Key West.

Monday, April 14, 2014

At the Southernmost point in the continental USA, you will find a beautiful island known to attract free spirits and collect restless hearts. It is nicknamed the Conch Republic and is home to mile marker 0. It features an abundance of free roaming roosters and some of the most laid back people on earth.
Key West.

They say everywhere you travel you leave a little piece of your soul behind. Well I'm pretty sure half my heart is napping in a hammock under a palm tree at Fort Zachary Taylor.

My first trip to Key West was in 2007. I've made an effort to return every year, sometimes twice a year. There's just a feeling that you get on that island that I have never felt anywhere else. The energy is so positive and humble. You feel so carefree and...young again.

I hope everyone makes an effort to visit this magical island at least once in their lifetime. In honor of that wish, I've compiled a list of what I believe to be the......

1. Rent a Moped
This is the main form of transportation on the island but also the funnest. I mean it when I say there is no better feeling than cruising down S. Roosevelt Blvd with the sun on your face, ocean on your left and a beautiful line of palm trees on your right. I can promise you in that moment everything will feel right. It's also so much easier to get around town when you rent a moped instead of a car. Worried about rain? Buy a poncho and embrace the wet ;) PS. If you go in the summer months and mosquito salad is not your thing, bring something to cover your mouth.

2. Blue Heaven
This is the epitome of a 'hidden gem'. Tucked away on the outskirts of the main strip,  this restaurant/bar is worth the game of hide and seek you will inevitably play to find it. The food is out of this world and always so fresh. A cat will greet you at the hostess stand. There's the coolest outdoor bar (where Kenny Chesney shot his music video for 'The Good Stuff'), $2.00 outdoor showers (just go, you'll see) and a souvenir shop with fluffy key lime pies. Breakfast is what they're famous for - there will be a wait but it is oh so worth it. Excuse me while I go daydream of pink shrimp omelets.

3. Fort Zachary Taylor
Sounds kind of...boring, right?  Well let me tell you, it is one of the most beautiful, scenic places on not only the island of Key West but in all of the Florida Keys. I had my wedding photos shot here on a cloudy, rainy day and they still came out amazing. This is a State Park so you will pay a small fee to enter. The swimming is great, you can watch sailboats and cruise ships come in, BBQ, or just relax in a hammock under a palm tree and enjoy the warm ocean breeze. It's also one of the best spots to catch the sunset. Oh and it's where you will find that infamous Key West sign that tells you how many miles away you are from major cities. Go...just go.
*Not my kid

4. Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
I know I use the word magical a lot but this place...there's just no other way to describe it. Magical. I went for my first time last June on my honeymoon and it was totally not what I expected. We went on a rainy day and it was the perfect escape. When you walk in it's like stepping into the rain forest. Soft spa music and humidity surround you while hundreds of butterflies of every color fly freely. If you have a kind spirit, perhaps 1 or 2 will land on you ;) I can't wait to go back here.
PS. Watch where you step

This guy camouflages himself to match an Owl's eye. Mind=blown.

5. Southernmost House
Now this place is a treasure. This home is so damn beautiful and is so rich in history. If you're in your mid-twenties and broke like me, it will be a huge splurge to stay here. Well worth it for at least one night though. Mitch & I stayed here for a couple nights on our honeymoon and it definitely felt like celebrity/VIP treatment. The hammocks by the pool on the beach were my favorite part. Along with a delicious breakfast of fresh cheese, fruit, and baked goods every morning. (The blueberry bagels were the Even if you aren't staying at this home, I believe you can still get a tour. If I were loaded I would have had my wedding here in a heart beat.

Just a casual nighttime swim in our pool right next to the ocean. NBD.

6. Key West Garden Club
Yet another hidden gem (Key West has a lot of those I'm just now realizing.) This is a place I will return to every single time I'm in town. No, not just because it's free. But because it's a place to escape the tourists and the hustle & bustle of the island. There are some absolutely gorgeous flowers and trees you never knew existed in this sanctuary. The most perfect white gazebo overlooking the ocean. Large iguanas hiding in the bushes hoping you don't find them. It's the best. Have your camera charged & ready!

7. East Martello Tower & Museum
Oh boy. Here we go. Raise your hand if you believe in ghosts! (raises hand so fast I smack the corner of the table then immediately turn my ghost radar on my iphone on) Well this place is not only full of Florida Keys history but it is home to ROBERT THE DOLL. Google it. Creepy as hell. Cool as ever. I will save the story for you to read on your own when you visit but it is a ghost lovers dream. Sorry, I can't post any photos for this one. You'll soon know why.
Fun Fact: The inhabitants of Key West have always believed in the supernatural and evil spirits dating back hundreds of years. For this reason,  you will notice nearly all of the homes in Key West that have a front porch will have the ceiling painted 'Haint Blue' (looks like a light sky blue color). This color is said to keep evil spirits from entering the home. Be sure to look when you go down there!

8. Hemingway Home
Yes, it is filled to the brim with cats in every corner. Yes, they all have 6 toes. And Yes, this is my future home. Let's be honest, Hemingway was a very talented and interesting dude but the tourists come for the cats. I go for the cats and the architecture/surrounding landscape of the home. Lots of history and beautiful interior decorations. Love how vintage everything inside the home is. It's also pretty amazing that things like sofas and beds are roped off and have strict rules of 'Do Not Touch' yet the cats are lounging around on the beds. On Hemingway's property, Cats rule & Humans drool.

brownie points to anyone who can tell me what a swiss cheese plant is

9. Margaritaville
So cliche! But this one is special. It is the original - the very first Margaritaville Jimmy Buffett opened and rumor has it you can sometimes find him here ;) The staff are always so fun and personable. The food, even though it is chain food, is still yummy. And you won't find a better hurricane drink! They often have live music too. Ok time for some coconut rum and Jimmy Buffett on Pandora.

10. Bahia Honda State Park
I believe in saving the best for last. This is a state park that is not on the island of Key West. It's about an hour North on Big Pine Key. So if you're flying in from Miami and driving to Key West - make sure you stop here. If you're flying into Key West, rent a car for a day and drive here. This beach offers some of the clearest waters in the keys, cabins for camping, kayaks for rent, snorkeling, and some of the most amazing views of their historic bridge. Not to mention it's usually always quiet and serene. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.


As the sun sets on this blog post (ha, see what I did there.) I hope I convinced you in the slightest bit to visit this treasure of an island.  I've made so many fond memories in this place, it's really close to my heart. I cannot wait to make more. It's by no means a luxurious white sand, pristine beach community, but I think that's what makes it so unique. It's perfectly imperfect....

     It feels like Home.


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