Guest Author - Ann Carroll Burgess
Key West, the southernmost city in the United States, is a popular destination for travelers who want an island environment and still remain in the United States. Key West retains the spirit of a village but unlike any youíve ever seen before. Once a pirate hang out it is now a popular place for those who want something a little different and the Conch Republic welcomes the annual winter invasion with tolerance and humour.
Walking is the best way to savour the charms and relaxed atmosphere of old Key West. But if the distance or the heat is a little too much try taking the Old Town trolley, a 90 minute narrated tour aboard a little engine driven train.
Make sure you donít miss out on the sunset celebrations at Mallory dock. Every day that the weather permits, locals gather at the dock to celebrate the setting of the sun. This has become a legendary tradition and has grown in scope to include a host of street entertainers and musicians.
The Audubon house and gardens is a fine house that dates to 1813. The famous naturalist and artist john James Audubon never actually stayed in this house. However, he worked on his paintings in the garden while visiting the island in 1832 to study the native birds.
Founded in 1845, Fort Zachary Taylor was a rare union outpost in the south during the Civil War. Rescued from obscurity it now houses a small museum and a large collection of Civil War cannons. This is a great place for a picnic as thereís a public beach with picnic tables, in a rare bit of shade.
Ernest Hemingway moved into a mid 19th century house in 1931 with his second wife, Pauline, and they furnished it with a mixture of Spanish, Kevin, and African mementos from their travels. The author wrote most of his finest work here, and his notorious eight toed catsí descendants still have the run of the place.
The Key West Aquarium, a local attraction since 1932, is a good place to bring children as there are touch tanks, turtle pens, and for the fearless, shark feeding opportunities.
The 1848 Key West Lighthouse has been turned into a museum that offers splendid views of the keys from its balcony. You will have to climb 88 steps however, in order to see that view. In the Keepers Quarters youíll find a small but interesting museum.
President Harry S. Truman made Key West his ďalternative White HouseĒ during his six years in office. This late 19th century house has been restored in the style of the 1940s and operates as the little White House museum.
Key Westís oldest house is an 1829 sea captainís home with a distinctly nautical air. It contains furnishings and all manner of artefacts, including model ships, pictures, and documents relating to the 19th century salvaging industry.
A visit to Key West would not be complete without a tour of the Mel fisher maritime heritage museum. Gold bullion, jewellery, silver tableware and other treasures salvaged from Spanish treasure ships are on display by the famous treasure hunter, Mel Fisher. Thereís a terrific video presentation and, of course, a souvenir shop so that you can take home your own treasure.