For such a small island with a similarly small population of approximately 24,500 people, Key West packs a heavy punch when you explore the fun neighborhoods, fascinating history, cultural diversity, inviting beaches, and, of course, tasty key lime pie.
When to visit
With an average temperature that ranges from 65°F to 89°F, Key West is one of mainland America’s tropical paradise destinations. In 2018, the island welcomed almost 3 million visitors with over 800,000 from cruise travelers who arrived at the Key West Cruise Terminal.
Situated “closer to Cuba than to Miami” and with its mix of cultural influences borne from Bahamian wreckers, Cuban cigar makers, and commercial fishermen, the island offers many historical and cultural centers including Old Town, Key West Historic Seaport, and Bahama Village.
There is a lot to see and do in Key West and this guide is just a tip of the conch shell. Read on and let us know about your Key West favorites.
Old Town is where most of the island’s attractions can be found since it is the site where Key West was developed. This quaint area of Key West offers a wide variety of inns and other accommodations to fit each taste.
Popular places to stay in Old Town include The Cabana Inn, often described as a hidden gem in Key West, The Duval House with its seven Conch style houses, tropical garden and 100-year old Banyan tree, and Coco Plum Inn, a historical treasure comprised of old Victorian houses including one built as far back as 1891.
Top rated restaurants in Old Town include El Siboney Restaurant, rated as Key West’s Best Cuban Restaurant every year since 1993, Conch Republic Seafood Company, a Key West institution and top seafood restaurant that serves what it describes as dock-to-dish dining, and Bien Caribbean & Latin Food Restaurant, a must try if you want a hearty Latin-fusion meal.
Bahama Village was once an overlooked section of Key West. This sixteen block community is a haven of Florida Conch architecture, some of the best restaurants on the island, authentic Caribbean [primarily Bahamian] culture, and a unique history. Visitors may choose to book their stays around the dates of the popular Bahama Village Goombay Festival in late October each year.
The Bahamians who arrived in Key West in the 18th century came to salvage wrecked ships and for fishing and logging jobs. This multicultural corner of Key West has streets lined with colorful houses and is home to Blue Heaven, one of the most popular restaurants on the island.
Key West Historic Seaport
Historic Seaport has been a global maritime trade center for at least 200 years and it is a twenty acre mix of old and new. Historically the seaport was the center of turtle, sea sponge, fishing, and shrimping industries. Known to some as Key West Bight, the bight was actually renamed to Key West Historic Seaport in 1999.
In more modern times, Key West Historic Seaport is one of the best places to enjoy all that Key West has to offer–restaurants, unique bars, art galleries, live music, museums, one of a kind hotels, and the starting point for water activities. Two examples of the distinctive hotels in the area include Eden House, known as the oldest hotel in Key West and Simonton Court Hotel that was once a cigar factory.
While you’re here, try the popular Fisherman’s Cafe where you can enjoy fresh, locally-sourced seafood and restaurant specialties such as Lobster Enchilau Tacos with an authentic island sauce, Johnny Cake in Cheese Grits, sandwiches, freshly ground coffee, and more.
An introduction to Key West is incomplete without a sample of local events so here is a list of upcoming festivals.
Upcoming Events in Key West
Florida Keys Seafood Festival | January 18-19, 2020
Key West Half Marathon and 5K | January 19, 2020
Key West Craft Show | January 25-26, 2020
Key West Food & Wine Festival | January 26 – February 2, 2020
Mile 0 Fest Key West | January 28 – February 1, 2020
Old Island Days Art Festival | February 22-23, 2020
Key West Bourbon Blues and BBQ Festival | May 21-24, 2020
The Key Lime Festival | July 2-5, 2020