Visitor Activities


There are lots of visitor activities at the National Key Deer Refuge; you can find out more information by stopping at the Visitor Center or checking our Facebook page.




  • Fishing


    Freshwater fishing is not allowed in the National Key Deer Refuge or on any of the Florida Keys NWR’s. Freshwater fishing opportunities simply don’t exist in the Keys.

    Saltwater fishing opportunities abound.  Saltwater fishing along the refuges’ shorelines, for example Ohio Key, is allowed; however best easy access to the waters within the boundaries of the National Key Deer Refuge are by boat or from local bridges and governed by state of Florida fishing regulations.  

  • Wildlife Viewing


    Opportunities for wildlife viewing abound in the National Key Deer Refuge.  If you are looking for Key deer, they roam freely over most of the Lower Keys islands, with their largest population on Big Pine Key.  They are most easily viewed early in the morning or later in the day towards sunset when they come out of their shaded resting places to feed on the grasses on the edges of the pine rockland and hardwood hammock habitats.  Please don’t feed the Key deer.  Wen they associate people with food, it exposes them to dangers like automobile injuries and deaths, disease and potential dog attacks.  It’s also against the law.

    For those that want to sit and rest a while in the outdoors while letting wildlife come to you, there are wildlife observation platforms at Blue Hole (includes spotting scope and loaner binoculars) and at Mannillo Trail. If you are looking for guided wildlife viewing opportunities, the refuge ranger and qualified volunteers offer guided walks, bike rides and kayak excursions that provide wildlife observation and photography opportunities, the bulk of these occurring during the winter season (Dec-Mar), but there are other opportunities throughout the year.

    Birding- There are a host of places in the Refuge that provide excellent birding, and we can provide suggestions depending on what species you are looking for. Three of our areas - Blue Hole, the Nature Trails, and Long Beach - are part of the Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Trail.
    If you are interested in viewing our Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Bird List, you can access it here.

  • Interpretation


    The Visitor Center and Blue Hole (seasonally) have staff and volunteers that provide interpretive information. There are interpretive trails at the Blue Hole and the Nature Trails (Watson and Mannillo trail) for self-guided walks.  Offsite interpretive talks/multimedia presentations are presented by the refuge ranger at a variety of venues including civic associations, campgrounds, summer camps, non-profits, and environmental organizations.   The refuge ranger and volunteers also conduct a variety of guided interpretive family-friendly walks and bike rides. See the calendar for scheduled events.

  • Environmental Education


    We host a variety of environmental education opportunities, including our seasonal Rockin Refuge Rangers for elementary school students.  The “Rangers” meet Saturday mornings at the Visitor Center in February and March. We also lead family-friendly nature programs during the summer months, usually in the evenings.  Please ask at the Visitor Center for further information.  We welcome school groups at the Visitor Center and at the Refuge.  We can provide assistance with scheduling these visits and with assisting with curriculum needs.   Please call the ranger at 305-872-0774 for more information.

  • Photography


    The National Key Deer Refuge is a great place to capture spectacular photographs and video. From scenic landscapes to Key deer, great white herons, alligators, butterflies and other wildlife, the refuge offers something for every nature photographer, beginners and experts.   There is a newly established photography club (Florida Keys Wildlife Refuges Photography Club) that meets monthly, with field excursions to various places on the refuge and beyond.  This club provides a great opportunity to learn about photography and the Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges. There is also a newly created Photo Club Facebook page.