Key West

Key West is a city and an island of the same name, the county seat of Monroe County, and an island in the Florida Keys. It is considered the southernmost city in the continental United States.

Key West panorama

Understand

History

In Pre-Columbian times Key West was inhabited by the Tequesta and Calusa peoples. The first European to visit was Juan Ponce de León in 1521. As Florida became a Spanish colony, a fishing and salvage village with a small garrison was established here.

The island was used by fishermen from Cuba and from the British Bahamas, who were later joined by others from the United States after the latter nation's independence. While claimed by Spain, no nation exercised de facto control over the community there for some time. The island was considered the "Gibraltar of the West" because of its strategic location on the 90-mile (140 km)–wide deep shipping lane, the Straits of Florida, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. On March 25, 1822, Matthew C. Perry sailed the schooner Shark to Key West and planted the U.S. flag, physically claiming the Keys as United States property.

Key West was relatively isolated until 1912, when it was connected to the Florida mainland via the Overseas Railway extension of Henry M. Flagler's Florida East Coast Railway (FEC). The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 destroyed much of the railroad and killed hundreds of residents. The FEC could not afford to restore the railroad. The U.S. government then rebuilt the rail route as an automobile highway, completed in 1938, which became an extension of United States Highway 1. The portion of U.S. 1 through the Keys is called the Overseas Highway.

Climate

Key West claims to be the only city in the lower 48 states never to have had a frost. Because of the proximity of the Gulf Stream in the Straits of Florida, about 12 miles (19 km) south and southeast, and the tempering effects of the Gulf of Mexico to the west and north, Key West has a notably mild, tropical climate.

Precipitation is characterized by dry and wet seasons. The period of November through April receives abundant sunshine and slightly less than 25 percent of the annual rainfall. This rainfall usually occurs in advance of cold fronts in a few heavy or light showers. May through October is normally the wet season, receiving approximately 53 percent of the yearly total in numerous showers and thunderstorms. Rain falls on most days of the wet season. Early morning is the favored time for these showers, which is different from mainland Florida, where showers and thunderstorms usually occur in the afternoon. Easterly (tropical) waves during this season occasionally bring excessive rainfall, while infrequent hurricanes may be accompanied by unusually heavy amounts. At any rate, Key West is the driest city in Florida.

Get in

Key West Lighthouse

By plane

Key West International Airport (IATA: EYW), 3491 South Roosevelt Blvd., (305) 296-7223, . Served by several airlines, though a short runway prevents big jets from landing. Direct flights are available from Atlanta, some major cities in Florida (Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Panama City, and Tampa, for example), and also some flights to the Bahamas. Fares tend to be higher than to and from large metropolitan airports. A popular alternative is to fly into Miami International Airport or Fort Lauderdale International Airport, then rent a vehicle to drive down the Overseas Highway to Key West.

If you plan to rent a car in Key West, be aware that both Enterprise and Alamo desks are not located at the airport. You have to call the shuttle bus and wait for up to 12 minutes to catch a ride to the Truman Avenue location. Also note that parking on Key West can be a challenge, both in terms of the number of available spaces, and the size of spaces, so smaller cars are popular selections.

By train

Amtrak takes you as far south as Miami. There, you can transfer to the Keys Shuttle bus discussed below. Amtrak: 1-800-USARAIL.

By bus

By sea

By car

The Overseas Highway terminates in Key West, and links all the towns in the Keys with mainland Florida, which provides links into the US Interstate network, so driving to Key West is straightforward (3 1/2 hours from Miami), though driving around town can be difficult and long-term parking may be expensive.

From Miami International Airport: Take LeJeune Road south to 836 West. Follow the Florida Turnpike south toward Key West. The Turnpike ends at US 1 in Florida City. Follow U.S. 1 south as far as it goes and you will be in Key West.

From Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport: Exit the airport and follow the signs for 595 West. Take 595 to the Florida Turnpike and follow the signs for the Florida Keys and Key WEST.

From the north: take the Florida Turnpike south and follow the signs for Homestead and Key West. The Florida Turnpike ends at US 1 in Florida City.Follow U.S. 1 south into the Florida Keys.

From Florida's West Coast: take 1-75 Alligator Alley east to the Miami exit, and south to the Turnpike Extension.

Get around

Driving around Key West is difficult and parking is expensive. (Although there is free parking in front of the USS Mohawk Museum, at the intersection of Southard St and Fort St.) Many visitors choose to rent motor scooters, bicycles, golf carts or explore on foot. When renting a golf cart keep in mind that you have to find parking for this vehicle as well. Scooters and bikes can normally be parked on the sidewalk right outside your destination. However, really consider insuring anything you rent.

The main street in Key West is Duval street.

There is a fairly comprehensive bus system with color-coded lines . Unlimited travel tickets are available for periods between 7 days and a month and are good value.

Fares: (Discounts are available for senior citizens, students etc.)

Single Trip: $2
7-Day $8/Unlimited Use
31-Day $25

If you plan to rent a car be aware that both Enterprise and Alamo desks are not located at the airport. You have to call the shuttle bus and wait for 12 minutes to catch a ride to the Truman Ave location. Budget is the only car rental agency in Key West that does not charge additional fees (usually $10/day from anyone else) for a second driver -- so if you are traveling with a partner who drives, be advised.

One Key West Taxi Service is reached at +1 305 295-5555.

See

Ernest Hemingway House
"Southernmost point" in continental United States

Do

Key West is a great place for the family. There is plenty to do during the day... for those that are awake. Enjoy an early night and prepare for the next day's adventure. However, if you are traveling with young ones, stay in a hotel off the main streets. For those who stay out all night you may not get to do these things but you should try. Because many locals get around by scooters, bikes, and/or electric cars, you may want to consider renting them at one of the many rental shops throughout the island.

Nature

Watersports

Other

Festivals

Buy

Key West is not like Miami. There aren't many high end shops or big name brands. While there are a few, Key West is not the place for this type of shopping. Fly into or out of the Miami airport and spend a day in South Beach if this is what you are looking for. There are a lot of shops in Key West, especially along Duval Street, which goes from coast to coast. You can find something to wear at night which in Key West isn't much (price or material). Lose your sunglasses...they have them. Need suntan lotion..check. Want a tattoo? You could get probably get 20 or so if you went to every tattoo place in Key West. This is not a good idea if you have been drinking. You may regret it the next sober morning when you realize you have one or more.

Eat

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Drink

There are a large number of drinking establishments of various types. The main tourist strip on Duval Street has numerous watering holes.

There are also plenty of places to wet your whistle that aren't necessarily right on Duval Street.

Sleep


Camping

There is no longer any camping in Key West, but you can still find some just outside the City limits on Stock Island. Within Key West itself, parking is very limited and RV's are generally discouraged, so your best shot is to stay somewhere outside the city and drive a smaller vehicle into town.

There are a few more a little ways up the Keys that cater to RVs. The number of campsites are limited, so do not be shocked by the price. Make your reservations well in advance six months to a year so you are sure to get your spot. You will notice the use of "MM" or "Mile Marker" in the addresses. This is how US 1 is marked. MM 0 is in Old town Key West and the beginning of US 1. The numbers go up, so you can tell just how far an address is from Key West.

Go next

The only way out by land is back toward Miami. On the way up the road you can visit Big Pine Key, Marathon, Islamorada, and Key Largo. There are numerous local islands accessible only by boat to visit as well.

Routes through Key West

Miami Big Pine Key  N  S  END


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 08, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.