I was recently eating lunch at the Elm Hill Marina (Nashville, TN) looking out over the water watching the boats bob up and down, I couldn't help looking back to a vacation gone by, thinking back on the docks of the A&B Lobster House in Key West Fla. absorbing the thought of being completely satisfied and untroubled, I didn't have a care in the world all of the while soaking up the astounding beauty of the Key West sunset. If you have ever heard the saying "island time" but never bought into the meaning, just wait until you're following the flock of people (locals & tourists alike) slowly making their way towards Mallory Square to witness the Key West sunset celebration a nightly festival that brings just about everyone together on the island to watch the glowing orange, pink & red sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico horizon. "See you at Sunset!" This iconic phrase has embodied the spirit of Key West since the event began in the late 1960s! Beginning two hours before sunset, the celebration and views are sure to captivate the masses with local musicians, artists and food vendors coming together for an incredible cultural experience
Taking the drive down US-1, which is also known as the Overseas Highway south of Florida City to the Keys is a narrow, two lane highway and is the only main road connecting the Keys to the mainland. Although some would find the long straight drive from Miami to Key West to be miserable and would discourage such a thing, many have planned their complete vacations around this drive. Starting at mile marker 127, just south of the Florida mainland, patiently work your way down to mile marker 0 Key West. I would recommend at least 3 days, taking time to explore the distinct towns and islands along the way. Several regional airlines, including American Eagle & US Airways Express offer daily nonstop flights from Miami to Key West International Airport. Their is something special & exciting about boarding an island hopper in Miami and dropping into the Keys with the beauty of the islands and mangroves below.
If you're coming to Key West for the beach maybe you better reconsider your travel plans. The island is a deep-water port , which is great for docking your yacht, if you have one? However Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is the site of a nice little beach with a few spots for snorkeling and fishing. The fort also includes nice nature trails, concessions, a café serving the finest island cuisine and if you're a history buff don't forget to tour the fort.
I found it is much easier on the wallet to stay on the eastern side of the island in a resort hotel close to Key West International Airport on Roosevelt blvd. (free shuttles run from the airport to resorts all day). However this can be harder on you if you have to pay for parking or a taxi every time you take the three mile ride into Old town, but there are many options to help avoid this dilemma. It is easy to take in Key West on a moped rental, learning the Key West streets you'll soon find yourself as I did, taking side streets and alleys to avoid traffic. This is also a good way to find the "laid back" Key West that still exists only in the backyards of popular guesthouses or a secret garden. Due to the narrow streets and congested traffic areas, this option can be risky, especially since there are no helmet laws in Key West. There are hundreds of serious accidents each year, so do your homework and be sure that a helmet is included in your rental agreement. Their are plenty of other budget friendly rental options to consider including electric cars & bicycle rentals.
Key West's nightlife starts on Duval Street, known by some as the "Bourbon Street of Florida" you'll find bar after bar serving stiff drinks and live bands to patrons who bounce from one to another. Cover charges are unheard of, so start at Truman Ave. and head up Duval to check them out for yourself.
Key West is a two part island. part small-town America, part tropical island, Key West life is uninhibited but still feels quaint, with proud local residents who protect their culture from the visiting tourists. Ironically, the island's quirky personality is what attracts the tourists to the island. Living like a local in Key West requires a live and let live attitude that has graced the "Conch Republic" with a world renowned personality that is appealing for all types of travelers.