Key West times

Key West is a beautiful island that's about as close to the Caribbean as you can get without actually going there. It's also a major holiday destination and is a strange combination of touristy fakeness and peaceful island.

Key West times

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by C_Wheel on December 31, 2002

As touristy as it is, watching the sun go down in Mallory Square is pretty cool. Where else in the world would you get so many people just stopping to watch the sunset?${QuickSuggestions} ${BestWay} Key West is just a little island and depending where you're staying, mostly walkable. In the heat of the midday sun though, it can be a bit much. A lot of people hire bikes or scooters as an alternative.


Member Rating 2 out of 5 by C_Wheel on December 31, 2002

There's only the one hostel in Key West, and everywhere else is pretty expensive, so your choices are pretty limited if you're on a budget. The rooms are clean and decent, and generally seem to be a lot of small rooms knocked together into one--which gives you a bit more privacy. There's a small room with a TV and the most uncomfortable chairs. Most people gather outside in the courtyard with the pool table and shaded picnic tables. You're not supposed to consume alcohol on the premises--but a lot of people do.

The hostel has a bit of strange atmosphere at times. Because it is the cheapest place in Key West, there are a lot of people here who have nowhere else to go, including a few homeless people who just seem to sit in the TV room all night. The hostel seems perfectly safe, though--just a little different. You may find the reception closed at odd times as well.

NB: I had a lot of difficulty prebooking my room. I tried using the website twice, faxed, and had to phone up twice to confirm my booking.

South Street
Florida Keys, Florida

Sunset Celebrations at Mallory Square

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by C_Wheel on December 31, 2002

Up at the top of Duval Street by the waterfront is Mallory Square, and it's here that people gather every night for the sunset celebrations. Walk on past the ice-cream shop (if you can), through the souvenir market, and follow the sounds of buskers. Just before Mallory Square, you'll see a sculpture garden--a strange collection of busts of Key West dignitaries.

As well as hordes of tourists lining the seafront, the square is also filled with street performers, food stands, and little crafts stalls. Some of the street performers are pretty entertaining--especially the trained cats, which do some amazing tricks. Look out as well for the dog with the cat lying on top of him and the mouse lying on top of the cat. Bizarre!

If you're lucky, sunset is quite a spectacular sight--watching a great ball of fire sink below the waves, the sailing ships silhouetted black against the horizon. To get a good place, though, you will need to arrive earlier, especially on the weekend, and be prepared for disappointment--often the sun just fades away behind the clouds.

Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square
1 Whitehead Street, Mallory Square
Key West, Florida, 33040
(305) 296-4557

PT Sunset Cruise

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by C_Wheel on December 31, 2002

The Pilot Torpedo ship is the last of its kind left over from the Second World War--one of many facts you'll discover on this trip. The cruise takes about 1.5 hours and goes out past the southernmost point of Fort Zachary to reach the sea and view the sunset without crowds getting in the way. As you cruise, the captain gives a running commentary of the history of Key West and, of course, his own vessel. If you're interested in the Second World War, you'll no doubt be fascintated; I have to admit that I tuned him out and enjoyed the cruise itself, which was great. The PT ship is a lot faster than most of the other local cruise ships, and we sped out to sea--it was very exhilarating but, if you don't want to get pelted with spray, make sure you stand behind someone en-route. Later, seeing as this was a torpedo ship, the captain decided to fire upon a few 'pirates'--aka other ships--including a wedding cruise, which was pretty cool.

If you're looking for a sunset cruise that's a bit a different and fun, rather than romantic, I'd really reccommend this one.

Pilot Torpedo Sunset Cruise
Florida Keys, Florida
(727) 442-7433

Smathers Beach

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by C_Wheel on December 31, 2002

This is one of the main public beaches on the island. It's about a 20-minute walk from the hostel or 10-minute bike ride. On a hot day--as most of them are--it seems like a long walk, especially as there's no pavement for half the trek. Still, it does give you a chance to get away from the tourist tack of Duval Street and check out local houses as you wander along.

Smathers Beach stretches a fair distance and the golden sand is lined with shady palm trees, a promenade, and fast-food stands. The further you walk, the less-crowded it seems to get. The beach is probably more suited to sunbathing than swimming as the water is pretty murky with seaweed and you need to watch out for jellyfish.

Smathers Beach
South Roosevelt Blvd
Florida Keys, Florida, 33040
(305) 755-7800

Shopping along Duval St

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by C_Wheel on December 31, 2002

I was actually pleasantly surprised by the shops along Duval Street. I expected it to be full of tacky souvenir shops--and it was, but it also had quite a variety of other shops. There was a range of clothes shops, lots of tacky T-shirt stores, an Express clothes shop that was reasonably priced and fashionable, and various fashionable surfie-style places and one or two rather expensive clothes shops aimed at the older generation with heaps of money.

If you do see something you want in one of the souvenir shops, haggle. A friend of mine worked in one of these for a while and warned me that the sellers price everything according to what they think you can afford--so be prepared to bargain.

As you'd expect, there are any number of arty-crafty gift shops, with goods ranging from tacky to very lovely and very expensive--check out the glass shops and art galleries. There's a chicken gift shop at the end of Duval, I'm not sure why. And at the other end of Duval, near Mallory Square, you can visit the Megastore, nothing to do with Virgin (whatsover), as it's an erotic superstore.

Just before Mallory Square, there's a little market filled with mostly tourist junk--Key Lime soap, etc.,--and there's usually a few crafts stands in the square. Some of these have some surprisingly decent goods.

There are a couple of second-hand bookstores just off Duval Street; also try the library, which does a free paperback swap.

Whatever you go shopping for in Key West, just don't expect it to be particularly cheap, as this is not the place to come for a bargain.

Duval Street
Florida Keys, Florida

Going out in Key West

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by C_Wheel on December 31, 2002

The top end of Duval Street, near Mallory Square, is where most of the bars are. Key West tries its best to be a party town reminiscent of New Orleans, with bars opening early and closing late--it even has a couple of New Orleans-themed bars. Of course, this does mean that there are lots of very drunk and mostly middle-aged tourists in the bars along the street.

Margaritas are the classic Key West drink and the Margaritaville Bar specializes in them. Sloppy Joes is a main tourist hangout, with a large and noisy bar with regular live bands and a dance floor. I'd reccommend checking out what kind of music is playing before you go; one night they had a really energetic cover band there that did a good mix of modern hits and oldies--I had a blast. We went back the next night and they had a comedy band there, which involved a lot of swearing. They ended their act by persuading several girls to come up onstage and flash the room--one girl was particularly impressive, as she had superior muscle control and could actually make her breasts move independently.

If you prefer something slightly less obvious, try the bars down by the waterfront where you'll get more of a local and tourist mix. The Blue Parrot is a popular and pretty cool place to have a drink. Alternatively there are a few restaurants along Duval Street that open fairly late and have courtyard dining where you can drink in comfort and watch the (Key West) world go by.

Bars & Pubs
Duval Street
Florida Keys, Florida

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