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Kew West - Florida - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Other Florida

Key West, situated 150 miles from Miami and 90 miles from Havana, is a tropical island city which has maintained a strong sense of detachment. Along with the rest of Florida, the US Government acquired Key West from Spain in 1821. The Spanish named the island ‘Cayo Hueso,’ meaning Bone Key, after native American skeletons were found on its shores. For three decades the primary industry in Key West was wrecking, rescuing people and salvaging cargo from ships that foundered on nearby reefs.

In 1845 the army constructed Fort Taylor, and after the war, an influx of Cuban dissidents brought the cigar industry to Key West. Fishing, shrimping and sponge gathering became important industries as well as pineapple canning. Through much of the 19th century and into the 20th, Key West was Florida’s wealthiest city in terms of per-capita. In 1929, the cigar industry moved to Tampa, and Hawaii dominated the pineapple industry. During the winter of 1934 to 1935 federal officials were able to attract over 40,000 visitors to Key West as a tourist destination.

Today Key West hosts a diverse population, many who can trace their ancestry to the Bahamas. Key West has a laid back lifestyle and serves as a tourist destination with many galleries, shops, museums and restaurants and with an average temperature of 74 degrees F. There are a number of festivals and artistic and cultural events, including the Conch Republic Celebration in April and a Halloween Fantasy Fest. Key West is only 2 miles by 4 miles.

Mass marketing of tourist apparel has attracted many cruise ships. Duval Street floods with day trippers, many on a day out from their ship.

The heart of Key West has a historic area which runs from White Street west to the waterfront. In the 19th century, wealthy wreckers, merchants and sea captains built lavish homes near the waterfront. A large number of these beautiful buildings have been restored and serve as homes, guest houses and museums. There are approximately 3,000 historic structures on Key West, and Old Town also has the city’s finest restaurants and hotels as well as lively street life and great nightspots.

Why not take the Old Town Trolley, which lets you get off and reboard a latter trolley. Old Town is also popular to visit on foot, on bicycle or moped. There’s a lot to see including Ernest Hemingway’s home and museum as well as the Lighthouse Museum. Visit Key West Aquarium located at Whitehead north end. If you want to visit a beach, try Simonton Street Beach on the Atlantic side or Old Town South beach, located on the southern end of Duval Street. A little farther east is Higgs Beach-Astro Park on Atlantic Blvd. It’s a lovely, historic place to visit and is also very popular for fishing and snorkelling.

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Page added on: 21 April 2006
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