Key West is the island at the very tip of the Florida Keys archipelago. As such, it’s the southernmost point of mainland USA. You’d be forgiven for picturing Disney World when you hear Florida, but Key West is almost 400 miles away geographically, and a million miles away philosophically.
You can fly into Fort Lauderdale Airport, direct from Gatwick Airport in London. From there it’s a four hour drive south, which may sound like a slog after a few hours on a plane, but it’s one of the most iconic and beautiful drives you’ll ever make, passing through the other Florida Keys.
Key West is, like the best things in life, a complex mix of contradictory elements. The architecture has a classic, Deep South feel to it, yet it’s a gloriously liberal town. Every corner is steeped in iconic Americana, and yet the influence of nearby Cuba also seemingly runs through everything.
The town reportedly attracts elderly US citizens, lovingly called ‘snow birds’ from colder, more northerly states in winter, yet the atmosphere remains youthful and joyous. Key West is a charming little puzzle, and one that’s easy to get lost in the rhythm of.
Key West, an anglicised version of the Spanish Cayo Hueso which literally means Land of Bones, owes much of it’s success to early smugglers and salvagers, who’d rush out to sea to claim the bounty from sunken ships bringing riches back to Europe from South America. And it’s in the water where many modern day adventures can be had.
Key West is surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. While the relatively still waters of Key West don’t lend them self to traditional surfing, it makes it a perfect place for Stand Up Paddleboarding.
There a more than a handful of places where you can hire a Stand Up board from, with some including guides who will take you into the mangroves in what will feel like true exploration. But for something a little different, Key West Paddle offer Night Boarding, where a SUP board is lit from beneath with waterproof LEDs, allowing you to see the sea creatures that only come out at night.
Similarly, windsurfing and kitesurfing are available to enjoy when the wind is strong enough, and kayaking provides an excellent option when it’s less gusty (which, if we’re being completely honest, it is most of the time).
If you’re looking for a little more horsepower, hiring a personal watercraft (or Jet Ski, to you and me) for a tour of the coast line is an adrenaline fueled way to spend a couple of hours. As ever, there are numerous places on Kew West to hire Jet Skis from, although we particularly enjoyed the tour given by the chaps at Barefoot Billy’s on the southern edge of the island, taking in most of the coast, and stopping mercifully short of the largest floating nudist colony in the world, just off Key West.