Key West, Florida
Arriving at Key West, Florida
Language and Currency
What is Key West Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
English is spoken in Key West and the currency is the US Dollar.
The Southernmost Point in the United States
The southernmost city in the US is 150 miles south of Miami at the end of the Florida Keys. It is only 90 miles away from Cuba. This small easy going town, measuring less than 2 X 3 1/2 miles, is best described as a very casual, friendly, off-beat community. Gingerbread mansions and historic architectural treasures blend with boutique stores, art galleries, museums, sidewalk cafes, open-air bars and legendary pubs.
Duval Street Scene
Take a stroll down Duval Street, dubbed the Bourbon Street of south Florida, and there is no doubt that Key West has become over-commercialized. But if you wander off the beaten path to the historic seaport district or Bahama Village you will get a sense of the seafaring tradition and laid-back ambiance of Old Key West. Known for its tolerant attitude, Key West is a haven for people who enjoy alternative lifestyles. Eccentric locals are the norm, rather than the exception. The free-spirited citizens of Key West definitely live to the beat of their own drum. As an example of their individualism, in 1982, in an effort to stem the flow of illegal drugs coming into the country, the US Border Patrol established military style roadblocks in Key Largo to search all northbound traffic. Tourism suffered and the Key West economy was affected, so they seceded from the Union, established the Conch Republic, and declared war on the US. They subsequently surrendered and demanded foreign aid from the US government. Foreign aid was never granted, but the roadblocks stopped. You will still see Conch Republic flags being proudly displayed throughout the town.
Key West enjoys a sub-tropical climate with annual average temperatures of 80°F for a high and 72° for a low. Summertime temperatures can easily reach into the 90’s, however, with a fair amount of humidity. As is the case with any of our southern states, an occasional cold front in the winter can cause temperatures to plummet.
Docked in Key West
Most ships will dock at Mallory Square or the Truman Annex. Both are within easy walking distance of Old Town. Duval Street is only 2 blocks from the pier. Some ships, however, dock at the closed US Naval Base on the outskirts of town. If your ship docks there, trolleys will shuttle you off the base and into Old Town. Metered taxis are available in town, but unless you are traveling to the beach, most things are within walking distance in this compact town.
Duval Street Offers Unlimited Shopping Opportunities
You will find a plethora of shops on Duval Street and the adjacent side streets. In fact, there are very few side streets in Old Town that do not offer some form of shopping experience.
The unique and the unusual can be found in Key West. Boutiques offer high end clothing, and there are numerous art galleries at which you can purchase works from local “undiscovered” artists, as well as established, well-known artists. The Key Lime Pie Company offers not only pies and cookies, but everything imaginable (candles, lotions, etc) in “key lime” scents and flavors. Cigar aficionados can head for Cigar Alley, 2 blocks west of Green Street. Souvenir shops and T-shirt stores are everywhere. Interestingly, although this is a US city, a number of the Caribbean duty-free stores have set up shop here.
Conch Train Station at the foot of Duval Street
Shopping and bar-hopping are probably the two most popular activities at this port of call, but there are other options. The Conch Tour Train and the Trolley Tour both provide an excellent narrated overview of the city.
Trolly Tour Station
Of the two, I prefer the Trolley Tour as there are 9 scheduled stops along the tour route at which you can disembark and then rejoin the tour on another trolley. They make a continuous circular run, with pick-ups at each stop about every ½ hour. Although cruise ships offer this excursion, the trolley/train station is in the heart of Old Town and it is very easy to procure tickets on your own. This main station is also a great place to gather maps and other tourist information. Another way of seeing the city is to rent bicycles. The flat terrain and relatively small area to cover make bicycle touring very easy. Depending on your interests, you can visit the Audubon House and Gardens, Harry S. Truman Little White House, Key West Lighthouse, or the Hemingway House. At the Key West Aquarium there is both a touch tank and shark tank that children find particularly appealing.
The Mel Fisher Museum
If you wish to see the bounty collected by a real treasure hunter, the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society Museum has gold and silver bouillon on display. If active pursuits are more to your liking, then you might enjoy nature kayaking or crewing on the Key West Cup Regatta. The area provides some good scuba and snuba dive spots. Key West is not known for its beaches, but the mile long Smathers Beach is a 15 minute cab ride outside of Old Town, and Southernmost Beach is about 10 minutes away. Depending on when your ship departs, it is always great fun to head to Mallory Dock for the nightly Sunset Celebration. As sunset draws near, jugglers, mimes, magicians, musicians and other street performers entertain visitors in an impromptu carnival-like atmosphere awaiting the main event – sunset in the southernmost spot in the US. It is a testament to our true nature, that in our jaded world, an event such as the simple setting of the sun can evoke such joy and excitement.
World Famous Sloppy Joe's
Granted it is a very “touristy” thing to do, but I can’t imagine a trip to Key West without stopping at Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street or joining in the revelry of the Sunset Celebration (if you’re lucky enough to still be in port).
Without sounding redundant, Sloppy Joe’s is a great spot to grab a drink or enjoy lunch (the food is not stellar, but good). Of course it is the fun and entertainment that is the real draw. As for a dining treat, I recommend Seven Fish, a small intimate seafood restaurant on Olivia Street. On one of my recent visits to Key West, I found the tuna to be exceptional.
86 users found this review helpful.
The ship arrived at 7 am and docked right in town at the Hilton Hotel. From what we were told, that’s not always the case. As it was this time, it was just a short...read more
29 users found this review helpful.
OK so this is where I want to retire. Took the train tour, good thing it was not more expensive than it was, as it was it was almost over priced. The shopping was...read more
15 users found this review helpful.
The Horizon docked at a tourist center right next to downtown, so you are right where the action is. We had signed up for a bike tour, but because not enough people...read more
31 users found this review helpful.
Key West was very nice. We wished we had more time there. Shopping was nice, and the village is interesting and doesn’t have the feel of a tourist trap. Almost...read more
25 users found this review helpful.
Though the shore excursions can be pricey I think they are fair and the tour operators are well picked. We chose the nature kayaking tour and after a twenty minute...read more