there lies Key West, the last pearl on the chain of keys - stretching to just 90 miles away from Cuba.
Are you into birds? Then a stop at the rehabilitation facility is a must, where pelicans are more prevalent than visitors. But there also owls of all sizes and types, Hawks and Brown Boobies. All visitors are greeted by a snowy egret. And cranes and other birds fly around, while 2 parrots are caged but very vocal.
Into KW on US 1 toward Mile 0 side by side of the old road, and glimpsing the rusty remnant of Flagler's Railroad. Destroyed in Hurricanes after Henry Flagler used several millions of his own money, of which he had plenty being a partner in Standard Oil (with Rockefeller), to build.
Flagler also built luxury hotels for those trying to escape the cold misery of the north all along his railroad. Arrived in KW he simply loaded the RR cars onto ferries, equipped with rails, for trans shipment to Cuba. Quite innovative, wasn't he? Well, that was then.
Now the Only way to KW is via US 1 in cars, or fly onto the island.
Being a rather dry spot in the USA, water is piped into the Key West, thanks to the US Navy, which also created an extra mile or so of land. Thus the key is becoming known as the 2x4 island. Also as Cayo Hueso=Island of Bones as discovered by Ponce De Leon, wayyy back in history.
And of course, as the Conch Republic.. seceded briefly from the US in the 70's. ;-).
So one can get conked (here ch is pronounced as K) out at the Conk (ch) Motel.
KW prides itself as the Southernmost place in the USA, which it is not exactly.
But hey, who counts degrees, motels, hotels, restaurants, bars and more all carry that name proudly and prominently.
The busy town of Key West, is chock full of bars, little or not so little white houses, built by ships'carpenters from imported lumber, or imported bricks, usually as ballast in ships. Which kinda kept the building speed slow ..having to wait for the next ballast, lol.
Plus elevating the house and using wooden pegs to tie planks together seem to be the pre-cursor of hurricane proof architecture.. as you know wood is flexible!
Industrious Key West inhabitants made out, and rather well at that, rescuing ship wrecks, later on treasure hunting, sponge diving and tobacco rolling. For a while.
But the golden times didn't last, UNTIL the tourist industry was started...palm trees were planted, hotels built and the business of fun in the sun took off big! Real big!
Helped by the year round balmy weather...79 average temperatures.
Although today IT reached over 80.
But the lowest temperature recorded was 41 degrees and required schools to declare "snow day" because-you guessed it- no heat in houses.
'Shotgun cottage' architecture with 'beetle browed' houses are the norm... providing through breezes and shade in pre-a/c days.
So you think the isle is surrounded by pristine white sand beaches? Well, not quite so.. some sand has to be imported from elsewhere. Mother Nature 's ocean action seems to take land away not built up.
Mangroves do work hard collecting sand, debris and more with their roots and eventually another key(let) is formed.
Otherwise traffic jams in KW are many. Mostly of bicycles, electric carts, tricycles, mopeds, and the sweet little excursion choo choos with microphone. Trolleys do same, all to point out bars where Hemingway drank, for instance; hotel where Tennessee Williams stayed; Harry Truman's Little White House; Flagler Station Museum, and of course Hemingway's mansion with garden and pool and 6 toed cats. A MAJOR attraction.
Plus there are The Shipwreck -, Ship Treasure Museum.
The Grotto, said to protect Key West from direct hits by major hurricanes since the twenties; Sponge sellers, Shell sellers, Yachts and seagoing charters galore, and more bars and shops. The 'Western Union' sail ship, so called because it laid cable to Havana, now restored to her wooden gleaming glory and available for charters.
And the laid back environment just beckons visitors to sit and sip in Margarita's Ville; and watch sunsets.
Sunrises are less watched, probably because those late nights sipping and sitting make one too tired to get up early enough.