Key West

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Lluis Enric Mayans
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SOURCES CONSULTED:

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Index

  • How to get there from Miami
  • Getting around in Key West
  • To see
  • What to do in Key West

Wonderful landscapes. Crystal clear waters. Dream sunsets ... All this, and much more, can be found in Key West, the southernmost point in Florida and the most popular of the islands of the immense archipelago of the Keys, which several famous people, including Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams e Harry S. Truman elected as their place of residence.



As we have said, Key West, in Monroe County, is the southernmost point of the State of Florida and the United States, so much so that it is almost as close to Cuba than to the States.

If you are visiting Miami and the southern part of Florida, you should definitely rush to explore this little paradise, which hides many treasures just waiting to be revealed.

How to get there from Miami

Between Miami and Key West there are more or less 260 km (164,6 miles) which takes about 3 and a half hours. You can get to Key West in auto, with the busin plane or with the ferry: you just have to choose the vehicle that best suits your needs.

Here are all the indications on how to reach Key West from Miami by various means of transport:

By bus

The bus is a convenient and inexpensive way to reach Key West from Miami. The Miami - Key West route is served by two of the largest US companies, Greyhound e Go Bus.


Greyhound buses depart from Airport Central Station and terminate at Greyhound Station, while Go Bus buses depart from Miami Airport and arrive at Caroline Street.


There are at least 6 trips a day between the two locations, lasting about 4 hours and 30 each. The average cost of a ticket is 19 euros.

An alternative to regular buses are organized tours from Miami, round trip.

With these tours, you can visit Key West's top attractions with an English or Spanish speaking guide. On board the bus is available Free WiFi. The Pickup from select Miami hotels.

By plane

The plane is certainly one of the most comfortable and fastest means to reach Key West, less economical than other means. The cost of direct flights from Miami to Key West starts at around € 135 and takes about 1 hour.

There are also flights with one or two stopovers, cheaper on average but less fast.
The main airlines serving the Miami - Key West route are American Airlines and United.

By ferry

An original alternative to the plane, the bus and the car, to reach Key West, is constituted by the ferries. Unfortunately, there are no ferries or boats from Miami to the popular island of the Keys. Don't worry, though: even if you're in Miami, you'll still have the option of reaching Key West by boat.

By renting a car you can reach Fort Myers and, from here, board one of the ferries of the service Key West Express (ferries also depart from Marco Island).


By car

The car is certainly the best way to reach Key West: cheap and fast, it allows you to move freely, and offers the opportunity to admire a truly unique landscape during the journey.


To reach Key West from Miami it takes about 3 hours, following one of the most interesting roads in the United States: the US Highway 1.

The route from Miami to Key West is fairly straightforward. From Miami Airport, take FL – 836 W, then continue onto FL – 836 E and FL - 826 S, then FL-874 S to Toll Rd / Homestead; from here, take the Ronald Reagan Turnpike.

The toll road continues to Homestead. From Homestead onwards, exit the toll zone to take US-1. This trait is also the most spectacular, and it becomes even more so when you enter the archipelago of the Keys.

Key Largo it will be one of the first islands to meet; from here, you cross a series of bridges before arriving at your destination. The hired car must be returned to Key West International Airport (drop - off costs in a location other than the departure one are not as high as in other areas of the United States).

The toll road payment can be made with the Sun Pass, a payment system that offers various different methods. The best for a trip of this kind is the Sun Pass Mini Sticker from $ 5, a sticker to stick on the glass of the car with a rechargeable chip, which can be purchased in the stores of the chain Publix. The cost of the toll can be calculated on the Sun Pass website.


Getting around in Key West

To move from one part of the island to the other there are various means of transport. One is the City Buses, which with the blue and green lines (active from Monday to Friday) serve the Airport, Smathers Beach and South Roosevelt Boulevard.


With the Bone Island Shuttle it is possible to go around all the major tourist attractions of the island: there is a ride every 15 minutes.

Another original way to get around the island is the Old Town Trolley Hop On Hop Off: the 1-day Trolley Tour that allows you to see all the most interesting attractions of the island in 12 stops.

To see

Nicknamed by the first Spanish colonists "Island of Bones”, Because this place was the cemetery of the indigenous peoples who lived in this area before the arrival of the Europeans, Key West is a real tropical paradise, which is located just a stone's throw from Miami.

If you think the only activities are sunbathing and swimming, however, you are wrong, because Key West has so much more to offer visitors. Museums, fortresses, roads, parks: real symbols of the island just waiting to be discovered.

Here is a list of the most interesting attractions in Key West:

- Historical buildings

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

As we have said, Key West has been a favorite place for many famous people of the XNUMXth century. One of them was the famous writer Ernest Hemingway.

The island is still present today Sloppy – Joe, the place where Hemingway loved to hang out. And then there is the house he used as a residence, which today has been transformed into a museum and is one of the main attractions of the island. The house, built around 1850, is in colonial style and was given to the Hemingways by the uncle of Pauline, the writer's wife, around 1930.

Inside there are still numerous personal objects of Hemingway and his wife and many souvenirs collected by the couple during their travels in Europe, as well as several hunting trophies.

One of the most exciting moments of the tour of the house is certainly the visit to the studio, the room in which many of his novels were composed, including “To have and not to have”, a novel set in Key West during the era of the Great Depression.

Harry S Truman Little White House

Another, great, character who made the history of the twentieth century chose Key West as his home: it is Harry S. Truman, thirty-third President of the United States.

The history of the Little White House has always been in some way linked to that of the country. In 1890 the building was the headquarters of the naval station during the war against Spain, and it maintained the same function even during the two world wars.

In 1946, when she was elected, President Truman decided to elect her as his winter home. Today the Little White House is still a retreat for White House tenants, but it is also a museum open to the public.

You can book a tour of the White House with an English speaking guide here.

Audubon House & Tropical Gardens

Audubon House & Tropical Gardens is a beautiful mansion built in 1840 for the Captain John Huling Geiger and his family and later bought by the famous ornithologist John James Audubon.

Inside there are still 28 first editions of the publications made by the scholar.
Destined for demolition in 1958, it was saved by the Mitchell Wolfson Family Foundation. Today it is a museum, richly furnished with what were the typical furnishings of an upscale home in Key West in the 1800s; outside you can admire the splendid gardens, designed by Captain Geiger.

Basilica di St. Mary Star of the Sea

St. Mary's Star of the Sea Basilica, the island's only Catholic church, is famous for its Sea Grotto Shrine, an exact replica of the Lourdes Grotto containing the statue of the Madonna of Lourdes, built in 1922 at the behest of Sister Louis Gabriel after the island was hit by a violent hurricane.

Made with rocks from different areas of the island of Key West, this cave is believed to have the power to keep away children Hurricanes, so much so that many faithful, even today, flock here to pray when a hurricane is expected to arrive.

Custom House – Key West Museum of Art and History

The Custom House is the perfect place to learn more about Key West's history.
Built in 1891, this magnificent red brick building served as a post office, courthouse and even a government building, before becoming the home of the Key West Museum of Art and History, which houses numerous works of art and various testimonies on the history of the place.

Streets and gardens

Duval Street

Duval Street is one of the most popular and chaotic streets in the city, populated by shops, bars and restaurants, it is home to some of Key West's biggest attractions, such as the Key West Aquarium e Audubon House.

Mallory Square

Located on Wall Street, in the historic area of Old Town in Key West, Mallory Square is a quaint square located just west of Duval Street.

What makes this square so special is its location, right in front of the Gulf of Mexico.

La Sunset Celebration (i.e. the celebration of the sunset) held right in this square is one of the most popular activities on the island: started in 1960, this tradition requires that every evening, about two hours before sunset, people gather here to admire the spectacle of the sunset, admire art and craft exhibitions, taste the specialties offered by street food vendors and attend the performances of numerous artists, jugglers and musicians.

Key West Garden Club

Spanish gardens, English gardens… There are many styles of gardening, even the tropical one.
At the Key West Garden Club, also known as West Martello Tower, located in Atlantic Boulevard, on Higgs Beach, thanks to the work of dozens of volunteers, it is possible to admire a beautiful example of what is called “tropical gardening”.

This fortified citadel, which in the past was used for military purposes, has now experienced a new life: its cobbled streets, which open onto large courtyards, are populated by lush tropical plants and wonderful orchids, and characterized by original masonry arches. Among the secrets of this beautiful place there are also a pond and a waterfall.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is an oasis of peace and tranquility in the midst of busy Duval Street.
Inside there are approximately 60 species of butterflies among the most beautiful in the world and more than 20 species of exotic birds, enjoying the warm - humid climate of the greenhouse and the glorious flowering of its numerous varieties of plants and flowers.

Places - symbol

Key West Cemetery

It may sound a little strange, but the Key West Cemetery is one of its most popular attractions. Built in 1847 on the hill of solar hill, the highest point of the island, it is said that the remains of about 100.000 original inhabitants of the island are buried here; remains that apparently were brought ashore from the original burial site after a storm.

It is really worth a visit, both for its historical value and for the decidedly original tombs, some of which bear inscriptions such as "I told you I was sick" (I told you I was sick), or "At least I know where he's sleeping tonight ”(at least I know where he will sleep tonight).

Southernmost Point

If you go to Key West, you cannot fail to go to the southernmost point of the southernmost place in the United States, which is the point known as Southernmost Point, which is located at the intersection with Whitehead Street and South Street.

Obviously, the photo in front of the is a must Southernmost Buoy, a black iron buoy with yellow and red stripes bearing, among others, the words Southernmost Point and 90 miles to Cuba.

Sloppy Joe's

Sloppy Joe should be included among the places - symbol of Key West, because it has a somewhat particular history. This place, which opened its doors in 1933, on the day prohibition was abolished, was the favorite haunt of the great writer Ernest Hemingway, and is a must see for anyone visiting Key West.

Parks

Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park is a real paradise for history buffs. Fort Jefferson, the XNUMXth century fortification, is the focal point of the Park, consisting mostly of crystal clear waters, home to a varied flora and fauna, and seven small islands.

The park can be reached by boat, seaplane or ferry and can be visited by means of an exciting guided tour lasting 45 minutes.

Bayview Park

Located in downtown Key West, Bayview Park features 5 tennis courts, a basketball court, play areas, and the Pepe Fernandez softball court. It is the ideal place for a picnic and to relax sitting on a bench in the shade of the trees.
On one side of the park, the Key West Veteran Memorial Garden, established to commemorate the valiant soldiers who died in war.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Il Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, o Fort Zach, as it is called by locals, is one of the island's most interesting attractions, located on the Truman Annex, near the southernmost area of ​​Key West.

In addition to the park and the beaches, this place, included in the register of Historic Places of the United States, is famous for its Fort dating back to the period of the Civil War.
Numerous events are held in the park throughout the year, including historical reenactments from the Civil War period lasting a full week.

Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park is a truly enchanting place, located halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, which became famous after the opening of the Overseas Railway: the Seven Miles Bridge, initially converted to car traffic, was definitively abandoned in 1972 and today is part of the unique landscape of this small Eden.

The Bahia Honda area is famous for its beaches and its extremely varied fauna and flora: today as in the early 900s, this is a popular place for those visiting Key West.

You can relax on the beach, ride a bike, fish, walk, snorkel and even take part in a kind of treasure hunt, which takes place using the GPS to orient yourself.

If you love nature, here you can admire numerous species of butterflies and birds and go trekking on the different paths available.

Museums

Florida Keys Eco – Discovery Center

The Florida Keys Eco - Discovery Center is a veritable paradise of biodiversity, which houses numerous specimens of the fauna and flora of the Keys and the reproduction of different terrestrial and marine environments.

In its nearly 2.000 square meters of exhibition space, the Florida Keys Eco - Discovery Center offers the reproduction of terrestrial environments, such as desert landscapes with sand dunes and marine, such as the coral reef and Aquarius, the only laboratory on underwater oceans . In short, it is the ideal attraction for those traveling with the family.

Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum

The Key West Lighthouse was activated in 1848, because the Navy recognized the need to have a reference point for navigation in Key West, due to the particularly treacherous seabed.

Over the years to come, the lighthouse underwent significant improvements, including the installation of electricity. The caretaker, initially an indispensable figure, became superfluous, and his house, now uninhabited, has become a museum dedicated to the lighthouse and its keepers.

Key West Aquarium

Located on Whitehead Street near the more popular Mallory Square, the Key West Aquarium is the only facility of its kind in Key West and the oldest in Florida. Originally built as an open-air aquarium, the facility offers several educational paths and some permanent exhibits; among the most interesting are theAmerican Alligators Exhibit,Atlantic Shores Exhibit and Jellyfish Exhibit.

Key West Shipwreck Museum

The Key West Shipwreck Museum, on Whitestead Street, offers visitors the unmissable opportunity to discover the fascinating world of the wreckers who made the island's fortune. Many testimonies provided by objects, video documentaries and representations performed by real people, to discover this mysterious world.

Inside the museum, you will be guided by Asa Tift and from his band of "wreckers", you can climb the watchtower to admire the view and find some wrecks to loot and see the wreck of the vessel up close Isaac allerton, which sank in 1856 in the treacherous waters around Key West.

Flagler Station Railway Museum

If you want to know more about the famous character Harry Flagler and his determination to connect Key West with the rest of Florida via the rail transport, this museum is the place to be.

Inside what was once the famous Flagler Station you will discover how the inventiveness and determination of a man succeeded in the task of getting the train to Key West with the construction of the Overseas Railway, which remained in business from 1912 until 1935, when a hurricane destroyed it.

Part of US Highway 1, in the stretch that crosses the Keys, was built on the remains of the route that once constituted the legendary railway.

Mel Fisher's Maritime Museum

Who hasn't dreamed, at least once, of setting sail for the ocean to discover a precious treasure hidden on the seabed?

For Mel Fisher, an experienced sailor and treasure hunter, this desire became a reality when, in 1985, he made the most important discovery of his entire career: the two Spanish galleons Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita, which sank off Key West in 1622 and had on board a treasure worth 450 million dollars.

Mel Fisher's Maritime Museum is dedicated to the famous sailor and his extraordinary find.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum

Active from 1936 to 1988, this American Navy Cutter has really seen all the colors, and has played a fundamental role in more than one conflict, so much so that it deserves due Presidential Unit Citation.

located in Truman Waterfront, at the westernmost tip of Key West, the Ingham is a true landmark for the island and a historical attraction that you absolutely must admire.

What to do in Key West

An enchanting place like Key West does not only offer visitors so many things to see: once you have explored the island, you can undertake dozens of activities, such as snorkeling and diving, boating or kayaking, hiking or biking.
Let's see what are the most interesting activities to do in Key West.

snorkeling

Thanks to its wonderful seabed, rich in marine fauna, and with the only living coral reef in the United States, the most popular activity that Key West has to offer is definitely snorkeling: you will have no difficulty in booking an exciting dive in the waters crystal clear waters of Key West to admire its seabed (you can book here online).

The best place for this activity is definitely the park area of Dry tortugas or the area of Bahia Honda.

Scuba diving

If you are an experienced diver, Key West is the place to go for spectacular diving.
Key West, in fact, is also part of the named route Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail, an underwater route that winds along the archipelago of the Keys and has several shipwrecks as its reference points.

In addition to enjoying the spectacle of the Coral Reef and its colorful inhabitants, you can take a tour around the wreck of the Gen. Hoyt S. Vanderberg, which sank in 2009: it is an absolutely unmissable sight.

Dolphin Tours

Dolphins are another of Key West's main attractions. If you love the animal world and these friendly and sociable cetaceans, you can book one of the many Dolphin Tours that are offered by tourist shipping companies (or here online): some of them will give you the opportunity to admire them while they swim in their natural habitat, the sea, while others, a little more expensive, offer the opportunity to get close and, if you are lucky enough, to pet one of these magnificent animals.

Tour sulle glass bottom boats

Another way to explore the marine environment of Key West is to board a glass bottom boat, the so-called "glass bottom boats" and go on an exciting tour: from your seat on the boat, looking towards the bottom, you can admire the wonderful ocean floors, full of colorful fish.

Cruises and jet ski trips

If you want to enjoy the views of Key West and nearby areas, such as Dry Tortugas National Park and the other wonders the island has to offer, you can book one of the many cruises available. For a romantic outing, the best are definitely the sunset cruises.

If you're looking for something more adventurous than a leisurely sunset cruise, take a trip with the Watercraft they are a valid alternative, which will make you feel strong emotions and will offer you the opportunity to admire Key West and its unique panorama from a truly original point of view.

Hiking and cycling

With a few exceptions, such as the hill on which the Key West Cemetery stands, the territory of Key West is almost entirely flat: an ideal condition for those who want to explore the island by bicycle. Furthermore, the use of bikes in Key West is strongly encouraged.

You can choose to take a nice bike tour of the island, visiting all the most interesting places, or, if you are more adventurous, you can take the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, a path of 171 kilometers which connects Key West to Key Largo, on what was once the Florida Overseas Railroad or one of the other cycling routes.

If, on the other hand, you are a lover of excursions and trekking, you can choose between several really interesting routes. In addition to the aforementioned Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, which is also an excellent solution for hiking, there are also several ideal hiking trails at Bahia Honda State Park and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

Key West Walking Tour

Why not explore the city through one of the many guided tours available online? In addition to the classic Trolley Tour and Conch Tour, which will make you explore the island aboard a nice black and yellow train, there are also several themed guided tours that will introduce you to new and hidden sides of the popular Florida island: for example the Food Tours, to discover the best clubs in the area, or the most mysterious Ghost Tours, to learn about the ghosts that inhabit the island.

Fishing

Key West is a true paradise for fishing enthusiasts too. You can go fishing by booking a boat tour, or fish directly from the mainland.

Among the best areas to cast your line and try your luck are Mallory Square, The White Street Fishing Pier, the west side of Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, along the Key West Shipping Channel and Bahia Onda State Park.

Treasure hunt

Yes, in Key West you can also take part in a treasure hunt using the GPS to orient yourself. Where does it take place? In the exclusive Bahia Onda State Park. To take part, you must register on the Geocatching.com site, because the Key West route is part of the Operation Recreation GeoTour, with routes ranging from Pensacola to Key West, and download the Official Tracking Sheet (there is also one children's version).

beaches

Let's move on to one of Key West's most popular features: its beaches. You may not know it, but it is not so obvious to find beaches in Key West, because the islands that make up the Keys archipelago originate from the coral reef and are therefore mainly rocky.

Despite this, there are several areas of the island characterized by beautiful strips of sand. Let's see which are the best beaches in Key West.

Smathers Beach

Nearly a thousand meters long, Smathers Beach is the longest beach in Key West. Shaded by lush coconut palms, this beach has something to offer both those who like to relax in the sun and those who enjoy sports. Here, in fact, you can rent various types of equipment and you can practice snorkeling, kayaking, volleyball and much more.

Higgs Beach Park

Higgs Beach, in addition to its beauty, is also famous for being the beach that gives access tothe only underwater park in the United States, as well as for its fort dating back to the Civil War era. Not only. If you are in Key West with children, you can enjoy a few moments of relaxation by letting them play in the Children's Playground of the beach.

In the immediate vicinity the White Street Pier, also known as "Road to Cuba", is the favorite place for fishing lovers.

Key West Dog Beach

The name Dog Beach was not assigned by chance: this beach, in fact, is the most loved by dog ​​owners, who can roam free here, without a leash.

Key West Truman Annex Beach

This beach really has everything you could want: golden sand, green areas, a children's play area, a snack bar and even showers; in addition, in the evening, from here you can witness spectacular sunsets.

South Beach

Located near Southernmost Point, South Beach (not to be confused with the popular Miami area) is the ideal place to relax and enjoy the breathtaking view, perhaps enjoying a drink at one of the beach bars.

Bahia Honda State Park

As we have already said, those of Bahia Honda are some of the most beautiful beaches that can be found in Key West, characterized by fine sand and crystal clear waters, so much so that they finish in first place in the ranking of "best beaches in the continental US".

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Of course, they will not be at the level of the beaches of Bahia Honda, but even those of Fort Zachary Taylor are certainly not to be thrown away: the waters that lap these beaches, in fact, are considered perfect for swimming or snorkeling.


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