KEY WEST is the last island in the chain of islands in the Florida Keys. Both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico border Key West, lending to wonderful, soothing tropical breezes. Key West is actually located much closer to Caribbean islands than to mainland Florida! It’s the southernmost tip of land in the contiguous United States and the last and most exciting of the Florida Keys.
To get to Key West by car; from Miami, hop on US1 south and just keep driving! Key West is located 159 miles SW of Miami, and 90 miles north of Havana Cuba. Be sure to get your photo taken at the Southernmost Point Buoy to mark your adventure!
Take in the scenery as you travel down the Overseas Highway, known as US1, over the 43 bridges from Florida City to Key West. Don’t hurry or you’ll miss the quaint villages, marinas and restaurants as you meander your way to the Southernmost City.
Locations along the Overseas Highway are often referred to as Mile Markers. The mile marker (MM) system starts at MM 126 south of Miami at Florida City and ends with MM Zero at the corner Whitehead Street in Old Town Key West. Yet another great photo op!
THE CONCH REPUBLIC – Our Island is also known as The Conch Republic. 1982 the US Border Patrol placed a road block on US1 in Key Largo, for the purpose of catching drug traffic and illegal aliens. The traffic jams from the Keys built up to epic proportions and tourism dies off. The local townspeople came together and formed the nation of “The Conch Republic”, and seceded from the Union! The Conch Republic instantly surrendered to the United States and requested $1 Million in foreign Aid.
The publicity stunt was successful in ending the road blocks. The name “Conch Republic” was adopted as the official name of the short lived nation and being the Florida Keys, we have turned it into an annual week-long celebration held each April. The Conch Republic Flag still flies in the skies above the Keys and Conch Republic passports are also issued.
KEY WEST-OLD TOWN AND NEW TOWN
Old Town – Located on the western side of the island and known as the Historic District. Old Town is home to fabulous restaurants, museums, theaters, clubs, shopping, touring, beaches and of course “Sunset at Mallory Square”. Stroll down world famous Duval Street and savor a cocktail at Sloppy Joe’s, a favorite Hemmingway haunt. Get a bike or scooter rental and take a ride around the island and view the local architecture.
Key West is known as a quintessential setting for literature, arts and culture. Wander through specialty shops and galleries featuring creative art from both local and world famous artists. Local theaters include the Tennessee Williams Theatre, the Red Bard Theater and the Waterfront Theater all featuring local, national and world famous performers.
Walking Tours during the day will point out many interesting sites, monuments and homes and a Ghost Tour just after sunset will inform you about our some of our permanent eerie residents who refuse to leave their homes. While visiting the island, don’t forget about our off shore attractions which include fishing, diving, sailing, eco-friendly water trips or just sit on a sandbar with lunch or dinner on a sunset cruise.
New Town – Located on the eastern side of the island, has three shopping plazas: Searstown — hosting Sears and Publix; Key Plaza – home to K-Mart and Publix; and Overseas Market – with Winn-Dixie, Ross Dress for Less, and Pier One, along with many other local merchants and hotels. Many of the New Town hotels offer shuttle service to Old Town.
Due to the Gulf Stream in the Straits of Florida and the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Key West has a wonderful subtropical climate. The average temperature is 77.7 degrees and the average possible days of sunshine at 76% of the year. The average temperature range is summer’s 85-95° and winter’s 75-85°. Yearly average rainfall is 40 inches, though rainy days in Key West usually consist of downpours followed by sunshine. The rainy season lasts from June through November, which is also our hurricane season, where 75% of our rainfall occurs. One of the many reasons we call our island home Paradise!
SO, WHAT’S A CONCH?
The word “conch” (pronounced KONK) is symbolized by the beautiful conch shell of the Queen Conch found in the waters off the Keys. We speak of conch sea food, conch houses, conch talk, and conch fritters.
Conch also refers to a native of Key West, someone born on the island. An old conch may never have left the island of Key West. Some believe that the name originated with the migration of Bahamians to the Keys who were “conchs”; others think it came from the tradition of placing a conch shell on a stick in the yard to announce another birth had taken place on the island. No matter, a “conch is a conch” and only those born on the island are true conchs. New residents to the island are called Key Westers.