USHMA MISTRY HEADS WEST TO ONE OF THE SOUTHERNMOST POINTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Key West in the Florida Keys is the furthest south you can drive from Florida and is only 90 miles by sea to Cuba at mile marker zero on the Overseas Highway. We chose to drive here in a hire car but there are also buses you can get from Miami and you can even fly into one of the two airports in the Keys.
This is one of the most populated keys and was the former home of writer Ernest Hemingway which is open to visitors. The nightlife here is buzzing compared to the other keys but it’s pretty busy during the day too with street performers and a vast array of shops and eateries to explore. We visited the Key West Aquarium during our stay where we saw the feeding of stingrays and sharks. There are a number of educational talks that take place during the day and you can even touch a shark if you’re brave enough.
You can walk around Key West pretty easily as most things are within walking distance from each other and you can always break it up with a spot of lunch or even a slice of the famous Key Lime pie. A visit to the keys isn’t complete until you’ve had a taste of this dessert, which originated in the region as the name suggests.There are a number of cafes, restaurants and shops, which sell Key Lime Pie so you will be spoilt for choice.
We stayed at the Ibis Bay Resort in a Beachfront room, which was just perfect.
It was cleaned to a very high standard and the patio doors led straight onto soft warm sands overlooking the bay and we had our own private hammocks to relax in. The hotel is a little way from the hustle and bustle of the centre of Key West but there is a free shuttle bus, which drops you off at various stops as well as picking you up when you’ve had enough.
Lunch and dinner at on-site The Stoned Crab is a must if you want to try the local delicacy of stoned crab claws. With a number of different options there is enough to satisfy the smallest or largest of appetites but my advice is to be hungry. The eatery also offers a breakfast menu and a wide-ranging cocktail menu so there’s little need to leave the resort if you don’t want to.
One of the highlights of our stay was the clear-bottom night-time kayak tour. Super-bright waterproof LED lights are attached to a kayak as you set off on a sunset tour unlike any other nature tour you can find in the Florida Keys. We got to see a lot of sea creatures such as lobsters, crabs, and anemones.
However, if it’s high-action water sports you are after then a day out on the Ultimate Adventure with Fury Water Adventures is just the ticket. This is one of the most popular packages this company offers so be sure to book in advance. It includes a light breakfast, a fulfilling lunch and even snacks and booze at the end of your fun-packed day. Pack your swimwear and your adrenalin as you set off from the Key West harbour on one of their Catamaran’s ready to embark on a day of snorkelling, swimming, jet-skiing and para-sailing and it doesn’t even matter if you can’t swim. The Fury staff are on board to instruct and advise but most of all to ensure you have a day to remember which we certainly did.
If that all sounds too much for you BUT you want to see the Keys from the water rather than the road, then a jet-ski island tour is the answer. Barefoot Billy’s offers a two-hour guided tour around the islands with one of their expert guides. Your guide will make five stops at various points of interest, including The Southernmost Point, Historic Key West Bight, and Sunset Key.
Finally if there is only one thing you do during your visit to Key West then it has to be to see the sunset. Hundreds of people gather in Mallory Square to watch this spectacular view and your hotel should be able to tell you what time the sun is due to set so you can get your place well in advance. But if you want to make it as memorable as possible then a sunset cruise is a must. We set sail aboard the Schooner America 2.0 in the company of Classic Harbour Line. After we boarded the yacht and set sail it wasn’t long before the sails were up and the drinks and snacks were flowing. You can choose from a range of alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks while on board and platters of cheese and crackers, fruit and other snacks accompany these. Of course the highlight of this cruise is seeing the sun set in the distance so make sure you have your cameras at the ready.
You will come home with lots of memories and postcard-perfect pictures of your trip but one thing is for sure, your first trip to the Florida Keys definitely won’t be your last.