- It takes 3 hours driving 45 mph (mostly) on a two-lane road to get there.
- Accommodation is extremely expensive - about 90% more than anywhere else we've paid to stay.
- The beach has less than ideal swimming conditions - extremely shallow and full of weeds.
- Kitschy tourist shops line the streets.
Is visiting Key West really worth it?
At first, I didn't think so. All of the factors above were neon signs flashing in my head. I didn't understand why it was such a big deal to be at the southernmost point in the U.S. (Actually, it is the southernmost contiguous point in the 48 states.)
Yet, just 24 hours later as we were driving out of town, I was lamenting that we were leaving another place that I had enjoyed so much.
Yes, Key West is worth the hype.
Let's be clear: Key West is not Miami Beach.
Miami Beach is fast-paced and overly focused on being beautiful. Key West is on island time and appearances take a back seat to experiences.
In Miami Beach, it's easy to work on your tan and go shopping for expensive name-brand purse to show off at the club while wearing skimpy cocktail dresses and 5 inch heals and drinking the latest trendy cocktail.
In Key West, it's also easy to work on your tan but it is just as easy to go snorkeling or fishing. You go shopping for sea shells or one-of-a-kind art pieces or t-shirts that say Mile Marker 0. At night, you go out to the bars wearing casual clothes while drinking fruity drinks with umbrellas and chatting about your adventure of the day.
September is an unusual time to visit Key West because many of the business have closed for the month due to low numbers of tourists. So, as we walked down Duval street looking for a place to eat, we stopped at several before finding one that was open.
It serves fish, vegetarian, and vegan dishes. It has a vegan and gluten-free desserts. Both Martin and I stared at the menu FOREVER and only then had our choices narrowed down to four each. Everything looked so good!
He ended up with the lasagne of the day - it had crab, ricotta, tomato sauce, noodles. Yum!
I had the stir fry special - soba noodles, baby corn, bok choy broccoli, and shrimp. The Japanese sauce was spicy and a little sour, just the way I like it.
We loved this place so much, we came back the next day to get a vegan key lime cheesecake for the road.
My favorite part of Key West and probably the part that won me over was the legacy of Ernest Hemingway, who lived there for 20 years.
Hemingway regularly frequented Sloppy Joe's and supposedly help give it it's name. We stopped in for a couple of drinks and listened to the live band before the dance music began. Martin fell in love with the Papa Doble, which we've been trying to re-create at home.
The Hemingway Home stole my heart. I love so many things about this place. It costs $13 to get in - totally worth it.
A beautiful home. A fascinating life filled with travel adventures and writing. A clowder (yes, that is the word for a group of cats) of polydactyl cats that are a decedents of Snowball, Hemingway's cat.
Plus our tour guide was awesome. Definitely take the tour.
|This was the room and the actual typewriter where Ernest Hemingway wrote 2/3rds of his life's work. |
While there are many things about Key West I didn't particularly enjoy, I would go back in a heartbeat to see the cats, drink at Sloppy Joe's and eat at The Cafe.
Oh, and when you go, be sure to stop by Robbie's in Lower Matecumbe Key to feed the tarpons. $1 per person to see the fish and $3 for a bucket of food to feed them. So entertaining!
Labels: Cats, Ernest, Hemingway, Key West, Miami, Polydactyl, Sloppy Joe's, Tarpons, The Cafe, Vegan, vegetarian