Mr. Wishes and I spontaneously visited Key West for a lovely day trip last weekend. I have always wanted to see the Florida Keys and we are still here in Miami so we figured why not go!?
It was about a 3.5 hour drive from Miami which went by really fast. Miami to Key Largo (about 50 miles) is mostly a boring drive and a pain in the butt, and from Key Largo to Key West is a beautiful drive. The trip includes crossing the famous and historic 7 mile bridge. A trip along this scenic drive is an amazing experience highlighted by the crystal clear water and warm breezes. Views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean are spectacular, whether you are looking on the right or left side of the roads. When this bridge was completed in 1982, it was considered the longest segmental bridge in the world built to withstand winds of up to 200 miles per hour. It is 65-feet tall to allow for boats to pass underneath and also happens to be the highest point in the Florida Keys. It connects the city of Marathon in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. Very cool! If you’ve never made the drive before you have to do it at least once or you haven’t really seen the Keys.
Like most people, once we arrived we did all the normal tourist things as this was our first visit there. The first thing we did was set foot on the southernmost point in the continental United States and tried to make out Cuba which is just 90 miles away. This iconic landmark is located at the corner of South Street and Whitehead Street. It is a renowned photo opportunity spot as there is usually a line just to get a picture.
Before sunset, we spent the late hours of the afternoon at the beach in Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. This beach is regarded as Key West’s “best” beach. The view is so gorgeous, the sand as white as can be, and there were plenty of ideal spots to lay down your towel. There’s a really good snack shop that’s centrally located on the beach that serves all kinds of things like hamburgers, chicken strips, drinks, and… wait for it… white chocolate covered key lime pie on a stick! You can’t go to Key West and not have key lime pie in some form or another!
While on this beach, you’ll see pelicans scattered along the waterfront. They sit so still on the rocks and look a little surreal, until they suddenly dive and face plant straight into the water for a fish. It’s really interesting to watch! We took a little nap on the sand and Mr. Wishes did his usual thing and took 8.5 million photos
Then, it was time for sunset. Where Duval Street meets the Gulf of Mexico, there is a famous daily ‘Sunset’ celebration staged at Mallory Square. Mallory Square is considered the heart of downtown Key West. This celebration begins an hour or so before sunset and is a bit like a street carnival. We didn’t attend but definitely would if I make it down there again in the future. We have heard before that there’s nothing in the world quite like a Key West sunset and we got to see this for ourselves! Every sunset is a little different, depending on the cloud coverage. People from all over the world come to watch in wonder as the sun makes it’s beautiful departure into the horizon. It’s truly magnificent! They even do numerous sunset boat cruises that looked like a cool way to observe one of these famous sunsets.
We spent some time strolling along the notorious Duval Street. Duval Street is the famous downtown street where all of the restaurants, bars, and shops are located. The street runs north and south from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. We discovered that the most interesting people live in Key West. And by interesting, I mean extremely weird. Like the 50-year-old man who wears skimpy track shorts and jogs all over town at 1 a.m. or the man who walks around with a parrot on his shoulder. Basically, you will see a lot of odd things in this general area. It is all a matter of taste and preference but be prepared for a lot of noise, big crowds and even more alcohol. Especially during the weekend nights you may want to avoid this area if it’s not really your thing.
We chose to eat dinner at Fogarty’s mainly because it looked like a fun, lively place to hang out and people-watch …and that it was! The food was good and not overly-priced. We walked by Sloppy Joe’s bar which is where Ernest Hemingway used to hang out often. He actually helped select the bar’s name. It’s supposedly one of the notable hang-outs in Key West and has great live music on the weekends. You can also tour Hemingway’s former home that he lived in and did his writing in for over 10 years (Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum) in Old Town Key West.
Right before we made the trek back to Miami we wandered around the historic Seaport district, known locally as the “Key West Bight”. This was once the home of dozens of shrimp boats back in the day. Today, it’s a popular place to arrange a day on the water: fishing, snorkeling, etc. Many people just come and stroll along the harbor walk or eat dinner at one of the many restaurants that look like really fun hangout spots (mostly seafood places).
All of the above are worthwhile and certainly should be done at least once. The moral of the story is that sometimes you just have to take a spontaneous trip to Key West. We only spent one day on the island, but we did so much. What a fun day!