Welcome to Key West cruise port guide! Key West, part of the Florida Keys archipelago, is Florida’s southernmost point, known for its historical charm, vibrant streets, and the lively spirit that defines the island. From the iconic architecture of Duval Street to the laid-back charm of Mallory Square, Key West is a lively destination where every corner tells a story.
In this guide, I’ll provide you with practical information on the Key West cruise terminal and uncover the 10 best things to do in Key West port. So, get ready to be captivated by the historical riches and dynamic charm of this beautiful island!
Key West Cruise Port
The Key West cruise terminal, located in the heart of Old Town Key West, thrills passengers with amazing views and the vibrant atmosphere of Mallory Square’s sunset celebrations. The port, located at Mallory Square, consists of two piers that can accommodate two cruise vessels: Mallory Square and Pier B, both within a short walk from the town center. The third docking facility, Navy’s Outer Mole Pier, is located a 5-minute drive from Key West downtown and is used when three ships are in port. In this case, cruise lines provide shuttle transfers to the city center.
The facilities at the terminal ensure a convenient travel experience, with a variety of shops, restaurants, car/scooter/bike rentals, and transportation options, including taxis and shuttles. Visitors can explore the vibrant surroundings with the help of on-site tour operators offering excursions to Key West’s famous attractions like the Hemingway House and the Southernmost Point. An information center within the terminal assists travelers with maps, brochures, and helpful tips, while dedicated parking facilities (Mallory parking) cater to those arriving by car.
10 Best Things to Do in Key West Cruise Port
From vibrant Key West Old Town attractions such as Duval Street and Mallory Square to the iconic Hemingway Home and a variety of adventure activities like snorkeling and kayaking, Key West has something for everyone!
1. Mallory Square
Mallory Square, conveniently located just a 5-minute walk from the port, attracts visitors with its bustling atmosphere, engaging street performers, and breathtaking sunset views. As your ship docks, simply follow the signs leading to Mallory Square. Every corner seems to come alive with entertainment, from jugglers and magicians to musicians and painters.
The highlight of Mallory Square is undoubtedly the breathtaking sunset views over the Gulf of Mexico. As the sun sets, join the people gathered around the waterfront to witness the sky turn into a canvas of vibrant colors. Street vendors and local craftsmen add to the experience, offering a range of crafts, souvenirs, and local treats for you to indulge in as you savor the magical moment.
Aside from the sunset celebrations, Mallory Square is also home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes, making it an ideal place to explore and unwind. So while you’re here, grab a refreshing drink, try some local cuisine, or browse through the unique boutiques that line the square.
2. Duval Street
The iconic Duval Street, just a 10-minute walk from the port of Key West, is Key West Old Town’s main street known for its captivating mix of conch house architecture, lively storefronts, and the vibrant energy of the island’s spirit. The street is lined with charming shops that sell a wide range of souvenirs, local crafts, and one-of-a-kind finds.
The street comes alive with the aromas of local eateries and cafes, inviting you to indulge in the island’s culinary delights. From seafood shacks serving up fresh catches to cozy bistros offering a taste of Key West’s diverse flavors, Duval Street is a foodie adventure waiting to be explored. For those seeking a bit of history and culture, Duval Street boasts charming architecture and historic landmarks such as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oldest House Museum & Gardens, and Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.
As the sun sets, Duval Street transforms into a lively nightlife hub. Explore the numerous bars, pubs, and live music venues that contribute to Key West’s reputation as a vibrant party destination. From laid-back beach bars to energetic dance clubs, there’s something for you along Duval Street!
3. Key West Trolley Tour
Key West offers various trolley tours that provide a convenient and informative way to explore the island’s attractions. Some popular types of Key West trolley tours include Hop-on hop-off sightseeing tours which give you the flexibility of hopping on and off anytime you want; and ghost-themed trolley tours where you’ll hear spooky histories and tales of the supernatural related to this haunted city.
These sightseeing tours typically include stops at Key West’s famous sights and landmarks, such as Mallory Square, The Harry S. Truman Little White House, the Key West Aquarium, Key West Lighthouse, Southernmost Point, Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, and more.
Key West trolley tours offer a well-rounded and enjoyable way to discover the island, combining convenience, historical insight, scenic beauty, and a touch of local flavor for an enriching and memorable experience.
4. Southernmost Point
A 10-minute drive from the Key West port brings you to the iconic Southernmost Point, a buoy-shaped concrete marker indicating the southernmost tip of the continental United States. This vibrant buoy, adorned with colorful bands, stands as both an Instagram-worthy destination and a reminder of Key West’s historical significance.
Pose for a memorable photo with the buoy against the backdrop of the azure sea, and enjoy the fact that you’re standing at the country’s southernmost point at just 90 miles (145 km) north of Cuba. Enjoy the gentle sea breeze, bask in the warmth of the Florida sun, and relish being so close to this geographical landmark. It is generally advised to come earlier, as the place tends to get crowded later in the day due to its popularity.
5. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Just a 10-minute drive southwest of Key West cruise port is the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, an untouched sanctuary of beauty and serenity. Sink your toes into the sandy beaches as crystalline waters call you for a refreshing dip, providing the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle.
This historic state park is home to the impressive Civil War-era Fort Zachary Taylor, inviting you to explore its rich history and lush surroundings. Whether you’re indulging in seaside picnics, exploring nature trails surrounded by local flora, or exploring the beach area, there’s an abundance of natural wonders to uncover! The park’s well-preserved architecture and historical significance offer a cultural layer to your beach day, creating a perfect combination of past and present.
6. Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a tranquil refuge about a 25-minute walk/8 minutes drive from Key West cruise port. This charming conservatory allows you to enter the fascinating world of butterflies, exotic birds and tropical flora.
In the conservatory’s climate-controlled habitat, you can observe the life cycle of these delicate creatures up close. Knowledgeable guides provide special insight into the behavior and habits of the local butterflies, making the encounter both educational and magical. Besides hundreds of free-flying butterflies, the conservatory is also home to exotic birds and two beautiful flamingos.
7. Hemingway Home and Museum
Embark on a literary journey just 20 minutes walk/5 minutes drive from the Key West port at the Hemingway Home and Museum. Stepping into the world of the iconic author Ernest Hemingway, this historic residence invites you to immerse yourself in the history where literary brilliance flourished. Discover the rich history of Hemingway’s life by exploring the lovely home where he produced some of his most famous works. Every detail, from the Spanish Colonial architecture to the vintage furnishings, recalls the story of the prolific writer’s time spent in Key West.
One of the unique highlights of this attraction is the presence of six-toed cats, descendants of Hemingway’s furry companions. These charming creatures add a unique touch to the historic setting. Explore the beautiful gardens that capture the atmosphere of Hemingway’s paradise and the treasured items that represent the author’s legacy.
8. Key West Aquarium
Come along on a marine adventure at the Key West Aquarium, located right on Mallory Square! Immerse yourself in the wonders of the sea as you discover a wide range of marine life indigenous to the surrounding waters, gaining a deeper understanding of Key West’s rich aquatic ecosystem.
Participate in interactive exhibits that bring the ocean’s mysteries to life, including up-close encounters with sea turtles, rays, and numerous fish species. Knowledgeable guides offer intriguing insights into the aquarium’s animals’ behaviors and habitats, making it a fascinating and enjoyable experience for visitors of all ages! For an even more enjoyable experience, I highly recommend participating in interactive feeding sessions or getting hands-on with touch tanks.
9. Harry S. Truman Little White House
Also located a 5-minute walk from the port, The Truman Little White House holds historical significance as the former winter residence of President Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States. Visitors are drawn to its well-preserved rooms, including Truman’s working office and the quarters where he made crucial decisions during his presidency.
The house showcases a captivating mix of period furniture and personal artifacts, providing a glimpse into the daily life of the 33rd President. The lush gardens surrounding the property and the informative guided tours make the Truman Little White House a must-visit destination for history enthusiasts and those interested in experiencing a piece of presidential history.
10. Sailing and Snorkeling
Key West is a tropical paradise offering a vibrant array of water activities. Snorkeling enthusiasts can explore the stunning coral reefs at Dry Tortugas National Park or venture to the colorful marine life at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
Sailing excursions are a popular choice, with dolphin-watching and sunset cruises and catamaran trips providing breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico! Visitors can also partake in parasailing, jet skiing, and paddleboarding, immersing themselves in the crystal-clear waters of the Florida Keys.
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