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Key West beach

© Creative Commons / Corey Ann

Key West beaches

Key West is home to fishermen, would-be hippies, Cuban émigrés, jet-setters, artists, former drug smugglers and all those who dream of escaping the office or shop job to be beach bums.


Most visitors sun themselves by their hotel or guest house pool. For ocean sand, head to Smathers Beach, stretching about 2.5km (1.5 miles). Follow South Roosevelt Boulevard to the sand, about 3.5km (2 miles) from Old Town. About half as far is Higgs Beach, situated where Atlantic Boulevard intersects White Street. Both beaches have shower facilities and watersports' equipment for hire, although neither is very good for surfing unless there is a storm. Hurricane season is from June to November.

Beyond the beach

Key West measures 5.6 by 2.4km (3.5 by 1.5 miles) with hardly a curving street. Top stops are clustered within Old Town, starting with the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum, 200 Greene Street. It is chock-a-block with Spanish treasure (gold and silver ingots, coins, jewels, cannon) that Fisher's divers recovered from two ships sunk by a 1622 hurricane.

Family fun

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, 1316 Duval Street, has about 50 species from around the world; the butterflies often land on visitors.

Exploring further

Head by ferry or seaplane 113km (70 miles) west to the seven islets named Dry Tortugas, and land at Fort Jefferson. Started in the 1800s but still unfinished today, the sprawling brick fort is part of America's National Parks. You can enjoy guided tours, watch for the namesake sea turtles and swim off sandy beaches.

Splashing out

For gourmet fare, the place to go is Alice's Key West, 1114 Duval Street. Chef Alice Weingarten, who has won national honours, offers 'New World Fusion Confusion' cuisine including Alice's Magic Meatloaf and Asian-tinged dishes, all beautifully presented.

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