When you want to discover the hidden treasures of Key West, down at the tip of the Florida Keys, the only way to do it is by pedal power
Key West lies 127.5 miles south of Miami, a glorious drive down a tiny two-lane highway over endless bridges, taking you through the tropical parks and beautiful beaches of the other Keys (Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key and Lower Keys) and over turquoise blue waters.
Two wheels good
At just four miles by two, the only way to discover the hidden treasures of Key West is to travel by bicycle. Eaton Bikes do great daily and weekly deals from just $18 and their bikes come complete with basket, lights and locks. They may initially feel a bit confusing, as they use a back pedal brake and don’t have gears, but as the terrain is completely flat you’ll soon forget that you ever needed them!
Take time to get used to your bike by pedalling up and down Eaton Street, then grab a quick jolt at the Coffee Plantation on 713 Caroline Street, just a block or two down, before you head off on your adventure. Caffeinated and good to go, turn back down Caroline until you cross Margaret Street; this takes you to the cross of Angela Street where you’ll find the Key West Cemetery, remarkable for its ornate graves and beautiful bougainvillea. See if you can spot some of the funnier tombstones, like the one inscribed to the ‘devoted fan of Julio Iglesias’!
Next, cycle down Windsor Avenue then turn right onto Truman Avenue and head down to Simonton Street. Turn left and then pedal all the way down to South Street. Welcome now to the southernmost tip of continental USA! There are a few things to see here. One is the official point, which has a marker built like a buoy and is a must-do photo op. There’s also South Beach and the Southernmost House, which is situated at 1400 Duval and houses a great little museum and a lovely hotel - Southernmost Hotel.
So much for the culture - now it’s time to head to the heart of Old Key West and discover why the town has such a great ‘anything goes’ reputation. Swing your bike round and cycle down Duval Street. The east end is predominantly gay and the west end is all about beers, cocktails and live music bars. It’s worth making this trip again at night just to be part of this fabulous party scene. Duval is about a mile of pure decadence and there’s pretty much something for everyone!
My favourite spot is at 528 Duval, La Trattoria. Behind this charming Italian restaurant is an amazing salsa club called Virgilios, which has the best local musicians and attracts a crowd from as far away as Miami. Cuba is, of course, just 90 miles away and you’ll be entranced by the authentic sounds and the beauty of the outdoor dance floor, strung with fairy lights.
But back to the bike! If you’re feeling peckish after people watching, then head to 801 Caroline Street for the world-famous BO Fish Wagon, to eat a mahi mahi fish sandwich and fries with lashings of Key Lime dressing. It’s cash only here, as it’s literally a shack with roosters racing around, pecking at your feet, but it’s also one of the best places to eat bar none!
Pack a picnic
After all that cycling and scoffing you’ll need a bit of chill-out time, so swing down Elizabeth Street from Caroline and cross onto Fleming to pack up your basket with a few nibbles at Fausto’s Food Palace (best to go when you’re not hungry or you’ll eat the store!), maybe pick up a soda and a portion of their Key Lime pie, and then pedal down Fleming and take a left on Whitehead then right onto Southard. This takes you through the shady tree-lined streets of the Truman Annex, where the thirty-third president of the USA, Harry S Truman, used to live. There’s a great Little White House museum here and the architecture, in the classic colonial style, is a sheer pleasure to see.
At the end of Southard you’ll see a sign for the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Here you’ll find the best beach in Key West, which is the perfect spot to watch the sunset from, and can also explore the old Civil War fortress. You may have to pay a few dollars park entrance but it’s well worth it, as it’s a truly lovely and well-maintained area. If you’re very lucky you might spot the ‘green flash’, an amazing natural phenomenon where the sun briefly changes colour as it sets from deep orange to a vivid flash of green!
Finally, after a picnic, it’s time to carefully pedal back through the park by the light of the moon and go down Southard to visit a Key West institution, the Green Parrot on Whitehead - a brilliant fun and welcoming music haunt with excellent live bands and its infamous ‘no snivelling’ zone. Enjoy!