Key West, lying at the southernmost point of Florida, is an island city with a culture and atmosphere all its own. Famous for its beautiful sunsets, lively nightlife and coral reefs, it has been a fascinating destination for centuries. Most people arrive by driving over the Overseas Highway, which is a lovely introduction to the island.
Key West Highlights
- Mallory Square - This is the spot where everyone congregates to watch the sunset. You don’t actually have to come here to catch an amazing sunset, but it’s a time-honored tradition and one of the island’s rituals. It’s also full of street musicians and other performers to liven up the atmosphere even more.
- Duval Street - One of the main areas for shopping, dining and nightlife in Key West. There are lots of art galleries, interesting shops, restaurants and bars.
- Museums and Historic Buildings - -The Key West area was the site of many shipwrecks and at The Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum you can take a look at many artifacts left behind over the centuries. The Key West Art & Historical Society Custom House Museum has exhibits covering the varied history of this fascinating place.
- Boat Tours -If you really want to explore Key West, the best way to do it is from the water. Some companies that offer boat tours or rentals include Classic Harbor Line, Sebago Water Sports Day Tours and Key West Pro Guides. These and other tours give you a chance to explore shipwrecks, see the reefs and possibly some sea creatures such as dolphins and whales.
- Dry Tortugas National Park -If you’re a nature lover, you will want to take the extra time to visit this place. You have to arrange a boat ride to get to this national park, consists of 7 small islands. It has some of the region’s most beautiful reefs and marine life, as well as Fort Jefferson, a 19th century fort. This park is 70 miles from Key West, so it’s a full day trip.
Dining and Nightlife
Key West is fabulous for dining -especially seafood- and nightlife. No matter how long you stay here, you can probably sample new restaurants and bars every night if you’re so inclined.
- One of the best spots for fresh seafood is Eaton Street Seafood Market, where you can either buy fresh fish and cook it yourself or eat it here. The lobster rolls are especially popular.
- A piece of trivia about Key West is that it’s closer to Havana than Miami and the Cuban influence can be tasted and sipped at places such as Cuban Coffee Queen on Margaret Street, where you can get delicious Cuban sandwiches as well as amazing coffee.
- Key Plaza Creperie, at Key Plaza Shopping Center, is the place for tasty French-style crepes, as well as paninis, wraps and galettes. Open for breakfast and lunch.
- Santiago’s Bodega, on Petronia Street, is a Spanish style restaurant that’s open for lunch dinner and late night meals or drinks (they have excellent sangria among other things). Their menu includes tapas, spanakopita (Greek style spinach pie), pork tacos, shrimp scampi and much more.
- Sunset Pier can be a place to dine and have some drinks while watching the sunset. It’s also part of Ocean Key Resort & Spa if you want to be able to see the sunsets right from your room.
- Other bars that offer fun nightlife include Green Parrot Bar on Whitehead Street (one block from Duval) and Little Room Jazz Club on Duval St., a small but pleasant place to have drinks and listen to jazz; and 801 Duval St. Key West and Bourbon Street Pub on Duval St., one of the most popular gay bars in Key West.
Where to Stay
Key West has accommodations of every description. The main criterion is usually how far you are from the beach.
For location, it’s hard to beat Ocean Key Resort Spa, with the exclusive address Zero Duval Street. In addition to having one of Key West’s most popular bars, Sunset Pier, the resort has a fitness center, spa and pool.
Another fine hotel that offers waterfront rooms is Parrot Key Resort and Hotel, which has several acres of tropical gardens that provide some lush scenery. It also has a nice poolside cafe where you can enjoy food and drinks at the pool.
Key West Bayside Inn & Suites, on N. Roosevelt Blvd., offers standard rooms without views as well as costlier ones with balconies. Southwinds Motel on Simonton Street is another good choice if you’re seeking a reasonably priced place to stay that’s still conveniently located only a block from Duval St.
Key West also has many inns and B & B’s. The Grand Guesthouse on Grinnell Street is a friendly inn that’s close to downtown but on a quiet street. Papa’s Hideaway, as the name suggests, is also a quiet place but, again, not far from the main drag. It has a pool, not something you often find at B & B type places.