Top Five Reasons To Visit Key West


In 2011, 9.6 million tourists visited Key West, contributing $8,200,000,000 to the local economy and creating 102,000 jobs locally. Wow! That’s a lot of dinero. What is it about this little 2×5 mile southernmost island that attracts so many?

KW2011 238

The island’s OTHER wildlife

People from all walks of life visit here, from those who camp at Bluewater Key RV park to those who rent a Westin cottage on Sunset Key. Key West is like Vegas, but with fishing on the high seas instead of high stakes gambling. For some tourists, the highlight of their vacation is the freedom to drink their way from one end of Duval to another. For others, they come for the laidback, casual step away from demands of everyday life.

La Concha Hotel on Duval Street

La Concha Hotel on Duval Street

This island has something to offer almost everyone.

Here are my top five reasons I keep returning to the southernmost island and why I think you should put the Conch Republic on your bucket list–if it isn’t there already!

5.  Incredible Dining:

If you love fresh seafood, this is the island for you. If you don’t, you still will have plenty of five-star restaurant food selections. From the local favorites to the touristy Historic Seaport and Duval establishments, we’ve yet to be disappointed. Foodies will be in heaven here. I can’t wait to report back to you in a few weeks about our upcoming dining experience at Latitudes.

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops and Mashed Potatoes

Bacon-Wrapped Scallops and Mashed Potatoes

4.  Fantastic Water Sports:

You have your choice of snorkeling, paddleboarding, kayak ecotouring, swimming, scuba diving, flats fishing, deep-sea fishing, sailing, jet skiing and more. My favorite activities are the snorkel/kayaking combo, the flats fishing, and of course, the sunset sail.

Mangroves off Key West

Mangroves off Key West

3.  Awesome People-Watching:

Whether you stroll Duval, soak in the entertainment at one of the many bars or restaurants, lounge at a beach, go shopping, visit a museum, or take a ride on one of the tour trolleys, there will be plenty of opportunities to people-watch. As a writer, I get some of my best character and dialogue ideas from people I’ve observed or chatted with on that tiny, diverse island. Enjoy the variety!

Performer at the Aqua Club

Performer at the Aqua Club

2.  Biking:

Biking the island is so easy and fun and freeing. You are connected to nature, cycling everywhere like when you were a kid. I don’t know about you, but my busy suburban life doesn’t lend itself to leisurely bike ride through quiet side streets to the beach or bars. Just saying.

Lounging at the Beach

Fort Zach Beach is a short bike ride away!

1.  Being Accepted for Who You Are:

I always feel welcomed on the island, not just because my honey and I bring our tourist dollars, but because of who we are. Yeah, it’s a nice feeling. I’ve traveled other places, and nowhere else has quite matched it. I’ve yet to meet a local or tourist that I haven’t enjoyed talking with and learning about. Don’t be surprised if your concierge, taxi driver, or the restaurant wait staff engages you in conversation and shares a little about him or herself too. Key West’s motto, “One Human Family” may strike a chord with you as it has me. There’s a relaxed vibe of “live and let live” and in appreciating, or at least accepting, people’s differences. At the risk of sounding preachy, here’s one of my current favorite songs…

I’d love to hear about your favorite destination. What are your top five reasons for returning there time and again?

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12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gwen Petrarch
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 09:04:19

    Hey Jolyse! Awesome pics. Glen and I hit Ptown during Carnival in August and have been for years now. We have a little place we stay up there right on Commercial St near Standish. We’ve met a lot of performers, Randy Roberts, The Hat Sisters etc., and all talk about the migration down to FLA., and Key West for the winter season. I’ve yet to go although I do feel drawn there more and more. Your blog is one of the things keeping me connected to that journey that I know is in my not-too-distant future.

  2. Jill Weatherholt
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 09:47:33

    You don’t have to convince me, Jolyse! I love Key West. By the way, if you and your husband need someone to carry your luggage, fetch your drinks…I’m available when you head out on your fall get-a-way. 🙂

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Sep 17, 2013 @ 21:28:16

      I’d love to pack a stow-a-way, Jill! We are so excited to finally celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary in style…since we were in the throes of radiation treatment during our REAL anniversary. I had wanted to plan tons of activities for our getaway in honor of it all, but my honey convinced me to relax and set it up mostly when we arrive (We depend on our trusty B&B concierge to guide us to the perfect places, and he never disappoints.). The only plan we’ve made is our sunset dinner on Saturday at Sunset Key. Hoping we’re not rained out, but it will be lovely no matter what happens.

      Have a beautiful week, Jill! Does it still feel like summer there? It was only 48 degrees here this morning. Brrrr.

      • Jill Weatherholt
        Sep 18, 2013 @ 07:12:42

        I know you’ll have a wonderful time, you both deserve it! It’s in the low 50’s here this morning. Brrr is right! I think my hummingbirds are starting to leave which makes me sad. Have a wonderful trip, Jolyse!

        • Jolyse Barnett
          Sep 18, 2013 @ 19:03:42

          Oh, not the hummingbirds!! Thanks for the good wishes. I’m thankful I’m too busy with everything all the time to fret about waiting for the fun. Our getaway will be here before we know it. 🙂

  3. Rebecca Enzor
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 11:21:23

    We weren’t able to make our annual trek to Key West this year, and it’s made my entire summer sadder.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Sep 17, 2013 @ 21:36:17

      I’m so sad to hear you weren’t able to travel south this summer, Rebecca. I’ve been going through withdrawal since July. I will do my best to record everything for you to lesson the pain. Love your Little Pony’s, btw. 🙂

  4. jeff
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 22:00:31

    Love your list, and hoping your trip is great. We head down in less than a month and cant wait.
    Cannot shorten my list to 5 but music, food and booze is really good starting point. Cheers to your anniversary

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Sep 18, 2013 @ 19:01:06

      Thanks Jeff. Us too. Thanks for the anniversary wishes. As it gets closer if you guys want to meet up for a drink email me…if not, no worries! Wishing you a wonderful getaway. 🙂

  5. Marcia
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 22:03:35

    I love your top 5 reasons, Jolyse. I’ve long wanted to visit Key West. After reading your reasons to my hubs, he said we’ll have to figure out when we can go. YAY! I credit you for that. You’ll have to help me figure out the best time of year and the “can’t miss” attractions.
    My favorite vacations have been on the east coast. The Outerbanks of North Carolina, Cape Cod in Massachusetts, the coast of Maine, Virginia Beach. Something about the ocean….I love the power of the current, the freshness of the salt air, the feeling of calm and joy. The quaint towns that hug the coastline draw me in with their unique shops, seafood and friendly people. People in general seem happier along the coast. The beauty of the water meeting the sand, the sealife and coastal birds, and the weather worn cottages all make me wish to stay there forever. I guess that’s five: ocean, people, quaint towns, nature’s beauty, and joy.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Sep 19, 2013 @ 18:05:49

      Hi Marcia,

      I love to hear that my words inspired you! You won’t regret visiting the Florida Keys. We enjoyed traveling from Ft. Lauderdale via car south on Route 1 through all the keys before reaching our destination. It’s really an incredible experience. You’re right. There’s something about the quaint ocean towns. I couldn’t have expressed it better myself.

      Joy. Perfect.

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