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11 Things I Love and Hate about Key West Florida

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I spent the Christmas holiday in Key West Florida. It was my first time there and I really enjoyed the balmy December weather. But there were certain things I didn’t like. I have been trying to figure out a way to write a road trip report without sounding like a snob or a hippie (strange dichotomy I know, but trust me on this one) so in the end, I think it just comes down to this: Key West may not be for me. But I am not giving up yet. I’ve got an unusual way of sharing my Key West things to do, through a list of 11 things that I loved and not so loved about this town at the end of the world!

I blame myself. Even as a seasoned travel from time to time even I pull a rookie mistake. I didn’t do enough research before booking this trip, heck I didn’t do research after booking the trip either. I looked into some restaurants and a couple of things to do, but I didn’t really dig around to find out more about Key West.

So rather than writing a post that is on the negative side, I am going to try another route (sort of). Instead, I will tell you that I hold these things to be true:

[1] The color of Florida

Florida Turquoise

I will forever associate this color with Florida, as it truly is the color of the water and it is absolutely beautiful. I was trying to think if there is any other place that I have traveled to where there is a color I would associate it with, and I cannot think of any. This one I know I will never forget.

[2] Key West History

Vintage Propeller

If you love history (and I DO!) Key West is a fascinating place steeped in history, particularly travel history. It was the site of the first American commercial international flight in 1927. Also with the completion of the highway connecting the mainland of Florida to the keys, at one point in time you could travel by car from the Vermont-Canada border all the way to Key West, then hop a ferry to Havana, drive 125 miles across Cuba, catch another ferry to Yucatan and then continue up the Pan-American Highway (maybe continue up the coast of Mexico until you hit Highway 1 in California and then take it all the way up to the Washington-Canada border?) – amazing! That is a road trip I would have LOVED to have taken!

[3] The drive from Miami to Key West

Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail Big Pine Key Florida USA

I wish it was all like this: the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, Big Pine Key, Florida USA

However, the drive from Miami to Key West is 4 hours of crap and about 45 minutes of beautiful turquoise views. If you are from (or familiar with) the San Francisco Bay Area think of the worst part of El Camino Real for 4 hours. The drive should normally take about 3 hours but with construction, a million lights, and traffic, I am not sure that can happen. We left from Ft. Lauderdale and it took us nearly 6 hours. The coastal drive of Carmel and Big Sur; the drive up the Oregon coast are far superior to the Dixie Highway south.

[4] Stone crabs vs Dungeness crab

Dungeness crab

West Coast’s Dungeness crab kicks Florida’s stone crab ass any day of the week. Sorry to say it, but I gave it a couple of tries and it just can’t compete. That’s not to say I would stop eating the stone crabs!

[5] Staying in a cruise port

Cruise boat full of people

I will never stay in a cruise port unless I am on a cruise! I think this was the worst thing about our stay and something that could have been easily researched. Of the 4 days, we were in Key West, 3 days found us facing a giant cruise boat from our window. While I love cruises, I don’t love the over a thousand extra people trying to visit the same spots I am, trying to eat in the same restaurants I am, walking on the same streets I am unless, well, I am on a cruise and part of that crowd! Key West is not a big place and the extra visitors are definitely noticeable.

[6] The croissants

Croissants

The Frenchies baking up the croissants in Key West have a serious problem with butter. It may seem strange to say, but you can have too much butter in a croissant and the two different places we sampled (from actual French bakers) were heavy on this ingredient.

[7] The beaches on Key West

Private Beach

Private beaches are better than public ones. This is probably a universal truth. The hotel we stayed at had a private beach on an island, something we failed to learn until our last day!

[8] Key Lime Pie

Key Lime Pie

I have had better Key Lime Pie in Los Angeles (Westin LAX The Daily Grill [I know, crazy!]!). Remember, the authentic key lime pie is NOT green!

[9] Key West Architecture

Key West Architecture

Photo credit: Joe Dyndale

When you wander away from the main streets (universal truth) you can find some amazing architecture in Key West. You can also find neighborhoods that remind you of Caribbean islands which is likely a result of the work initiated by the “father” of Key West Julius Stone who cleaned up Key West during a downtrodden time and attempted to create a New Bermuda. It makes for great photos.

[10] Key West People

Key West Friendly People

The staff, store clerks, restaurant waiters, and waitresses are extremely friendly despite being plied with tourists every single day of their life. The townsfolks and workforce are amazingly nice and it was a pleasure to speak with whomever we crossed paths with. Everything was open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and most everyone had a smile on their face despite that fact.

[11] Hot Tin Roof Restaurant

Ceviche

Hot Tin Roof restaurant (at Ocean Key Resort, Zero Duval St.) rocks. Not only is the chef pretty hunky, but his food is also excellent and I had a wonderful meal of ceviche made from local fish and a delicious pork shank. Mr. Misadventures tried the other house specialty, paella. And while we think Mr. Misadventure’s paella is still better, it was a damn fine number two!

How about you? Anyone else have any Key West stories to share?

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11 Things I Love and Hate about Key West Florida 11 Things I Love and Hate about Key West Florida 11 Things I Love and Hate about Key West Florida

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Micky

Monday 21st of June 2021

I don’t know when this article was written because i see comments from 2012 but it says it was updated June 2021. It is still 100% relevant. At any rate, I’m sitting here in Key West right now, having arrived less than 24 hours earlier, and I’m trying to cancel my current hotel reservation to return northward. Now is the time I decide to research this place. Shame on me 100 times over… The author is very diplomatic in the description of this place. All I can say is that I totally understand why everyone here is drunk and why drinking in public is legal. I don’t know how anyone resides here sober. The putrid smell of this place can be described as rotting crab shit. It is far from child friendly, to my chagrin, and I should’ve known better. The beaches are anything but pretty. It’s the end of June and all I see is hundreds of yards of red stinking algae on shore and floating. I figured it would be expensive here, but holy crap! This is my 20th wedding anniversary vacation and I wanted it to be special. Well, it looks like we’ll have to make 25 the special one because right now we can’t wait to GTFOH.

Andi Fisher

Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

@Micky, so sorry to hear that! We had better luck staying further north. And a very special trip staying in a luxury RV park where we enjoyed the water in our own private space and stayed away from KW.

Veronica

Monday 19th of April 2021

Thank you soo much for your completely honest review! My husband and I plan to spend an afternoon in Key West before our flight home. (Three night anniversary *kid-free* trip... landing in Miami, renting a convertible, staying in Islamorada, then flying out of Key West.) While mm 0 and the buoy are on my list I don't want to be completely caught up in tourist traps so THANK YOU for the good, bad, and ugly (cruise ships).

Andi Fisher

Wednesday 21st of April 2021

@Veronica, you bet! If someone loves everything about a certain spot, it is likely "fishy" no place is perfect, but if we know some of the land mines ahead of time it can help!

Athena

Sunday 18th of November 2012

I used to live in Florida but never went to Key West I lived a little farther north. I definently miss the beaches . I enjoyed going to the beach adn sitting on the boardwalk and looking out over the waves . Its so peaceful there. I hope to one day take my daughter there and show her where I grew up .

Andi

Friday 30th of November 2012

@Athena, the water is the most beautiful water I have seen.

Elaine Miller

Wednesday 7th of March 2012

I am here now and I love it! Thanks for the post. Huge dichotomy! Interesting, rich! So happy!

janet h

Monday 2nd of January 2012

the picture of the ceviche looks good!

Andi

Tuesday 3rd of January 2012

@Janet, it was yummy!