This is my Top 10 list of things to do or see in Key West and the Florida Keys:
10. Eat Ceviche in Turtle Kraals
Ceviche, for those that don’t know, is a Peruvian fish dish where the fish isn’t cooked but marinated in lime juice. This dish is therefore served cold.
9. Willie T’s Bar on Duval Street in Key West
The whole bar is covered in Dollar bills, walls and ceiling. They all have signatures or other messages on them, left there by guests of the bar. What falls down during the day, goes to charity.
8. Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden
Nice place, lots of trees and flowers, pretty paths perfect for a stroll. It’s close to the AIDS memorial. Entrance is free, donations welcome.
7. Key West Shipwreck Museum
Yes, Americans know how to make museums look nice and entertaining. This one is home to many artifacts salvaged from ships that wrecked at the coast of the Keys. Artifacts extend from cotton bales, jewellery, gold and silver, to furniture – well, everything you could ever find on a ship basically. You’ll also find a small but very intersting exhibit on diving gear from that time all the way to modern diving gear. One of the most popular attractions of this museum is the tower which you can climb to enjoy a beautiful view of Key West and most prominently, Mallory Square.
6. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo
This State Park boasts with amazing snorkeling and diving opportunities. Have you ever heard or seen pictures of the statue Christ of the Abyss? Here’s where you’ll find it. And for those who like to stay on dry land, John Pennecamp Park also hast plenty of boardwalk paths to walk between the mangroves.
5. Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum
That’s what it is – a lighthouse. Not much more to it. But the view from above is uniquely beautiful.
4. AIDS Memorial
Built right on the beach with a beautiful pier, it is a very touching memorial, flanked by many inscribed stone plates. Among names of victims that the disease has claimed you’ll also find moving quotes. What sounds like it could be a depressing place, actually carries a very life affirming and inspirational message that can be summed up in the the caption that graces the ground at the monument’s gate: IN CELEBRATION OF LIFE!
This is a bridge. Seven miles long, to nobody’s surprise. The bridge is part of the US highway 1 which is the only land connection to the Keys. In parts there are two bridges, one that carries the traffic and the other one is the original bridge constructed by Henry Flagler and is now strictly pedestrians and cyclists only. You’ll often find locals using the bridge to fish from as well as pelicans, waiting for scraps. The bridge is also one of the main reasons why you should always take the car to make the journey from Miami to Key West. The display of colors, of the many hues of blue and turquoise is so far unparalleled. As you drive south, you will have the Atlantic ocean to your left, and the Gulf of Mexico to your right.
For a photo stop, don’t miss the parking lot to your right, immediately after the bridge (when driving south). There is no stopping on the bridge itself. A minimum speed must also be observed, so there’s also no slowing down.
2. Hemingway House & Gardens
This is a beautiful house where you will find most of the original furniture of Hemingway as well as many of his books in several languages. You can join a tour guide or walk around on your own. Next to the main house there is the pool house, on top of which Hemingway had his writing room. The pool is home to Ernest Hemingway’s famous last penny, embedded in the concrete where his then wife Pauline Pfiffer pressed it into the fresh foundation.
The story goes somewhat like this:
While Ernest Hemingway was working overseas in the Spanish Civil War, he met and had an affair with a woman that would eventually become his third wife. When his wife in Key West, Pauline, heard about the affair, she replaced Ernest’s beloved boxing ring with a pool. For its time, the pool was exorbitantly expensive. So when Hemingway found out about it, upon his return, he allegedly threw a penny on the ground, exclaiming, “Pauline, you’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that!”
Those that are not impressed by a nice house and beautiful garden, will perhaps enjoy the company of the many cats that live on the property? Hemingway loved cats and had them as pets. The property now is inhabited by more than 20 cats that are free to roam everywhere and are often found sleeping on the furniture that visitors are not allowed to touch. The Hemingway cats, by the way, are special in the sense that they are polydactyl – they all have 6 toes and therefore look as if they are wearing mittens. It’s adorable!
1. Sunset celebration in Mallory Square, Key West
Being far from a crowds person, I still never miss the chance to watch the sunset in Mallory Square. Usually, I prefer quiet spots where I can enjoy the spectacle alone and in peace. But Key West is different. You come for the atmosphere. After a long day spent exploring and wandering about, people come here to watch artists perform tricks, listen so some wonderful music and maybe enjoy a batch of fried conch fritters and a drink from a coconut before all the ruckus dies down for the actual sunset that is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever watched.
For more picutres, click here.