Famous all over the world for the its enchanting sunsets, Key West can boast an impressive amount of attractions in relation to its small size and visiting it without missing something is a far from obvious undertaking, especially if you intend to dedicate only 1 day to it. Furthermore, its vitality makes the task even more difficult: it is difficult to walk around Duval Street and its surroundings without stopping every time to look at a shop window, enter a shop or be enchanted by the numerous musicians who perform in the clubs starting from the early afternoon.
In this article we will therefore try to discover not only the main ones Key West places of interest, including yours beaches, the House of Hemingway, its naturalistic “oases” and the best activities, but also to understand how to organize a visit that fully exploits all the potential of this surprising island on the borders of the States.
- Information and curiosities about the Conch Republic
- Key West: where it is and how to get there from Miami
- How to move, orient yourself and in how many days to visit it
- What to see in Key West Old Town
- Da Southernmost Point a Gato Village
- Hemingway's house, the lighthouse and Bahama Village
- The heart of Duval Street: on the hunt for historic buildings and social life
- Mallory Square and surroundings
- Historic Seaport: Key West's historic harbor
- Attractions from other districts
- Truman Annex: fra Little White House e Fort Zachary
- The Cemetery and Meadows area
- Other attractions
- The beaches of Key West
- Tours and tourist passes
- Key West Tour
- Miami e Key West Explorer Pass
- Key West events
- Where to eat in Key West
- Where to sleep in Key West
- Videos in Key West
- Key West weather: when to go?
Information and curiosities about the Conch Republic
If there is one place that does not lack personality this is Key West, whose vitality and “anarchic” attitude can be felt almost in the air. Here you will find a lot of hospitality, the desire to stop and chat and have fun together, but also the desire to stand out. The history of Key West, the Conch Republic, is quite eloquent in this regard: it was originally a den of pirates, who raged until the annexation of Florida to the United States. Subsequently, the numerous ships that crashed on the reef resulted in the business of wrecking, the recovery of memorabilia and valuables from sunken ships, a practice that enriched many Key West residents until the construction of the lighthouses solved the problem of orientation. of vessels at sea. Other businesses from the sea, such as that of sea turtles and sponges, later became important resources for the island, together with the production of cigars, which was established above all thanks to theCuban immigration.
The signs of all these historical passages are still very evident in Key West and walking along its streets is a bit like taking a long step in time retracing the many phases, even dramatic ones, that this island has gone through. But perhaps nothing more than the founding of the Conch Republic explains the spirit of this quirky town. In April 1982, the US government set up a blockade on the border with the Keys, whose inhabitants were suspected of smuggling Cuban refugees in and trafficking in drugs. On the 23rd of the same month the mayor declared the secession from the United States by declaring war on Washington and constituted the Conch Republic (Republic of the Shells).
The symbolic act was to break some Cuban dry bread on the head of a man in uniform, surrender exactly one minute later and then ask for war indemnities of a billion dollars. It was obviously a publicity stunt (which was also replicated in 1995, when a "naval assault" was organized aboard the historic ship Western Union, from which water balloons, conch fritters - fried conch, a typical dish of the island - and pieces of Cuban bread were thrown), but which well explains the rebellious spirit of the inhabitants of Key West, who since that day have earned the right to be called conch and to celebrate the Conch Republic Independence Celebration, which is basically a good excuse to party.
Key West: where it is and how to get there from Miami
Key West it is part of the Florida Keys (or simply Keys), an archipelago that extends from the continental tip of the United States to the Gulf of Mexico for 160 kilometers. This strip of tiny islands of white coral sand, a paradise for snorkelling and diving, begins to develop 24 kilometers southwest of Miami and ends right at Key West, the southernmost point of the continental United States, at only 153 km from Cuba.
Usually Key West and its "sisters" can be reached via theinternational Airport di Miami (2100 NW 42nd Ave.), and perhaps combine a visit to the Keys with a stay in the metropolis or a more complete tour of Florida (Everglades park included). KeyWest it actually has its own airport (3491 S. Roosvelt Blvd.), baptized as international but actually domestic.
There are also various company di cruise that stop in the docks of Mallory Square, and also bus of the Greyhound company that depart from Miami, but the best emotion is to reach the island with a road trip along the Overseas Highway, the scenic route that crosses the islands of Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon (just to name a few), a sort of 203-kilometer long "bridge" over the water between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
To reach the Keys from Miami by car you have to go through Homestead (where it is Coral Castle), Florida City and skirting Everglades National Park. I also recommend that you read our article dedicated to car hire in Florida where you can find tailor-made advice for this American state which, especially for toll roads, has some differences with many other US states.
If you prefer to opt for an organized tour, take a look at our article on tours from Miami to Key West.
How to move, orient yourself and in how many days to visit it
Before detailing the many attractions that the city has to offer, it is important to have in mind the minimum coordinates to orient yourself geographically. The most interesting area of Key West is the so-called Old Town, a picturesque village with a fishing vocation, made up of alleys and wooden houses, many in the most disparate colors and full of historic residences. Although the area is entirely walkable, it is larger than it might seem so don't underestimate it. The most interesting Old Town air is the one that unfolds between the streets of Duval Street e Whitehead St, which almost seem to compete for who can exhibit the best attraction. At the extreme south and north of the 2 streets we find 2 authentic symbols of Key West: the Southernmost Point and Mallory Square (a few steps from the historic port).
However, outside this area there are interesting areas that can be reached on foot:
To the west, towards the sea:
- Truman Annex, where the Little White House is located, the US Coast Cutter museum ship, the Fort Zachary e il Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
To the east, inwards:
- The cemetery area, which is technically always part of the Old Town and which includes places of interest such as the Basilica of Saint Mary Star of the Sea and close to the neighboring district of Meadows, the city park Bayview Park, with its beautiful memorial dedicated to veterans.
It is impossible to fully visit all these areas in a single day, so if you want to “fill up on Key West”, dedicate it to it at least 2 days, and personally I'm pretty convinced that too in 3 days you would have little chance of getting bored. If you only have 1 day available, focus your attention on Old Town, possibly integrating it with a detour in one of the 2 neighboring areas listed above.
You will probably arrive by rental car but, to visit most areas of Key West, you will not need a car. The town can be visited well on foot or by bicycle (you will find many bike rentals on the island) or, alternatively, you can opt for theOldTownTrolleyTours (location: 1 Whitehead St.) which allows you to visit the historic part of the city up and down as you please. The ticket is valid for one day and costs about thirty dollars, with the possibility of a discount if purchased online.
What to see in Key West Old Town
In Old Town, every building, even the smallest, seems to have something interesting to reveal, so it is difficult to resist the temptation to browse inside historic homes, museums, shops and clubs in search of the curious and surprising detail; the impression you get is that of a small open-air museum. For convenience I have divided the various areas of Old Town into zones and the visit is conceived as an itinerary, from South to North. You can follow it easily by referring to the points included on the interactive map above.
Da Southernmost Point a Gato Village
- SouthernMost Point
- Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
The main landmark of this area is the famous Southernmost Point, the colorful buoy-shaped monument that marks the southernmost point of the continental United States and that you'll find at the bottom of Whitehead Street. This beautiful concrete pylon (which marks the beginning of our itinerary) was erected in 1983 and has become so famous that you will have to queue to take a picture of it undisturbed. Perhaps it might interest you to know that the nearby area of Fort Zachary is located further south of the famous buoy, so if you want to be able to tell that you have been further south of the Southernmost Point take a trip to the beach of Fort Zachary Beach (which we told you about in our guide to the best beaches in Key West).
Near the buoy-shaped monument you will find 2 other elements of interest: the statue in honor of the preacher Albert Kee, who in this area sold fish, as well as blowing inside a shell as tourists pass by (pose in which the statue portrays him still today) and the small telegraph station (Telegraph Cable Hut), which played an important role in carrying out the first call between the United States and Cuba.
After taking the necessary selfie with the SouthernMost Point it's time to find out what the SouthernMost House; well yes, in this area the inhabitants compete a bit as to who can boast the title of the southernmost house in the United States (I have seen at least 2 that boasted this record), in any case, the "official" one is there House Key West (where you can also stay overnight, as we explained in our guide on where to sleep in Key West), which stands out for its pomp and bombast. To reach it, just turn into South Street and arrive at the intersection with Duval Street, it will be difficult for you not to notice it. Continuing for a few meters on South Street you will find another historic building, the house that belonged to the important philosopher and educator John Dewey, now transformed into the Bed & Breakfast The Sea & Dewey House. Always a stone's throw away, taking the direction of the sea, you will find the small beach of South Beach.
Now start climbing Duval Street, Key West's most exciting and full of attractions street. The first possible stop is already noteworthy: it is the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory (1316 Duval St.) a sort of tropical paradise where you can admire butterflies with imaginative colors, exotic plants, pink flamingos and other birds with colorful plumage (it is open every day from 9 to 17:30).
After a few blocks you will find two interesting historic buildings on the right at Catherine Street. The former, which now houses the LaTeDa hotel / restaurant / cabaret, is known as Marti's terrace for the famous speech that the Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti gave in 1883 from the balcony of this building; the second, 2 buildings next to it, was the speakeasy (a place where alcohol was illegally traded during Prohibition) of the famous rum producer Raul Vasquez. In full harmony with the past, here you will find the Rum Bar, a busy place with a wide selection of spirits, one of the best places in Key West to have a nightcap.
At this point you can continue up Duval Street towards the liveliest area of Old Town but, if you are an irrepressible curious, take a short detour to discover a small historic corner of Key West: the Gato Village, also known as Gatoville or Barrio Gato. In the 80s the cigar trader Eduardo Gato built a real village near his factory complete with a bakery, laundry, billiard room, various shops and ice cream maker, all in order to attract qualified personnel for the his company. To date, 2 testimonies remain: the factory itself (Gato Cigar Factory Museum), at the intersection of Amelia and Simonton Street, and the Cat Village Pocket Park, a small green space that houses the reconstruction of the facade of a cottage for the production of cigars of the time and a sculpture that seems to be the largest cigar in the world.
Hemingway's house, the lighthouse and Bahama Village
- House of Ernest Hemingway
- Key West Lighthouse
- Blue Heaven
Return to Duval Street and continue north on it; crossing Truman Avenue, you will find yourself in an area of a few blocks that is a real concentration of places of interest. In fact, 3 museums are located around Duval Street and Whitehead Street and, 2 steps away, there is the Bahama Village, so called for the high concentration of Bahamian immigrants who settled there in 1800.
The first museum, the Tennesse Williams Exhibit (513 Truman Avenue), will be of particular interest to theater enthusiasts: a collection of photographs, plays, first editions, newspaper extracts, rare magazine articles and videos dedicated to Tennesse Williams, an important playwright known for works such as A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and which lived in Key West for over 30 years. Among the highlights of the collection you will also find his typewriter.
Return to Duval Street and turn left onto Olivia Street, where 2 of the most iconic attractions in Key West await you: the lighthouse (Key West Light House and Keeper’s Quarters Museum) and Hemingway's house (Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum).
The villa, which was inhabited by the great writer from 1931 to 1939, is now open to paid visits (bring your cash) and, as originally, is literally invaded by cats, which are among other things the true descendants of those in 6/7 fingers that the man of letters loved to take care of in his garden. The building dates back to 1851 and over time has shown considerable resistance to the elements: during Hurricane Irma in 2017, when the whole island was evacuated, the curator of the museum, the employees (and the many cats with them) refused to leave the house, and they all survived without any problem.
The house is well preserved and you can freely explore it by visiting all the rooms, including the annex where he wrote The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, the swimming pool, the garden and, of course, the cat cemetery, with the name of each engraved on the tombstones.
Just in front of Hemingway's house is another nice museum in Key West, dedicated to lighthouse and the keeper's house. The construction of a lighthouse on the island became necessary in 1823, following the installation of a base of the American navy, and was erected 2 years later, even if it did not have an easy life: it was destroyed by a tornado and, after the reconstruction, it underwent further interventions, but the most interesting story to learn concerns the caretaker Barbara Mabrity, who served as a guardian for over 30 years, also losing many of his family members here.
In addition to the opportunity to climb the 88 steps necessary to get to the top of the lighthouse and thus enjoy a panoramic view of the town and the sea, the visit to the site proves to be an interesting opportunity to learn a piece of Key West history and immerse yourself in it. lifestyle of the time, in particular with that of the lighthouse keepers, whose house and interiors have been meticulously reconstructed.
Now continue north along Whitehead Street and after a block, at the intersection with Petronia Street, you will notice some curious shops, for example the The Coast, with a decidedly particular concept, or the Crystals and Coconuts, with its unique internal garden of trinkets. You will also see the sign of the Bahama Village Market, which will announce that you have arrived at the famous Bahama Village of Key West, albeit actually the sign The actual entrance to the neighborhood is one block away, at the intersection of Petronia and Duval Street.
Even if this market will attract your attention, desist; in this small agglomeration of 2 streets called a little spuriously "village" there is even better: I'm talking about Blue Heaven (729 Thomas Street, but you can enter from Petronia Street to roam the outer space freely). The history that this place can boast is one of those of first-class taverns: once there was in fact a brothel here, later replaced by boxing matches refereed by Hemingway himself, and now it is probably the best place to go in Key West: wonderful atmosphere, strictly local live music, excellent food, many roosters wandering among the tables ... personally this place has given me addiction (it must have been their fabulous Key Lime Pie?).In the mood for a detour? If you want to venture out of the Old Town this is the right place to detour to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, to learn more, take a look at the paragraph dedicated to the Truman Annex just below.
Once out of Blue Haven, take back Petronia Street to arrive at the intersection with Duval Street, where you will see the sign welcoming you to Bahama Village. The most observant will notice the rainbow-colored stripes at the intersection, the unmistakable sign that you are in the epicenter of Key West gay-friendly, as evidenced also by the presence of the Gay Key West Visitors Center 2 blocks away.
The heart of Duval Street: on the hunt for historic buildings and social life
- Curry Mansion
- Capt Tony’s Saloon
- Lots of live music
Are you ready to step into Key West's most vital yet historically rich soul? In the many historic buildings that you will meet along this stretch of Duval Street a good part of the history of the city has been written (and not only): within the walls of these houses lived the first successful entrepreneurs of Florida, important political figures were hosted (including 2 presidents of the United States) and great writers composed their literary masterpieces. But you will not only see history, because from here on, Key West gives its best also from the point of view of the locals and theEntertainment.
Arriving at the intersection with Southard Street, the temptation to make a detour will immediately arise: by turning left, in fact, you will have the opportunity to jump to the Green Parrot Bar (at the intersection with the usual Whitehead St.), a veritable institution inaugurated in Key West in 1890 and which throughout its glorious history has hosted events of all kinds, from tattoo contests to birthday celebrations for pets. It is also an excellent place to listen to live music and, even if it happens when there are no particular events, it is still worth taking a tour inside to enjoy its particular atmosphere and admire the large collection of guitars, some signed by greats. guitarists.A short culinary stop?
Also on Southard Street is the picturesque Frita's Cuban Burgers, where the friendly Frita delights in “Cuban-style” sandwiches, a pleasant stop for those who need a little refreshment without any particular pretensions.
Returning to Duval Street, after a few meters, you cannot help but notice on your right one of the historical icons of the famous Key West street: the imposing facade of the Beach, theater of the early 20s now abandoned. It's not too worth going in, unless you want to buy something from Wallgreens who took over the building, however the facade of the old theater is worth a photo at the very least. Right next door you will notice the Willie T’s, and it won't be just the singer on duty who will catch your attention: here the ceiling is entirely covered in dollars (yep, just like the No Name of Big Pine Key, which we talked about in our guide to the Florida Keys) and as we will see shortly there is also another place that can boast this peculiar characteristic.
On the same block you will also notice a beautiful historic Hispanic-style building: the San Carlos Institute which, built in 1871, soon became the cradle of the Cuban independence movement led by José Martí, who renamed it “The Cuban House”. Inside you will find an interesting museum, a library, an art gallery, a theater and even a school.
After a few steps, another possible detour again towards Whitehead Street. At the intersection of this and Fleming Street, the Mile 0 road sign awaits you (“Mile Marker 0”), which marks the end of the Overseas Highway (or Route 1). It may not be as famous as the sign at the end of Route 66, but the usual photo is a must. Just 2 steps then, continuing on Whitehead heading south, you will notice the Monroe County Courthouse, the beautiful county courthouse dating from 1915.
Head back to Duval Street again and get ready for an authentic feast of historic buildings, they're all within the next 2 blocks:
- La Concha Hotel: an important hotel operating since 1926 where Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire
- St. Paul's Episcopal Church: church erected in 1912, after the previous 3 were destroyed by fires and hurricanes. It is the oldest diocese in Florida.
- The Oldest Schoolhouse: Also known as Patterson-Baldwin House, this 1847 building is one of the oldest on the island; here Madame Passaloque was ahead of her time considerably by starting her school well before the Florida school system was organized in the 70s.
- Oldest House & Garden Museum: the oldest house in Key West, built in 1829 by Richard Cussans and capable of withstanding fires, hurricanes and floods. You can visit it and find out how the family of Captain Watlington and his wife Emeline lived, who raised 9 daughters within these walls.
- Key West Woman’s Club: mansion from 1892, where Captain Martin Hellings, director of the International Ocean Telegraph Company, and Eleanor, daughter of William Curry, known as Florida's first millionaire, lived. The building was bought in 1940 by the Woman's Club and now houses the Red Barn Theatre.
- Dr. Joseph Yates Porter House: among the finest historic villas in Key West (built in 1892), it is also known for being the home of the first Florida health officer, whose commitment was instrumental in discovering the causes of yellow fever.
- Fogarty Mansion: house from 1887 where Joseph Norman Fogarty, who was mayor of Key West, lived. Among these walls were received prominent personalities, such as Henry Flagler, visionary creator of the Overseas Highway, and 2 Presidents of the United States: William Howard Taft and Grover Cleveland.
If this little full immersion into Key West's past wasn't enough, you just need a little detour on Rose Lane to find an authentic piece of history, Old house (Trev-Mor Hotel), the famous hotel built in 1919 to withstand any disturbance, made with bricks taken from the nearby Fort Zachary. What made him famous, however, were not his architectural principles but the fact that, during his stay, Ernest Hemingway wrote his masterpiece A Farewell to Arms. Unfortunately, the facility is currently closed and you cannot visit the inside (but you can always take a photo of Key West's weirdest commemorative plate, see image below).
To return to Duval Street, take Caroline Street and turn into Ann Street, there are two other fascinating historical testimonies waiting for you: the Curry Mansion and Old City Hall. While for the second you will have to settle for simply a view from the outside, the Curry house, the first millionaire in Florida, can be visited for free and can give you a few pleasant minutes to discover an ancient villa of the late nineteenth century full of antiques, including the piano by Henry James and the chandelier by Frank Lloyd Wright. On the top floor you can then "climb" up to the roof for a view from above of the buildings of Old Town (it seems that from this location the wives of the sailors awaited the return of their husbands from their journey at sea).In the mood for a detour? If you continue on Caroline Street towards the sea you will find yourself in front of the Truman Little White House, to learn more read the paragraph on Truman Annex
The remaining area of Duval Street is mostly full of clubs and entertainment, but even here history does not leave us because some of these, as we will see, have indelibly marked Key West.
At the corner of Duval and Caroline Streets it's really hard to miss the The Bull & The Whistle, with its wrought iron balcony that is somewhat reminiscent of the Bourbon Street clubs in New Orleans. In reality this building is as if it housed 3 in one fell swoop: on the ground floor there is The Bull, the typical place for partying where local musicians perform, with walls decorated with murals depicting events and important characters for the history of the island; on the first floor is The Whistle, a more intimate bar with pool tables and the possibility of accessing the wrought iron balcony; finally, on the roof, the Garden of Eden, a bar that can boast a decidedly unusual feature: the clothes are in fact optional!
At the next intersection, the one with Greene Street, get ready for another taste of history. The Sloppy Joe's Bar, with its large sign, it is not simply another place where local artists perform and the islanders converge to party; this bar can in fact boast a very respectable history and, above all, a customer of notable caliber: Ernest Hemingway, whose birthday is celebrated every year with theHemingway® Look-Alike contest, a contest where patrons compete against whoever looks most like the great writer.
However, many do not know that the original position of the Sloppy joe it is a few meters away, in correspondence with the current one Capt Tony’s Saloon (on Greene Street), another example of ceiling upholstery made from dollars, license plates and…. bras! The atmosphere (which I personally found more fascinating than Sloppy Joe) is that of a clandestine tavern, with the inevitable live music and some pool tables.
Along the main road, 2 other places deserve mention: the first, lo Smallest Bar in Key West, prides itself on being the smallest bar on the island (with an adjoining B&B that we told you about in our guide on where to sleep in Key West), while the second, Hog’s Breath Saloon, is a stop for the Duval Street Crawlers (this is the name of the patrons who like to wander from bar to bar to party, one of the most popular activities in all of Key West). You will not see that its characteristic teaches at the beginning, but it will be the music that will guide you to the place that invented the slogan “Hog's breath is better than no breath at all“.For rock lovers ...
If like me you are a rock lover you will have already noticed walking on Duval Street theHard Rock Cafe (next to the Key West Woman's Club) but you must by no means get lost Rock Lives On (102 Duval St.), enter and find out why ...
Mallory Square and surroundings
- Mallory Square Sunset Celebration
- Mel Fisher Maritime Museum or Shipwreck Museum
The next area of Old Town that awaits us is the one that is concentrated around the famous one Mallory Square. To make this square famous is the so-called Sunset Celebration, the ceremony with which the sunset is greeted every evening, a number of attractions are concentrated in the surroundings, some of a more commercial nature, others of a notable historical and cultural nature. Spending some time in this area allows you to learn more about the history of Key West, which owes a lot to the activity of the so-called wreckers, the retrievers of items from wrecks at sea, which were resold at the Mallory Square auction house. TheHistoric Memorial Sculpture Garden (2 steps from Hog's Breath), an open-air memorial where busts of the most eminent characters in the history of Key West are also exhibited, from President Truman to the usual Hemingway.
If you want to know more about the wreck recovery activity and the castaway of the galleons on the shores of Key West you can visit 2 museums dedicated to the subject:
- lo Shipwreck Museum exhibits the relics recovered from the Isaac Allerton, sunk in 1856, although it is designed more as a sort of entertainment show than as a real museum. Among the arrows in its bow it can boast the observation tower, which offers one of the best views of Key West
- il Mel Fisher Maritime Museum exhibits relics recovered from 2 Spanish galleons sunk in 1622, as well as silver found in fleets sunk in the first half of the 1700s. Less focused on entertainment than in Shipwreck Museum, can boast a much more interesting historical value
Within a block or so you will find other museums, first and foremost the Key West Museum of Art and History, housed in the beautiful historic building of the Custom House, where, in addition to learning a lot about the history of the town, you can also learn more about the Overseas Highway, to which an entire section is dedicated, and theAudubon House & Tropical Gardens, what was the first Victorian house in Key West and in which lived a prominent ornithologist who is responsible for important studies on the birds in the area. In addition to the tropical garden, the 3 floors of the house can also be visited, expertly restored and full of original furniture and objects.
Then walking along David Wolkowsky Street, skirting the old building of the Coast Guard Headquarters (which now houses the Clinton Square Market), you will find the Key West Aquarium, to get to know rare or otherwise typical species of the Keys, including nurse sharks, giant isopods, sea turtles and alligators. Assisted by the staff you can also feed the animals and, if you feel like it, get ready to stroke a shark's tail.
Historic Seaport: Key West's historic harbor
- Flager Station Overseas Railway Historeum
- Half Shell Raw Bar
After admiring the sunset over Mallory Square it's time to move to historic port, the last area of Old Town left to visit, which you can access by taking Front Street. It is an old seaside pier with an innumerable array of boats, fishing boats and restaurants (most of them touristic) and, beyond the pleasant promenade, it doesn't have a lot of attractions to offer, however even this historic port has its own stories. to tell: once upon a time the business of sea turtles, from which a delicious and particularly sought-after soup was derived.
The turtles were captured in the Caribbean and sent to Key West on schooners to then be deposited in port enclosures called “kraals”, where they waited until the moment of slaughter. Turtle Kraals, today a restaurant, was opened in 1895 precisely for this business, which was then cut off in 1971, when the risk of extinction of the turtles led to the enactment of a special law for their protection. The Turtle Museum, engaged in the defense and conservation of these animals, carries out its awareness-raising activity just a few steps from what was the old turtle deposit.
2 other elements of interest that you will encounter during your walk along the marina are the Norberg Thompson Memorial, dedicated to an entrepreneur and mayor whose activities have greatly contributed to the growth of the port district, and the Flager Station Overseas Railway Historeum, the arrival point of the Overseas Railway, the railway line that connected Key West to the mainland.
Passing in the area for dinner you need to make a minimum of selection in order not to end up in one of the crowded tourist restaurants in the port. My advice is to skip the first ones you meet and stop at theHalf Shell Raw Bar, a very characteristic place with plates of all the states hanging on the wall, where you can eat well and don't find the usual crowd. If crowded places are not a problem for you then the best alternative is it Schooner Wharf Bar, although you will probably have to wait a while to eat. For another interesting and above all at a good price possibility, if you don't get too formal, go back a little inland and go to the picturesque B.O.’s Fish Wagon.Are you planning a Florida tour?
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Attractions from other districts
Truman Annex: fra Little White House e Fort Zachary
The Truman Annex area, which once coincided with the military installation of the US Navy, is located west of the Old Town and can also be reached on foot. There are essentially 2 ways to achieve it:
- If you are on Duval or Whitehead Street, turn towards the sea at Southard Street to cross the complex of Truman Annex Condominiums, and reach the roundabout of Truman Waterfront Park. Here you can decide whether to continue straight (crossing the small water park Splash Pad) to get to the US Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum, or turn left to reach the area of Fort Zachary and Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center.
- To reach the residential area of Truman Annex, which is further north, you can also go back and turn left onto Emma Street, but the most convenient and "strategic" way is probably to return to the area after traveling another stretch of Duval Street, always turning towards the sea at Caroline Street. In this way, after a block from the first headquarters of the historic Pan Am company, you will find yourself in front of the other important attraction of the area: the Truman Little White House.
Here's what awaits you:
US Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum
It is an authentic museum ship with an important history, which has earned it one of the highest military honors bestowed on the US armed forces which are distinguished by acts of extraordinary heroism. Visiting this fascinating historical testimony you will be able to explore the command bridge, the combat information center, the captain's cabin, the canteen, the engine room, the warehouse, the ammunition room and other rooms where you can get a detailed idea of how it was supposed to being life on a military ship that has fought in all the last major wars, including World War II and Vietnam.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
In the nineteenth century a fortification plan was started on the southeastern coast of the States which led to the construction of Fort Zachary (completed in 1866) and Fort Jefferson (in Dry Tortugas). The fort in Key West, named after President Zachary Taylor, was active until 1947 and is now an open-air museum where you can climb the walls and observe the armaments of the Civil War. The site is not only interesting for history buffs but also for those looking for some sun and relaxation, since Fort Zachary Beach it is located just 2 steps from the old fort. We've already told you about it in our guide to the best beaches in Key West. Entrance to the fort and the beach are subject to charges.
Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
This center represents an interesting opportunity to learn more about the flora and fauna of the Keys, all the more so considering that admission is free. One of the most interesting elements that you can find inside is the reconstruction of the ocean laboratory of Key Largo, the only underwater laboratory in the world. In addition to the Keys reef, other habitats of the state are also explored, such as hammocks, pine forests and beaches.
Truman Little White House
About the 33rd American President Harry Truman, who is on the list of famous people on the island, here is his winter home called The Little W (111 Front St.) where he and his family stayed from 1946 to 1952. Later other presidents (Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton) continued to use it for official meetings and rest periods alike. which other presidents have stayed and signed deals in the presidential residence of Camp David in Maryland. The house still has occasional government functions.
The Cemetery and Meadows area
Towards the interior there is an area of Old Town a little less traveled by tourism and further east is the residential district of Meadows. The cemetery it is certainly the main reason to get here but, since you are in the area, it is worthwhile to stop by an interesting basilica and a beautiful memorial.
Key West Cemetery
Key West Cemetery stands at the foot of solar hill, the highest point on the island, and it is estimated that over 100000 people are buried there. It was built in 1847 after a disastrous hurricane that swept away the previous cemetery, scattering the bodies of the people who were buried there, and is an expression of the so-called Rural Cemetery Movement, which promoted not only the movement of cemeteries to peripheral areas (at the time the dead were buried in the gardens attached to the churches), but also their development according to aesthetic standards similar to city parks, to allow visitors to appreciate works of art and the beautiful surrounding landscape.
In addition to cultural and aesthetic reasons, the Key West Cemetery it is also visited for the curious inscriptions found on some tombstones: for example those of BP Roberts, "I told you I was sick", by Alan Dale Willcox, "If you are reading this tombstone you desperately need a hobby" , and by Gloria Russell, "I'm just resting my eyes."
The cemetery has various sections, some refer to important historical events (there are arias where Cuban independence fighters are buried, the ship's crew USS Maine sunk in the proto of Havana in 1898, and the sailors of the Confederate States) others are by ethnicity or religious affiliation. The best way to orient yourself is to use the map that will be given to you at the entrance or to join one of the guided tours available.
Basilica of Saint Mary Star of the Sea
La Basilica of Saint Mary Star of the Sea (1010 Windsor Ln.), With its Victorian and Renaissance Revival elements, is one of the most interesting churches in Key West, as well as one of the oldest Catholic dioceses in Florida. One of the main reasons to visit it is in the rear courtyard, where a path in the shape of a rosary will lead you to the natural rock cave erected for Our Lady of Lourdes and Bernadette (Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto). To conceive the cave was, in 1922, the nun Louis Gabriel, who with this work asked the Madonna to protect Key West from future hurricanes.
Pleasant green area not far from the city cemetery with baseball, tennis and basketball fields. From a tourist point of view, the main interest of this park is represented by the Key West Veterans Memorial Garden, dedicated to all those who have served (or are still engaged) in the American wars. In this beautiful memorial each statue or sculpture represents a specific war and the monumental block of Vietnam is in my opinion one of the most successful.
Outside of Downtown there are a few attractions that you could include in your Key West itinerary if you decide to stay 2 or 3 days (they are actually a bit off-center to fit neatly into a short stay). Here are 2 to consider:
West Martello Tower and Garden Club
Il Garden Club (1100 Atlantic Blvd.) is a lovely tropical garden in which to stroll along brick walkways (these are the remains of the fort West Martello Tower) among trees, plants, flowers, ponds and even gazebos that complete the pleasant setting. A small donation is required for entry. The park is located in Higgs Beach, so it can be easily combined with a few hours of relaxation on the beach. Although it is not centrally located, it can still be reached on foot in about 15 minutes from Southernmost Point, however, if you are driving, you can take advantage of the large parking lot nearby.
Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden
Il Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden (5210 College Rd.) Is the place to be to discover the endangered or endangered flora of the Caribbean and the Keys. Inside, among comfortable paths, you will find placid lakes and waterfalls as well as a remarkable variety of plants. It is located on Stock Island, the island east of Key West and is easily accessible by car from Old Town (just over 10 minutes).
The beaches of Key West
Key West may not be able to boast the best beaches in Florida, but the possibilities for swimming are not lacking: at the south end of Duval Street, in the Southernmost Point area, I have already mentioned South Beach, a small, very popular beach where you can relax on the sandy coast and swim in the shallow waters. Then, for a bit of romance, expect the suggestive sunset on the pier.
Close to the aforementioned Higgs Beach, there is the White Street Pier also called Edward B. Knight Pier. At this pier, with lampposts and benches, you can fish, observe the ocean, watch birds and admire sunrises and sunsets. At the end of the pier there is a huge compass painted on the pavement. Are you looking for a particular effect? In the evening when the wind blows it is suggestive to watch the waves crash against the fence; this is the time to take great pictures.
Not far from here, at 100 Atlantic Boulevard, Higgs Beach it is a fairly wide beach with tropical vegetation, picnic areas and a play area for the little ones. Nearby is located Higgs Dog Beach (1500 Vernon Ave.), a small, rocky beach accessible to dogs.
Among the most popular with locals is the paid one in Fort Zachary (Fort Zachary Beach) and other possible coasts are those of Smathers Beach and Rest Beach. For an in-depth overview I suggest you read our article entirely dedicated to Key West beaches.
Tours and tourist passes
Key West Tour
In Key West, the tourist offer is considerable and there is no shortage of activities to choose from, here are the most interesting ones:
Cruise, snorkel and dolphin watching in Key West
Key West can also be appreciated from the sea and, to have a good experience, you can consider one of the many cruises available. The choice ranges from sunsets to the full moon, from private celebrations to special events without neglecting those organized on holidays.
- Dolphin watching cruise: if you love close encounters with marine life, this cruise will bring you in close contact with the dolphins that populate the coasts of the Keys.
- Dolphin watching and snorkeling cruise: like the previous one but with the added possibility of snorkeling and admire the beautiful seabed of this part of Florida up close.
If, on the other hand, you prefer something more classic, framed by the unforgettable atmosphere of the sunset and perhaps sipping a glass of sparkling wine, you can refer to the cruises that make the "sunset celebration"Their strong point.
- Sunset Cruise: Two-hour cruise with a small buffet and drinks to enjoy on board as you watch the sun go down on the horizon.
- Glass bottom boat cruise: the peculiarity of this cruise is to be done on a boat with a transparent glass bottom in order to allow you to observe the characteristic seabed of the Keys. If you choose the “sunset” option between the various departure times, a toast with a glass of Champagne will be included in the price of the cruise.
If you are more sporty there is also the possibility of snorkeling and a kayak tour along the magnificent seabed of the Keys.
Helicopter tour over Key West
I helicopter tour are increasingly finding considerable success in the United States, this is because they combine at a relatively low price the possibility of seeing the beauties of the country from an unusual and panoramic point of view.
Key West also does not escape all of this, as you will have the opportunity to choose between different tours, each of which is aimed at a specific category of tourists. Here are the main options you will have available. All three proposed tours have the option of an audio guide in Spanish.
- Key West Discovery Flight: we can define it as the “basic” tour because with a duration of only 5 minutes however, it will allow you (at an affordable price) to have an overall view of the Key West coast. If you want you can choose a similar version of this tour but of a duration of 10 minutes at a slightly higher price. Recommended for those who want to enjoy a longer flight without spending too much.
- Key West Ultimate Island Experience: this tour allows us to have a much more complete experience than the previous one as we will pass about 30 minutes to fly over the beauties of this part of Florida. There are various options to choose from during the day and this will allow you to better fit it within your itinerary.
- Key West Sunset Celebration: do you want to combine the charm of seeing the Key West coast from above with the beauty of the sunset? By choosing this activity you can do it. Particularly recommended for those with a romantic side, the whole tour will last approximately 30 minutes and, as you can guess, it only starts once a day.
Dry Tortugas National Park excursion
A daily excursion which can only be done by boats (Yankee Freedom Ferry – 100 Grinnell St.) and seaplanes (Key West Seaplane Adventures – Key West Airport) is at Dry Turtles National Park, 110 kilometers west of Key West. It is a classic destination, a must for those with a little extra time at their disposal.
The National Park Authority preserves Garden Key Island, which is almost entirely occupied by Fort jefferson, and seven other islets, the most isolated of the Florida Keys, and consequently those with the seabeds less affected by man. The suggestive blue waters, the coral reef, the marine life and the conspicuous presence of birds make you fall in love with this oasis of peace, a Unesco heritage. Here you can practice snorkeling, kayaking and scuba diving, you can camp on Garden Key and have pleasant picnics. The park can be visited with guided tours or independently.
Miami e Key West Explorer Pass
If you want to save money without giving up the wonders of Key West, you can evaluate the purchase of this pass which, including the Miami area, offers you a choice of 3, 4 or 5 attractions to your liking, including the boat cruise with glass bottom and snorkel, a bikes and the Key West mini train tour. Find the list of activities to choose from at the link below.
Learn more about the Miami and Key West Explorer Pass
If you are also particularly interested in the possibility of including as many attractions as possible on your vacation, not only for Key West but also for the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area, you can read our article dedicated to Miami Passes.
Key West events
Key West is a lively and active city where locals love to have fun at village parties. If you get the chance, it may be worth visiting Key West at an event citizen. Here are some examples: if you love good food a January There is the Key West Food & Wine Festival with food demonstrations, food tours and food and wine tasting. The events are subject to charges and are held in different locations.
In July takes place The Key Lime Festival with foods and drinks containing lime, such as the famous Key Lime Pie, Key Lime Cocktail and Key Lime Rum. You can even take part in the competition for the best cake devourer!
The merriment explodes in October in the free event called Annual Goombay Feast in the Bahama Village neighborhood, when people dance on the street, parade in costume, visit art and craft stalls, and there is live entertainment with gospel and reggae music.
In Key West, as in all the States, the celebration of Halloween it is deeply felt; here we celebrate with the named event Fantasy Feast in downtown and in the Historic Seaport and on that occasion the extravagance pervades the area starting from the costumes that parade in parades or circulate through the streets, where we also find the inevitable food and craft stalls.
Where to eat in Key West
In the city there is a lot of choice regarding restaurants, also we are in a seaside place and the fish that are the most popular are the red snapper (snapper), the grouper (grouper) and the corifena (mahi mahi), one of the dishes typical is the conch fritter (fried conch, the shellfish that is inside the shell) but it is a real crime to visit Key West without eating the Key Lime Pie, amazing, that of Blue Heaven (729 Thomas St.) or alternatively try that of Kermit's Key West Key Lime Shoppe (200 Elizabeth St.).
As for the places to try, I have already reported several along the itinerary, although not all of them are worth a stop. The ones that I recommend you to consider for eating are:
- Blue Heaven (729 Thomas St.) in the Bahama Village
- Half Shell Raw Bar (231 Margaret St.) e B.O.’s Fish Wagon (801 Caroline St.) nell’Old Historic Seaport
- Hog’s Breath Saloon (400 Front St.) vicino a Mallory Square
- Marquise Coffee (600 Fleming St.) if you are looking for a fine dining restaurant not far from St. Paul's Episcopal Church
To make a simple drink instead, opt for:
- Capt. Tony’s Saloon (428 Greene St.), in zona Old Town, a 2 isolati da Mallory Square
- The Rhum Bar (1115 Duval St.) not far from Southernmostpoint
- Green Parrot Bar (601 Whitehead St.), not far from Bahama Village
- Hog’s Breath Saloon (400 Front St.) vicino a Mallory Square
If you want to save you can fall back on the numerous cuban sandwich shops, which in the context of the expensive restaurants of Key West can be good allies. I stopped by Frita's Cuban Burgers (425 Southard St.), pleasant place for the atmosphere and friendliness of the owner and my sandwich was not bad. There is also a lot of choice when it comes to ethnic cuisine: da Friend Tortilla Bar (425Greene St.) The cuisine is Mexican and the atmosphere is fun and friendly while da Pepe's Meson (410 Wall St.) the cuisine is Cuban, as is the live music.
Where to sleep in Key West
There are various possibilities of pernottamento in the city especially for those who love cozy B & Bs. The area to look for is the Old Town, very convenient for getting around all the attractions of the city on foot but not cheap especially during the high season. We have selected a series of recommended hotels, which you can read in our guide dedicated to the topic, by clicking on the link below:
Where to sleep in Key West
Videos in Key West
Thanks to this video you can admire the splendid stretch of road of the Overseas Highway and the main things to see in Key West.
Key West weather: when to go?
Key West can boast a tropical climate: a dry season with a pleasant temperature alternating with a warmer and humid one. Unfortunately, nature sometimes hurts this paradise, as in the case of hurricane Wilma in October 2005 and recently Irma in September 2017; dramatic events that each time have brought out the tenacity of the population, which in these circumstances has shown itself ready to roll up its sleeves to return Key West to its splendor.
For more details on the best time to go to Key West and the surrounding areas, I refer you to our article entirely dedicated to the particular climate of Florida.