If all you know of Florida is Orlando theme parks, it’s time to break out of your comfort zone and experience Key West. Although it’s only a few hours south of Miami, it’s a world apart from most travelers’ view of the rest of the state. Explore the cultural, historical, and natural attractions that this island has to offer:
Visit the Home of a Literary Legend
Ernest Hemingway is one of the most well-known writers of American literature, and you can tour this genius’s home in Key West. Although he didn’t live there for a very long time, much of the property is as he left it. Many of the family’s belongings are still present in the home, and descendants of Hemingway’s pet cats continue to prowl the estate, too. Don’t miss the stunning gardens where you can view Gardenia, Bleeding Heart, Elephant Ear, Chenille, and Plumbago, and trees like Lady Palm, Caribbean Almond, banana, Royal Poinciana, Frangipani, and Bougainvillea.
Enjoy the Sunset Celebration
At Mallory Square, you can party every night at the Sunset Celebration. Geared toward visitors and locals alike, it’s located at the far end of Duval Street. It features live music, food and drink vendors, arts and crafts vendors, and street performers. It’s a wonderful way to wind down and relax while watching the sunset or start off your night out with a casual gathering before heading to dinner.
Hit the Beach
While Key West doesn’t have especially large beaches, it does have plenty of them. Smathers is the most popular one, and it’s located on the south side of the city, with a ribbon of sandy shoreline that’s accented by a grove of palm trees. You can even find restrooms at this beach, along with vendors for food and beach equipment rentals. You can get chairs, umbrellas, and snorkeling gear. Of note is Dog Beach, where you can bring your dog and you can both relax and enjoy playing at the beach.
Get in Touch with Nature on a Walk
Key West’s own arboretum has taken a little bit of a beating over the last few years because of hurricane damage but it’s lovely to see this lush botanical garden bounce back. The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden is the only place in the Continental U.S. where visitors can see some of these distinctive plants. The grounds are crisscrossed by wooden boardwalks that allow you to really walk among these amazing trees and get an up-close look at what makes them stand out. Check out the Canary Date Palm, Cinnamon Bark, African Tulip Trees, Pigeon Plums, and Cuban Lignum Vitae, among others. This is also a great location for birdwatching, as many of these trees make the ideal homes for local wildlife. See if you can spot the osprey, herons, doves, hawks or white ibis.
Book a fishing charter and see why so many other visitors to Key West return year after year. It’s one of the most popular excursions available here, and by booking your trip through a company like All In Fishing Charters, you can be assured that all the details will be taken care of. There’s no need to bring your own gear–it’s all provided for you, along with any permits or fishing licenses required. Guests of all experience levels are welcome; there’s no previous knowledge needed, and the friendly captain and crew will always be there to assist. Whether you want to go out for wreck, reef, flats or deep water fishing, you’ll always have a good time.
See History Up Close
At the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum, you can experience what life was like for the first lighthouse keeper almost 200 years ago. Guests are welcome to climb to the top of the lighthouse and see for themselves how important the light was to sailors. Visit the cottage next door for a better understanding of the time through artifacts and exhibits. If you’re a real history buff, check out Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, too, which played a role in both the Civil War and the Spanish American War. As you’re traveling from one site to the other, make sure you stop for lunch at one of the restaurants in the area, many of which are located in distinctive historic buildings. In particular, check out Eaton Street Seafood Market and Restaurant in its Art Deco-inspired setting. Guests rave about the fish tacos and lobster roll, made just for you from fresh-caught seafood.
In Key West, you can experience more of Florida’s natural beauty than perhaps anywhere else in the state. Couple that with numerous opportunities to explore your interests in new and exciting ways, and it’s easy to understand why vacationers come back year after year.