The Ultimate Guide to Florida's Lower Keys

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Whether you're scouting wedding venues or honeymooning, these romantic islands are an unspoiled hidden gem.
collage of activities available to couples in Big Pine Key and Florida's Lower Keys
Courtesy of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council
Kelli Acciardo
by Kelli Acciardo
Updated Oct 14, 2022

Looking for a destination that's not yet Insta-famous? Florida's Lower Keys are a hidden gem offering something for everyone. Boasting romantic hotels, state-of-the-art spas and a myriad of restaurants that range from lovable seafood shacks to fine-dining establishments worthy of any wedding celebration, this under-the-radar spot has it all. The best part? You don't even need a passport to access this unspoiled utopia, but you'll feel like you're the first to discover it once you do. Here's everywhere worth visiting in Big Pine Key and Florida's Lower Keys, whether you're touring wedding venues or honeymooning.

Big Pine Key

From left: Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival, Deer Run
From left: Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival, Deer Run

A snorkel and scuba lover's wonderland, Big Pine Key is known for magnificent coral reefs, all the water sports and Adolphus Busch, Sr.—a 210-foot shipwreck that's probably not as intimidating to navigate as, say, planning a wedding? The Lower Keys community also boasts several must-see eateries, quirky B and Bs and an underwater music festival that you can only experience in this special place.

Things to Do in Big Pine Key

couple scuba diving in Big Pine Key, Florida
Courtesy of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council
  • Keys Boat Tours: If you prefer that someone else take the wheel while you're blissed out post-wedding, enlist these guys for fishing excursions, snorkeling and sightseeing tours, Lower Keys style. They go everywhere, from Looe Key—part of the only coral barrier reef in the continental United States—to a 2-hour loop around Bahia Honda, ending at No Name Key.

    • Looe Key Reef: One of the best dives of your Florida Keys honeymoon can be found at Looe Key, where more varieties of tropical fish are found than anywhere else in the hemisphere. With an unparalleled ecosystem down below, a rubble ridge crafted from fossilized corals and flat reefs made out of turtle grass, prepare to be dazzled by this natural deep-sea magic.

    • Adolphus Busch Sr.: Chances are, if you're a diving duo who chose the Lower Keys as your honeymoon (or wedding) destination, Adolphus Busch Sr. had something to do with it. Wreck diving came to the Lower Keys in a big way on December 5, 1998, with the intentional sinking of the 210-foot former island freighter—that now sits perfectly upright and intact—just seven miles southwest of Big Pine Key.

    Where to Eat and Drink in Big Pine Key

    No Name Pub
    No Name Pub
    • No Name Pub: It's not a trip to Big Pine Key without a cold one and a meal at No Name Pub. This unassuming landmark dates back to 1931 (when it was a tackle shop) and is now known for seriously good smoked fish dip, pizza and chili. Pro tip: Don't leave without a newlywed 'gram in front of their bar, shellacked in autographed dollar bills.

    • Triano's Taco Company: Triano's Mexican food truck is perfect for grabbing tacos after a dive or picking up food for a romantic lunch by the water. Bonus: They have plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.

    Where to Stay in Big Pine Key

    Deer Run
    Deer Run
    • Barnacle Bed & Breakfast: If you're in search of a low-key retreat, tucked in between sandy beaches and verdant marshes, consider this Caribbean-style villa. We suggest booking the Treehouse Private Village—the most unique and private of the accommodations. Spend your days canoodling in hammocks in between short walks to the Tiki Hut for refreshers, or take advantage of the property's complimentary bikes and kayaks to explore your surroundings.

    • Deer Run on the Atlantic: Deer Run is not only a viable option for a post-nuptials escape, but a destination wedding, thanks to vegan chef Gail Patak who moonlights as a wedding planner. Patak excels at the details (big or small) when it comes to developing a theme, designing invitations, coordinating guest lists, creating floral arrangements, and preparing customized menus, so if a soup-to-nuts venue with extended honeymoon stay potential is what you're after, Deer Run could be the one. When booking your stay, you'll have your choice of four intimate rooms with views of the ocean—including a pet-friendly abode should you be traveling with a four-legged ring bearer—and a rural-meets-rustic location. Many of the area's sought-after nature preserves are close by and a plant-based breakfast buffet is arranged each morning.

    Big Torch and Little Torch Keys

    collage of Little Palm Island Resort located off of Little Torch Key, Florida
    Little Palm Island Resort

    After Big Pine Key, the next cluster of Keys you'll encounter heading south are the Torch Keys, which consist of Big Torch Key, Middle Torch Key and Little Torch Key. And it just so happens that the smallest of the bunch (name-wise) is actually the most populated, with hotels, restaurants, a nature preserve and several terrific fishing spots. A short ferry ride from Little Torch Key is Little Palm Island Resort—one of the most idyllic and storied wedding and honeymoon venues in southern Florida that literally sits on its own private island.

    Things to Do in Big Torch and Little Torch Keys

    woman scuba diving amongst a school of fish
    Courtesy of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council
    • Veterans Memorial Park: Don't be fooled by the name—this "park" happens to include an under-the-radar, beautiful beach just off Seven Mile Bridge. The best part? The secret swimming spot has super shallow waters that allow lovebirds to venture really far.

    • Boneafide Fishing Charters LLC: If you honeymoon in the Florida Keys and don't go on a fishing charter, did you even go? Captain Zach takes care of it all on his charters—from lobstering and fly-fishing to offshore, reef and wreck fishing. Just be sure to set aside a full day for this itinerary moment because you'll need it.

    • Legendary Watersports: River rafting, tubing and snorkeling, followed by a coupled-up picnic on a sandbar? The team at Legendary Watersports definitely understands the assignment when it comes to classic Keys outings meant for newlyweds.

    • Ecotour the Keys: What sets this tour operator apart from many of its peers is the fact that all tours are led by marine conservationists who have degrees in natural sciences. So you know the intel is accurate when you're gliding through the mangroves, hand in hand. Bonus: All gear and snorkeling lessons are included, and absolutely no experience is necessary.

    Where to Eat in Little Torch Key

    private outdoor dining setup at Little Palm Island Resort off of Little Torch Key, Florida
    Little Palm Island Resort
    • Kiki's Sandbar: Kiki's has a toes-in-the-sand, drink-in-hand kinda vibe that's synonymous with the Keys. And aside from Little Palm Island Resort, this is the only restaurant and beachside watering hole in Little Torch, but it's an epic one at that. Fresh seafood, tiki-style drinks and live music are always on the menu, as are stunning sunsets over Newfound and Marsch Harbors.

    • The Dining Room at Little Palm Island: Even if you're not staying at Little Palm Island, this dreamy dining room gets our vote for a special date-night dinner. Dig into French and Pan-Latin cuisine such as Florida stone crabs with coconut mustard sauce, crustacean-laden seafood towers and an island-style catch of the day. They also offer a Chef's Table experience to watch the action up close while savoring a multicourse menu with wine pairings. Plus, there are several private dining options on the beach for shellfish under the stars in a more intimate setting.

    Where to Stay in Little Torch Key

    poolside accommodations at Little Palm Island Resort off of Little Torch Key, Florida
    Little Palm Island Resort
    • Little Palm Island Resort: If you're seeking total privacy, along with some much-needed R & R, look no further than the adults-only Little Palm Island—Little Torch Key's exceptional private island resort. The award-winning property is only accessible by seaplane (about an hour's flight from Miami), ferry or the hotel's private motor yacht—and the trek is well worth it. Once checked in, champagne in hand, you'll be escorted to your quarters, which range from sprawling suites to luxurious bungalows with direct beach access. While there are no phones or TVs in the rooms—they fully embrace the "away from it all" mentality here—you'll happily disconnect as soon as you spy the outdoor showers, suspended hammocks and breathtaking ocean views that come with these posh accommodations. We suggest splurging on the all-new Island Romance Suites, which offer more space, a copper soaking tub, a couples' lounger and a firepit for late-night toasts to your newlywed life. If you happen to be considering Little Palm Island for your nuptials, your personal planner will attend to every detail of your beach wedding from start to finish—including decor, bouquets, guest transfers and more. You can even rent out the entire property and host up to 60 of your closest friends and family members for an unforgettable destination wedding, then keep the party going well after vows have been exchanged.

    Stock Island

    From left: Perry Hotel & Marina, Ocean's Edge Marina, Matt's Stock Island Kitchen & Bar, located in Stock Island, Florida
    From left: Perry Hotel & Marina, Ocean's Edge Marina, Matt's Stock Island Kitchen & Bar

    A mere three miles north from Key West, Stock Island is known as the hub of the Florida Keys' shrimping industry. Once populated only by boat yards and fishermen, the Stock Island of today has gained popularity for its colorful marinas, eclectic art scene and nautical-inspired hotels and restaurants fit for an intimate wedding on the water or a romantic getaway.

    Things to Do in Stock Island

    Washed Up woodshop and art gallery in Stock Island, Florida
    Washed Up
    • Washed Up: In the market for one-of-a-kind wares to furnish a new home? This woodshop and art gallery is guaranteed to have something your registry doesn't: custom tables made from washed-up tamarind trees and Cuban mahogany, driftwood sculptures, installation art and a bevy of other eclectic finds you can only get in the Keys.

    • Ocean's Edge Marina: Ocean's Edge happens to be one of the most popular hotels in Stock Island, and that's partly due to its prized marina—from a fill-and-pump dock to captain-led charters to the Keys' most secluded fishing spots, they offer it all.

    • Sea Monkey Ocean Adventures: Spend an afternoon swimming with dolphins, before enjoying the island's famed sunsets from the best vantage point: out on the water. It's just you, the captain and your crew (or boo) when you book a Sea Monkey private charter to whisk you away to popular waterfront bars and restaurants.

    Where to Eat in Stock Island

    Matt's Stock Island Kitchen & Bar in Stock Island, Florida
    Matt's Stock Island Kitchen & Bar
    • Hogfish Bar & Grill: Hogfish is a Safe Harbor staple for tacos with freshly caught fish and peel-and-eat Key West pink shrimp. The best time to go is on the weekend, though, when the music is live, the drinks are strong and the fried hogfish sandwiches are flying out of the kitchen.

    • Matt's Stock Island Kitchen & Bar: One of our favorite spots for coastal comfort food with a side of water views can be found at the Perry Hotel. Settle in for an afternoon watching the boats come in and out, order their killer crab beignets or bring your own fresh catch for the chef to prepare.

    • Chico's Cantina: Ask any local where to go for good tacos in town, and they'll point you toward Chico's. Stock Island's "best Mexican spot" is celebrating 35 years of family-run restaurant success and they host their fair share of wedding events, from welcome parties and rehearsal dinners to post-ceremony celebrations.

    Where to Stay in Stock Island

    Oceans Edge Resort & Marina located in Stock Island, Florida
    Oceans Edge Resort & Marina
    • Oceans Edge Resort & Marina: Oceans Edge Resort and Marina is one of Stock Island's premier hotels and wedding destinations, surrounded by crystalline waters, swaying palm trees and three top-rated restaurants. The luxurious property features 175 guest rooms with unobstructed Atlantic Ocean views. Spend your time lazing about by one of their six saltwater pools, take a nap in your private cabana or partake in an array of onsite activities. And if you're looking for a bit more adrenaline, the resort also offers Jet Ski tours and diving expeditions, snorkeling trips and kayak rentals. As for wedding venues, the hotel boasts a variety of indoor and outdoor options fit for celebratory festivities, but our top choice is the new Tiki Pavilion for stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico and accommodations for up to 100 people.

    • Perry Hotel & Marina: With nautical touches and industrial-chic finishes, this five-star Stock Island hotel is the definition of a romantic oasis. Many of the Perry's sprawling suites include waterfront panoramas, views of Shrimp Road flanked by dreamy mangrove trees and outdoor showers built into oversize balconies. If you've been toying with the idea of dockside "I dos," Stock Island-style, the Perry Hotel is equally equipped to host small-scale weddings as it is to host grand galas. With over 20,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor space spanning its palm tree–lined Event Lawn, Captain's Lounge and North Pier, you'll undoubtedly find the venue that's tailored to the two of you. As for your entrance, may we suggest sailing into the private marina before making your way down an aisle of floating docks?

    Find even more amazing places to stay and activities to plan for your Lower Keys honeymoon or destination wedding.

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