Key West

Destination Location

  • 24.550727, -81.774223:primary
  • 24.556111, -81.759:secondary

Overview

Sunny days await you in Key West. Nestled in Monroe County, Florida, this city is at the southernmost point of the United States, making it closer to Cuba than any other city in the U.S. This gives Key West a unique fusion between American and Cuban influences, ready to be discovered.

Key West offers visitors long, bright sunny days with very little rain. With some of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see, it’s no wonder it’s been home to Tennessee Williams, Jimmy Buffett and Calvin Klein. Get a feel for its relaxed vibe and friendly people in the city’s eclectic shops and quaint cafes.

Visitors can expect to see a little of everything in Key West. Take a stroll through Duval Street where dining and local entertainment are walking distance from one another. Made famous by the Village People’s song Key West, “take a walk down Duval Street, you’ll never know who you’ll meet,” this popular street is home to legendary Sloppy Joe’s. Founded in 1933, it got its name from its most famous patron, Ernest Hemingway, who encouraged the owner to choose the name because of all the melted ice on the floors due to the heat. Today, it’s the site of the annual Ernest Hemingway look-alike contest and has become the area’s most popular tourist attraction.

If you’re looking to better understand the beauty that surrounds you, visit the Key West Botanical Forest and Garden, a frost-free arboretum, or Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden, a one-acre garden of lush, green rainforest. Kids will love the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory which features a 5,000-square-foot tropical butterfly habitat.

Calling all artists! The Studios of Key West, with its home in the island's historic Armory building, is ready to harness your creativity. With a dozen working studio spaces, a main exhibition hall, a sculpture garden and several adjoining residences and cottages, it hosts an extensive series of creative workshops, free humanities lectures and new ideas for artists and audiences.

Whenever you choose to go, prepare to be embraced by the area’s casual, laid-back lifestyle.

WestJet is pleased to offer service to this destination through our code-share agreement with our great airline partners.

Destination basics

Don’t forget the sunscreen! With warm and sunny weather year round, it’s always a good time to visit this island gem. Visitors in the summer months will experience warmer temperatures at around 31 C (88 F), with humidity making things a little warmer. Summer also brings a small amount of rain, usually short bursts in the early morning or evening. These showers usually last only a short time and are a nice break from the heat. Do not let the chance of rain change your plans for the day. We recommend bringing along an umbrella or a light rain coat. Winter brings drier months with far less precipitation and cooler temperatures. But don’t be fooled, with average highs of 24 C (76 F) in December and January, you’ll still be sporting the Bermuda shorts you brought from home. With fall also comes the hurricane season. In the past, high winds and rain are the result of active storms that have formed over the ocean. In anticipation of such storms, mandatory evacuations have occurred in the past. It’s a good idea to check the weather prior to departure if travelling to the area in between June and November.

 

Weather chart

 

Seafood is king, queen and courtier here in the Keys, and no wonder. Fat lobsters, succulent clams, hefty tuna, shrimp, bass, grouper, pompano, swordfish, and of course conch are all fresh and delicious. Conch has been a long-standing resident of the toasty waters around these islands.

Key West
Key West is known for its amazing seafood and there are great restaurant all around the city. A & B Lobster House naturally serves some of the best lobster around. If you want oyster head to Alonzo's Oyster Bar. The trendy Nicola Seafood has a wide selection of seafood and a romantic atmosphere.

Chefs from Europe added some intriguing touches to it all and, voila, such award-winning restaurants as Louie's Backyard.

Cuban cigar makers who settled here generations ago and whose descendants remain brought their distinctive cuisine with them: picadillo, ground beef and raisins; thick, strong cubano coffee; and sweet, fried banana-like plantains. Bahamians, who have created a colorful Bahamian village right in the middle of Key West, brought their akee fish and rice, their rum and their pigeon peas. Try the flavors at Blue Heaven

If you an aficionado of Ernest Hemingway, a stop at Captain Tony's Saloon and Sloppy Joe's is required. Ernest Hemingway was said to frequent these bars.

Key Largo
Besides well-known restaurants scattered throughout the Keys, perhaps the most fun is stopping into some rustic little find and discovering a memorable meal you'll be discussing for many a day to come. Flamingo Seafood Bar and Grill is not well known, but services a delicious catch of the day. Gus' Grill is another laid back restaurant that serves seafood. For a party-friendly atmosphere the Alabama Jack's is the place to go.

Islamorada
You can taste the freshness of the seafood at Marker 88. For a romantic dinner the Atlantic's Edge provides views of the ocean and a candlelight meal.

Bahia Honda and the Lower Keys
The Dining Room is an elegant restaurant where you can dine on seafood. In the Lower Keys, you can find some well-known watering holes such as the rustic ambiance of No Name Pub.

Key West is on the silvery ribbon of islands that trail off the southern shore of Florida. Thanks to the ever present warm temperatures and glistening seas, the islands have long been an escapist's nirvana. Eclectic and eccentric, wild and warm, blessed with some of Florida's most colorful characters and equally blessed with some of its most spectacular sea scenery, the Keys are a wonderland paradise.

Key West
Key West is a rather small island that is about 4 miles long and 2 miles wide. Whether you want to relax on the beach or spend the day shopping, Key West has plenty to offer.

Duval Street is the center of Key West life, with many hotels, guest houses, inns and bed & breakfasts, plus dozens of shops and restaurants, nestled into its tropical ambiance. If you get thirsty stop in for a cocktail and a snack at Duval Beach Club.

The Historic Seaport is the perfect place to walk down Harborwalk and enjoy the ocean along with shops and restaurants. Watch the free daily turtle feedings at Turtle Kraals Museum. Then stop for a bite to eat at Conch Republic Seafood Company or Half Shell Raw Bar.

If you get tired of the beach head to Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory where you can observe about 60 species of butterflies. You should also go to Key West Aquarium where you can learn more about sea life. The aquarium is the perfect place to take the kids since there are interactive exhibits where you can touch marine creatures.

Key Largo
Key Largo is a larger island and is occasionally called the "Diving Capital of the World” since the coral reefs attract so many divers. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a protected park where you can view coral reefs and colorful sea life. The state park also offers an aquarium, museum, camping, snorkeling, diving, and boating.

Pennekamp Park is a treasure trove of local flora including wild orchids, gumbo limbo, wild cotton, strangler fig, tamarind trees, wild coffee, and mahogany trees. If you want to see endangered animals go to Key Largo Hammocks State Botanical Site where the mangrove trees grow a “hammock” which is basically a small island that attracts animals.

Islamorada
Billed as the 'Sportfishing Capital of the World', Islamorada's waters are home to the conch, alligator and Pickles Reefs, with a vast array of marine life. It's a destination for scuba divers and snorkelers. A scuttled ship, sunk on purpose is a great diving spot.

Those interested in Keys' geology can look at Windley Key Fossil Reef State Geologic Site, a reef that's no longer underwater. You can take a boat ride and get a historic exploration at Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Site, a virgin hardwood forest, and Indian Key State Historic Site, once the Miami area's county seat! Both are accessible on ferry trips.

You can feed tarpon off the docks at Robbie's Marina or swim with dolphins, manta rays and sea lions at Theater of the Seas.

Marathon and the Middle Keys
Some of the residents can trace their history to early 1800s settlements. Bahamians raised tropical fruit for a living; New England fishermen searched the sea for its bounty; and in 1908, Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway reached Key Vaca, where the village of Marathon grew as headquarters for the railroad's final push to Key West.

Here your adventure can include a swim with dolphins, an iguana introduction, a visit to a hardwood hammock or rain forest, or a loll on sandy beaches. Roaring jet skis and other water sports are available. Fishing is great on the reefs, the flats or in the deep.

For a close look at a sea turtle, visit the hospital that treats injured turtles. To learn something about early Indian settlements, visit the Museums of Crane Point, which encompass the Museum of Natural History of the Florida Keys and the Florida Keys Children's Museum.

Bahia Honda and the Lower Keys
Big Pine Key is the center of life in the Lower Keys. Looe Key Reef off Big Pine Key is one of the Keys' top diving spots and one of the best reefs for diving in the world. In July each year, the Sanctuary sponsors a popular music festival promoting the preservation of the Keys' coral reefs.

So popular is Bahia Honda State Park that campers reserve space months in advance to ensure a place in this waterfront paradise with its pristine beaches and warm waters.

From the top of the Keys at Key Largo through Marathon, Islamorada, Big Pine Key and into Key West, the diversions are as diverse as those who seek them. Pet a shark, sit in the sun, roar across the waters, visit mangrove swamps, swim in the ocean, swim with a dolphin, drink like a fish, eat like a trencherman, visit old churches, scuba dive, shop 'til you drop, revel in resort amenities, or romance by candlelight.

Outdoor Activities
Whether you choose to tour on a glass-bottomed boat or snorkel or scuba tank, an underwater world of amazing beauty awaits in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, one of the best diving sites in the world and home to 78 square miles of coral reefs. Hiking trails and a visitor's center with a floor-to-ceiling aquarium are among the other diversions of this not-to-be-missed park.

At the Theater of the Seas, you can swim with dolphins, sea lions or stingrays or become a trainer for a day, putting creatures of the sea through their paces. In the Middle Keys, the Dolphin Research Center offers another opportunity for swimming with dolphins.

At the Windley Key Fossil Reef State Geologic Site on Windley Key, you can see what a coral reef looks like when it's left high and dry, and visit middens left behind by the earliest Native American residents of the keys, who clearly knew a good thing when they saw it. Looe Key Reef is home to a beautiful coral reef, and Bahia Honda State Park offers sand dunes, waters as clear as a teardrop, and views that go on forever.

For an offshore adventure, explore Indian Key State Historic Site, ferrying over on the twice-daily ferry or paddling your own canoe—well, kayak—to the island, where you will learn of murder and mayhem on this 10.5-acre islet. Or try a visit to the 280-acre Lignumvitae Key State Botanical Site, a hardwood forest that was the home and gardens of a millionaire who put it all together in 1919 in such style that the site is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Museums
The Keys has a long and fascinating history and you can learn more about it at the many museums scattered amongst the islands. The Custom House Museum provides a detailed history of Key West's history. Fort East Martello Museum and Gallery is dedicated to Key West historical artifacts. The museum also has exhibits dealing with the daily life for earlier Key West inhabitants.

If you would like to know about specific portions of the island history, then Key West Shipwreck Historeum is the place to go. At the museum, you learn about how some islanders would dive for shipwrecked goods. Learn about the ill-fated Henry Flagler's railroad at Flagler Station Over-Sea Railway Historeum

Theaters
If you would like to enjoy the theater while in the Keys you have plenty of options. The historical Waterfront Playhouse has a modest theater and shows quirky and well-known productions, including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Best Man. Another small theater that produces professional productions is Red Barn Theater. If you are in Marathon, the Marathon Community Theater produces small productions featuring local talent.

Festivals & Street Fairs
Depending on when you go to Key West, there are annual festivals and fairs that shouldn't be missed. The German Oktoberfest has reached Sumerland Key that holds a parade, live music and of course plenty to drink and eat. If you come in December enjoy the beautiful and often humorous Key West Lighted Boat Parade. Key West in transformed into a pirates heaven for a day during Pirates In Paradise. In July the Hemingway Days Festival can't be beat.

One of the best annual events is the Conch Republic Independence Celebration. The festival is a ten day celebration of when the Florida Keys briefly seceded from the United States. The United States Border Patrol was treating the Keys unfairly and in protest the Keys seceded and humorously declared “war.” After a minute and without any prompting the Keys surrendered and jokingly asked for foreign aid. The festival celebrates how the Border Patrol stopped the unfair treatment and the celebration features drag races, music concerts, a parade, and a “battle” against the US Border Patrol.

Key West

State:Florida

Country: United States

Key West by the Numbers
Population: 25,500
Elevation: 25 feet / 8 meters
Average Annual Precipitation:  40 inches / 102 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 69°F / 21°C
Average July Temperature: 85°F / 29°C

Quick Facts

Electricity: 110 volts, 60Hz, standard two pin plugs

Time Zone: GMT-5; Eastern Standard Time (EST) 

Country Dialing Code: 1

Area Code: 305

Did You Know?

Key West has feral chickens roaming around the island. Make sure you take a few pictures of these "local" birds!

On April 23, 1982, Key West "seceded" the United States and became the Conch Republic which "declared war" on the USA before quickly surrendering within a minute and asked for foreign aid. This satire-style protest was a way for the city to fight against increased roadblocks as well as search and seizures, since the protestors claimed that if Key West was being treated like a border station then they might as well be a different country. After this humorous protest the roadblocks were removed and Key West never truly seceded. Today, this unique protest is celebrated annually. 

Orientation 

Key West is the southernmost city in Florida and is part of the Florida Keys archipelago. It is about 160 miles (257 kilometers) from Miami, FL and only 90 miles (140 kilometers) from Cuba.

Calusa Indians and other tribes found their way to these islands, recognizing them as hunting grounds, both on land and in the warm seas where shellfish, turtles and marine life of all kinds thrive. Generations later, the Spaniards, who discovered and settled most of the Florida, arrived. Most notable was adventurer Ponce de Leon, who first set eyes on the Keys on May 15, 1513. He and his sailors dubbed the islands Los Martires, the martyrs, in salute to the rocks that, from a distance, looked like suffering men.

In 1820, the island was bought from the Spanish for $2,000, quite a substantial sum in those days, and the purchaser was John Simonton, an Alabama businessman, whose name and descendants live on here and remain a powerful influence in the area.

With a long history of looting and pillaging outlaws, pirates were eventually driven out and the island's mixed population of English Bahamians, Southerners and transplanted northerners rose to 2,700, many of them happily engaged salvaging the cargoes of wreaked ships.

In the 1850s, however, a lighthouse was built, putting a bit of a damper on the wrecking business, and the town's industry began to change. A devastating fire destroyed the town in 1859. However, about the same time, cigar makers, fleeing war in Cuba, arrived in Key West, where they established a thriving industry. Key West's port was a hot spot, too, and by the 1880s, the city was said to be the wealthiest in the nation.

In the 1800s and 1900s, farmers found success raising pineapples on large plantations that spread across the Upper Keys. Sugarloaf, a kind of pineapple, is now the name of one Key and another is named Plantation Key. A canning plant in Key West provided pineapples to most of eastern North America in the early 1900s.

Some oranges and grapefruit were, and still are, grown, along with the exotic tamarind and breadfruit. But it was the tiny, yellow key lime that was to capture the attention of growers and become an icon of the keys.

Fishing has been a mainstay of Keys success from the earliest Indian inhabitants to today's charter and shrimp boats, the later still netting the little crustaceans so successfully that shrimp are known here as "pink gold."

As the centuries rolled by, railroad entrepreneur Henry Morrison Flagler heard about this place, figured it would have allure for winter-weary Northern travelers, and that it would make a good jumping-off place linking his Florida East Coast railroad to ships sailing to Cuba. In 1912, his Railroad that Went to Sea steamed into Key West on tracks that hopped from island to island, passing over the shallow seas. If you would like to learn more visit Flagler Station Over-sea Railway Historeum.

But then decline set in. Cigar makers departed for Tampa; the sponge industry declined. Enterprising entrepreneurs took a look at the possibilities of tourism and got things under way, but a disastrous hurricane in 1935 blew away the railroad and killed hundreds. While the railroad dubbed 'Flagler's Folly' did not survive, the roadbed on which it was set did, and went on to become the Overseas Highway—the Highway that Goes to Sea. This two-lane roadway streaks across more than 100 miles from Miami to Key West, and has become to Keys tourism what peanut butter is to jelly.

Although dampened by World War II, tourism took off in the Keys after the war and has never looked back, thriving beyond the wildest dreams of those early Conchs. Conchs (pronounced 'konks'), by the way, is a reference to the big, pink-lined shells that you put to your ear to hear the ocean's roar. Islanders born here are the only ones who can really call themselves conchs, but those who have lived here more than seven years qualify to be called 'freshwater conchs', and those who visit often enough can earn the name visitor, replacing tourist. Now there's a reason to stay a while!

Points of interest in Key West

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