8 Fun Things Every Cruiser Should Do in Key West

1203_KeyWest_BoutiquesKey West shopping
— Richard Ellis/Age Fotostock

Attention, cruise passengers: Make the most of your day in port with these Key West travel tips from Florida experts.

Over 600,000 cruise passengers descend on Key West each year—and plenty of them head straight to Margaritaville. But there’s a lot more to this tiny island than Parrotheads and Hemingway haunts. We polled in-the-know locals for their best insider tips for a perfect day in port.

1. NATURE KAYAKING

Key West Eco-Tours
Free in-town pickup
On a kayak tour of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, you can see eye to eye with an egret and paddle past leatherback turtles and tropical fish. javacatcharters.com, half-day trip from $75. —J.W.

2. CHICER SOUVENIRS

Bésame Mucho
15-min. walk from the port
The keepsakes here appeal to locals and day-trippers alike: gold-edged market baskets, Dominica Bay Rum aftershave, and lip balm in art deco tins. 315 Petronia St., besamemucho.net, lip balm $7. —N.G.O.

3. A RIDE OFF THE BEATEN PATH

Lloyd's Tropical Bike Tour
20-min. walkfrom the port
Lloyd Mager leads two-hour rides along the quiet side streets of Key West, armed with a keen eye for native flora, loads of corny jokes, and a machete to cut and serve fresh coconuts. 601 Truman Ave., lloydstropicalbiketour.com, bike rental and tour $39. —K.M.

4. EAT WHAT THEY CATCH

Hogfish Bar and Grill
15- to 20-min. taxi from the port ($20)
Just over the bridge on Stock Island, this rowdy open-air joint is “what the Keys used to look like,” Joe Weatherby says—and a favorite lunch spot for area fishermen. 6810 Front St., Stock Island, hogfishbar.com, half-pound shrimp $12. —J.W.

5. A SINGULAR ART GALLERY

Art@830 Gallery
10-min. walkfrom the port
This one-stop shop for salvaged-wood shadow boxes, mixed-metal jewelry, and blown-glass seashells is also the best place to get a crash course in the Keys’ art scene, courtesy of owners and longtime residents Christine Scarsella and Tony Gregory. 830 Caroline St., art830.com, blown-glass shells from $48. —N.G.O.

6. RUB ELBOWS WITH ROCKERS

Smokin' Tuna Saloon
10-min. walkfrom the port
It’s a toss-up what draws more repeat visits to the saloon—the “to-die-for” fish dip (made with hickory-smoked dolphin) or the nightly lineup of live country, rock, and blues performances on the tree-lined back patio. 4 Charles St., smokintunasaloon.com, fish dip $9. —N.G.O.

7. OLD-TOWN EDEN

Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden
15-min. walkfrom the port
Consider it a case of surname as destiny: Artist Nancy Forrester has made it her mission to preserve the last wooded acre in Old Town, home to 100-plus species of palms, orchids, and ferns—and 22 chatty rescued parrots. 1 Free School Lane, nancyforrester.com, admission $10. —M.H.

8. VICTORIAN HOUSE TOUR

Curry Mansion Inn
10-min. walkfrom the port
Linger over the Tiffany-glass doors and elaborate woodwork of 19th-century wreck salvager William Curry’s Victorian estate, sure, but don’t miss the kitchen. Some say Curry’s cook Aunt Sally invented Key lime pie. 511 Caroline St., currymansion.com, admission $5. —K.M.

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