I recently visited Key West for the first time and I immediately fell in love. Let me start by saying that Key West was not what I expected. I went down there thinking it was going to be a quaint little island like Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, but boy, I could not have been more wrong – in a good way, though. Key West is a a hoppin’ place and my husband, Christian, and I were surprised at first about how much to see and do there was there. We were in Key West over Thanksgiving week and were pleasantly surprised that basically everything was open. We crammed a lot into the time we were there and I wanted to share some highlights with you today.
10 Things to do in Key West
1. Eat some key lime pie. Obviously.
Key lime pie is named after the small Key limes that are grown throughout the Florida Keys, so you can’t go to any of the Keys without having at least one piece of key lime pie. Even if you don’t like key lime pie, you should still have some. I am pretty sure it’s mandatory.
Hubby isn’t a fan of key lime pie, but he did have a few pieces while we were there. I had a few, too – each day! I tried key lime pie from many different places and I have to say that the Key West Key Lime Pie Co. on Greene Street was my favorite. I am not just saying that because I saw it on The Profit, either. It was seriously the best.
2. Hang out on Sunset Pier.
Not only can you catch an amazing sunset on the pier, you can see some really interesting street performers there around the time the sun goes down. Christian and I particularly enjoyed the Cat Man. The Cat Man has 3 or 4 cats and they do tricks. It’s definitely something you don’t want to miss if you are in Key West – it’s a memorable experience.
The Sunset pier is at the end of Duval Street. You’ll see the crowd and you’ll hear the cheers when the sun goes down.
3. Go to the beach.
Fun fact: The Keys are islands and made up of reefs, so no sand is actually created in the Florida Keys. The sand you see on the beaches is imported in from elsewhere.
Either way, the beaches there are gorgeous and are a great way to spend some of your time on Key West. While We were there, we visited Higgs Beach on Atlantic Blvd
and Smathers Beach on South Roosevelt Blvd. Both beaches were clean and really nice. We were able to find free street parking at both beaches, so it made for a really inexpensive day!
If you’re at Higgs Beach, be sure to talk a walk down the pier there before you leave. You never know what you will see out there.
4. See the Southermost Point.
You will find the Southernmost point in the continental United States in Key West. You’ll see the buoy when you get there, but I highly suggest you get there early because there will be a really long line & you’ll end up waiting a good 30-60 minutes to take a picture with it. It’s located on the corners of Whitehead St & South St – you can’t miss it.
5. Go on a ghost tour.
Key West is Florida’s second oldest city and home to a variety of spirits…and one hella creepy doll. That makes it the perfect location to take a ghost tour or two.
A few weeks ago I told you about the Ghosts and Gravestones Trolley Tour that we went on, but we also did a few walking tours. On one of them, Sloan’s Haunted Key West Tour, they gave us ghost hunting equipment to use. In all, we did four ghost tours and they all told different stories, so if you’re into that sort of thing you should definitely take at least one ghost tour in Key West. Most of them can be reserved in advance, but if you want to take one last minute you will see signs for them down there.
6. Go on an Old Town Pub Crawl.
Old Town Key West is very pedestrian friendly, which makes it perfect for some bar hopping. There are literally hundreds of bars & restaurants to choose from, so you won’t have any trouble finding great food and drinks.
One thing I noticed down there was that many bars allowed smoking inside! Gross, right? A general rule of thumb down there is that if the bar/restaurant is completely closed in on all 4 sides – it’s smoke free, but if there is an open wall anywhere, people can smoke in there – so if you are like me and gag over the smell of smoke, especially while you eat – skip those.
7. Take a tour of Ernest Hemingway’s House.
Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote in this house for more than ten years. It costs $14 for a 30-minute guided tour and before you ask, we skipped it. The line was long and $28 seemed kind of pricey to us. But if you want to take the tour, The Ernest Hemingway house is located at 907 Whitehead St. You’ll see the crowd gathered in front.
8. Stop by the end of the road (Mile Marker 0).
Stretching from upper Maine to Key West, US 1, known locally in the Keys as the Overseas Highway, is a 2,369 interstate that connects most major cities in the eastern United States. US 1 begins & ends right in Key West and the marker signs can be found at 501 Whitehead St.
9. Take a bike tour!
You’re going to see people on bikes everywhere in Key West. You can rent them by day, days or the week at many different locations on the island. While Christian and I chose to walk, we did spend a few hours on a fun bike tour. There were many options as far as bike tours went, but we chose Key Lime Bike Tours.
There were six of us on the particular tour we went on and our tour guide, Clint, was awesome. He was one of those people who you could tell just absolutely loved what he did and it showed. On the 3-ish hour tour, he told us about some of Key West’s history, architecture, and culture of what they call the “The Conch Republic”. If you saw 3 hour tour and cringed, don’t worry – there were lots of stops where we got off our bikes and Clint told us fun stories. He was a really great guide. He really knew his stuff & answered every question that people asked of him.
We stopped at places like the Key West Lighthouse:
The Key West AIDS Memorial:
And the Key West Cemetery:
I was fascinated by the fact that everyone is buried above ground in Key West. Apparently it’s too hard to dig into the limestone, so they all get buried in crypts there. We also found out that in order to be buried there, you have to be born and raised on Key West. Transplants get sent off island.
And Clint told us why there are chickens everywhere you look on Key West. Yes, chickens (and roosters). Everywhere.
Each tour included a bike & helmet, a bottle of water and all bikes were equipped with a deep basket for personal belongings. Our final stop on the tour was at the Key West Key Lime Pie Co. (see #1) for a slice of Key Lime pie! Yummers.
The tour costs $42 per person and leaves from 122 Ann St.
10. Visit the Shipwreck Museum.
The Key West Shipwreck Museum combines actors, films and actual artifacts to tell the story of 400 years of shipwreck salvage in the Florida Keys. At the Key West Shipwreck Museum we stepped back into time as we learned about Key West’s unique maritime heritage and how it became the richest city in the United States.
After we made our way through the museum, we climbed the 65′ lookout tower and had the most amazing view of Key West.
See? Look at that view:
You can get tickets online or while you’re there. The Shipwreck Museum is located at 1 Whitehead St.
By now, you’ve probably noticed that most of these things are located in Old Town. Old Town is the name given to the historic district of the island of Key West, which is basically the western half of the island. In fact, ALL of the things I mentioned here with the exception of the beaches are located in Old Town, so if you’re staying on the island, that’s the place to be. My hubby and I stayed on the Naval Base down there, which is right on the outskirts of Old Town, so we were able to walk almost everywhere with the exception of the beaches.
Speaking of walking, I am not sure it it was just me, but I found the street signs in Key West to be very confusing. First off, they are at the bottom of telephone poles and the name of the street faces the actual street, but in the dark – they are hard to see. So keep that in mind if you’re a bit tipsy at the end of the night.
Before I wrap this up, I wanted to mention one more thing. Christian and I flew into Miami, rented a car and drove down. There is a small international airport on Key West, but it’s small and the airline prices to fly into that airport as opposed to Miami were almost triple. Plus we wanted to drive down the Overseas Highway and check out the other Keys along the way. In case you’re wondering, it was about a three hour drive from Miami. If you do fly into Miami, I highly recommend a stop in Little Havana for some great Cuban food!
So, as you can see we did a lot in the time we were there. We had an amazing time in Key West and we can’t wait to go back.