My family and I recently took a quick trip to Key West. I had not been there since I was in college (a loooong time ago) so I was happy to go back and explore the island again.
For any of you not familiar with Key West, it is the southernmost island in the Florida keys. Key West is about a 2.5 hour drive from Miami and about 90 miles from Cuba.
Something that you will see almost immediately upon arriving to Key West is the fact there there are lots of free roaming chickens and roosters on the island. There is a unique history about how and why they are so plentiful here but I enjoyed seeing them strut their stuff around town.
This tiny island has a vast history and is definitely worth a visit. Check out some of our stops below.
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory:
I LOVED this place! An absolute must see in my opinion. The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory allows guests to walk through a live butterfly solarium filled with a variety of flowers, trees, water features, turtle, flamingos, and of course BUTTERFLIES! They are everywhere and it feels like paradise in there; like another world. To see these colorful creatures flying around, literally everywhere, and even landing on your shoulder is amazing. I could have stayed in there all day.
Ernest Hemingway House:
Another must see when in Key West is the Hemingway House. Ernest shared this lovely house with his wife Pauline during the 10 years he called Key West home. It is located at 907 Whitehead St, Key West. The property was purchased in 1931 and it has been said that Ernest produced some of his best work while living in Key West. Two interesting facts about this house are:
1. It is the only pool in Key West and a rather large one for that matter. Pauline insisted that she have a pool and had it installed while Ernest was out of town. It was very expensive and he was not happy about the cost of it once he returned from his trip. However, he soon got over it and enjoyed swims from time to time.
2. The grounds have upwards of 50 poly-dactyl cats roaming the property, all offspring from Ernest’s cat, Snow White.
When visiting the house, you can opt to walk through at your own pace or take the guided tour. I recommend the tour. You will learn a lot about the house and the man who lived in it. Note: This is a cash only location; no debit or credit cards taken here.
Can you go to Key West and not take a boat ride? I think not. There are a variety of scuba diving, snorkeling, sunset cruises, etc. to choose from. We chose the Rise and Reef snorkeling package which included a snorkeling trip to Lighthouse Key along with a light breakfast and beer/mimosa’s afterwards. There are two to choose from during the day: morning and afternoon. Check out Key West Water Activities for more information about the many water sports/boat ride options available.
Key West Lighthouse:
Want some exercise? Try climbing to the top of the Key West lighthouse. Located at 938 Whitehead St (across the street from Ernest’s house), you can climb the 88 iron steps to the top of the tower for a scenic overlook of the island and its surrounding waters. You can also tour the Keeper’s Quarters which have been restored to their original charm and view the displays of nautical artifacts, antique furnishings, maps and vintage photos. Definitely worth a stop along your tour.
If you want to get a good overview of what the island has to offer and its unique history, then take a ride on the Conch Train. This train makes multiple stops and runs throughout the day taking visitors past some of the most iconic, and not so iconic, sites on the island. The 75 minute train ride begins at the Front Street Depot and ends right behind it in Mallory Square.
Duval Street and Beaches:
After all of the touring, it’s time to relax. Take some time to relax at one of the beautiful beaches on the island (we chose Higgs Beach) and then enjoy the nightlife along Duval Street. Duval street is the place to be for shopping, dining, and live music. I recommend historic Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a historic hangout frequented by Ernest himself.
This marks the, as it states, Southernmost Point in the continental US. It’s actually just a monument marking the spot and is jammed between a private beach and some houses/hotels. There is a long line next to the monument just for pictures, which we did not stand in. To be honest, this is a quick 10 minute stop to basically take a picture and say you’ve been there.
We had a wonderful few days in Key West. This tiny island at the base of the keys is a packed with so many things to do. Several other sites of interest include the Mel Fisher Museum, The Audubon House and Tropical Gardens, Key West Art and Historical Society, and the Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum. I would recommend staying at least 3-4 days to do and see everything on your list. Enjoy your trip!