Beach at Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park, Key West
The Conchs (those born in Key West) are friendly sorts, and so are the chickens: you’ll see them anywhere and everywhere. Large iguanas can also be found basking in the historic city cemetery, where some of the graves date back to the 1700s.
For a quick overview of the key, take the Conch Tour Train or the Old Town Trolley, both departing from Mallory Square. Tourists head here to watch the magnificent sunsets, but a cruise at sunset will be more rewarding.
Whatever your favorite watersport is, chances are you can find it in Key West. Kayaking in the mangroves was one of my favorite day activities. We did Lazydog's four-hour Mosquito Coast kayak/snorkel tour, paddling into remote backcountry and swimming in freshwater holes in the Gulf of Mexico.
We also took a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park (7 a.m. boarding time!), snorkeling in crystal blue waters and white sandy beaches. Worth getting up early for.
At Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park (pictured above), I felt as if I’d been transplanted to Southern France with its small cove beaches, white sands and ocean rock formations.
Nighttime is party time on Duval Street. Duval is the place to see and be seen – you can carry an open container on the sidewalks, and clothing stores sell beer. Music abounds all day, but it gets serious from around 10 p.m. - 4 a.m.
Seafood restaurants with fresh lobster are reasonably priced: try Kelly's (birthplace of Pan Am Airlines) on N. Whitehead Street. If you fancy French food, BlackFin Bistro on Duval Street is superb! Another notable place is Louie's Backyard (closed 3-5 p.m.).
Notable historic sites: the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum on 907 Whitehead St. and the Key West Lighthouse (from which you can see all of Key West) on the other side of the street.
The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, next to Ft. Zachary Taylor Park, has free admission and parking. A must-see.
Accommodation options on the key are hotels, B&Bs or rentals. Make sure to book before you get there – winter is high season.
For a quick getaway, head to Key West and live like a Conch for a few days. Paradise indeed!