At the southernmost tip of the state of Florida in the United States, is a tiny island city that used to have the prettiest display of colors you’ve ever seen! I say “used to” because much of it has now changed owing to the wounds inflicted by Hurricane Irma recently. It pains my heart to see the images of the destruction that Irma has caused. I write this in an attempt to relive and to share an account of the beauty that Key West once was.
The last key on the Florida keys archipelago (if you’re traveling from Miami), Key West lies roughly 90 miles north of Cuba. Due to this proximity, you’ll find a deep-rooted Cuban influence throughout the island city. The smell of freshly rolled Cuban cigars and strong Cuban coffee delectably lingers on your olfactory senses no matter where you go. But wait, there’s more to it!
Key West provides a feast for your eyes with its straight-out-of-a-fairy-tale conch-style pastel-hued houses, cobbled streets, and turquoise waters! Simply put, Key West is like a dreamland you’ll long to get lost in.
In March of 2017, we traveled to Miami for 6 days. My husband had to attend a business conference for a day and the rest was available to us for exploration. Key West was definitely on our agenda, however, we were in a dilemma between doing a day trip from Miami or spending a couple of nights there. A glance at the hotel and Airbnb prices quickly resolved this dilemma though 🙂
Where To Stay
Accommodation in Key West is pretty expensive, with the average price per night for Airbnb home-stays being around $200! You can get cheaper accommodation in sailboats though, but that wasn’t something we were too keen on. So we settled for a day trip.
Given the tiny breadth of the island, you can easily cover most of the attractions in a day. But of course, if you want to experience the real feel of the gorgeous island, I would definitely recommend spending a few days there.
How To Reach Key West
The best way to get there from Miami is by road. You can drive down or take one of the buses like we did. These buses provide transportation to Key West and back at $39 per person, allowing you 6 hours in Key West to do as you please. You can also opt for add-ons such as diving, snorkeling, boat tours, or the hop-on-hop-off trolley ride in Key West for an additional price. We opted for the trolley as it covers most of the attractions on the island.
Out and about at Key West
The journey from Miami took about 4 hours and the drive is an amazing one! You will be passing through each and every one of the Florida Keys to finally reach Key West. Each of the keys has a different look and feel that you’re bound to enjoy.
Upon landing at Key West, my husband and I were dazed for a while – Key West was unlike anyplace we’d seen before! We strolled along happily, arm in arm, having forgotten about catching the trolley, and without a care in the world 🙂
Of course, we soon realized that we had only 6 hours and had to make the most of it. So we boarded the trolley, which is essentially a hop-on-hop-off service, with the coach drivers providing a live audio tour of the city. The drivers are extremely friendly folks who run you through a history of the different places along with tips on what to do, where to eat etc.
Soon, we arrived at our first stop. Mallory Square is a plaza at the waterfront next to the cruise ship port. The main points of interest here are the Old Post Office and Customs House and the Historic Memorial Sculpture Garden that contains bronze busts of famous people of Key West. There’s also a bunch of souvenir shops that house the most incredible collectibles! I think it’s best to let the pictures do most of the talking here 🙂
We proceeded next to Duval Street, the busiest part of town. It is lined on both sides with restaurants, cafes, boutiques, art galleries and residential houses.
Higgs Beach was our next stop. The clear, turquoise waters looked so inviting! You can easily lose track of time if you’re beach bums like us. Of course, we had to move on quickly as there was quite a bit of exploration left to do.
No travel is ever complete without a taste of the local cuisine so our next stop was the Blue Macaw Island Eats & Bar, where we got to taste some amazing seafood and the famous Key Lime Pie for lunch 🙂
The Hemingway Home & Museum
From the restaurant, we walked over to The Hemingway Home & Museum. This was once the home of the American author, Ernest Hemingway. You can get a detailed description of this museum tour on one of my previous posts.
Our last stop was the southernmost point of mainland United States, which is marked by a concrete buoy. Cuba is 90 miles south of this point.
This buoy has withstood several hurricanes including Irma and although a bit damaged now, still stands proud and strong. I’m confident that Key West will survive this tragedy and rise again in all its glory. I plan on going back there someday. And when I do, I hope to find her even more beautiful than she ever was.