Day Trip To Key West Aboard The Key West Express

By Terry Ward

Many travelers who visit popular southwest Florida vacation destinations like Fort Myers, Naples, and Marco Island don’t realize that traveling to Key West for the day (or a longer stay) is much quicker — and far easier — than they think.

Road tripping through the Florida Keys along the Overseas Highway makes for an exciting journey! But you can cut your travel time by roughly two hours each way when you cruise the Gulf of Mexico on your way to Key West aboard the Key West Express Ferry, which puts the joy in the journey with an on-board bar and shaded decks for soaking in the views.

High-speed catamarans only depart year-round between Fort Myers Beach and Key West, operating on a seasonal schedule (late December to late April) from Marco Island. In less than four hours, you’ll find yourself doing the Duval Street crawl and enjoying The Key’s many other highlights.

The best part? The ferry departs in the morning from Florida’s mainland and returns in the late afternoon, so it’s totally possible to just visit Key West for the day or settle in for a longer stay.

Insider Tip: When you depart from Fort Myers Beach, dolphins are often there to escort the boat as it kicks its engines into high gear leaving the harbor. Be sure watch them frolick in the ferry’s wake as if bidding you off on a great adventure.

A few things to know if you plan to take the Key West Express Ferry:

  • There’s truly a bar on board and bringing your own alcoholic beverages is not allowed.
  • Passengers are allowed to bring two carry-on bags each, free of charge.
  • Save money by purchasing your ferry tickets in advance and for weekday travel instead of weekend days.
  • Household pets, including dogs and cats, can travel with you on the ferry for an additional fee but must be kept in crates or carriers.
  • Non-motorized bicycles may also be brought aboard for a fee. Depending on how long you plan to stay in Key West, it might be cheaper to rent them once you get there.
  • If you prefer the fresh air and views, grab a seat on the outdoor decks.


One day in Key West? A glance at what you can squeeze in…

1. Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Interested in the treasure-hunting lore in the Florida Keys? Well, you can learn about the biggest finds from Spanish galleons that have shipwrecked off Florida shores at this comprehensive museum near Duval Street.

2. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Home to Key West’s finest deep-water beach for snorkeling and swimming, this state park is also the site of a pre-Civil War fort – a National Historic Landmark you can stroll through.

3. Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

It’s simply magical to walk through this covered enclosure home to hundreds of different bird and butterfly species, as well as tropical plants at this eco attraction right on Duval Street.

4. Barefoot Billy’s Island Jet Ski Tour

You’ll circumnavigate the entire island of Key West during an exciting, 90-minute jet ski tour with Barefoot Billy. From spotting historical highlights and local lore to snorkeling in the clear, shallow waters, it’s a great chance to explore the island!

*These vacations are limited and subject to availability.

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