Enjoy the Margaritaville lifestyle in Key West Florida
Key West is the farthest-flung town on the Florida Keys, a string of 822 low-lying islands (about 30 of them inhabited) stretching from mainland Florida southwest into the Gulf of Mexico. Famously billed as the southernmost point in the continental U.S., the town is tropical not only in its physical locale, but in its attitude, which combines elements of Caribbean, Latin and U.S. culture into a relaxed, flip-flop, Margaritaville lifestyle.
Ernest Hemingway put Key West on the map, settling here with his second wife, Pauline, in 1928, and today the population is a mix of deeply tanned locals (known as ‘Conchs’), young neo-hippies, retirees, writers, artists and a large gay community, all living in quaint white-framed Conch cottages or restored Bahamian-influenced pastel Victorians.
In high season, the island’s population swells with thousands of cruise ship passengers and gaggles of weekend bikers, all of them heading to mile-long Duval Street, with its string of legendary bars.
Mallory Square pier is the place to be at sundown, when the daily sunset-watching ritual (and ephemeral green streak) is augmented by a cast of jugglers, fire-eaters and buskers. At the end of the day, return to your room at the Gardens Hotel, dedicated to the passion of former owner Peggy Mills, who considered gardening an art form.
For an excursion, hop aboard for the 70-mile trip to the Dry Tortugas: seven small, undeveloped islands that represent the real end of the Keys chain. Birdwatching is the big draw, with more than 200 species stopping for a rest during the annual migration, but there’s also historic Fort Jefferson, a monumental six-sided 19th-century citadel that seems to rise right out of the aquamarine ocean.