First-Time Visitor to Key West–What to Do!!

Love the island

As a first-time visitor, I was excited to finally make it to Key West. 

It’s a famous travel spot, rich in history.  I was all about seeing this little island and learning what makes it special.

I arrived at Key West at the cruise ship pier and found myself in an island paradise, in a marketplace called Mallory Square.  It is the hub of the historic harbor and the place where visitors enjoy tropical shopping, dining, museums, tourist attractions, and pick up local transportation.  I was already loving this island!

Key West Has Much to Offer its Visitors

Key West is a Blend of Tropical Island and USA!!

Since Key West houses a nearby US naval station and is a strategic naval port, there’s definitely a US military presence.  When you combine that with the Caribbean atmosphere, it’s like the perfect ‘tropical blend’.

Tropical Color Accents Dot the Island

To get around, we boarded the Old Town Trolley Hop-On Hop-Off Tour and headed out to see Key West.  My experience is that as a first-time visitor to a tourist destination, it’s helpful to ride on a narrated bus or trolley that allows unlimited on/off and stops.  Your ticket can provide your ground transportation to many famous sites as well as helpful tourist information.

Hemingway
Hemingway House and Museum

As we circled the island on the trolley, we learned about famous sites to see.  We saw the Hemingway House where Ernest Hemingway lived for more than 10 years while writing (and fishing!) and called Key West his home.  It is now a museum and contains the furnishings from the Hemingway family as well as some six-toed cats that are descendants of Hemingway’s cats.

We also learned about the “Little White House” where Harry Truman stayed 11 times while President.  The building was originally the Navy Base Commander’s house, and it became the functioning White House when visited by presidents including Taft, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton, and Truman.  Sounds like I’m not the ONLY one who likes Key West!

Lighthouse
Key West Lighthouse

Key West Lighthouse, Here I Come!

A highlight of my visit was a trip to the top of the Key West Lighthouse.  A wooden lighthouse on the beach had been destroyed by a hurricane in 1846, so the current lighthouse was moved inland and seems to be in the middle of town.  It’s a lovely, small lighthouse with 88 steps leading to the “scary” balcony at the top.

Lighthouse steps
Entering the Lighthouse to Climb to the Top!

If you’ve read my post about climbing to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, then you’ll understand when I say it was best that I was the only person at the top of the lighthouse.

Fear of Heights Strikes Again….

I was determined to circle the top and take pictures, but I have this personal issue with heights (ok, let’s call it fear of heights).

Key West Lighthouse
View from the Key West Lighthouse

I managed to take a few photos then circle the balcony with my back against the lighthouse.  Yes, it WAS best that I was alone up there……

Lighthouse keeper house
Key West Lighthouse Museum

Right next door is the Lighthouse Museum that was the home of the lighthouse keeper, built in 1887.  It contains a collection of lighthouse artifacts and maritime history of the Keys.

Lighthouse Museum Archive
Museum Displays Archives Related to the Lighthouse

A famous Key West photo spot is a large, colorful concrete sea buoy that marks the Southernmost Point in the continental United States, only 90 miles from Cuba.  A long line of tourists was waiting for their special Kodak moment photos with the now famous monument.  About 2 million visitors make that stop each year.

Key West southernmost
Southernmost Point of the US

On the southern side of the island, you’ll see beautiful Smathers Beach, and hotels, and resorts.  Many tourists come to fish, sail, dive, and other water sports.  It is a tropical wonder.

At the end of our trolley tour, I asked the driver for a lunch recommendation.  He suggested Red Fish Blue Fish, and there was no waiting to get a table.  We were VERY pleased and really enjoyed the seafood, but the best part was definitely…

The Key Lime Pie!

Key Lime Pie in Key West

Don’t leave the island without having Key West key lime pie.  Yuuuuuum!

As a first-time visitor, I really enjoyed my day in Key West with its fascinating history, excellent dining options, and especially the beauty of this lush, tropical island.

8 thoughts on “First-Time Visitor to Key West–What to Do!!”

  1. As someone who has actually been at the top of a lighthouse with you, I can definitely say it’s best you were up there by yourself!

    1. I love lighthouses because they represent guidance to those lost in darkness. And going to the top is what lighthouse lovers do, right? Then my fear sends me racing down. Ugh…

    1. Chanel–I would encourage you to make the climb. I climb every lighthouse that I can. I think of the ships that are guided to safety, and that helps me to deal with my fears. Let me know if you climb the Key West Lighthouse!

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