Are you looking for a place to spend your vacation that offers countless opportunities for beachgoing, marine activities, encounters with wildlife, and nightlife? Do you have an interest in touring museums stuffed full of pirate treasure or homes that were once owned by famous authors? How about experiencing some of the strange traditions still practiced in a place that views itself as its own republic?
Continue reading if you haven’t already started getting ready for your trip to Key West in order to pick up some more interesting information about this peculiar island. You’re going to want to start planning your next vacation to the Florida Keys as soon as you finish reading these fun facts about Key West.
1) Key West Is Called The Conch Republic
On April 23, 1982, the city declared its independence from the United States of America in response to a checkpoint set up by the United States Border Patrol at the entrance of U.S. Route 1 to look for drugs and illegal immigrants.
In spite of the fact that the holdups were mostly symbolic, the bureaucratic issues that resulted in them caused traffic jams of tourists trying to enter the island that stretched for 17 miles.
The inhabitants of the area began referring to themselves as “conchs” after Key West declared itself to be the “Conch Republic.” This name continues to this day.
The Conch Republic Independence Celebration is an annual event held in April where Key West residents and visitors celebrate independence.
2) Key West Is Closer To Cuba Than Miami
This southernmost city in the United States is geographically located only 90 miles from Cuba, whereas Miami, which is one of the most populous cities in Florida, is located 150 miles away.
As a consequence of this, the island is saturated with Cuban culture, both in terms of its cuisine and its art. It is the site of the Cuban-American Heritage Festival, and it features an abundance of Cuban restaurants throughout the city.
3) Key West Is Connected To The Mainland By A Total Of 42 Bridges
Key West Florida is one of many islands that make up the Florida Keys, all connected by the Overseas Highway. In fact, many consider the Overseas Highway to be one of the most scenic drives in America. Finished in 1938, the Overseas Highway is 113 miles long, with a seven-mile bridge reaching Key West.
4) There’s No Longer A Key Lime Harvest
Everyone enjoys a delicious slice of key lime pie, but many people may be disappointed to learn that key limes are no longer cultivated or harvested on the island where the pie gets its name.
A few key lime trees that are privately owned still produce fruit in the Key West area, but the vast majority of the limes used to make the island’s signature sweet and sour treat come from the West Indies and Mexico.
5) Several Well-Known Authors Once Called Key West Their Home
Many people who go to Key West are interested in learning about its colorful history, particularly the large number of well-known authors who once lived there.
At his home in Key West, Ernest Hemingway penned some of his most notable works of literature. At the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, you can learn more about the author’s legacy, and during the month of July, the Hemingway Days Festival will pay tribute to the author’s works.
Not only Ernest Hemingway but also these authors also called the island home:
6) The Little White House
One of the little-known facts about Key West includes how many presidents loved it. The structure known as the Harry S. Truman Little White House was initially constructed in 1890 as an officer’s quarters for a naval station in Key West, Florida.
Later on, President Howard Taft stayed there while he was on the island for a visit. In 1946, President Harry Truman got orders from his physician to get some rest, so he traveled to Key West and stayed at the home. He returned to Key West annually as part of his relaxation routine, bringing White House staff with him to continue presidential operations.
As a result, the property became known as the “Little White House“. The following presidents have all been known to stay at the home:
Ulysses S. Grant
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Dwight D. Eisenhower
John F. Kennedy
7) The Southernmost Point
At the end of Simonton Street near Duval Street in Old Town, visitors will find a permanently anchored buoy known as the Southernmost Point. This buoy marks the southernmost point in the United States and provides an excellent photo opportunity at sunset.
Some people claim that this concrete buoy does indeed mark the southern point in the continental United States that can be reached by car, while others maintain that this is not the case, that another point on Key West island is further south.
Nonetheless, it is still a popular tourist stop. The previous marker, which was a wooden sign, has been replaced by this whimsical landmark, from which visitors assemble to view a breathtaking sunset.
8) The Atlantic Ocean Meets The Gulf Of Mexico At Key West
Because the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean meet in the middle of the Keys, the area around Key West is home to some of the most beautiful and unique ecosystems in the world.
Additionally, it is the location of the third largest barrier coral reef in the world, which is 170 miles long and stretches from Miami in the north to Dry Tortugas National Park in the west.
The combination of the deep ocean to the east and the shallow, flat gulf to the west creates the diverse ecosystem that is home to Key West’s flora and fauna.
9) A Mile-Long Pub Crawl
Some other little known facts about Key West include its adults-only entertainment. On Duval Street, you can do a mile-long pub crawl, which is perfect for those who enjoy an active lifestyle and alcoholic beverages.
Hang out at Hemmingway’s favorite watering hole, Sloppy Joe’s, or the original Margaritaville, owned and operated by Jimmy Buffett. In its entirety, the line of bars and establishments stretches 1.25 miles down Duval and is easily walkable.
10) There Are Ghosts On The Island
It is to be expected that a ghost story or two would linger in a place that has so much history surrounding it, and the abandoned forts at Dry Tortugas are not so far away. However, Key West itself is reportedly haunted, according to the locals.
After the sun has set, you can learn everything there is to know about Robert the Doll and the Key West Cemetery by going on the Ghosts and Gravestones Tour. Some people believe that the ghosts of Ernest Hemingway and Harry S. Truman roam the grounds of the famous museums known as the Hemingway House and the Little White House, respectively.
Additionally, some people believe that the ghost of the first female lighthouse keeper roams the grounds of the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum.
11) Misconceptions Regarding Key West
People may have some preconceived notions about the island of Key West when they think about it, but here are a few of those notions that can be put to rest:
The place wasn’t always known as “Key West.” Cayo Hueso is the name that Spanish colonists gave to the island when they first arrived there. After some time, this was shortened to just Key West.
The key that is furthest to the west is not Key West. Dry Tortugas National Park is located an additional 70 miles to the west of where the Florida Keys begin.
Although Jimmy Buffett does not currently call Key West home, he is said to maintain ownership of a property on Windsor Lane.
It was by chance that Key West was discovered. Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish explorer, is credited with being the first European to arrive in Key West in the year 1513.
Bet You Didn’t Know These Key West Facts
Now that we’ve cleared up some of the confusion surrounding Key West, what are some facts about the island that you were previously unaware of?
In the 1830s, the locals’ primary source of income was the salvage of sunken ships. By the year 1889, Key West had become the most populous and wealthiest city in the state of Florida.
Pan American airlines got its start in Key West. Pan American Airways began regularly transporting passengers and mail between Key West International Airport and Havana, Cuba, in 1927.
John Simonton privately paid $2,000 to acquire Key West in the year 1882.
Both the Calusa people who lived there before and the Spanish colonists were forced to move to Cuba. There are three forts from the Civil War located in Key West.
Both Sunset Key and Wisteria Island, which is also referred to as Christmas Tree Island, are artificially created islets. Sunset Key is home to opulent homes and resorts.
All of the cats that live in the colony at the Hemingway House are descended from the same six-toed cat that belonged to the author, and they all carry the same genetic mutation.
The Seven Mile Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
These interesting tidbits about Key West are just some of the many wonderful things about the area that attract visitors and make it such an interesting place to visit. Key West’s diverse culture has something for everyone.
In addition to enjoying shopping excursions to Mallory Square and Duval Street, tourists in Key West also take pleasure in riding the Old Town Trolley tours near Mallory Square, going to the Key West Aquarium, and taking the ferry out to Sunset Key to drive among the luxurious homes on that island.
We hope that after reading some of these facts about Key West, you will decide to make a trip there during your next vacation. Call Key West Sandbar Tours at this very moment to book your next exciting Key West excursion and find out more information about the available activities sure to keep you entertained when you next visit Key West.