Florida has long been a warm and welcoming destination for travelers from around the world, and while many people think of mouse-themed amusement parks, there’s more to the Sunshine State.
The Florida Keys trail off the coast of Miami, and their picturesque landscapes are a world away from the crowds and busyness of cities like Orlando. And of all the islands in the Keys, the island city of Key West is the ideal vacation destination.
Why Key West Stands Out
With summery yet mild temperatures and humidity, the weather here is always comfortable, year-round. Key West is easily accessible from most major airports as well as by car or boat. Although the beaches are much smaller than several other Florida vacation spots, the calm and clear waters offer dramatic views of undersea life that can’t be beaten.
The city has a long history of being a place where varied cultures connect, and that’s perhaps most readily visible in the regional cuisine. It’s a foodie’s delight, with flavorful influences from around the world. Enjoy French, Asian, Caribbean, Southern American, Italian, and South American flavors prepared with local ingredients, and fresh seafood in particular.
Getting around in Key West is easy, too. There’s a great local bus system but because the city is compact, bicycling is a popular way to get around. Many hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfasts offer bicycles for loan or rent; there are also lots of places to rent from, apart from lodgings.
Where to Stay
Key West offers a wide range of places to stay so that you can find the ideal accommodations, from campgrounds to exclusive resorts. Among the most well-known camping areas is Boyd’s, where there’s space for your RV or you can keep things simple and pitch a tent.
The campground offers a wide range of packages and amenities for travelers, including picnic areas, a pool, and beaches. You can also go fishing and boating here, and pets are allowed on-site. For the epitome of luxury, consider The Marquesa Hotel, with beautifully appointed rooms, a full spa on-site, a pool, a cafe, and concierge service.
Other in-demand hotels include Barbary Beach House Key West, Ocean Key Resort and Spa, and the Southernmost Beach Resort. The area is also known for quaint and charming bed and breakfasts, including Avalon Bed and Breakfast, The Duval House, and Coco Plum Inn Bed and Breakfast.
These typically offer a more low-key experience with perks like freshly prepared gourmet breakfasts.
Fine and Casual Dining
Seafood is one of the most popular ingredients in local food, and Eaton Street Seafood Market is the best place for fish tacos, grilled lobster, and fried conch strips, made with only the day’s freshest catch. They have outdoor seating or you can take your order to go.
Duetto’s Pizza and Gelato is a crowd-pleaser, too. From hand-tossed pies to homemade gelato, you’d be hard-pressed to find any better. Little Pearl’s extensive wine list makes its globally inspired menu stand out for a casually elegant meal, and Blue Heaven is the place to go for Sunday brunch.
Caroline’s Cafe and Garbo’s Grill have been Key West hotspots for years. For the ideal slice of key lime pie, visit Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Pie Shoppe, where they’re baked from scratch every day.
Things to Do on the Water
Because it’s an island, so much of what Key West has to offer is oriented around the water. Fishing is one of the top reasons people visit the area, and booking a fishing charter is a convenient way to enjoy the sport even if you’re a total novice. Go with All In Fishing Charters for a half or full-day experience deep water, reef, or wreck fishing for tarpon, mackerel, snapper, grouper, and more.
All the fishing gear you need is provided, and the captain and crew are personable and helpful, making it nothing but fun for all. And if you do happen to land the catch of a lifetime, there are several area restaurants that will cook your catch, so you can share your success with family and friends.
If being in the water is more exciting for you, don’t miss Dry Tortugas National Park. It’s ideal for snorkeling adventures, even for those new to the activity, because of the calm waters around the seven small islands that make up the park. Swim around coral reefs and authentic shipwrecks hundreds of years old while interacting with vibrant sea life.
On land, the park’s Garden Key is home to the Civil War-era Fort Jefferson, beaches, picnic areas, and trails. You can also kayak around the islands, and birdwatching is very popular here. The ferry to Dry Tortugas from Key West books quickly, making it important to schedule your reservation well in advance of your trip to ensure you get a spot.
Key West also has several public beaches where you can go swimming and snorkeling every day. Most offer the ability to rent beach chairs, umbrellas, and snorkeling equipment for the day. Some are even dog-friendly.
Book a sunset sailboat ride for a great way to be on the water with magnificent views and beautiful skies. These trips typically include drinks and light snacks, along with live music and engaging tour guides who are well-versed in the history and culture of Key West.
Things to Do on Land
Walking Duval Street, which runs the entire length of Key West, is a popular way to spend an afternoon because there is so much to see and do. It’s lined with shops, restaurants, bars, cafes, art galleries, museums, and more. Visit the West Side Gallery, Key West Pottery, Art on Duval Key West, and Collections Key West, for handmade art, home decor, jewelry, and gifts that are truly one-of-a-kind.
Don’t miss the nightly Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, located at the end of Duval Street. From live music, street performers, arts and crafts vendors, food and drink vendors, and incredible sunset, it’s a great time for everyone.
Fun for All
In Key West, everyone is welcome, from couples and families to solo travelers seeking a relaxing getaway. You can plan the most jam-packed itinerary or simply sit and watch the waves roll in, enjoying the solitude. It’s the ideal vacation spot for adventurers, foodies, and fans of art and culture, and it’s easy to understand why once you’ve been to Key West, you’ll want to come back again soon.