Key West is located at the southernmost tip of Florida, the last major island among those that trail off the coast of Miami, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s long been a wintertime vacation hotspot, and it’s easy to understand why. From the accommodations to the restaurants and activities, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re into watersports, food, history and culture, nature or shopping.
Places to Stay
There are a wide variety of hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and other kinds of accommodations in Key West. It can be hard to find a balance between being where the action is in the touristy areas while still finding a place to get away and relax. Here are a few places that successfully balance a central location with seclusion for those who seek it.
The Saint Hotel Key West on Eaton between Duval Street and Whitehead has a dramatic, high-end vibe that’s colourful and sophisticated. Enjoy luxurious superior or vintage rooms, plus an Infinity pool, and sun lounges. There is an on-site bar and restaurant, and guests can also book spa services to really unwind on their vacation.
The art deco Pegasus International Hotel on Duval Street at Southard Street in downtown Key West is walkable to many major attractions, museums, and landmarks. Rooms and suites are available. Guests enjoy a continental breakfast and happy hour served daily. Swim in the heated rooftop pool, relax in the jacuzzi, or watch the sunset from the hotel’s poolside bar.
At the Seascape Tropical Inn on Olivia Street, off Duval, enjoy rooms and suites in a quiet, private setting that’s still accessible to all the energy of the main street. This bed and breakfast serves complimentary breakfasts with mimosas and locally made items from nearby cafes. Swim in the heated pool, rent a bike to explore the city or enjoy a book on the shady patio.
The premium guest room furnishings and seaside decor of the Orchid Key Inn feature marble, walnut, and glass tile, elevating this gem in Historic Old Town Key West into a modern and contemporary inn with classic charm. Enjoy complimentary breakfasts, daily happy hour, a lovely sun deck and heated pool.
Things to Do
Walking along Duval Street, pretty much the best-known street in Key West, offers visitors a plethora of activities, from museums to art galleries and shops. Take a leisurely, laid-back stroll, or check out the following popular attractions.
For an inside look at the rum distilling process, and how rum, the Hemingway family, and the history of Key West are intertwined, visit Papa’s Pilar Rum Distillery, Hemingway Rum Company. Samples are available for guests age 21 and older; if you like what you taste, visit the gift shop to take a little Key West rum home with you.
Take it easy and do some swimming and sunbathing at Smathers Beach. With free parking, this sandy public beach on the south side of Key West is a popular attraction. Even though amenities are limited to restrooms only, beach-goers can rent chairs and watersports gear for the day from nearby vendors.
Dry Tortugas National Park is a little out of the way but definitely worth the effort. There’s regular ferry service from Key West to this island fort 70 miles out to sea, tucked among a series of keys that make up one of the most interesting U.S. national parks. Most of the parkland is actually underwater, and it’s a great place for new and experienced snorkelers alike to go exploring along reefs, wrecks, and old naval pilings.
Fishing is one of the most popular activities in Key West, whether you’re a resident or visitor. The area is well known for swordfish, tarpon, kingfish, marlin, sailfish, and tuna. It’s unique location and geography offer recreational and sport fishermen a dynamic and exciting experience, with a minimum of fuss because nearly all local fishing charter captains have already arranged for gear, permits, and licensing. All tourists need to do is book their charter. Half- and full-day trips are available and can be customized for folks who have a preference for reef, wreck, flats, or deep-sea fishing.
Take in the Sunset Celebration nightly at Mallory Square, at the northern end of Duval Street. Music, food vendors, street performers, and more put on a party for all ages.
Where to Eat
By virtue of its storied past, the cuisine of Key West is influenced heavily by Spanish, Latin, Caribbean, and French flavours, although foodies will find lots of Korean, Mediterranean, Chinese, and Japanese dishes here, too! There are restaurants that specialize in light fare, 4-course meals, pub food, seafood, and even dessert (Better Than Sex Dessert Restaurant is just one example!).
Visit the Cuban Coffee Queen for breakfast or lunch off Duval Street downtown. Breakfast burritos, pressed sandwiches, traditional Cuban dishes like rice and beans, and American favourites like grilled cheese, BLTs, and steak sandwiches are on the menu, to eat in or pick-up.
Looking for something more upscale? Banana Cafe serves light fare in a casual French bistro setting. Order eggs benedict, crepes, breakfast sandwiches, salads, and omelettes for breakfast and lunch. The new dinner menu features savoury crepes and quiches, meat, chicken and seafood dishes, plus a solid wine selection. Banana Cafe also has some American classics on the menu, like NY strip steak.
Dine alfresco at the Southernmost Beach Cafe along palm-tree-lined South Beach. Guests enjoy local cuisine and cocktails for breakfast. Wake up to an omelette, corned beef hash, brunch burger, Crab Benedict, breakfast burrito, or “Steak, Cakes, and Eggs”. This restaurant also serves lunch and dinner.
Key West is an exciting trip with lots to see and do, whether you’re visiting for just a few days or spending a week or two. With a friendly atmosphere and walkable city streets, people come back to Key West again and again.