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Key West Historic Seaport

Lands End Street at KW Historic Seaport

During daylight hours, Key West is all about sun and sea. You can soak in some rays at one its beaches, and rent a kayak or jet ski if you have the energy. For a bit more monetary and vacation hour investment, you can hire a charter boat to go backcountry or offshore fishing. If you want an even closer look at the vast array of ocean life, this tropical island offers snorkling and scuba diving opportunities–from novice outings steps away from the beach to challenging shipwreck dives. When you’ve done all that, but still want the ambiance of marina life, my suggestion would be to walk or bike ride to Key West’s Historic Seaport.

To reach this renovated section of Old Town, trek to Lower Duval, turn right on Front Street and travel east until you hit Margaret Street. Here’s a little history, according to Florida State Tourism Board, if you’re interested:

Formerly known as Key West Bight, this once seedy piece of prime waterfront real estate was where shrimpers, spongers, and turtle traders came to unload their daily catch, tell tall tales of the sea, quaff a few brews, and just generally hang out. With the relocation of the shrimp boats to Stock Island and the demise of sponging and turtle hunting, this area has undergone a complete metamorphosis. In January 1999 it was officially opened as the Key West Historic Seaport and HarborWalk. Tall ships still tie up here, but so do million-dollar yachts.

Key West Marina

In addition to being home of the city marina, with charter boats, ferries, and other assorted watercraft, Historic Seaport has hundreds of shops and a number of Old Town’s famous restaurants. If you bike here, be sure to lock up your Conch Cruiser at one of the Lands End racks before taking a stroll.  The half-mile Harbor Walk that stretches between Grinnell and Greene is for pedestrians only. That’s fine though, because you’ll enjoy stopping often to see the sights–including hungry fish who will readily eat your restaurant leftovers.

Speaking of restaurants, you may want to eat at the famous A&B Lobster House, the Half Shell Clam Bar, Bo’s Fish Wagon or Turtle Kraals while you’re in the vicinity. My husband and I took our fresh catch to Turtle Kraals and were thrilled with the results. We returned later that week for happy hour and took advantage of their Tower Bar, where we were served appetizers and cocktails while enjoying the magnificent view. We watched tourists returning with their catch, locals cleaning their boats, and glassbottom boats unloading their passengers. One of our favorite activities that evening was participating in the turtle races.

Getting Ready for the Race

If you arrive at Turtle Kraals on a turtle race evening, ask for a slip from one of the servers. On the slip will be a number 1-4. At 6 PM, take your drink outside and root on your turtle. Hopefully you’ll be one of the people with the slip number matching the winning turtle. (If not, it’s still a lot of fun to watch.) Winners select a key with a number. The jackpot was up to $400 the night we were there, but it may be lower or higher depending on how long it’s been since someone has won the night you participate. Each person then has the option to try opening the treasure chest with the key. Sometimes the emcee also gives another option, such as trading the key for a mystery gift or a known prize. The night we were there, the prizes included restaurant gift certificates and merchandise from its store.

To work off your meal, you may want to browse through a few of the many boutiques and street vendors located in Historic Seaport. My sweet husband once bought me the beautiful silver bracelet below. (Click on the photo for more information, if you’re interested.) This past getaway, we bought a dolphin bracelet to thank our 20-year-old for helping out with her little brother back at home. I’d highly recommend this store for its quality and unique offerings.

So, if you ever get a chance to travel to the southernmost point of the continental U.S., consider trekking off Duval Street for breathtaking views, great food, free fun, and maybe even a bauble or two. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Margarita Moment. May your week be full of warmth and sunshine–in your memories if not your locale.

Another view of Key West Marina

I’d love to hear from you:

What memories warm your heart on cold, winter days?

22 comments on “Key West Historic Seaport

  1. I love marnias and I so want to visit this one now. I would also really enjoy seeing the turtles, they’re so cute. :)

    1. Thanks, Nicole. Yeah, the turtle racing was hysterical. I’m thankful turtles are no longer harvested in KW, too.

  2. Oh, Jolyse, I love marinas, living by the water, looking at boats sailing around, and the general ambience of life on the ocean. Living on the coast of California, I can’t imagine living anywhere NOT on the water. I have geographical claustrophobia and when I lived inland in Oregon I hated it.
    Patti

    1. I agree, Patti! I imagine there are many beautiful inland places to live. But for me, I need that salty ocean breeze to breathe right. I would love to visit coastal CA someday. You could give me some travel tips. :)

  3. We stopped in Key West for just a few hours a several years ago. I really wish we’d had more time and I definitely want to go back. I hope to learn to scuba at the end of this summer, so maybe next year. Great post, Jolyse!

    1. I don’t scuba, and I’m not a proficient snorkler (like to float on top, really), but I do love the water. I hear there are magnificent dive sights throughout the Keys. Go for it, Rhonda!

  4. I was up and out at 6am and it was COLD! Thoughts of this post are going to keep me warm. Thank you, Jolyse, for sharing.

    1. Happy to warm your heart today, Jeannie. Brrrr. Is winter over yet?

  5. Here’s what interested me: that you can take your catch to a restaurant and have it cooked. I am sure it was not cheap, but it certainly answers the question of what to do with your catch if you charter a deep sea fishing expedition. :D

    Love your posts about Key West. Someday…

    1. My husband is good about reminding me how much that one lunch cost us! LOL It was a great adventure, though, and I’d love to do it again. Like you….someday.

  6. Donna Coe-Velleman says:

    The turtle races must have been fun. I enjoy little things like that. Like you I love the water. Can’t imagine being far from it.

    Thanks for another tour of Key West, though I’m sure it’s nothing like being there.

    1. As a writer and avid reader, Donna, I know you have a wonderful imagination. I hope I was able to emote the KW vibe through my words and photos, even if only a little.

      Hope you get a chance to travel there one day. Let me give you directions…You know how to get to I-95. Take that south to the end, where it turns into Route 1. Take Route 1 to the end and you’re there. Just like that. :)

  7. Sounds like a great time, Jolyse. I love the bracelet reminder too. Can’t wait to go back to Key West with all of your travel tips in mind!

    1. I wear my bracelet every day. Look forward to hearing about your experiences. Better yet, I’d love to be there when you are. :)

  8. Marcia says:

    Oh, I SO want to go there! I’m printing all your KW posts so they’ll be like a travel guide. Okay, queer, I know but it’s part of my goal-setting thing–having something tangible to keep my goals in front of me. :) Beautiful pics, Jolyse!

    1. Not strange at all, Marcia. I love blogging about Key West and the pleasure is quadrupled by knowing that people like you may benefit from my research and experiences.

      Who knows? Maybe I will end up writing travel guides, too, like one of my bffs keeps telling me. :)

  9. I’ve always wanted to go to Key West and tour the sights, including the underwater Jesus. They have all kinds of scuba diving weddings over there and I’d love to see it. :-)

    1. Hi Jenny! Key West has so many cool things to see and do. We never run out of fun choices. I believe the underwater Jesus is higher up in the Keys off the coast of Key Largo. You may enjoy driving down Route 1, stopping along the way to check out different places. The Overseas Highway is an attraction in itself as the longest road over water, with more than 34 bridges connecting mainland Florida to the Keys 100 miles southeast to Key West. My daughter has already decided she want to marry in KW, even though she currently has no BF. LOL

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