This past week my husband and I vacationed in Key West. It was the first time in the Keys for both of us. Now that I’ve finished my quest to visit all 50 states it was harder to come up with a vacation destination. Paul was no help. He would not even answer simple questions like foreign or domestic travel. For some reason Key West popped into my head, so that’s where we wound up going. It was an enjoyable and relaxing week, but now that I’ve been there it’s not really some place I feel like I ever need to go again.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale and drove the 3 and half hours to Key West from there. I didn’t even bother looking into flights directly to Key West because I knew they would be expensive and involve a layover. We chose Fort Lauderdale over Miami because it was way less expensive and it only adds about 30 minutes to the drive. Though we obviously had a rental car to do the drive we really didn’t need it once we got to Key West. We used it twice. Once to drive to the grocery store and once to drive to the movies. We could have bought all of our groceries in Old Town at Fausto’s if need be and obviously could have skipped seeing X-Men while we were there, so we easily could have done without the car had we not already had one when we got there. Lots of people rent scooters, bikes, or little electric cars to get around. We just walked everywhere.
We rented a condo in the Shipyard Condominiums in the Truman Annex. The Truman Annex used to be part of the Naval Air Station that is still next door, but part of the property was decomissioned and sold off decades ago to private developers who created a gated community that consists of condos and houses. From what I could tell most of them are vacation rentals based on the fact that rental licenses have to be posted on rental properties. We rented ours through Historic Hideaways. There are any number of places rental agencies that rent them out though. We had a hard time getting people to contact us back, and this place finally did so we went with them. I would definitely recommend staying in this area if like me you’re in Key West to relax and not to have a big party. It’s only 2 blocks from Duval Street, so you’re really close to everything while still not in the middle of the fray. It was nice and quiet when we were there though depending on other renters I can see it being loud as there are a lot of properties close together. I only heard one loud group and they promptly shut off their music and quieted down at 11 when quiet hours start. I don’t know if they were mindful or someone called the security guard on them, but either way it was very peaceful. Staying in the Truman Annex also puts you as close as you can be to the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. There is also a pool in the condo complex if you prefer that.
Monday morning we took a trolley ride to get a lay of the land as well as hear about some of the history of Key West. There are 3 trolley companies. We went with the kitschy Conch Tour Train because it looks like a little train. The other two companies have the more typical trolley car vehicles that you see in other cities. They both have a lot more stops than the train, so if you want to use them as a sort of transportation to get on and off at various places they are probably a better choice for you. We just wanted the tour and didn’t plan to get off and on so the 4 stops on the train were a better fit for us anyway.
Tuesday we walked down to the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. It was a little less than a mile from the condo. Since it’s a state park you do have to pay to get in. It’s $2.50 per person if you walk or bike in and slightly more or less if you drive in depending on how many people are in the car. You can leave and come back in on the same day if you want. Key West is actually not very beachy. There are a handful of beaches on the island, and everyone assured us this was the best one. We didn’t really go to any other ones, so I can’t confirm that but I’ll take their word for it. There is a place you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas, rafts, and snorkel gear from as well as showers, bathrooms, and a snack bar. You’re not allowed to bring in alcohol, and I did see park rangers tell people to get rid of it, but they do sell it at the snack bar and you can drink it on the deck there. The beach is quite rocky because of all the coral right off shore, so if you plan to go in the water at all I highly recommend some beach shoes. There’s lots of picnic tables under trees, and the shade extends a little bit out onto the sand so we sat our pale butts under trees every day and it was quite pleasant. We hit the beach most days in the morning and then I went to the pool in the afternoon.
On our last day there we actually did finally go wander around Fort Zachary Taylor. It’s not a very exciting fort, but you might as well check it out if you’re already there.
Tuesday night we went on a sunset cruise. There are any number of boats you can go out on. There are a couple of big companies that do cruises on catamarans. You’ll see Fury selling their water sport activities at booths all over Old Town. I avoided that because I had no desire to be smushed on an overpacked catamaran with a bunch of twenty somethings getting drunk which is basically what I had read about these cruises. Based on the one we sailed past I definitely made the right call. Seabago is also another one, though their boats all looked pretty empty. I don’t know if they would be more crowded in prime season as opposed to off-season when we were there. There are lots of charter boats as well. We wound up going on the Floridays, which is a charter sail boat. It was quite pleasant. It wasn’t overcrowded and we were able to sit instead of stand the whole time. They offered a selection of beer, wine, margaritas, soda, and water to drink if you wanted. We got to see a lovely sunset.
Speaking of sunsets, Key West is fairly famous for them. There is a big sunset celebration in Mallory Square every night. We actually technically never went to that though we did eat dinner at the Sunset Pier right off the square so the view as the same even if we missed out on whatever else was going on, which didn’t seem like much we would care about. If you want to be able to sit there and eat dinner or drink I would recommend getting there at least an hour and half before sunset and maybe earlier in season. We had a pleasant dinner with some live (and miraculously not too loud) music while getting to enjoy the sunset.
We also went back to Fort Zachary Taylor beach one night to watch the sun set from there. It was actually the best of the three in my opinion, so I would definitely recommend going to watch from there one night.
Of course we had to go the Ernest Hemingway house while we were in Key West. We did the short 20 minute tour, with the mumbliest tour guide I have ever had. It was difficult to understand him a lot of the time. No matter because I mostly there for the cats anyway. I thought they were all 6-toed, but it turns out that is not the case. Some are, some aren’t. There were in fact cats lounging all around the house and the gardens. They have some lovely gardens and a dedicated area set up for weddings. When we walked by it on the way back from dinner on Saturday night there was definitely a wedding going on there.
There is also a decommissioned light house across from Hemingway’s house so we climbed up that as well to see the views of the island from there and toured the old keeper’s house on the grounds.
We of course also got our picture taken in front of the Southernmost Point marker, which is at the Southernmost point in the United States.
And also in front of the Mile 0 marker at the beginning and end of US Route 1.
I don’t have much to say about the food in Key West. Of course I ate a lot of seafood while we were there, but mostly I got bored with the restaurants as they pretty much all have the same things on their menu. Your pick of several overpriced seafood items served with rice and a vegetable. All the meals I ate were fine, but none was so outstanding that I would say you must go to a specific restaurant while you are there. I’m guessing you can take your pick and you’ll be fine.
Of course I couldn’t leave Key West without eating some Key Lime pie. I had it from 3 different places. The first two were specifically from two different Key Lime pie shops on Greene Street. They were both good and about equally so. The third piece was from the restaurant we ate at on our last night there. It had an Oreo crust as opposed to the typical graham cracker crust. It wasn’t as good, but I don’t think it was necessarily the Oreos’ fault. There was more cinnamon in the crust, which I don’t like and it seemed like the pie had been left sitting out so the filling was no longer chilled and the crust had gotten mushy. Oh well.
If you’re a partier Key West has plenty of outdoor bars and various clubs for you to spend your time in. If like me you prefer to not spend your time in loud, crowded bars with a bunch of drunk people then Key West still has stuff for you though walking down Duval Street may not make you think so. We had a good time, though as I said now that I’ve been there I probably wouldn’t choose to go back.
A few more random pictures: