First-time Key West visitors share highlights of four-day trip

The art, animals and architecture of Key West (we loved the food trucks, too)

Wandering Rose Travels has written about Key West, Florida in past articles, focusing on restaurants and biking the Keys from a baby boomer perspective. My wife and I recently visited for the first time and we absorbed some of the city’s other spectacles, some quirky and others inspiring.

We quickly learned about Ernest Hemingway’s and Harry S. Truman’s influence on Key West, both memorialized in their museums and historic homes. Early American history buffs will drool as they explore the region’s past and study all of the people and cultures that influence the Keys. But one local business sign summed up the quirkiness of Key West for us: “Hippies use side door.”

The following photographs highlight some of the things we enjoyed during our four days in Key West. This photo tour is far from exhaustive, but it represents what we enjoyed most about our visit. As an aside, my sister and her family rent a house here each year for the month of November. We stayed with them and benefitted from their chauffeuring and knowledge of Key West, which made our visit very relaxing.

why so many roosters key west protected
They’re everywhere and protected, so if you like beautiful roosters, you’re in luck.
iguana key west invasive pest
They’re an invasive species and pests, but iguanas seem to fit the laid-back mantra of Key West.
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We enjoyed just walking around town and enjoying the unique homes and front porches.
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This painted outdoor wall impressed me. I would have enjoyed seeing the artist at work.
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We climbed the Key West Lighthouse and toured its keeper’s quarters and museum.
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We toured Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and walked its nature trails and beach.
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We hiked the nearby National Key Deer Refuge and saw this American Kestrel falcon.
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If you’re a birder, Key West offers a variety of urban and coastal viewing opportunities.
We walked through several city nature preserves during our Key West visit.
top attractions key west
The city’s trees are an attraction, like this giant kapok.

Restaurants and other Key West attractions

Since we vacationed in Key West during the height of the pandemic rebound, we avoided dining inside restaurants. We felt comfortable in eateries that offered open-air seating. Plus, we really enjoyed several of the many food trucks in town. Tops on our list included DJ’s Clam Shack and Garbo’s Grill. We also started each day with a morning walk to the Cuban Coffee Queen for, you guessed it, great java with an island flair.

We planned to visit and snorkel at Dry Tortugas National Park, but our boat trip there was canceled two days in a row due to high winds and adverse conditions at sea. Now we have a good reason to return to Key West. We replaced that disappointment with a visit to the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, which I wrote about in another Wandering Rose article. We loved this attraction.

 The list goes on – Mallory Square, Waterfront Brewery, Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum of treasures and the walk along Duval Street. And if none of this tickles your fancy, you could elevate “people watching” to the top of your itinerary.

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