The City of Key West is a unique and beautiful place to live and visit. Real estate in the Port of Key West dates to the Spanish Kings. Today's palm-lined streets are lined with gingerbread mansions and tin-roofed conch homes. They have also been home to famous Americans like Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and John Audubon. They have also hosted visitors like Harry Truman, Lou Gehrig, and Thomas Edison. Located near many shipwrecks, the Port of Key West houses the treasures of the 17th Century Atocha that sank in 1622. The Port of Key West is also home to a thriving community of established and struggling artists.
The Port of Key West has a tropical climate like many Caribbean islands. It may be the only city in the continental United States that has never had frost, ice, sleet, or snow. Weather is moderated by the Gulf of Mexico, and temperatures rarely fall below 10°C (50°F). The easterly tradewinds and sea breezes make summer temperatures much more comfortable that the US' southern states. The Port of Key West has wet and dry seasons. From November through April, sunshine dominates. From May through October, rain falls almost every day in showers and thunderstorms. Still, the Port of Key West is Florida's driest city! Temperatures range from an average high of 32°C (89°F) in July and August to an average low of 18°C (65°F) in January.
One of the most popular places to go in the Port of Key West is the Shipwreck Museum. From the observation tower, you'll get a breath-taking panoramic view of the whole island. The Museum focuses on the era of the "wreckers," the salvage operators who made the Port of Key West the richest city in the United States for a time. Visitors will be informed and entertained by actors, artifacts, and films about the rediscovery of the 1856 wrecked Isaac Allerton. Master wrecker Asa Tift and his crew tell you the story of the salvage industry and the Port of Key West's early pioneers.
Visitors can also get a great view of the island from the 1847 Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum. Built to help ships navigate the reefs of the lower Keys, the original tower was 14 meters (46 feet) tall with 15 oil lamps powered by 15-inch reflectors. In 1894, the tower was extended to 26.2 meters (86 feet). Today, visitors climb its 88 iron steps to the observation deck. The tower and Keeper's Quarters are restored and maintained as they were. The Keeper's Quarters, a clapboard bungalow, recreates a turn-of-the-century style, complete with furnishings and photographs that describe the life of the Port of Key West. The Port of Key West Lighthouse is the 15th oldest lighthouse in the United States.
Families will love the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, located at the Truman Annex Waterfront in the Port of Key West. In its over 557 square meters (six thousand square feet), the Center contains a big theater, marvelous photographs, and touch screens that provide entertaining learning focused on reef and mangrove habitats. The new Living Reef Exhibit boasts a 2500-gallon reef aquarium. Marine art depicts deep-sea, coral reef, and mangrove shoreline. Exhibits explain the ecology of the island's habitats from upland pinelands to seagrass flats to coral reef. Best of all, admission is free when the Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 4pm.
Taking the ferry 113 kilometers (70 miles) west of the Port of Key West, visitors go to a cluster of seven islands that include coral reefs and beautiful sand. The Dry Tortugas National Park offers a variety of marine and bird life as well as a military history and legends of sunken gold and pirates. Fort Jefferson was built in the mid-1800s as a large military fortress to protect the busy shipping channel. At Garden Key, a lighthouse was built in 1825 to warn vessels of the dangerous reefs. Later in 1958, a brick-tower lighthouse was added on Loggerhead Key for the same reason. To protect the resources in the park, there are a small number of commercial services available to campers: fishing trip guides, dive/snorkeling trips, wildlife viewing, and sailing charters. There are also two ferry operators and a seaplane operator who provide access to the park each day.
On Whitehead Street, visitors will find the Ernest Hemingway House. Open every day from 9am to 5pm, descendants of the extra-toed cats he raised still roam the grounds. Hemingway wrote here for over a decade and, sportsman extraordinaire, developed his love for deep-sea fishing. Tour guides share details about the Hemingways and answer questions as they lead visitors through the rooms and gardens. The house contains the original Hemingway furniture, and the famous polydactyl cats that he loved.
Since 1958, the Conch Tour Train sightseeing tour takes visitors through the historic Old Town area, including Mallory Square, Duval Street, the Hemingway House, and the historic Port of Key West. Over 15 million people have taken the tour to return to the days when Cuban cigar-makers produced millions of hand-rolled cigars, when the old village was called Cayo Hueso, and when Mel Fisher finally found the $450 million treasures on the Nuestra Senora de Atocha that sank in 1622. The Port of Key West Conch Train Tour will also preview the stores and shops in Key West for later exploration.
Diving the reefs near the Port of Key West is one of the most popular activities. The Key West Dive Center offers modern diving vessels with showers, restrooms, big dive platforms and ladders, and plenty of storage space. Divers can get scuba certification, go snorkeling, take a dolphin tour, and learn to snuba. The Morning Wreck and Reef trip goes to the Newly Sunk Vandenberg, a 158.5-meter (520-foot) US missle-tracking ship and a dive in the outer reef to a depth of up to 18.3 meters (60 feet). Divers can rent full equipment or just tanks and weights. Great for families with both divers and snorkelers, the Afternoon Dual Reef Dive visits the living coral reef at depths that range from 4.6 meters (15 feet) to 12.2 meters (40 feet). The popular Dive in a Day Resort Course is perfect for divers who want to try scuba but can't invest three or four days for certification. The first lesson is in the pool. After that, participants take two one-hour dives at the coral reef. Snorkeling and diving are available from the same boat.
Visitors who believe (or want to believe) in ghosts should take the 90-minute walking tour of Old Key West where they'll get the most historically-correct versions of ghostlore in the Port of Key West. The Ghosts and Legends tour visits the shadows while the tour guide tells the popular ghost stories and legends about pirates, voodoo rituals, haunted mansions, and a very strange Count who lived with his beloved's dead body.
Sebago Watersports, in the Port of Key West's waterfront area, features reef snorkeling, sails at sunset, and all kinds of water-related entertainment. Great crews take good care of visitors on Sebago trips that include sunset sails, all-day adventures, parasailing, and wild dolphin charters to name a few.
Key West Kayak Fishing and Eco Tours offers charters, guides, and information about fishing around the Port of Key West.
Travelers who want to visit the Port of Key West by cruise ship can find a calendar on the city's website or by searching for "Key West" at the Cruise Compete website.
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