|Key West, Florida is the southernmost city in the continental United States,
located in Monroe County. The Caribbean feel of this sub-tropical island
has been a draw for those seeking an oasis that is close to home, yet feels
thousands of miles away.
Founded in 1822, Key West was established by a mix of English, Bahamian, Spanish and Cuban settlers. Its name was incorrectly translated from the Spanish Cayo Hueso or "Island of Bones". It was named this by Spanish explorers when they landed on the island and found it to be littered with the human bones of Calusa Indians and other travelers who met their demise at the hands of Neptune. The nickname "The Conch Republic", (after the seafood of the same name that is prevalent in the waters) was born on April 23 1982, when the U.S. Border Patrol blockaded the Keys with a "border". Mayor Dennis Wardlow seceded from the Union, declared war, then surrendered and demanded foreign aid. He jokingly referred to the uprising as "The People Who Seceded Where Others Failed." Key West is also sometimes referred to as "Margaritaville," a song made famous by singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett, a former resident.
The island has a population of approximately 28,000 year-round residents, and plays host to almost 1 million cruise ship visitors and countless others who make the trek by air and by auto. Situated only 90 miles north of Cuba, Key West boasts of a year-round tropical climate with an average annual temperature of 77 degrees that rarely varies more than 10 degrees in either direction. The rainfall averages only 39 inches per year. The tantalizing turquoise waters, the diversity of cultures & peoples and the laid-back ambiance combine with the spectacular climate to make Key West one of the United States' most popular vacation destinations.
If water activities are your cup of tea, then Key West is definitely your preferred destination. The only living coral barrier reef in existence in North America is located off the coast of The Keys. It stretches 200 miles and provides excellent snorkeling and diving, without the expense and time of traveling to a far-off Caribbean island. These are only two of the many activities available in Key West. Try a wave runner, dolphin tour, parasailing, kayaking, jet ski, sailing and more. Eco-tours are extremely popular. A boat trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park 70 miles west of the island makes for a fascinating day.
Ride the Conch Train around the island. Rent a bicycle or a motorized scooter and explore the island yourself. Stop and see the Key West Lighthouse. Spend the day at the shops and drinking establishments on and around Duval Street, in the heart of Old Town. Among the favorite shopping venues are Whitfield Jack Jewelry Genius, Birkenstock and the Nature Conservancy. Sloppy Joes, Hog's Breath Saloon and Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville Cafe are some of the fun and funky bars in the area. "Believe It Or Not" at the local Ripley's. Visit the Historic Seaport district. At the end of the day enjoy a romantic sunset cruise or revel in the Key West Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square while artisans, musicians, and street performers entertain you. Most of these activities and establishments are within walking distance of the port for the convenience of those visiting via cruise ship.
For those who wish to immerse themselves in the local history and culture, visit the historic Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum at 907 Whitehead Street. John James Audubon also made his mark here. See the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens at 205 Whitehead Street. There are several art galleries, three performing arts theaters, a symphony, and an annual literary seminar to enjoy.
A more romantic place you surely cannot find, so why not make your wedding plans in Key West? There are many wedding resources available online. Visit the Key West Chamber of Commerce site at http://www.keywestchamber.org/ for all rules and regulations. Many romantic inns are waiting for you and your loved one.
Accommodations vary in price and luxury. They range from privately owned bed and breakfasts such as The Southernmost House in the USA, Angelina Guest House and the Key West Bed and Breakfast, to well known hotels like Comfort Inn, Best Western, Travelodge and Radisson. Prices are higher during "Season" (November through April) and during special events like Fantasy Fest in October. If you are planning on attending Fantasy Fest, book early as this Key West version of Mardi Gras draws some 50,000 people to the area.
Whatever your desire, Key West has something for you!
Clerk of the Circuit Court
Jean M Mazza