Key West, Florida Keys
Key West National Wildlife Refuge is located off the western shores of Key West in the Florida Keys in Monroe County Florida. The islands of the refuge contain mostly mangrove habitat, although of primary importance to some species are a few beaches and salt ponds. Red mangrove forests constitute all or part of the vegetation on most of the islands.
In addition to providing nesting habitat for a variety of birds, the refuges provide important loafing and feeding areas for magnificent frigates, migrant shorebirds, terns, raptors, and waterfowl like the red-breasted merganser. Extensive beaches are found on a few islands and are an imperative habitat for shore birds and nesting endangered Atlantic green, Loggerhead, and Hawksbill sea turtles.
Salt ponds, impounded from open water by storm created berms, are a particularly important habitat for piping plovers, terns, stilts, and a variety of wading birds, including reddish egrets. With the exception of portions of a couple islands, the refuge beaches are open to public access for wildlife-dependent activities such as wildlife observation and personal photography. The refuge is only accessible by boat. Jet propelled personal watercraft, seaplane landings, water-skiing, airboats, and hovercraft are prohibited as per an agreement between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of Florida in 1992.
I took a full day trip aboard Danger Charters on a sailboat inside the Refuge with great snorkeling and kayaking around the mangroves.
We spent a really romantic evening, watching one of the most famous sunsets in the world aboard the historic schooner Western Union! We left from the Schooner Wharf an hour before sunset, and sailed through the harbour, past the world famous sunset celebration at Mallory Square, and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Western Union is the last wooden ship built in Key West, and the flagship of the southernmost city. You can feel the sense of history when on board this beautiful sailing ship. We enjoyed complimentary sparkling wine, beer and key lime ice cream, as we watched the sun slip below the horizon. One of the most memorable ways to spend an evening (especially on your honeymoon!).
We also took a stargazer cruise on the Western Union, which was fascinating, as the astronomy expert demonstrated the constellations on the screen and then identified them in the night sky with a laser!
I am not sure where I took this picture but the saying "Prices subject to change according to customers attitude" probably confirm what I said a little earlier. Key West in my eyes is more Caribbean and North American and very very laid back and relaxed. I had to wear a suit and tie for my meeting in Key West since it was onboard a cruise ship and got quiet a number of strange looks!
The margaritas are of course available still today, though I am not sure if Ernest Hemingway drank his favourite drink out of a plastic cup as one gets it at present. But make a stop here, many pictures and artifacts inside the bar are in memory of the famous writer who used to get drunk here :-)
I was told by a good friend that I had to go here. Sloppy Joe is the famous hangout point of Ernest Hemingway and he spent a good few Pounds in this bar, indulging into Margaritas. He was one of the many artist people who resided on the Florida Keys to get inspiration of many works of art and literature that we still enjoy today.
Many visitors would arrive in Key West onboard a cruise ship since it is an important cruise destination. The port is situated only a few meters away from the town centre. A harbour front offers many shops, restaurants and bars and is a pleasant area to relax. Access to the port is restricted when cruise vessels are in port and you will find that if you are not passenger or guest of a ship you may not venture into all areas.
This is the Southern most city of the United States of America and at times it felt that one was not in the United States anymore. The architecture of the city appeared very colonial yet somehow Caribbean with white wooden houses, many court yards and gardens and lovely promenades. It is a very liberal city as well and visiting here one should leave the conservatism behind, since the clocks definitely work different on this island.
An absolute must - watch the sunset on Mallory Square. Everybody comes in the evening to Mallory Square to watch the sunset, it's a great start to your evening entertainment. There are loads of people and loads of entertainers such as jugglers, tight rope walkers, trained animals, fire eaters, escape artists, and many other performances designed to amuse you and vie for your attention. It’s fun to wander around and watch whatever takes your fancy. Then grab your favourite drink, sit down, make sure that you have your camera ready and watch the sun go down. It's a brilliant way to begin your evening.
No photos of the evening but a great time on the Waterfront at sunset. A number of entertainers all take turns in making the evening go with a bang. The sunsets are supposed to be the best in the world here andadvise you to take one of the many boat trips which we would have if we had timed it all better.
Visitors and local artists gather on the dock at Mallory Square each evening to celebrate the end to another tropical day. Musicians, jugglers, mimes, and the occasional fire-eater entertain you while local food vendors keep you fed. The daily sunset celebration has become one of Key West’s greatest traditions.
Treasure hunter Mel Fisher also called Key West home. Using Key West as a base, he recovered millions of dollars worth of gold and silver from the ship Nuestra Señora de Atocha, a 17th-century Spanish galleon that sank 45 miles west of Key West. Years before he died, Fisher had the good sense to establish the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society Museum, where visitors can view and even touch some of the riches of the Atocha and the Santa Margarita.
You can easily see why novelist Ernest Hemingway found inspiration for some of his best work here. Hemingway purchased a pre-Civil War mansion on Whitehead Street in the 1930s and lived in it for nearly a decade. These days, thousands of visitors seek out his home which is now a museum.
Keep exploring and before long, you’ll find yourself in Key West, the final stop on the Overseas Highway. Here, the land meets the sea amid 19th-century charm and 21st-century attractions. This is the nation's southernmost city, and it is actually closer to Havana than Miami.
This is one of the nicest lighthouses I've seen.
The first lighthouse was built in 1825 and was distroyed in 1846 by a hurricane which killed the keeper and his family. A replacement was built immediately with a tower of 60 feet, 20 feet was added 50 years later to todays condition, put the Wreckers out of business.
88 steps to balcony, and 10 more to light.
Open Daily 9:30-5:00
This is a must do for every one who visits Key West, getting your photo here at the Southern most point in the continental USA in front of the landmark. Just ask anyone there, they are happy to take your picture with your camera so you can have the proof you need to say you were there! Don't worry they will give your camera back!