Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Key West - Paradise at the end of the road

Key West, Mile Marker 0, you've arrived at the end of the road, as far south as you can go in the US. Key West conjures up images of rum drinks, Hemingway, many-toed cats, roosters and Jimmy Buffett. It is all of that and so much more.

The Keys are a chain of islands that hang out at end of Florida. They are known for many things; fishing, snorkeling, sailing, boat races, all manner of water sports and activities. I never do any of that. Let's just say that I'm there for the OTHER things Key West is known for, fun and sun.

Key West is home to the Southern most point in the US. They have a big marker pointing that out. A very popular tourist attraction that features prominently in many vacation pictures. Taking your picture with the Southern Most Point marker is like a Key West visitors right of passage. We've done it and when you get there, you will too.

Key West is also known for its Sunset celebration. Yes, the wonderful folks of Key West celebrate the sunset with a crazy, quirky party. Folks gather on the docks at Mallory Square and watch street performers, sip drinks and wait for the sun to set. How can you not love this? Drinks, sunset, cats jumping through flaming hoops? What's not to love?

The island's history covers everything from pirates to politicians, treasure hunters to famous writers and everything in-between. A colorful past that lends an air of mystery and the exotic to this little corner of paradise. Where else can you walk in the footsteps of pirates and presidents, authors and smugglers, artists and crazy eccentrics? You can here, and we love it.

Key West has always been home and refuge to a motley, and not so motley crew of visitors. It was the location of Harry S Truman's winter White House and also the home of writer Ernest Hemingway. To this day Ernest Hemingway is celebrated with a festival in July called, what else, Hemingway Days. Sloppy Joe's bar, said to be a favorite hangout of Hemingway, holds a Papa look alike contest. No need to blame one too many rum runners if you see packs of Papa Hemingways making their way around town. You're not seeing things. Tennessee Williams was another literary figure to make frequent visits to Key West. It's said that he wrote the first draft of A Streetcar Named Desire while staying here.

We've visited many times. It's that kind of place, one you want to return to again and again. Each time will be a little different. You can stay in a five star resort or a cute and homey bed and breakfast. No matter where you stay you'll never be too far from a wonderful meal, a fun place to meet people and have a drink or a spot to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of Key West.

 There are many ways to get around the island. If you stay in the Old Town area and plan to stay there for you visit you won't even need a car. Almost everything is within walking distance in Old Town or just a short cab ride away. You can also rent bicycles, scooters or electric cars (think golf cart not Tesla) to make your way around town. Generally we prefer to stay in Old Town and be in the center of all the action. Duval Street is the main tourist area and is lined with shops, bars, restaurants and galleries.

A nice way to see the sites of Old Town is to take a Conch Train Tour. You'll get a leisurely tour of the area, the tour guides are a fun group and you may learn something.

The New Town area is very nice as well. There are several beautiful resorts located in the area and many have shuttles to Old Town. There is also public transport to the older part of town as well. No matter where you stay, resort or B&B, the people of Key West are warm and knowledgeable and happy to share that knowledge with visitors.

Another very popular area is know as the Bight, also the Historic Seaport. It is located in Old Town and is home to many popular restaurants and bars.

There is a lot of information available about traveling to the keys and Key West. A quick Google search will yield a ton of information on where to stay, what to eat, what to see. A great source of information are the Key West travel forums at Tripadvisor. There are "destination experts" there that are a wonderful resource for all things Key West.

If you plan to visit Key West there are a  few things to keep in mind:

There are a few nice beaches but there aren't long stretches of white sandy beach like in most of the Caribbean. Most of the resorts, if not all, have beautiful pools and a few have nice, small private beaches.
Key West has a reputation as a party town and it is BUT it can be a nice family destination too. Many people travel here every year with children and have a great time. That's the beauty of the island, it offers something for just about everyone.

Key West is a great food town. There are so many great restaurants to choose from. From high end to more affordable you will easily find a great place to eat. The hard part, if you're like us, is that there are only so many meals you can eat in one day. Just walk around, most restaurants have their menus posted. See what looks good, talk to a local, follow the crowds. You'll find a great meal and maybe make some new friends.

Have you been to Key West or other places in the Keys? Are you thinking about visiting or planning a trip? Please share your thoughts below. I'd love to know what you think.

Florida Keys & Key West


  1. What? No moonshine on the beach?!?! Geez! :)

    1. Heh! I can't spill ALL of the beans. A girl has to have a few secrets. Thanks for the comment!