Saturday , July 24 2021

10 Quirky Issues To Do In Key West, Florida (& Large Journey Information)

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Colourful coral reefs. Six-toed cats. A haunted doll. Key West, Florida could also be probably the most distinctive locations in America: roosters roam the streets, drag queens rule the nightlife, and Cuba’s shut proximity colours its historical past. All the island is a colourful, tropical feast for the senses. Is that this paradise? I assumed it could be much less …. bizarre?

To essentially respect Key West in all of its quirky glory, you additionally need to get to know its lengthy historical past of pirates, bootleggers, and nonconformists; its resident ghosts and grave-digging iguanas; and the resident animals who name it residence.

So, we tapped an insider to present us the inside track on Key West’s most unusual and fantastic locations to assist us out. Right here’s every part you have to know to plan your journey, and all of the quirkiest, greatest issues to do in Key West! Take it away, Haylee!

Psst: Planning a visit to Florida? Try our journey guides to different locations close by:

Key West FAQ’s

Listed here are just a few useful issues to know whereas planning your journey to Key West:

  • When is the perfect time to go to Key West? The very best time to go to Key West is late fall. By this time of 12 months, it is going to be within the 80s-90s in the course of the day and the wet season shall be ending, so that you received’t have to fret as a lot about random showers interrupting your day. The height summer time vacationer season may also have ended, so the island shall be much less crowded and locations to remain will usually be cheaper. 
  • Ought to I rent a car? I wouldn’t advocate it. The island is so small you’ll be able to Uber/Lyft to the place you’re staying, then stroll or bike to almost every part else you have to. Should you do select to rent a car, I’ve to warn you, as a horrible driver myself, I’d NEVER drive in Key West. The roads are tremendous busy, not solely with automobiles, however with mopeds and bicycles. Should you do select to drive, convey change: you’ll be parking on the road more often than not and many of the meters solely take actual change. The one advantage of renting a automotive is that you could take a scenic drive down the Overseas Highway, the place you’ll be able to cease and take footage of the ocean only some toes away from the highway.
  • How do I get to Key West? You may fly instantly into the Key West International Airport and take a Lyft to your lodging. Though I hate most airports, I simply have to like this one. It’s only one room, with two baggage claims, and one safety guard who simply appears at you and nods. Yup, this airport is simply as relaxed as the remainder of the island. And if you wish to get began with the comfort the moment you get on the island, there’s a tiki bar. That’s the format: tiki bar, safety guard, two baggage claims, and a rest room. It’s superb.
  • How do I get round in Key West? You may stroll and bike in every single place! Key West is a compact island, and many of the locations you’ll need to go to shall be not more than a 5-15 minute stroll or brief bike journey, relying on the place you’re staying (extra on that beneath).
Footbridge to the Smathers beach at sunrise in Key West, Florida.
Footbridge to the Smathers seaside at dawn in Key West, Florida. Welcome to paradise!

Issues To Know Earlier than Going To Key West

I’m fairly certain that due to all of the ridiculous information tales that come from Florida – from Florida Man memes to a woman whose pet gator rides a motorcycle and wears clothes – the remainder of the nation thinks that Florida (no less than outdoors of Disney World) is a bizarre thriller land.

Nicely, I’m not going to argue with that. However should you actually need Florida weirdness, it’s important to go to Key West.

Key West is Florida’s quirky little island paradise. It has a protracted historical past of navy involvement as a consequence of its strategic location, in addition to being thought-about a secure place for LGBTQ+ folks. Whilst you received’t discover Mickey Mouse right here, there are many drag reveals, a residing doll, and numerous cats.

There are just a few extra issues you have to learn about Key West earlier than you go (which will or could not truly aid you plan your journey):

  • There are numerous chickens in Key West. You will hear and see extra chickens than you ever have earlier than in your life right here. Cockfighting was well-liked in Key West within the 1800s and 1900s, till it was banned. When that occurred, all of the chickens have been abruptly launched to the island. Nobody made an effort to eliminate them, and now they’re welcome on the island as pleasant wildlife. So don’t contact or feed them: they’re wild!
  • Key West can be full of six-toed cats. I blame Ernest Hemingway, who lived there and had a 6-toed cat, so it’s seemingly numerous the cats on the island are associated. Whereas most of those cats are pleasant, please don’t attempt to pet them. They’re nonetheless wild animals and as a normal rule of thumb, don’t attempt to pet wild animals.
  • … and likewise iguanas. The inexperienced iguanas are an invasive species believed to be stowaways on ships from Central and South America, and so they’re thought-about fairly a neighborhood nuisance (apparently, they like to dig up graves). That stated, depart eradication to the professionals. Iguanas are superb, lovely animals and also you may assume it’s okay to select them up for an image – however it’s not okay. It stresses the animal, and so they might critically damage you with their claws! On your personal security, don’t contact them.
  • Key West is an LGBTQ+-friendly place! Within the 70s-90s, Key West was thought-about a secure place for younger LGBTQ+ folks to go in the event that they wanted shelter. At present, Key West’s tradition is basically formed by LGBTQ+ traditions and occasions, and also you’ll see Pleasure flags flying everywhere in the island year-round! (The subtext right here is that if any of that makes you are feeling uncomfortable, perhaps simply keep residence and do some inner reflection.)
  • Florida has a big homeless inhabitants, particularly on Key West. Going to the Keys, you will note poverty proper subsequent to very wealthy folks, and when you have some further change or meals, it received’t go unappreciated by them. Please needless to say the oldsters experiencing homelessness are our neighbors, and never a blight or an eyesore. Among the people that you will note can also be scuffling with psychological sicknesses. Though this may be startling, keep in mind that these persons are in way more hazard than you might be, and are unlikely to hurt you in any method. Homelessness is traumatic, significantly for the mentally ailing, whose circumstances may be exacerbated by the stress of homelessness.  Please take into account serving to the native homeless group by donating to the Florida Keys Outreach Coalition. You may make a financial donation online or donate clothes, non-perishable meals, and unopened hygiene objects at Loaves & Fish Meals Pantry at 2221 Patterson Ave in Key West.
  • Key West as soon as seceded from the US and declared itself the Conch Republic. In 1982, the united statesgovernment arrange a roadblock supposed to seize the numerous immigrants coming from Cuba, simply 90 miles away. It additionally inconvenienced vacationers, who’re the monetary spine of the native financial system. Nicely, Key West isn’t a spot for passive folks, and that didn’t sit effectively with them. So Key West’s then-mayor declared himself Prime Minister of the Conch Republic and instantly declared conflict on the US of America by symbolically halving a stale loaf of Cuban bread over the pinnacle of an individual carrying a U.S. Navy costume. He surrendered one minute later, however that wasn’t the top of the Conch Republic’s battles with the US authorities: within the mid-90s, the Republic attacked a Coast Guard ship with water balloons, conch fritters, and rancid bread. They dispersed when the Coast Guard sprayed a hose again at them. Wikipedia has a brief run-down on the complete tongue-in-cheek-but-also-not-really historical past!
  • Take the trolley! If you’d like a fast method round city AND to get some historical past whilst you’re at it, use the Hop-On Hop-Off Trolley Tour, which fits to 13 spots round city and is a enjoyable, academic method to spend a day. The trolley additionally doubles as a ghost tour late at evening – extra about Key West’s resident ghosts later.
  • Pack a raincoat. Concentrate on the truth that it may possibly rain at actually any minute, particularly within the mid-summer to early fall season. And when it rains, it pours. A mini-rainstorm can come out of nowhere and disappear quarter-hour later. Should you hate rain, my greatest recommendation is to both be taught to adore it, or pray to the rain gods that you simply’ll be blessed sufficient to not expertise any rain. If these choices don’t work, simply convey a poncho.
  • Key West seashores are literally fairly rocky. Regardless of its picture-perfect look in most photographs, numerous spots on the island are fairly rocky on the shore, then regularly the rocks give method to a sandy backside. These could be a ache to stroll over to get to the sandy a part of the ocean, so water shoes or Teva sandals are really helpful.
Private beach in Key West, Florida
You’ll want to pack loads of reef-safe sunscreen, to guard Key West’s native underwater habitats and ecosystems!

What To Pack For Key West

I’m not going to inform you precisely what number of clothes or pairs of shorts to pack (I belief you’ll be able to determine that out by yourself) BUT I do have some ideas for must-have necessities. Throw these in your carry-on suitcase (this is our favorite!) and also you’ll be all set.

  • Lightweight Travel Clothesline: Keep away from the dreaded seaside chafe and hold your bathing fits up on this sturdy clothesline that matches within the palm of your hand! Tip: hold it up in entrance of a sunny window reasonably than in your damp, darkish toilet for quicker drying.
  • Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Going into the ocean? You’ll have to put on coral-friendly sunscreen. Except you hate coral, fish, and likewise all of human life. Reef-safe sunscreen is designed to biodegrade and never hurt ocean life. Regular sunscreen bleaches coral and ensures humanity’s swift loss of life from local weather change. So please, for the love of society’s inevitable collapse, don’t put on common sunscreen within the ocean! Here’s a full-sized bottle and right here’s a travel-sized version for carry-on baggage.
  • Mineral Sunscreen: That is the least dangerous sort of sunscreen, in keeping with science. It’s higher each on your physique and for the setting.
  • Rash Guard: Because you’ll be snorkeling and swimming and usually spending numerous time along with your naked again dealing with the tough solar, I extremely advocate bringing alongside a rash guard, which is specifically designed for swimming in salt water. There are even swim leggings constituted of swimwear materials, which is ideal as a result of my butt is at all times the very first thing to burn after I’m snorkeling. This cuts down on the quantity of sunscreen you want, which is a win/win since I hate carrying sunscreen and it’s not nice for marine life!
  • Snorkel Stuff: Bringing your personal snorkel gear is a lot extra comfy than the equipment normally supplied with excursions, and it provides you the choice to snorkel by yourself on the places really helpful beneath! As many of the locations really helpful listed here are secure to snorkel with out a tour you must throw a snorkel mask and just a little bottle of anti-fog spray in your suitcase.
  • Water Shoes: For each minute that you simply’re not carrying flippers, you’ll need to be carrying these. Whether or not you’re attempting to stroll over rocks – they’re fairly, however they damage so unhealthy – or simply wading into some water, your un-cut toes will thank me later. I swear by my trusty Tevas, and Jeremy likes basic close-toed water shoes. A reader lately advised these nifty water shoes that seem like cute tennis sneakers and may be worn out and in of the water, and we’re excited to strive them out! (Right here’s the dude version.) You may learn extra about our favourite journey sneakers in our journey sneakers critiques for men & for women.
  • Travel Towel: I at all times convey a light-weight, quick-drying, packable full-sized travel towel with me to the seaside! I additionally advocate bringing a sandproof Beach Mat to take a seat on.
  • Fast Drying Shorts (His & Hers): Jeremy picked up a pair of these shorts to double as each his warm-weather day by day clothes merchandise and his swimsuit. They’re a 2-for-1, which is tremendous handy for journey, and so they work nice! They dry shortly, making them excellent for hopping out and in of the ocean after which resuming your regular journey actions. They by no means get soiled or wrinkly and at all times look trendy. There’s additionally the women’s version, made out of the identical stretchy quick-drying materials as my climbing pants.
  • Extremely-Gentle Rain Jackets (His & Hers): Our favourite rain jackets are a few of the greatest jackets for journey. They’re ultralight and pack down into nothing so that they’re straightforward to hold round, and so they’re extremely water repellant. They’re an ideal just-in-case merchandise to throw in your day bag, together with a travel-friendly umbrella.

For extra packing suggestions, try our curvy-girl friendly beach packing list!

The place To Keep In Key West

Except you’re planning on making the 2-hour drive from the mainland to Key West twice in someday, you’re going to want someplace to remain. I like to recommend staying proper in the midst of all of it near Duval Avenue within the lovely, historic Outdated City space.

One key factor to notice, although: though there are many AirBnBs on the island, native laws require a 28-night minimal keep. So should you’re not a distant employee on the lookout for a month in paradise, you’ll need to e book a resort, resort, condominium, or correctly licensed trip rental. I’ve included just a few picks beneath.

  • Boutique Resort: The charming Wicker Guesthouse is situated only one block from the Ernest Hemingway Home, with a tropical backyard and an out of doors pool. Rooms embody microwaves and a small fridge, you’ll be able to hire bikes on-site, and also you’re solely a 10-minute stroll from South Seashore.
  • Trip Dwelling: The Secret Garden presents a captivating non-public oasis, with two bedrooms, a completely stocked kitchen, and entry to a shared pool.
  • AirBnB: The brilliant, sunny Sugarpoppy Cottage is colourful, charming, budget-friendly, and has probably the most inviting non-public swimming pools I’ve ever seen – simply steps from the bed room. It’s only a block from Duval Avenue, so that you’ll have your personal non-public oasis within the middle of all of it. I’ve by no means been so tempted to select up and transfer to Key West for a month as I’m taking a look at this place.

The Finest Issues To Do In Key West

Go Snorkeling in a Coral Reef

One of the enjoyable methods to benefit from the native setting is snorkeling! Of us, I’m OBSESSED with snorkeling. Coral reefs are a complete new world to discover: beneath the blue water there’s an abundance of fish and neon-colored coral to see. With all of the life right here, you’ll be able to keep within the water for hours and nonetheless end up noticing new particulars, with sea critters swimming each which method. 

However earlier than you go snorkeling, just a few essential notes: at all times use the buddy system, don’t contact the coral -for your security in addition to its – and be sure to’re carrying reef-safe sunscreen, NOT common sunscreen.

Should you’re not assured about your snorkeling abilities otherwise you’ve by no means gone earlier than, we included just a few guided tour choices.

What wildlife can I see whereas snorkeling?

Key West has numerous large, lovely fish! Among the ones to maintain an eye fixed out for whereas snorkeling are:

  • Parrotfish: Key West has an abundance of Parrotfish! Rainbow Parrotfish are particularly eye-catching, and the Humphead Parrotfish are bigger and rarer. Should you go snorkeling and see these fish close to coral, cease swimming for a second and listen- Parrotfish hold coral clear by utilizing their tooth to scrape them, and you may truly hear this within the water.
  • Manatees: Manatees are tremendous cool to see within the water! You usually tend to see them in areas with seagrass reasonably than a coral reef, since they graze on seagrass. Should you see a manatee, take into account your self fortunate since you simply noticed a mermaid. It’s thought that sailors began the legend of mermaids by mistaking manatees for people with tails from afar. 
  • Dolphins: The Keys are full of bottlenose dolphins, so the chance of you seeing just a few leaping and taking part in within the water is fairly excessive. Dolphins in Florida oftentimes give delivery in spring and summer time, so should you go to throughout these occasions attempt to hold an eye fixed out for any small calves swimming proper underneath their moms. Sure excursions, like this one, will take you to particular spots the place bottlenose dolphins have a tendency to hang around!
  • Stingrays: To see stingrays in Key West, you’ll have to essentially hold an eye fixed out. Stingrays have a tendency to put within the sand and relaxation so that you may swim proper over one with out even noticing it! The best method to spot a stingray in sand is by on the lookout for a sandy rock that seems to have eyes, and generally a tail if the actual stingray is feeling too lazy to bury itself in all the way in which. Nonetheless, if a Large Manta Ray passes by you, you undoubtedly received’t have the ability to miss it. When these rays are born, they’re already six toes vast, and an grownup can soar via the water with lengths of 24 toes.
  • Sea Turtles: Should you’re actually fortunate, you may see a sea turtle! A number of species dwell within the Keys. The commonest ones are Loggerheads and Inexperienced sea turtles. Sea turtles are most frequently discovered floating alongside within the currents, trying extra relaxed than any beach-goer. 
  • Sharks: Most sharks right here aren’t significantly harmful species- nurse, lemon, and sandbar sharks are the most typical. I truly noticed a sandbar shark one time whereas snorkeling! There has by no means been a deadly shark assault within the Keys- simply don’t be the primary by attempting to pet one, as cute as they’re. 
Coastline of Fort Zachary State Park in Key West, Florida
Fort Zachary State Park is among the greatest locations to spend a day snorkeling and taking part in on the seaside in Key West, Florida.

The place can I am going snorkeling in Key West?

Key West is surrounded by reefs, however they’re just a little methods offshore – the best method to get to them is by boat. That stated, there are just a few nice locations across the island to snorkel and see a few of these ocean creatures of their native habitats:

  • Fort Zachary Taylor State Park: The one reef I do know of that you could moderately swim to is the one in Fort Zachary Taylor. The admission for pedestrians is $2.50 and you may spend the complete day there- there’s not solely swimming, however the park is understood for having many tropical species of birds you’ll be able to see. These reefs could also be your greatest probability to catch a glimpse on the elusive sea turtle as effectively! Since you can be by yourself on this reef, be sure to convey your personal snorkeling gear or hire one on the park (both method, pack anti-fog spray).
  • Dry Tortugas National Park: Due to efforts by the native authorities to maintain the island reefs alive, this reef is wholesome and blissful – so if you wish to see one that’s actually thriving that is the place to go. It’s colourful, with a wide range of coral species and loads of fish to see! Dry Tortugas can be residence to historic Fort Jefferson. Word that as a way to get to Dry Tortugas it’s important to take a ship and buy an entrance price to the Nationwide Park. This day trip contains spherical journey ferry service, snorkel gear, breakfast and lunch, and an non-compulsory guided historic tour.
  • Ebook a Snorkeling Tour: The benefit of snorkel excursions is that they’ll present snorkeling gear and assist from the guides, together with the information’s data on the world and native animals. This snorkel tour takes you out to the Nice Florida Reef –  the one residing coral barrier reef in the US and the third-largest on the planet – on a 69-foot catamaran for 3 hours of enjoyable within the water. Or, take a big gamble on the Island Adventure Eco Tour: every tour is completely different and the snorkeling location varies relying on the climate and what animals are swimming round the place! You can even select to finish your afternoon with kayaking at sundown – what an ideal Key West day!
Outside of the Audubon House in Key West, Florida.
The Audubon Home is known as for white supremacist and chook fanatic John Audubon, however was initially residence to a rich shipwreck scavenger who made his cash promoting pillaged valuables. Photo Credit

Test Out Key West’s Historic Houses

Key West’s historical past has formed it into the quirky vacation spot it’s at present, and is mirrored in its many historic properties and native legends. Understanding Key West’s historical past makes wandering its colourful streets all of the extra pleasant!

Earlier than the island’s title was anglicized, to Key West, it was referred to as Cayo Hueso, or Bone Island, by the Spanish who charted the island in 1513 after they have been off on the lookout for the Fountain of Youth.

Earlier than the arrival of the Spanish, the Florida Keys, together with Key West, have been inhabited by the Calusa and Tequesta peoples, who have been often known as expert fishermen and professional sailors. Sadly, each the Calusa and Tequesta folks have been decimated by the late 1700s as a consequence of European illnesses and conflicts.

The island was an necessary burial floor for the Calusa folks and the Spanish named the island after the numerous human bones they noticed, however there’s some debate that the title is also attributed to the limestone rocks and reef formations that additionally seemed like big sun-bleached bones.

Whereas Key West’s waters could have hosted pirates once in a while, it wasn’t till the early 1800s that there have been everlasting Spanish residents of the island. Ultimately, Spain transferred management of the island to the US in 1821, however it’s straightforward to see the affect of Spain, and close by Cuba on the island to this present day, particularly in Key West’s historic properties and landmarks.

Listed here are a few of the most well-known historic spots you’ll be able to try on the island:

Ernest Hemingway House in Key West, Florida
The Hemingway Home! You could or is probably not a fan of Hemingway’s “manly” writing and reputed womanizing, however you’ll be able to’t deny that his home and its resident cats are fairly cute. Photo Credit

Hemingway Home & Museum

Hemingway House & Museum is in Outdated City Key West, and this yellow, ethereal, many-windowed house is within the French Colonial fashion with many artwork deco accents on the within. This can be a actually large attraction on Key West for good purpose – Hemingway was a prolific author in the course of the Twenties and 30s, and he wrote two of his most well-known books on this very home: A Farewell To Arms and To Have and Have Not.

Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West for years, making the island his everlasting place of residence within the Thirties, and is the person who I’ve determined to totally blame for all of the cats on the island (in keeping with the official web site, greater than forty cats, who’re all named, dwell right here).

On a private observe, did anybody else have an English instructor that was WAY too into Hemingway? Or was it simply me??

Customized Home/Key West Museum of Artwork & Historical past

The second home you must see is the long-lasting crimson Customized Home, simply off of Mallory Sq. in one of many essential elements of city. The home was constructed within the 1800s and was the Customs constructing in Key West. Through the Spanish-American War, the Customized Home was residence to the U.S. Navy Division’s board of inquiry into the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana, which ultimately led to America formally declaring conflict on Spain.

At present, the Customized Home is the location for the Key West Museum of Art & History. Lots of its everlasting exhibitions relate to the Spanish-America Struggle, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Key West’s function in these historic occasions. Since there’s a naval base on the island, radar and intelligence stations have been arrange on Key West in the course of the Nineteen Sixties. Through the blockade of Cuba, reconnaissance planes have been housed right here to simply fly over Cuba and monitor for the presence of nuclear weapons.

For true crime lovers like me, there are additionally just a few darker reveals chronicling a few of the tales that could possibly be straight out of a Gothic novel. One in all these reveals is a couple of “love story” (psyche, it was truly horrifying and creepy) between a neighborhood German physician and his affected person, who died of Tuberculosis.

As a substitute of accepting her loss of life – and the truth that she simply wasn’t into him – homeboy stole her corpse, slapped some make-up on it, and lived with it for SEVEN YEARS till he was caught (AHHHHH). You may be taught all in regards to the creepy story of Carl Tanzler on the museum.

Audubon Home Museum & Tropical Gardens

Now often known as the Audubon House, this residence was initially owned by John Geiger within the 1840s, a person who profited off of shipwrecks and enslaved human beings. Within the 1800s, the wrecking industry was large in Key West due to the treacherous close by reefs, and males like Geiger – uh, government-sanctioned thieves, I assume? – would take and resell valuables from the ships. He grew to become one of many richest males on the island.

Throughout this time, anti-abolitionist, white supremacist, and chook fanatic John Aubudon visited the house and was fascinated by its gardens, and at present is assumed to have discovered inspiration from the birds flitting in regards to the colourful foliage. He later rose to fame as, roughly, “that man who pants birds.”

Lots of his chook work line the home to this present day, and when the museum was opened in 1960 full together with his art work, it was named after him. You may go to the museum to get an thought of how rich folks as soon as lived in Key West.

  • Editor’s Word: Sadly, evidently the museum has chosen to depict a one-sided narrative concerning the rich former house owners of the house and the well-known painter it’s now named after, reasonably than tackling the hard-to-swallow fact about how their wealth was made by attainable by enslaved women and men. It’s excessive time for museums like this one to transform their narratives to be extra sincere, and for us as vacationers to withhold our monetary assist till that shift takes place. For historic accuracy in regards to the ugly actuality of rich life within the Antebellum south, we advocate visiting the Owens-Thomas House in Savannah, Georgia – read our Savannah post to find out why – or one among these historic house museums as a substitute.

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