Tim and I took our first trip to the Florida Keys recently and it was absolutely breathtaking! We were able to explore most of the island of Key West within a few days, and I am so excited to share our experience with you!
The best way for me to break down our trip is in three categories; Duval St./Mallory Square, beaches, and sunsets. Key West is known for its boating and fishing, but since it was our first visit, we decided to just spend our time exploring. Next time we visit the keys, we will definitely want to do some fishing!
Duval Street & Mallory Square:
Key west has to be the cutest place I have ever visited. The shops and houses on and surrounding Duval Street are mostly 19th century buildings. They are perfectly preserved and cared for, and any one of them could beautifully grace the cover of Coastal Living Magazine. They feature beautiful porches (one and two story), brightly painted storm shutters, and architectural details that make each structure stand out from the next. They exude southern coastal charm and a dollhouse-like perfection. To get to the point, these houses are goals y'all.
I wish I had taken some photos of the actual houses, but I felt like a creeper as it was staring at people's homes, so I focused on taking pictures of the cute shops and restaurants instead:
Another great thing about Key West are all of the chickens running around. This is one I met on Mallory Square. :) Oddly enough, I have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to chicken dream houses people have built in their backyards, so these random chickens made me exceedingly happy. Unfortunately, we don't have any wild chickens running around Sarasota, at least not that i've seen... total bummer.
Ok, so it's no secret that I'm a beach fanatic. There was probably a time when I would've said that I've never met a beach I didn't like. Well, I guess Sarasota has spoiled me because I wasn't particularly fond of the beaches on Key West. Womp womp!
Smathers Beach is actually quite nice if you are on the sand. It has beautiful palm trees lining the sandy beach and the water looks beautiful. However, once stepping into the water, the sand feels more like mud under your feet, squishing up into your toes. It was a very strange feeling and I'm not really sure what was up with it. To put it simply, it grossed me out. I would still say it's worth checking out if you plan to visit, if not just to take pictures on the beach. Besides, it's a free public beach and beaches are constantly changing with the tides and storms, so whatever made the sand feel muddy and weird to me may not even be an issue at another time.
The other beach we visited on Key West was at Fort Zachary State Park. This beach had a lot of shells and rocks, so I wore my water shoes while there. It's a nice spot for snorkeling, but we didn't experience the clear, bright blue waters others have witnessed, which is probably due to the recent storms. It was a nice area with a snack shack and picnic tables, plus they let you bring your own lunch and snacks if you prefer. You might also spot some cruise ships coming in and out, which is a cool sight! However, the real treat at this park is Fort Zachary, of course. I've decided that Fort Zachary deserves it's very own "Travel Tuesday" post, so stay tuned for more information on that. :)
The park does charge an admission fee, $6.50 per vehicle for two to eight people, $2.50 for pedestrians and bicyclists, and $4.50 for single-occupant vehicles or motorcycles. The plus side to this is that they allow same day re-entry as long as you have your receipt. We took advantage of this by taking the tour of the fort in the morning, enjoying a picnic lunch by the beach, swimming and snorkeling for a while, leaving, and then coming back to enjoy the absolute best spot on Key west for a spectacular sunset! (see sunset section below)
Key West is notorious for it's spectacular sunsets. You can catch one while dining at the Sunset Pier, which is essentially a mini pier/restaurant that is furnished with tables, chairs, and umbrellas so you can sit right along the water where the sun sets. It looked like a great place to grab dinner, drinks, and listen to some live bands. You can also catch the sunset right next to the pier on Mallory Square and enjoy the festivities that I mentioned above. The other, and in my humble opinion *best* place to catch the sunset is Fort Zachary. The fort will be closed by this time, but the park is still open for visitors to line the rocky shore just beyond the fort and catch the sunset of a lifetime. It's a quiet and relaxing way to end a trip to Key West.
Sunset Photo From Just Beyond Sunset Pier:
Sunset Photos From Mallory Square:
Sunset Photos From Fort Zachary State Park:
And of course, I can't forget to mention the southernmost point of the USA! This is a photo must if you visit Key West! We actually stopped once and there was a long line, so we came back around 9 am on the morning we were leaving the Keys and there was NO LINE! Score! :)
Stay tuned for the next two "Travel Tuesday" blog posts! Next week I will share photos and experiences from Bahia Honda State Park - an absolute MUST for any beach lovers headed to the FL Keys! The following Tuesday I will be sharing photos and information about our tour of Fort Zachary!
Here's a few more pictures from Key West:
And here's a few of us at Two Friends Patio Restaurant - a super cute place for some outdoor dining! Fortunately for us, it's also covered because we experienced a nice tropical thunderstorm while we were there! :)
Until next time! XOXO