Vacation still sounds like an idea to escape the existence we find ourselves dealing with lately. As I consider where I might like to go, I thought about my most recent trip to Florida last Winter and thought writing about it sounded like a promising idea.
I’ve written on here about Amelia Island just a few weeks ago, and I previously included Siesta Key. I was familiar with Siesta Key and the Gulf side of Florida, so an opportunity to travel to Key West intrigued me when a friend from high school suggested the opportunity.
Originally a Spanish territory named Cayo Hueso which translates to Bone Key, it was corrupted into Key West by English speakers. Spanish explorers named the island for shipwreck artifacts being collected in the area. Enterprising residents continued the practice and established the city from money made off selling the shipwrecked treasures.
Traveling to Key West is best accomplished by air travel. Since the island is nearly 3 hours from Miami and the mainland, flying to Key West makes much more sense. If you choose to fly be aware to pack light, since the airport has a short runway.
Traveling around the island is a quick tour and can be accomplished in less than an hour. Much of the entertainment along the island is located on one of the main North-South streets on the far end of the island—Duval Street. If you’ve spent time on Bourbon Street, the Gatlinburg Parkway, or Beale Street in Memphis you can imagine the same thing in Key West. The advantage that Duval Street has over these locations is the near perfect weather all year given their tropical climate. Expect to park a few blocks away and walk through the shops and bars at an easy pace.
Key West is only 90 miles directly north of Cuba which is one reason Ernest Hemingway built a house on the island. Papa as his friends knew him would spend hours bending his elbow at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West and traveling on a fishing boat to Cuba while writing much of his works. Cuban-style cuisine and cigar shops feature prominently in Key West.
The Island prides itself on a laid-back attitude that both visitors and residents alike enjoy as they spend time on the island. Locals have even considered independence from the mainland and the United States so as not to be bothered by the hustle-and-bustle of America. For a few days in the 1980’s the island became the ‘independent nation’ known as the Conch Republic.
Given the distance from the mainland, the cost of living and food is a little higher but not unreasonable. Since much of the cuisine also includes seafood the cost can also be expected. Fresh & healthy dishes like crab & shrimp sandwiches or ceviche salad are favorites in many restaurants. Of course, eating lighter entrees allows room for Key Lime Pie as well.
For historical buffs, Key West features Ernest Hemingway’s home and the Truman Little White House. Both residences have become museums that offer tours daily. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park also features the remnants of an antebellum fortification to protect American interests in the Keys. A sister fortification near the airport on the Southern edge of the island has converted to an art and history museum. Key West also features 2 botanical gardens that include many local species of flora to explore.
If you’re in Florida, you can’t not go to the beach and Key West features two. One is located as part of Fort Zachary Taylor State park and another is located along the Southern edge of the island. Since the island is situated north-south to the water, waves are infrequent, and the water is shallow much further than other locations in the state. This allows beachgoers to wade and swim further from shore and see through clearer water as they are in the water. For sunsets, most head to Mallory Square on the Northern edge of the island just West of Duval Street.
Have you been to Key West?