Wednesday, December 11, 2013

About Key West

Key West is both a place and a state of mind.  It lies about as far away as you can go in this USA, almost part of the tropics, some four hours and 150 miles south and west of Miami.  You cross a lot of bridges and spectacular blue and green water to get there, and when you get there you’re only 90 miles from Cuba. Cruise ships consider a stop at Key West part of their Caribbean itineraries!
It’s not a big place, and it is a place where real people live.  It has a year-round population of just over 26,000 and a median resident age of 39 years. Key West also includes the neighboring communities of Stock Island, where a lot of the remaining commercial fishing is based, and which used to be where Key West’s supplies were “stocked” in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and Key Haven, with wide canals and lots of pleasure boats.
Key West has been described in about a zillion travel guides and Web sites and the name used in countless movies as the place people want to finally get away to.  Having lived in Cudjoe Key (23 miles away) and selling real Estate in Key West, I have a good feel for the place.
The best way to describe Key West, is a vacation place. Meaning whenever you’re there, the ambience and atmosphere catches you up in it and you could well be somewhere in the Bahamas or the Caribbean.
Key West is also a state of mind.  You can watch sunsets from Mallory Square on the harbor, or from the bars and restaurants on the boat basins. You can shop or whatever on famous Duval Street.  Since nobody knows how to throw a party like Key West does, you can join in at Fantasy Fest (think Mardi Gras) at the end of October, and see for yourself.  This is, after all, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville.  Whatever you imagine about Key West is probably true.
Or you can enjoy the reality of Key West’s other state of mind too – its wonderful diversity, history, and creativity.  Lots of writers, artists, artisans, and musicians have always called this state of mind/special place home, from Hemingway to the present day.   
There are also plenty of areas in Key West where the locals go besides Duval Street and the sunset bars.  In fact when you get off of Duval, you will find restaurants, art galleries, grocery stores and antique shops in the neighborhoods, and tree-lined little streets with lots of tropical foliage where people live.
So although you’re in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, the neighborhoods here are quiet, lined with historical architecture and have a very comfy feel.  And the historic district is very compact. You can walk everywhere. 

Dining Out

These areas outside of Duval, in my opinion with the exception of the Atlantic side of Duval are where the good restaurants are. Places like Louie’s Backyard,  Blue Heaven, and Michaels to name a few are popular with the locals and the tourists who have visited here many times and have found them.  My neighbor on Cudjoe Key, a longtime Florida and Keys resident, says to add Café Sole, Mangia Mangia, and Antonia’s to that list.  (Café Sole is right across a quiet little street from what just might be the best Haitian art gallery in America.)  Well, truth is, everybody’s got their favorites when it comes to restaurants and the hidden gems you can find here.  Part of the fun is walking around and discovering them.

Outdoors Recreation

Key West has all kinds of options when it comes to playing outside: diving and fishing, sailing, lying on the beach, biking and visiting historical sites.  And you can go for boatrides on the harbor, ranging from sunset sailing schooners to fast speedboats that spin in circles.
Boats and rides tend leave from the harbor area or the boat basin(s), but there’s a number of other options too.


Key West international airport offers flights to Florida cities like Miami, Ft Lauderdale and Orlando.  From there you can fly anywhere in the world.
There is a “flying boat” ferry connecting to Ft Myers (takes a few hours), and of course Cruise ships stop here as a layover point or destination.  There is no train from or to points north.
The balance of travel back to mainland Florida is by automobile or bus on US1, known as the Overseas Highway.
You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced rush hour in Key West – some people swear there is no such thing.  Not much, anyway.
Finally, within Key West there is little need for anything more than your own two feet.  But you can drive, and there’s decent parking on the periphery of downtown.  There are also some buses, and taxis, of both the four-wheeled and two-legged variety!  Every once in a while somebody comes up with the idea of using boat taxis to get from Point A to Point B, but this isn’t reliable.


Homes in Key west are expensive – less expensive in Stock Island and very expensive in Key Haven. As of Sept 2005, homes in Key West started at $385,000 but much higher prices are commonplace.  Some of the tiny historic-type homes carry price tags that surprise people, but then you have to remember that it’s a small island in high demand, and there’s not a lot of inventory. 
There’s much more inventory when it comes to condominiums, but even condos are getting very pricy.  Timeshares, allowing week-at-a-time purchases, have become more common too.
                           *       *       *       *       *
In conclusion, several visits to the Keys and in particular Key West made me sell my business in Oregon and move to the Keys. It is an adventure and personally, I made a decision that I wanted to be one of the people who went on vacation and didn’t leave. For more info about Key West Contact Sean Farrer at

No comments: