"I'd rather be in Key West"
I've been to a few places in Florida: Orlando, Destin, Fort Lauderdale, Miami - to name a few... but none of them quite compare to Key West, because Key West doesn't feel like Florida. It almost feels like you're in a different country completely...and it's only 90 miles from Cuba, so it's almost as if you could be. This was our third trip to Key West, and I still find it captivating every single time!
The history, the beautiful houses (literally every single house is so pretty / has the potential to be), the cool breeze, the tropical flowers and trees decorating the sides of houses, sidewalks and all of the fences... Take. me. back. ASAP. Here are a few things we did on the island this time around 🙂
Ernest Hemingway House
Have you read any of Hemingway's books? I guess I should have by now, but I honestly don't think I have! I've definitely heard of a lot of them, just never read them - although I have seen the movie "In Love and War" (with Sandra Bullock) which is based on his book A Farewell to Arms... based on his own war-time duty.
Anyway, seeing his house and learning more about his life was super interesting! Especially if you like history as I do. And does anyone else think that Hemingway and George Clooney might be related? They look so much alike!
Hemingway bought the property for $8,000 in 1931, renovated the place and lived in the house from 1931-1940, when he decided to move to Cuba with his mistress and journalist Martha Gellhorn...man did he have an interesting life. From war-time to four wives, to his writing and living in Paris, Key West and Cuba.
The guy seemed pretty restless. He would eventually win the Nobel Prize in Literature to which he responded with this: "Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer's loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day."
His Key West home is quaint, and descendants of his six-toed cats roam the grounds of what is still the largest residential property in Key West. I think it's worth seeing - I love a glimpse into a different time. You can find out more about The Hemingway Home here.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is my favorite spot to enjoy the beach in Key West! It's got a really pretty stretch of beach with snorkeling not far from the shore and shady areas just behind the beach with picnic tables, grills and trees all around - the perfect place to hang a hammock and grill some burgers. If you get antsy you can walk over to the historic Fort Taylor and get a narrated tour every day at 11am, see civil war cannons and enjoy the nature walk around the fort. Then grab some food and drinks at the Cayo Hueso Cafe back toward the beach and get back to tanning and snorkeling. And if you stay long enough, you'll have a great view of sunset and the many sunset sailboats passing by. Learn more about Fort Zachary Taylor State Park here.
Fury Key West
This was our first time doing an excursion like this in Key West and I was so glad that we chose this Sunset Sail with Fury Key West! This was a fun little date excursion for us but it would also be a ton of fun with a group of family or friends because they had live music, beer, wine, champagne, margaritas and appetizers. But good appetizers: southwest eggrolls, brisket sandwiches, cheese platters, etc. All of that was included in the price of the ticket and you could eat and drink to your heart's content! The Catarmaran was spacious enough for the size of the group on board and everyone was having a good time! A few courageous people even got the dance floor started!
There were two different sunset sails to choose from. One was a champagne sunset cruise, which I'm guessing is more date-y and low-key. We went on the "Commotion of the Ocean" sunset cruise and loved it, but I guess it's just up to your personal preference. You can see more about it and book tickets here. They also offer a ton of other fun excursions like: snorkeling, jet-skiing, parasailing, etc.
Duval is the main street downtown although it feels like there is something to be discovered on every street! Duval is where people are out and lively all day and night. There are shops (we stopped into a spot with fun bath bombs and spa-night goodies), restaurants and bars all along Duval Street. After our Fury Sunset Sail, Sam and I walked past someone dressed as Darth Vader playing Star Wars theme songs on a guitar to one of our favorite house bars right off of Duval: The Porch. We grabbed a dark beer and a glass of red wine and enjoyed their outdoor patio overlooking a courtyard with string lights decorating the trees. It's a pretty quaint little space for a bar off of Duval!
There are also a lot of Irish pubs and we haven't been yet, but I hear Irish Kevin's is pretty fun! And according to the house guest book where we stayed, it's a really popular spot for going out.
Food & Key Lime Pie
This guy was at Blue Heaven over three years ago, the last time we were in Key West! We were glad to see he was still there. Blue Heaven is by far the most popular place to grab some food in Key West. We went for lunch while we were there and the wait was over an hour! So we ended up going someplace else...but we had eaten here for breakfast the last time we were in town and we loved it! They have a great outdoor courtyard patio, where there is always someone playing live music, there's a fun bar and there are always roosters and chicks running around. The breakfast we had was really good too - so definitely recommend eating here.
We probably would have waited if we didn't have kiddos who were super hungry - there are also fun shops on the same street corner as Blue Heaven that you can browse while you are waiting on a table. My favorite little shop was one called Besame Mucho, just a few doors down. So many cute things!
Recommendations: Shrimp & Grits, Lobster Benedict, and a slice of their Key Lime Pie
One of my favorite things to do while in Key West is eat A LOT of Key Lime Pie! I was determined to try a chocolate dipped key lime pie on a stick, so we took a mid-day beach break one day, hopped on our moped and went to Key Lime Pie Co. to get one! It was super good! And the bakery was neat because they had a glass partition where you could see everything being made.
We've tried Key Lime Pie from a few different places around Key West, it's hard to remember where all we've had it but everything we have tried so far has been good! Mitch at The Pelican Grand Beach Resort in Ft. Lauderdale is convinced that the best Key Lime Pie in Key West is found at the Winn-Dixie. And maybe he's right, we grabbed about four Key Lime Pie's from there this trip and they were all gone by the time we left!
- Banana Cafe: On Duval, quaint, really good crepes!
- Kelly's: quaint atmosphere, nice backyard patio and string lights, great dinner spot!
(We didn't go to either of these places this time around but we've been to both of these before and loved them!)
- Mojito Bar: a quiet hidden poolside bar behind Lighthouse Court Hotel
- La Creperie French Cafe: Across from Blue Heaven, looks like a promising and super quaint option if Blue Heaven is full!
- D.J.'s Clam Shack: Sam and I stopped here for some Conch Fritters as a post window shopping snack on Duval. Not a fancy place, quite literally a little shack but with good and fast seafood snacks.
- Bagatelle: A nice house restaurant on Duval, won the Diner's Choice 2016 by Open Table. On the fancier side but looks very inviting!