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A Cruiser’s Guide to Key West

One of the most popular ports for cruisers is the beautiful island of Key West. If you’re fortunate to be taking a cruise that makes a stop at this festive port in Florida, you are in for an unforgettable experience and maybe even the best key lime pie you’ve ever had! 

As soon as your cruise ship pulls into Mallory Square in the heart of Key West, you will know you are somewhere special! The quaint streets with the Bohemian style architecture are rich in history and are home to a bustling live entertainment scene in the local bars and restaurants. The Conch Republic is filled with amazing sights to see, fun-filled activities to enjoy, and a great experience is to be had exploring charming old town Key West during your time in port. 

Key West is truly a magical place to be! Here are some tips for getting around, top landmarks and sights to see, and exciting adventures to experience when you cruise Key West.

Spending the Day in Key West  

Getting Around Town – Since your cruise ship is docked at Mallory Square – which is right in the middle of the action in Key West – the Island’s most popular attractions are just an easy walk or bike ride away. Another fun way to see the Island is to catch a ride on The World-Famous Conch Tour Train, which picks you up right at the cruise ship and takes you on a tour of all of the popular sights of the Island!  It’s a “hop on and off tour,” so you can see the sights at your leisure!

Beachin’ It – The closest beach to the cruise ship pier is located at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. In fact, Key West’s most popular beach is located at the southern end of the park. There are plenty of fun in the sun activities including swimming, snorkeling, paddleboarding, and fishing. There is also a gift shop and restaurant with an ocean view if you’re looking for something to eat. Other local beaches include Smathers Beach on S. Roosevelt and Higgs Beach on Atlantic Blvd.

Visit Dry Tortugas National Park – Take a boat ride tour and explore Dry Tortugas National Park, a 19th century 100-square mile open water park with seven small islands.  World-famous for being the home of magnificent Fort Jefferson, azure blue waters, and unique coral reefs, Dry Tortugas National Park is a must-see while in Key West.

Key West

Dry Tortugas National Park | Photo: Glenn Gardner/NPS via Facebook

Eating Your Way Around Key West – There certainly is no limit to the delicious culinary offerings on the Island.  No matter what you are in the mood for, the restaurants of Key West do not disappoint. Grab a lunch of the best Jamaican Jerk chicken in Florida and enjoy al fresco dining among the chickens and cats (!) at The Blue Heaven Cafe on Thomas Street. Seafood lovers can indulge on conch fritters and fresh local seafood like stone crab claws and Key West Pink Shrimp at Conch Republic Seafood on Greene Street. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to treat yourself to a slice of award-winning Key Lime pie at the Key West Key Lime Pie Company on Greene Street. Taste the traditional Key Lime Pie from their 100-year old recipe or try something new like their Chocolate Dipped Slice of Key Lime Pie!

Key West

Chocolate-dipped key lime pie | Photo: Key West Key Lime Pie Co/Facebook

RELATED: Like a Local: Key West

Sunset Celebration in Mallory Square – If your cruise ship happens in be in Key West at sunset, you must take a moment to appreciate the sunset celebration at Mallory Square as the locals do each evening. Enjoy exciting festivities including street performers and a variety of live entertainment options each evening.

Check out the Infamous “Dive Bars” of Key West – No trip to Key West is complete without a visit to the local watering holes that have made the Island so popular.  Grab a margarita at Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Café on Duval Street, catch some live music and a cold beer at the world-famous Hog’s Breath Saloon a few doors down, and be sure to be seen on the webcam with your favorite libation at the iconic Green Parrot on Whitehead Street by the lighthouse.

History Lessons – Rich in history and culture, Key West offers a variety of places of interest for those who want to know more. Visit the Key West Shipwreck Museum on Whitehead Street (near the Green Parrot) and take a step back in time as you discover Key West’s unique maritime heritage.  Another interesting place to visit is the writer Ernest Hemingway’s Home & Museum on Whitehead Street. See Hemingway’s former home and walk through the gardens where he wrote: “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” A tour through the museum pays respect to Hemingway’s life and career and is a must-see for any history buff during a visit to Key West.

Key West

Don’t miss the Key West Shipwreck Museum | Photo: Key West Shipwreck Museum/Facebook

Visit the Southernmost Point – Probably the most iconic landmark in Key West, a visit to the Southernmost Point is a must-do while in port. Located at the corner of South and Whitehead Street, the decorated concrete buoy marks the southernmost point in the continental U.S. and was established as a tourist attraction in 1983 by the town. It is actually one of the most popular and photographed attractions in Key West.

Whether you are a foodie, history buff or music lover, you will enjoy your time spent in Key West!

Vicki Shivers

A native of beautiful Charleston, SC, Vicki’s travel writing is inspired by the Carolina and Caribbean coasts, which each hold a special place in her heart. A dreamer of islands, avid traveler, photographer, and music lover, Vicki is a fun-loving Parrot Head that enjoys getting to know the locals when she travels, the relaxed slower pace Southern living offers, and the never-ending journey of exploring the ‘coast of somewhere beautiful.’ 

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