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MC Travel Special | A weekend in Key West, Florida

Visit Ernest Hemingway's home, drive down Seven Mile Bridge that connects some of the popular islands, and other unforgettable experiences along the Florida Keys.

August 06, 2022 / 06:22 PM IST
The Florida Keys are an archipelago off the state’s coast and the drive from Miami to Key West is paved with alluring sights and experiences. (Photo courtesy Rahul Jagtiani)

The Florida Keys are an archipelago off the state’s coast and the drive from Miami to Key West is paved with alluring sights and experiences. (Photo courtesy Rahul Jagtiani)

A mere four-hour drive south of Miami lies Key West, Florida’s quirky island paradise. The southernmost point in continental US, the island is well known for its famed coral reefs, world-class watersports, vibrant nightlife and historical sites, as well as its location as a strategic base for the American military, just 90 miles north of Cuba. One can get there by flying directly into Key West International Airport or opt for the scenic drive on the Overseas Highway. An ideal weekend getaway, here are a few tips to get around Key West.

ENROUTE

The Florida Keys are an archipelago off the state’s coast and the drive from Miami to Key West is paved with alluring sights and experiences. It is worth taking the time to explore these rather than rushing through directly.

Bahia Honda State Park is renowned for its gorgeous beaches and turquoise waters and is an ideal stop to observe a diverse ecosystem of plants, birds and animals.

Robbie’s of Islamorada is the perfect spot to grab a quick snack and a drink, and feed tarpons while soaking in the stunning views from the deck.

Close

The Seven Mile Bridge connects some of the popular islands along the Florida Keys and offers a perfectly Instagrammable spot with unparalleled views of the ocean all around.

EAT

Key West’s proximity to Cuba ensures the country’s cuisine influences its culinary DNA and El Meson De Pepe, located in a historic building, serves up an authentic fare with roast pork, roja vieja and plantains. Wash it down with one of their signature mojitos, a Cuban cocktail made with mint, lime and rum.

Bagatelle, located on Duval Street, is a popular brunch spot and stands out for its breakfast hangover happy hour. Their American-Caribbean dinner menu, along with an extensive wine list, is equally revered by the hip evening crowd.

For seafood lovers, Conch Republic Seafood Company and Turtle Kraals overlooking the seaport and marina offer a laid-back vibe.

Key lime pies are a specialty in this region and Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe remains one of the original destinations for this uniquely tangy dessert.

(Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin via Wikimedia Commons 2.0) (Photo: Sharon Hahn Darlin via Wikimedia Commons 2.0)

DRINK

Sunset Pier features a relaxed setting with a colourful array of umbrellas, along with delightful cocktails, live music, and the best seat in the house overlooking the Key West Harbour.

The hard to miss Sloppy Joe's at the intersection of Duval St and Green St is always busy with crowds flocking to it for a night of revelry.

A few steps away is Ricks, a much sought-after nightspot with a dance club and a section for live music.

Smallest Bar In Key West is a quaint watering hole about the size of a jail cell, and is decidedly high on the list for every pub crawler.

SEE

The quickest way to get a feel of the island is to hop on the Conch Tour Train where experienced guides share stories on the top attractions on the island.

Literature lovers will fancy a tour of The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, where the celebrated American author spent over a decade. The house is filled with Hemingway memorabilia such as photos, books, furniture and close to sixty polydactyl (six toed) cats!

One of the most visited and photographed attractions in the United States is The Southernmost Point Buoy, an anchored concrete buoy at the lowest latitude of land in continental US which has withstood several hurricanes.

The Key West Shipwreck Museum is a re-creation of a 19th century warehouse built by wrecker tycoon Asa Tift. Trained actors use actual artefacts to tell the story of 400 years of shipwreck salvage in the Florida Keys.

Key West’s natives include sharks, turtles, jellyfish and stingrays, and the Key West Aquarium remains the island’s oldest tourist attraction, especially for those travelling with families.

Sloppy Joe's Bar, a favourite haunt of author Ernest Hemingway. (Photo courtesy Rahul Jagtiani) Sloppy Joe's Bar, at the intersection of Duval St and Green St. (Photo courtesy Rahul Jagtiani)

DO

America’s only living coral reef is just six miles off the south shore of Key West and the surrounding waters are ideal for snorkelling, scuba diving and jet-skiing. Numerous water sport companies such as Fury Water Adventures and Sunset Watersports offer daily tours and rentals for these exciting aqua activities.

For a panoramic view of the island, explore a tandem parasail with Sebago Watersports. The less adventurous can opt for astonishing sunset views aboard a cruise, with a glass of champagne in hand, and a chef’s selection of hors d’oeuvres.

Ocean Key Resort & Spa (Photo courtesy Rahul Jagtiani) Ocean Key Resort & Spa (Photo courtesy Rahul Jagtiani)

STAY

Ocean Key Resort & Spa is a gorgeous waterfront property. It’s elegant décor with a tropical island touch, along with its lively location, just minutes away from all the action on Duval Street, give it a definite edge.

For a quieter option, choose Marquesa Hotel, a charming boutique property nestled in a historic neighbourhood in Old Town Key West, yet close to Duval Street. The cosy bed and breakfast vibe here attracts a sophisticated crowd, especially famous authors who visit Key West to attend its annual literary seminar.
Rahul Jagtiani is an entrepreneur, travel show host and a columnist. Views expressed are personal.
first published: Aug 6, 2022 06:18 pm
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