Key West in the southernmost point of US needs a long drive along the Florida Keys. But this tropical town definitely is worth the drive. Its gingerbread houses and tropical lifestyle make you want to stay longer than planned – but what if you only have one day in Key West?
I have been to Key West twice on my trips to US, and I sure want to make the 166 mile drive again. Why?
A typical Key West home
Key West is different and you get a feeling of being abroad. You’re in the tropics and in the Caribbean. And there’s so much to see and do.
If you go there for a just one day you need to know where to go so you don’t waste your time. That’s why I made a Key West walking itinerary and marked it on a Google map. I also searched in my photos to show you what you can expect along my itinerary. So this post will show you what you can see in one day in Key West.
Key West and Florida Keys
This is South Florida: Miami, the Everglades and the Florida Keys. Key West is where the Florida Keys end and driving time from Miami to Key West is 3 to 4 hours one way, without stops.
Another way to go Key West is to take a cruise. Caribbean cruises from Miami often stop at Key West and you have a whole day for Key West attractions.
I have made a separate post on the Florida Keys. That post shows you the drive from Miami to Key West and you will find it here: Driving to Key West.
But now, let us see Key West.
What to See in One Day in Key West
So Key West is small enough to explore in one day and on foot. The cruisers almost come to the old part of the town that is full of Victorian houses like this one: white, yellow, blue villas with verandas and surrounded by tropical gardens.
Then there is the shoreline: the ferry port and a separate small-scale fishing harbor that I will show photos on. There is the Mallory Square where you have to be when the sun sets and Ernest Hemingway’s home – and pretty shopping streets and a lot of restaurants. There is a lighthouse and the Southernmost tip of Continental US.
One Day in Key West: Walking Map
The map shows the old part of Key West and my walking itinerary is marked with blue dots.
If you arrive by car you will come from east and the ferry harbor is on the north shore. The fishing harbor (the Historic Seaport) is on the north east side behind Caroline Street, Mallory Square west of the cruise harbor and the Hemingway home in the south.
This is a typical Key West house with verandas on both sides. Many Key West houses have this kind of gingerbread carvings that come from the Victorian time of the 1800s.
Some more Old Town houses:
In Key West houses are built in a way that makes it easier to live in a hot climate. The wide verandas are for shade, large windows for cooling breezes and shutters to keep out the sun and protect from storms and hurricanes.
And there are big trees around the houses that protect from tropical sun and winds.
End of US Highway 1
Here you can see where the US 1 highway ends. US 1 is 2400 miles (3800 km) long in all: starting in Maine it follows the east coast all the way to Key West.
The Historic Seaport
This is the pretty historic seaport on the northern edge of the Old Town. It has a nice harbor boardwalk with a good choice of seafood restaurants, shops and music bars. You can watch fishing boats come and leave and take a fishing charter.
There is all size of fish in the water and they come below the boardwalk, and there should also be manatees which I haven’t seen yet.
Pelicans and Turtle Museum
Pelicans are nice to look at. There are most of them at the time fishermen come from the sea. They are such friendly, peaceful birds.
There’s also a small sea turtle museum in an old boat shed.
Key Lime Pie
We once stopped at one of the tropical-style restaurants for some oysters. And of course we took Key lime pie for dessert once we were here. In the Florida Keys they really know how to prepare key lime pie!
A big green iguana was watching us and I don’t know if it wanted our oysters or the Key lime pie. I would think it’s a plant eater but it sat there as long we had lunch and disappeared as we left.
That was a tropical-style cafe and there are many more of them. So take it easy if you get tired of walking and even if you don’t get tired, go and have a cooling tropical drink.
Sometimes during holiday seasons Key West tends to be very crowded. But we in November when we were visiting it was not crowded at all. But it was different during our first visit which happened to be in the spring break weeks. I can tell it was very crowded and noisy at that time and at nights too.
Traditional Old Town Hotels
If you stay longer than one day in Key West try to choose accommodation in local style: there are small family hotels and homestays everywhere.
We stayed at Westwinds Inn. This is the facade and the inn has more old-fashioned buildings behind the main house and they also have a lush tropical garden where the breakfast room is. This hotel was a good choice and their room price was reasonable. Here’s a link to their website: Westwinds Inn.
In a warm climate seasonal happenings and traditions look different than in the north. This is aVeterans’ Day parade in November. Lots of military material, US flags and great costumes.
When the parade was over many of the spectators wanted to give their small paper flags to our little 3-year old. She was so happy for that that she took the flags all the way back to Europe.
Caribbean Colors and Signs
Some samples on the tropical Key West style you can see everywhere. All signs and little things look so artistic. They really use their tropcial colors down here.
This is one of the main shopping streets, the Duval Street. There are souvenir shops and cloth stores. It’s busy at daytime when cruisers have arrived and you can tell when the cruisers have left.
If you only stay one day in Key West it might be a good idea to rent a bike in the shopping streets or use the tourist trolley to see more.
The Bahamians were the first that lived in Key West and there still exists an area in the old town that is named after them. And the Bahamians still live here of course.
Bahama Village is different from all other Key West areas. It’s different and original, people live their life outdoors and chicken are running in the streets. In Bahama Village houses are small and simple and painted in strong Caribbean colors.
Hemingways’s House is the most famous sight of Key West. Ernest Hemingway lived in this house with his family in the 1930s.
We took a guided tour of the house which was a good idea. We saw the interiors and the rooms, the gardens and Hemingway’s working-room where he once sat writing his books.
The Hemingway Home has many cats everywhere, both inside and out.
These cats are grandchildren in many generations of Hemingway’s cats. At Hemingway’s time his cats had a special feature, they had six toes and many of these cats still have the same feature. They are six-toed.
Mallory Square is the place where people come and watch the sunset. Artists perform and entertain the crowds and everybody looks like they are having fun. This is the Caribbean islands!
And after the sunset people go and dine in the tropical restaurants.
Almost opposite to Hemingway Home on Whitehead Street is an old lighthouse that also has a small lighthouse museum.
For panoramic views of Key West can climb the 88 steps to the top of the lighthouse.
The Southernmost Point of US
A few blocks south from the Hemingway Home is the southernmost point of the continental US. There is a marker and always crowds of people taking photos of this place they want to remember.
This was one day in Key West, my old town walking tour ends here. Maybe you have to leave, or decide to stay longer in Key West. If you leave you’ll probably return one day since Key West has a special charm…
More on Florida Travel
- Driving along the Florida Keys
- Four Short Walking Trails in the Everglades
- Read about biking in Shark Valley, Everglades
- Explore Miami by car
- Cycling along Miami Beach and Ocean Drive
- See the Ocean Drive Art Deco District