, and fun crew. Or settle in for a relaxing sunset sail on the classic tall ship Wolf or 80-foot schooner Appledore.

Go Kayaking or Paddleboarding

Paddling through Key West’s translucent waters is a peaceful way to soak in the scenery and get some exercise. For guided tours and rentals, check out Lazy Dog, Key West Eco Tours, or SUP Key West. Experienced paddlers can launch from Harry Harris Park, Fort Zachary Taylor, or Smathers Beach to navigate mangrove tunnels, circumnavigate the island, or just float lazily through smaller inlets. Early mornings often bring the calmest conditions before winds pick up later.

Bike the Island

Key West is extremely bikeable, with streets designated specifically for cyclists and pedestrians. Rent a bike from outfits like Adventure Rentals Key West and cruise along back roads to sandy beaches, historical sites, and natural refuges at your own pace. The loop around the entire island covers around 16 miles. Don’t miss biking across the old railroad route Seven Mile Bridge for stellar ocean views. Make sure to stay hydrated and use sun protection. Many shops and hotels provide complimentary bottled water and sunscreen.

Go Dolphin Watching

The waters around Key West are home to over 700 bottlenose dolphins, and July is prime viewing season as mothers care for calves. Grab tickets for the Sebago Catamaran Dolphin Watch Cruise to see these amazing marine mammals frolicking and feeding on schools of fish. On a typical 1.5 hour cruise, you may spot over a hundred dolphins surrounded by seabirds like frigatebirds, shearwaters, and brown pelicans diving for fish pushed upward by the dolphins. Early morning and late afternoon tours provide the best dolphin sightings.

Visit Key West Butterfly Conservatory

Escape the summer heat by ducking into the Key West Butterfly Conservatory, located at the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden. This climate-controlled sanctuary houses over 60 butterfly species from around the world fluttering freely among lush vegetation, cascading waterfalls, and winding paths. See if you can spot rarities like the Giant Owl Butterfly or Blue Morpho. The conservatory also displays small birds, turtles, and reptiles native to the tropics and Keys region. Make a full morning or afternoon of your visit by also exploring the botanical garden’s orchids, bromeliads, and other flora.

Relax at the Beachside Resorts and Pools

Many hotels and resorts in Key West have exclusive beach areas and massive pools perfect for lounging in the shade and cooling off with a dip. Make a day of pool-hopping at spots like Pier House Resort’s beachfront pool deck overlooking the Gulf, complete with three freshwater pools, a tiki bar, and live entertainment. Margaritaville Key West Resort offers three pools in an island oasis setting. Or soak up island vibes at the Hyatt Centric Key West Resort and Spa with two pools amidst swaying palms. Don’t miss their “Dive-In” movie nights.

Go Bar Hopping on Duval

Duval Street comes alive at night during July in Key West, buzzing with live music pouring from the many open-air bars and restaurants. Join in the revelry by bar hopping from one hot spot to the next, soaking in the sounds and ending the night under the stars. Check out Irish Kevin’s raging nightly entertainment and famous “Frozen Irish Coffee.” The Green Parrot is a historic must with homegrown musical acts and potent cocktails. And no Duval bar crawl would be complete without belting out classics at Sloppy Joe’s famous nightly sing-along.

Dig into Key Lime Pie

Key West is the birthplace of the sweet-tart Key lime pie, and you can’t leave without sampling a slice – or four! For decades, Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe has served their legendary pies in flavors from traditional Nellie & Joe’s cream to chocolate, banana, coconut, and more. At Blue Heaven, an offbeat island institution, grab a slice (or whole pie) at their outdoor cafe amidst chickens roaming free.

 

Key West in July offers a dynamic blend of water adventures, historical explorations, cultural festivities, and culinary delights. Despite the summer heat, the island’s vibrant spirit and diverse attractions make it a captivating destination for those seeking an unforgettable tropical experience. Whether you’re a history buff, an adventure seeker, or a food enthusiast, Key West in July promises a vacation filled with memories that will last a lifetime.

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