Image Credit: Canva | felixmizioznikov
When I arrived at Key West for a day trip, the first thing I exclaimed was “This is a true paradise!” I have never seen anything like it: pristine, snow-white, soft sand, baby blue calm water (without a trace of intense waves), tall, bushy palm trees proudly standing by the shore as its guards on duty, providing plenty of shade for the sometimes unbearably hot sun.
You can get to Key West by any known means of transportation: car, bus, motorcycle, boat, ferry, and plane. If you are visiting Miami as well, it will take you about 4 hours to get there by car from Downtown Miami, which is still not that bad travel-wise. The fastest option is the plane, of course: it will take you about 40 minutes to land at this paradise location. My friend and I didn’t want to drive around in an unknown location and wanted to enjoy our vacation time, therefore we chose to book a bus tour instead from the hotel we were staying at.
I wanted to move here so bad right from the moment I saw this picturesque beach, I was truly out of breath. This was love from first sight. And I happily declared it by jumping headfirst into the invitingly warm waters. But one thing I realized I needed right then: a pair of water shoes.
Because the beaches at Key West are rocky, you will need a pair to keep your feet from getting scratched or even seriously injured. And the shore gets pretty hot between the hours of 12 and 3 pm, right at the time of the solstice. Therefore, you will need to have some kind of barrier between your feet and sand, sometimes getting as hot as coals!
But even if your soles get a little scraped, it is worth it! You will be instantly relaxed, as Key West offers the solitude, and serenity a lot of vacationers are looking for (especially nowadays during the pandemic, you want to avoid the crowds at all cost). It has that all-around Caribbean vibe, which will make you feel like you are on the other side of the world. And practically speaking, you are: this is as far South as you can go!
The Southernmost point of the USA: Far and Away
Yes, you heard it right! When you are in Key West, you can visit the Southernmost tip of the United States, and there’s a marker that indicates that: a 13-feet buoy that confirms this information for tourists’ awareness. On intricate detail about it: it is only 90 miles from the island of Cuba! Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see it from this location (even if you used an ultramodern telescope) as it is still pretty far away. Some locals claim they can see the night lights of Havana sometimes, but this is nothing but a legend, it was never proven.
You can get to this attraction by bus, by car or by boat, whichever your preferred method of transportation that day will be as it is quite far from other island’s sights you would want to explore later.
For all the beach lovers out there (including the author herself), you will get a kick out of the conch seashell stand that is right there by the buoy. You can choose some you liked and purchase them from the locals for a reasonable price. Another beach lover’s delight is a lighthouse landmark within 7-minute walking distance from the Southernmost tip.
Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters: the Stories of Courage
The Key West Lighthouse is one of the oldest in Florida, serving the fishermen since the 19th century and helping them maneuver amongst the very dangerous reefs as well as see their path during storms. Any tourist can climb up the stairs inside the lighthouse and get to the very top for a magnificent view. You might be astonished by an interesting fact: one of its first keepers was a woman, which was practically unheard of in the 19th century! Her name was Barbara Mabrity and she was the wife of the first keeper to be appointed to watch over the lighthouse.
There is a museum inside as well, which gets you acquainted with the lighthouse’s history, the keepers’ personal stories, and their efforts to keep it working even at times of hazard (like massive storms and war). You can take a look at their belongings, some old photos of the structure, and other relics to help visitors understand what a keeper’s job was about, and how dependent on them sailors in the open sea were. And what comes to mind when you think about fishermen and the sea? Yep, you guessed it: “The Old Man and the Sea,” written by one of the most renowned American authors: Ernest Hemingway. Let’s go visit his former residence in the Key West where he enjoyed living and creating new stories.
Ernest Hemingway: The Man and His Sea
A vintage-looking desk, an old typewriter, a baroque-style comfy couch, and plenty of cats roaming around: this is Hemingway’s world. His home in Key West is where he let his creative mind flow and his ability to give so much power to a spoken word fascinates. The Nobel Prize winner truly enjoyed living in the tropical paradise, and that’s where he was inspired to write some of his works as “The Farewell to Arms,” “To Have and Have Not,” “Green Hills of Africa,” and many other famous novels.
The story of cats started when a friend (a ship captain at that time) presented him with one. And that feline six-toed creature was the ancestor to pretty much all the cats on the island( since it is so small, there are not many cats inhibiting it, therefore it is believed that they must be all related).
An amazing sight to see by itself is an inground pool right there on the premises: it was built while Hemingway was working as a correspondent in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and his wife had to oversee the construction. It was completed and used by the Hemingways for the years to come.
Today the home is used as a museum and an event venue, like weddings, showers, and even birthday parties. Book ahead, as spots fill quickly!
Key West is a truly magical island with its island flare. This is as far South as you can go, so if you are a true beach buff-look no further! Let yourself go and truly enjoy your vacation time, and don’t forget to take plenty of pictures while frolicking in the water. You will never forget this tropical paradise that Hemingway fell in love with. I did too and hope you will feel the same way!
Enjoy your trip!