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Key West: Where The Sunset Gets A Standing Ovation
Picture perfect and almost impossibly beautiful, Key West is the southernmost point in #Florida, in fact, it's where Mile Marker 0 is. The drive down is stunning, and there is no shortage of ways to keep #active once you get there. Or if you're like us, maybe you prefer #relaxation. Either way, Key West has something for everyone.
Known as the southern most tip of the state of Florida, Key West is a popular cruise ship stop that is accessible by land via the Overseas Highway. This is where I experienced first hand that people clap for the sunset.
You can fly, drive or take a cruise ship to see Key West, but my personal choice is to fly in to Miami, rent a car and drive down to the Keys. It is a three hour, 150 mile drive from Miami and the coast is computer wallpaper perfect. There's just too much to see along the way, you can stop by Homestead and see the Coral Castle Museum ($15 to get in and have a guided tour), pass by Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and the Seven Mile Bridge. We stopped by Harriette's in Key Largo for brunch (try the conch eggs benedict and the key lime cupcake) on our way to the Keys and going back we had lunch at Hobo's Cafe (halibut fish specials). Lunch can vary from $12- $20 per person. You can stretch your legs on these stops.
This is where I experienced first hand that people clap for the sunset.
Tip #1: Download the audio book that gives you a tour while driving, my aunts love it! It is a two way national high way so expect some traffic, specially on weekends. If one car gets in trouble, there will be a bottle neck for sure. Take notes of the mile markers. They are on the side of the highway and used as a reference. It counts down from Mile 127 starting at the Florida Turnpike to Mile 0 in Key West.
Filled with history and a laid-back character, this island is slowly welcoming massive hotels and fast food franchisees thus killing the island's authenticity. However, the main streets in downtown keep the feel of authentic island life! Which comes to Tip #2, make sure to catch the sunset at Mallory Square, where people wait for it and clap as soon as the tip of the sun touches the horizon. They call this the Sunset Celebration.
However, the main streets in downtown keep the feel of authentic island life!
It is in Mallory Square that you will encounter painters, street artists, and musicians and see food stalls and people enjoying the island life. Which brings me to Tip # 3, be prepared for parking and get to the square early, it gets packed pretty fast. It is ok to park far from downtown because parking costs like $20 around Mallory Square.
There's a lot of water activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, island hopping, also bar hopping and parties, but we opted for the relaxed route. We saw Ernest Hemingway's home, the famous Southern Most Point, the Light House, US 1 Mile Marker and other interesting buildings. It took us about 4 hours to walk and see all that. We actually sprinted going back to Mallory Square for sunset. Tip # 4, bring lots of water because it is humid.
We stayed overnight in a yacht with Y Knot Charters and just walked around downtown. We paid $200 for 4 people. Accommodation is more expensive during the peak season (which is January to April, the Pridefest in June, July's Hemingway Days and October's Fantasy Fest) so better check the rates online ahead of time. Other options for lodging are hotels or condos or even a boathouse for the adventurous people. But I highly recommend trying to stay at the center of Old Town Key West to experience local life. There's Cypress House Hotel, Avalon Bread and Breakfast or Courtney's Place Historic Cottages and Inns for a weekend stay.
Hotel Cypress House
Airboat Gator Tour
Kayaking in the Everglades
Tip #5, make sure to dine at the local restaurants and have a conch and of course a key lime pie. It's usually $20 per person per meal (without drinks). Key West can be pricey. Main shopping is at Duval Street since they have a mix of expensive stores and souvenir shops.
If you want to splurge on your vacation, you can check out Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida Keys Eco Discovery, go whale or dolphin watching, or go dive and check out the wrecks. Or you can do what we did, explore by foot and enjoy the downtown scenery.