Appreciating all that makes America special

Travel: Key West

People gather at Mallory Square each day to watch the sunset. Photo by philip.greenspun.com.

People gather at Mallory Square each day to watch the sunset. Photo by philip.greenspun.com.

They say that Key West is the southernmost point in the continental United States. Okay, but “continental” is pushing it. It’s only about 50 miles from Miami to the nearest Bahama island – and three times that far to Key West. In fact, Key West is closer to Cuba than to the U.S. mainland.

It’s not that large to begin with, roughly eight square miles. And it’s home to an estimated 38,000 people, or “Conchs”, the name adopted by residents as far back as the mid-19th century.

Duval Street at night. Uploaded by 511enews.com

Duval Street at night. Uploaded by 511enews.com

Nightlife on the Key revolves around the restaurants and clubs on Duval Street in Old Town, so called because most of its buildings date back before 1912. If you’re looking for a year-’round party scene, you’ve found it. A more reserved celebration occurs at sunset each evening at Mallory Square. Artists, craftspeople, food carts, and all sorts of street performers provide an entertaining art show while tourists watch the sun go down.

Of course, you can’t be an island in the Caribbean and not have a variety of activities on the water. Key West is known for fishing charters, where you can emulate famous resident Ernest Hemingway and fish for blue marlin, sailfish, and giant tarpon. There’s snorkeling and diving, of course, with lots of wrecks to explore. Local beaches, though, are not what you might hope for, though there are some good spots.

Besides Hemingway, lots of famous people have made Key West their home. Tennessee Williams and Shel Silverstein lived there, and President Harry Truman had a winter home there. This video gives you a brief look at Key West along with one of its beaches, Smathers Beach. The Travel Channel called it a Top 10 beach, but the designation definitely is due to the beach scene, not the sand itself, which was brought in from the Bahamas.

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2 Comments

  1. Nice bit about Key West although a couple of minor comments…
    > The social life of the island residents does not revolve around Duval Street. In fact, most locals avoid it. We have a symphony, three theater groups, far better bars and restaurants than you’ll find on Duval, charities, churches, fishing, scuba diving, and work. Shockingly, we also procreate on the island so there’s actually live children here and a need for a school system!
    > Conchs are those who are born on the island (originally, it referred only to those from the Bahamas)… Move here and you’re considered a ‘local’ after a while. Survive seven years and you’re promoted to ‘Fresh Water Conch’.
    > Ref the video… Smathers only looks like that during Spring Break… That’s also the time when the water temps are the stated 75 degrees (chilly!). They warm up to near 90 in the summer. Smathers also hosts the annual turtle nesting so you don’t go there in the late spring or early summer evenings. Don’t wanna upset the hatch.
    Yup… We’re a little strange down here but we’d have it no other way!

    • Our “Only in Key West” story from down at the sunset festivities involves a bagpiper and another guy dancing to the bagpiper’s music. Both were wearing kilts.
      So the guy dancing is doing a sort of jig and throws in some spins. And you did a double take. And yes, you guessed it – nothing on underneath the kilt.