Key West Stories and Tips

Tips and Hints

Sloppy Joe's Bar Photo, Key West, Florida

* Cars are rarely used on Key West. Bicycles and walking are the preferred methods to transport. The island is a flat, coral rock and is small and easy to navigate. It is only 2 miles by 4 miles so is very manageable on foot. Parking is also a nightmare - there is a lack of places to park. Be sure to bring lots of water though if you are walking - it gets extremely hot.

* You will definitely be able to relax and chill out on Key West. This is the land of the eternal vacation. No-one wears a watch or a tie. As soon as you arrive, you feel the laid back holiday atmosphere just take you over. The phrase "hasta-manana" applies and did absolutely to us too, so be prepared. The sun is always shining, it is perfect for fishing, diving but most of all chilling out.

* There is a cultural side to Key West as well. Over the years it has been home to dozens of literary types, including Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. They were drawn to the pace of life, tropical atmosphere and light-hearted mood. You can visit their homes which are now museums. The presence of Jimmy Buffett is also felt in virtually every corner of Key West!

* Wander around early in the morning. It is very lively and colourful at night, but you will see a completely different side to it in the morning after breakfast. It is quiet, you can hear the birds singing and you are truly able to enjoy its natural beauty.

* Play the chicken spotting game with your children. There are chickens wandering around everywhere. Apparently the Cuban people brought their chickens with them when they came here. They didn't need the chickens in Key West, so put them out on the streets and they have been around ever since. They eat bugs etc. so the locals appreciate them. They are also some of the healthiest looking chickens I have ever seen.

* There are not many high end shops or big brands in Key West, so do not come looking for a luxury shopping experience. There are however, lots of really nice, unusual and fun shops to browse in. A particularly good shop for children is Toy Factory - more of an experience than a shop, it is a great place to fire up their imaginations.

* Make sure you take your time to amble slowly along the gorgeous lushly vegetated streets in Old Town. This place has an individual spirit, the vegetation is beautiful and the houses are so lovely - each one different.

* Head to the buoy marking the southernmost point in the Continental USA. It is at the corner of South Street and Whitehead Street. It is a must-see. You will probably need to queue, but you have to have your picture taken standing next to it. It is big, stripey and you can't miss it. There is a plaque next to it honouring Cubans who lost their lives trying to escape to America. The buoy is only 90 miles from Cuba.

* Have a margarita in Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville. This is the original one, there is a great atmosphere and the drinks are good too! It is on Duval Street.

* Sloppy Joes Bar is another must-see. It is legendary and was the favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway. We had lunch there twice - the food is very good. There is a great atmosphere and they always have live music playing when it is open. Captain Tony's bar is also worth a visit. This was the original location of Sloppy Joes before Joe moved his bar objecting to a rent increase. Captain Tony's is not so lively, but the ceiling is decorated with bras and other interesting things, so is worth a visit.

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