For example, you can stop by Ernest Hemingway’s home and meet the six-toed cats in the morning, then head out deep sea fishing for giant 100-pound tarpon in the afternoon. For nightlife, you can’t beat the bar hopping on Duval Street to the beat of live Cuban and Salsa music! Key West is famed for its live music, beautiful sunsets, and key lime pie. But if it’s watersports you’re after, Key West has some decent snorkeling opportunities if you know where to go. Here’s a guide to some of the best snorkeling spots in Key West.
Some of the top snorkeling I’ve done in Key West is off-shore. This meant I had to travel by boat, but it was easy enough to join a snorkeling tour from the main docks off William Street. For the best experience, however, I recommend taking a sailboat.
While not much of an island, I enjoyed great snorkeling in Sand Key. Located about 7 miles off-shore, it’s one of the most popular spots for organized snorkeling tours by boat. I highly recommend climbing the 110-foot lighthouse for wonderful views of the area. The water can get as deep as 65 feet here, and is home to parrot fish, angel fish, hogfish, barracuda, nurse sharks, stingrays, and sea turtles.
Eastern & Western Dry Rocks
When I visit this sanctuary preservation area, located southwest of Key West, I’m always struck by the depth of color of the water and the sea life. The area is divided into two different sections, but I prefer the western side, which is farther away and receives fewer tourists — so the reef is in better shape. Only accessible by boat, this site is good for both expert and new divers who will see parrot fish, angel fish, tarpon, nurse sharks, and sea turtles.
I didn’t experience the best visibility here, but the snorkeling at Cottrell Key is decent when seas are too rough at other locations. The water is between 3 and 15 feet deep, home to unique creatures, such as three different types of sea turtle, angel fish, barracuda, trumpet fish, and spotted eagle rays. I found it remarkably easy to access, and the sea was calm, so I would recommend for a laid-back day of casual snorkeling.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Probably my number one snorkeling experience in Key West was at Dry Tortugas National Park. I’ve rarely experienced clearer water or witnessed more sea life. It’s a series of eight small islands located 70 miles west of Key West, where the U.S. government constructed a massive Civil War-era coastal fortress called Fort Jefferson. Due to its location, the only way you can visit for snorkeling is by seaplane or boat, but trust me, it’s worth it.
If you don’t want to spend money hiring a boat to take you out to the reef, it’s still possible to go snorkeling in Key West from the beach. Just be aware the marine life is not as diverse, and the water is not as clear. I indulged when I needed some convenience and less time to spare.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
This beautiful beach and state park has the best onshore snorkeling in Key West. I spent the day grilling lunch on the beach and snorkeling the 3-15 foot deep water. I brought my own, but you can rent snorkeling equipment here. Keep an eye out for marine life such as grunts, hogfish, porcupine fish, nurse sharks, and parrot fish.
Next to the Key West Garden Club is Higgs Beach, a popular sunbathing and swimming location in Key West. It’s also part of the Key West Marine Park. The best snorkeling I’ve found here is by the old sunken pier, where it’s easy to spot sponges, starfish, sea urchins, hogfish, and parrot fish. It was an easy swim out from shore, and palm trees and warm sand welcomed me on return.
About this Adventure Addict
Matthew Karsten is addicted to adventure travel and photography. He's on a mission to inspire your next journey with entertaining stories, beautiful images, and useful tips from around the world at: ExpertVagabond.
Trekking Off the Beaten Path
While the thought of visiting Kruger was very appealing to me, off-the-beaten-path tourism is more my style, and I set out to find places where fewer tourists flock. One such place is the Valley of Desolation in Camdeboo National Park, located in the Eastern Cape in the South African bush, the Karoo. Most people stop through for an overnight on their way between Johannesburg and Cape Town, but to me, it was the destination.
What makes this place so spectacular is not just the backdrop of orange canyons and vast expanses of nothingness in every direction, but the fact that so many wild animals live here, and entrance to the valley is cheap. For those who don’t have a Kruger budget, the Karoo is a nice alternative.
Exploring the Wildlife
Forty-three mammal species are found within the park, including baboons, springbok (South Africa’s national animal), meerkat, Cape buffalo, kudu, steenbok, blesbok, klipspringer, red hartebeest, gemsbok, and black wildebeest. I also saw the rare Cape mountain zebra. You can also see wild cats, mongooses, and foxes. The area is also home to ten types of snake, including the black mamba, and 19 lizard species. The park is very popular amongst birders as well, with over 250 bird varieties, including ostrich.
Another benefit of looking for animal life in the Karoo is the lack of dense vegetation. Most common are low-lying bushes and Acacia trees with long, thick needles. There’s also a large watering hole where many of the animals can be viewed around sunset when they go for a drink.
Playing and Staying
It’s possible to off-road on several 4x4 tracks that go high into the mountains and present breathtaking views. Glamping and camping are an option for those who wish to sleep under the stars, either in a fixed safari tent with amenities such as a fridge, braai (BBQ) area, and bedding and towels, or in a campground with your own tent. The nearby town of Graaff-Reinet offers several great places to stay as well as restaurants serving up meat from the very game running through the park. Karoo lamb is also famous in the area, so if you’re a meat eater, give it a try along with delicious South African wine!
About this Adventure Addict
Kristin Addis is a former investment banker who has been traveling solo around the world for the past three years, focusing on adventure and off-the-beaten-path travel at Be My Travel Muse.
Most of Australia is semi-arid or desert land, but up in the northeast, it is all tropical. Hot, humid, sweaty, sticky, and lushly tropical. The Australian tropics, unlike the rest of the country, certainly aren’t lacking when it comes to rain. They have two seasons: a wet season and a not-so-wet-season. Way up north, in the sunshine state of Queensland, lies the Daintree National Park. This huge area of land is home to what is believed to be the oldest rainforest on the planet; it is estimated to have been there for 10 million years.
The park itself is comprises two sections; Mossman Gorge,the most common entry point to the park,and Cape Tribulation, named for the hardships of Captain James Cook, whose ship ran over a nearby reef. Altogether, the Daintree National Park covers an approximate area of 1,200 square kilometres. It is home to an enormous amount of unique flora and fauna, many of the species threatened and protected. Around 430 species of birds alone call the Daintree National Park home, as do plenty of snakes, frogs, lizards, fish, possums, swamp wallabies, bandicoots, and tree kangaroos.
There are a couple of ways of tackling the Daintree National Park: You can drive to the entry of the park and from there set out on a solo walk, or you can take a guided tour. If the former takes your interest, there are a number of walks you can do, some as short as an hour round trip, with the longest one lasting six hours. Authorities strongly suggest you stick to the elevated boardwalks and marked paths – much of the rainforest is impenetrable and, well, you know snakes and spiders don’t like trespassers. Bring plenty of water and tell people exactly where you plan on walking.
Our time was limited, so we took a guided tour through the Mossman Gorge and up to Cape Tribulation. This meant we drove most of the way but were also able to walk some trails, and we were also given the opportunity to swim in the Mossman River. (As an Australian, I don’t swim in rivers, even if repeatedly assured there aren’t crocodiles!) We stopped for lunch up at Cape Tribulation and walked the white sand beach.Given it was summer, though, we didn’t stick our feet in the water -- box jellyfish kill in seconds.
Our tour ended with a classic Aussie experience -- a boat ride down the beautiful, quiet Daintree River in the hopes of spotting a (preferably sleeping, very friendly) crocodile. We saw one, right at the end (possibly friendly, and definitely sleeping). But she sank, silently and without a trace, as soon as she woke up and saw us.
About this Adventure Addict
Liv Hambrett is an Australian writer currently living in the far north German city of Kiel. For the past few years, as a combined result of travel lust and human love, she have lurched around Germany and spent an unreasonable amount of time on the island of Santorini.