One of the most unique places in the United States, Key West is artistic, quirky, and stunningly scenic. A tropical climate and a relaxed lifestyle make the island a paradise.
Fishing, beach basking, water sports, dolphins, tortoises, camping, shopping, art galleries, 19th century architecture and partying: there’s plenty for everyone to enjoy in Key West.
Enjoy the show at Mallory Square
Every day, one of the greatest shows on Earth begins at Mallory Square. As the sun starts setting, the madness begins in what is known as the “Sunset Celebration”: A dog walks a tightrope; a man swallows fire, acrobats jump and throw each other in a sundown street party like no other.
Have a beer and a conch fritter as you take in this extraordinary show under spectacular skies. You can find the Square on the waterfront of Key West’s Old Town, adjacent to the cruise ship port.
Visit Hemingway’s houses
In April 1928 Ernest Hemmingway and his wife arrived in Key West to pick up a new Ford car he had ordered, ready to drive back up North. A delay in delivery kept him and his wife at the Trev-Mor Hotel for seven weeks, during which time Hemmingway fell in love with Key West – so much so that it inspired him to write “A Farewell to Arms” while he was staying there. He later decided to make Key West his permanent home.
Casa Antigua was Ernest Hemingway’s first home in Key West and where he completed “A Farewell to Arms”. Take a guided tour of the house plus the lush gardens at the back where you can listen to an audio presentation of the Casa.
Now a brilliant museum, Hemmingway’s second and long term Key West residence is a gorgeous Spanish colonial house. He moved here in his early 30s with his second wife, a Vogue fashion editor and former friend of his first wife; however, he left the house when he took off with his third wife. “The Green Hills of Africa” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” were both written here, surrounded by several house cats.
Wander through Little White House
The glamorous and luxurious holiday home of ex-president Harry S Truman is open for guided tours or simply for walking in the surrounding botanical gardens. A number of Truman’s possessions are kept in situ, but the real highlight is the guides who are very knowledgeable and often rather quirky.
The house initially served as the naval station’s command headquarters during the Spanish-American War; World War I; and World War II. Today, Truman’s Little White House is also a retreat and place of business for the nation’s leaders.
Have a picnic in Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden
Nancy, a prominent local artist of the Keys invites you to bring lunch to her garden, an oasis of lush palms, orchids and chirpy, rescued parrots and macaws that fly free in the grounds. Not exactly a “secret” garden, Nancy welcomes visitors and considers the Garden to be a piece of art in itself as the last acre of relatively undeveloped natural space in the heart of Key West. Bring a picnic, play the guitar or read a book (by Hemmingway perhaps?) and relax in the garden’s luscious natural surroundings.
Nancy Forrester is not only an artist: she is a teacher, environmental activist, and plant and animal lover who has been rescuing and rehoming orphaned parrots for some thirty years.
Explore the Florida Keys ecosystem
The fun, well-put-together exhibitions at the Eco Discovery Centre are a good opportunity to truly understand the unique ecological phenomenon of the Florida Keys. Here you can journey into the world of the Keys’ native plants and animals, both on land and under the water, for an understanding of why it’s so important to conserve South Florida’s ecosystem.
The centre features a large area of interactive exhibits, including a mock-up of Aquarius, the only underwater ocean laboratory in the world. Stop in at the auditorium to catch “Reflections of the Florida Keys,” a short film by renowned filmmaker Bob Talbot explaining the diverse ecosystem of the Florida Keys.
Whilst you’re here, take a look at travel insurance for America if you’re considering a trip to the keys.