By Dalia Colón
Key West welcomes party animals—and we’re not just talking about the revelers whooping it up on Duval Street. The Conch Republic is as hospitable to four-legged visitors as it is to their human companions.
If you and your favorite roll dog find yourselves with a weekend to spend in Key West, check out these attractions that dogs and their humans will equally enjoy.
Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway was nearly as famous for his six-toed pet cat as he was for novels like The Old Man and the Sea and The Sun Also Rises. Today, more than 50 six-toed cats—many direct descendants of the original kitty, Snow White—roam the grounds of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. And while felines are top dog at the house where Hemingway lived during the 1930s and in its surrounding gardens, pooches are welcome on the property—even indoors—provided you carry them. Some areas of the museum are too tight for a doggie stroller, so a Maltese should fit right in, but you may want to think twice about bringing your Great Dane. 907 Whitehead St., (305) 294-1136, hemingwayhome.com.
The Key West Aquarium, located in Mallory Square, has been delighting visitors since 1934 with its sharks, turtles, alligators, jellyfish and other native marine life. At this dog-friendly attraction, petting Rover won’t be your only animal encounter; guests can also feel animals in the aquarium’s touch tank, including sea stars, sea urchins, giant hermit crabs and of course conchs. Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome. 1 Whitehead St., (888) 544-5927, keywestaquarium.com.
While you’re in Mallory Square, stick around for the nightly Sunset Celebration. Every evening, hundreds of people—and a good number of dogs, too—gather in the waterfront square to watch the sun dips into the Gulf of Mexico. As acrobats, jugglers, musicians and artists wow the crowd, you and your dog can enjoy some open-air people-watching and chase the occasional resident rooster. 400 Wall St., mallorysquare.com, (305) 294-2587.
The phrase “doggie paddle” takes on new meaning when you embark on an excursion with Lazy Dog. The adventure company welcomes four-legged adventurers on its paddle boards, kayaks and pontoon boats. So enjoy some recreation with your best friend, and you’ll be be dog tired. 5114 Overseas Highway, (305) 295-9898, lazydog.com.
If you and your pooch need a break from the hubbub, recharge at the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden. Leashed dogs are welcome to walk among the native plants, birds and butterflies that call the garden home. There’s even a picnic area where you both can refuel. 5210 College Road, (305) 296-1504, keywest.garden.
Explore Florida history and nature with a visit to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The 54-acre landmark will please both you and your pet, with space for on-leash walks and a picnic with your pooch. Note that dogs are not allowed on the beach or in buildings, but your dog will love the Atlantic breezes and birdwatching. 601 Howard England Way, (305) 292-6713, fortzacharytaylor.com.
Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden will be an oasis for both you and your pet. Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome at this mini rainforest that’s a refuge for orphaned parrots. Pack a picnic for you and your pooch to share, marvel at the birds’ colorful feathers and listen to their call. 518 Elizabeth St., (305) 294-0015, nancyforrester.com.
Key West Dog Beach won’t win any beauty contests, but for pups seeking to cool off in the waves, it’s the perfect place to frolick. After some fun in the sun, head next door to Louie's Backyard, an oceanfront restaurant with Caribbean food, to-die-for views and a pet-friendly patio. 700 Waddell Ave., (305) 294-1061, louiesbackyard.com.
A photo op at the Southernmost Point is a must-do for any visitor to Key West. The iconic buoy marks the southernmost point in the Continental United States. What better place for a selfie to commemorate this trip with your favorite traveling companion? Whitehead Street at South Street, (305) 809-3700, southernmostpointwebcam.com.
The Key West Express boat will ferry you and your pet from Fort Myers Beach or Marco Island to the Keys. Dogs, cats and birds are welcome aboard in crates or carriers for a fee, although pet strollers are prohibited.
Want more fun on four legs? Visit Monroe County Tourist Development Council’s directory of pet-friendly businesses here.