The southernmost city in the United States is located on the last island of the Florida Keys archipelago. The island has a 6.5 km length and a 2 km width and is situated approximately 4 hours drive away from Miami and just 140 km from Cuba.
It’s an archipelago of about 30 islands, Key West being the last of them. The best known of the 30 islands are Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, The Lower Keys and Key West. To get to Key West you will have to cross the Seven Mile Bridge, which has, as the name clearly suggests, a length of 11 km.
How to get to Key West:
- By bus
Greyhound has regular daily trips to Key West from Miami airport with a starting price of $50.
- By plane
Although the island is pretty small, Key West has its own international airport, Key West International Airport.
- By car
Best choice I would say. It is definitely impossible to get bored driving on one of the most picturesque roads in the United States. During the 4 hours, you’ll be surrounded by the Atlantic and occasionally by a small island.
Things to do & see in Key West
1. Duval Street:
Duval Street is the main avenue in Key West, the center of entertainment and nightlife on the island. The name comes from Florida’s first governor, William Pope Duval. There are so many restaurants on Duval Street, which would make it absurd not to find one to your liking. In addition to the seafood menus and colorful cocktails, the atmosphere is also maintained by the live music in the pubs, every evening. So, if you like to party, this is the right place for you!
2. Ernest Hemingway Home:
Ernest is one of the most important American novelists of the 20th-century. He is best known for his works, including A Farewell to Arms, The old man and the sea, and To whom the bell tolls. Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner, Hemingway spent 10 years living on the island, in a house located on Whitehead Street. The residence was later converted into a memorial museum. If you want to visit, the price of a ticket is $13/ adult and $6/children. It’s open every day, including holidays, from 9 am to 5 pm. In the beautiful home of Ernest Hemingway, you will meet a number of almost 50 cats with six toes, descendants of a feline that Ernest chose to name Snow White. He received the cat as a gift from the captain of a ship. Ernest used to name his beloved cats after famous people and celebrities and today, the staff is doing their best to keep the tradition alive.
3. Harry S. Truman Little White House:
Are you passionate about history? Then you must visit the winter residence of President Truman, the 33rd of the US. To me, it seemed a little bit too expensive ($15/person); therefore, I decided to only admire it from the outside.
4. The beaches:
The beaches of Key West are not as you might imagine, stretched, soft sand and turquoise colored waters. There are only a few beaches in Key West, all of them located on the south side of the island. The most beautiful beaches are Smathers Beach, South Beach and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
I spent almost a whole day on this beach, but I haven’t gone into the water because I thought it was very dirty. Moreover, the seaweed crowd did not encourage me to do that. On Smathers Beach, I witnessed no less than 3 weddings, just like in the movies, on the Atlantic shore.
Weak points: beach full of seaweed, not very clean and clear water, no sunbeds
Strong points: the length (1 km), free parking, volleyball nets, many palm trees, you can see the sunset very well from here
South Beach is a very small beach, located at the end of the main boulevard in Key West, Duval Street. Although it is only a few tens of meters long, the beach is very beautifully landscaped and looks like cut out of magazines.
Weak points: small, crowded, no toilets
Strong points: beautifully landscaped, many deck chairs, good sand, palm trees, good location, has its own pier
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Spending a day at the beach in Fort Zachary and choosing to go by car, you must be prepared to take $7 out of your pocket. We were lucky to get there in a day in which we had the chance to watch a national competition for boat races, but I have to mention that the area is full of this kind of events, like contests and activities related to water. Here, I enjoyed drinking natural coconut juice, purchased from a traveling salesman. The juice will decrease your budget with only $3 and it’s totally worth it.
Fort Zachary gave us the opportunity of watching an amazing sunset, at the end of an amazing day, while we were swimming in the ocean.
Weak points: access fee ($7), many stones
Strong points: large, spectacular scenery, the perfect place to watch the sunset, picnic tables, chairs and sun loungers are available for rent, food kiosks, public toilets and showers, very clear water
5. Wonderful sunsets:
Key West is all about sunsets. Whether you choose to admire the ocean or take a cruise specifically for this, you should not miss the sunset when coming to Key West. I can consider myself lucky, I’ve actually seen two.
6. The southernmost point of the United States:
Do you wish to take a picture with the famous landmark? Well, then you should be prepared to literally wait in a line. The Southernmost Point is a concrete block, painted in a way to look like a swimming ring. It’s definitely a must-do, especially for the first visit to the island. You can see the island motto engraved on it „Key West – home of the sunset”. In addition to the southernmost point, you can also see the southernmost hotel and the southernmost house nearby.
7. The streets:
The island is very green and colorful and that is thanks to the palms trees, banyan trees, and flowers in all colors. It is a pleasure to walk the streets, full of joy and color. Another important element is the mix of the typical Floridian little houses, with their Caribbean style.
8. Old Town Trolley ride:
For an in-depth knowledge of the island, I recommend a ride on one of these trains. The price for an adult is $30.45. The train will take you to the most important sights of Key West, having no less than 13 stops. However, children under 12 can ride the train for free.
9. Water sports:
Whether you choose to swim, to do snorkeling or diving, going to Key West means practicing at least a water sport. I was limited to swimming this time, but I promise to get back for some other awesome adventures.
10. The Statues in front of the Custom House Museum:
The museum offers some rich history of Key West and America, but I must say that the best part is represented by the unique statues in front of it. Thus, the one below is my favorite.
Interesting Facts about Key West:
- In Key West, you get to see hens and roosters almost everywhere. The island has an impressive number of this kind of birds, so you can easily see them slowly crossing the street and that shouldn’t make you wonder. I even saw a few around McDonalds while we were eating breakfast.
- Key West is more close to Cuba (90 miles) than to Miami (140 miles)
- You need to cross a number of 42 bridges along the Overseas Highway in order to get to Key West from Miami
- In Key West, the sunset is celebrated every evening at Mallory Square
- The temperature never got lower than 0 degrees on the island
- It has the third largest coral barrier reef in the world, after Belize and Australia
- The population is under 25 000 people
How about you? Have you ever been to Key West?