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.
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.
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.
I’d love to hear from you:
What memories warm your heart on these cold, winter days?