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Guide To Key West Cruise Port, Florida Keys

Updated on May 13, 2011
Key West Piers
Key West Piers

Introduction To Key West

Key West is the USA's southernmost settlement, set at end of the string of islands called the Florida Keys. The town is well known for its liberated spirit; it is home to a community which prides itself for tolerance and free thinking. After the railroad joined the Keys in 1912, and the highway in 1938, Key West still remained a home to the independently minded.

The community is made up of a disparate population - Conchs (originally from the Bahamas), freshwater Conchs (long-serving residents) Hispanics (migrants from Cuba) and a large helping of drifters, hobos and dropouts. You'd be hard-pressed to find such a cosmopolitan mix outside Los Angeles or London.  

You only have to look back to 1982 to find a good example of the residents' power of thinking outside the box.  The US Border Service established searches  for vehicles running through Key Largo, to search for contraband.  This had a detrimental effect on Key West's tourist trade.  The town broke away from the Union, founded the Conch Republic, and declared war on the United States. Then they immediately surrendered, demanding foreign aid.  The traffic restrictions were rapidly lifted.

Key West plays host to large numbers of cruise passengers with its  atmosphere, character-strewn history and dependable summer climate. Add a bit of Ernest Hemingway, unbelievable treasure hunting tales and the cosmopolitan locals, and you have a very popular tourist destination.

Mallory Square
Mallory Square

Key West Cruise Port Information

1969 witnessed the first visit of a cruise ship to Key West, and in the next few years the port was not popular. Nowadays Key West receives more than 500 cruise ships every year.

The port offers three ship docking facilities, Mallory Square , Pier B and Outermole (or Navy Mole), shortened to M, B and OM. If your ship moors at Outermole, there's a 10 minute trolley ride to the town center.

Details of all the cruises visiting Key West can be seen at cruises to Key West.

Hemingway's House
Hemingway's House

Key West Shore Excursions

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
In his 30s Hemingway lived in the Keys for the winter and in Wyoming for the summer. The celebrated author's wonderful novel To Have and Have Not is set around the 1930s in Key West.  Hemingway was a well-known personality in the town, with his fondness of marlin fishing, late-night drinking, and feral cats.  Hemingway's Key West house is now a museum with lots of things from those wild times.

Mel Fisher Treasure Museum
In 1622 a fleet of 28 ships laden with treasures from South America foundered in a storm 45 miles west of the Keys. In 1985 diver Mel Fisher with a team recovered the booty from 2 of the sunk ships, the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and the Santa Margarita. The treasure salvaged formed part of the stolen wealth of an entire civilization, silver from Peru and Mexico, and gold and emeralds from Colombia. The incredible story of the hunt for the sunk ships is very nearly as amazing as the loot on display.  Another interesting display contains items from the Henrietta Marie a British slave ship. The wreck was discovered at the same time as the search for the treasure ships, and the salvaged artifacts reveal details about the  shocking Caribbean trade in slaves.

Mallory Square
As the sun sets over the southernmost spot in the United States, Mallory Square sees an evening jamboree, attracting  clowns, psychics, jugglers and mimes. Join in the fun, but don't forget to board your ship..

Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street
This infamous bar formally opened for business on  the very day that Prohibition ended. It was originally named Russells, followed by the Silver Slipper. Then Ernest Hemingway cajoled the patron John Russell to change the bar's name once more to Sloppy Joe's.  The bar has also moved premises, in 1937 - when in true Key West fashion, the customers barely stopped drinking to carry their drinks from the old spot to the new.  Sloppy Joe's provides an extensive food menu. For dessert, there's only one option, Key Lime Pie.

Conch train tour
The conch train terminus is in the heart of town, and you can buy tickets for the tour at the station office.  Here you'll also able to get brochures and town plans.  The trolley leaves about every half hour. There are nine stops on the tour route - you are allowed to leave and join the tour as you want.  The trains take a circular route round the town, and the guide introduces you to the famous sites.

Audubon House and Tropical Gardens
The eminent naturalist came to Key West in 1832, and spent several months in this building.  In the Keys he noted and drew 18 birds for his 'Birds of America' folio. The gallery showcases a splendid variety of Audubon paintings..  The house additionally  around one acre of tropical garden,  featuring ..

Many shops stand along Duval Street and the joining roads.  Here you'll find boutique fashion stores, art galleries, cigar shops, jewelry stores, and souvenir stalls.  

Southernmost Point Buoy
At the intersection of Whitehead Street and South Street sits the iconic Southernmost Point Buoy, marking the point furthest south in continental USA (Hawaii is further south). An inscription on the monument says that only 90 miles in a southern direction lies Cuba, and nearby, a sign commemorates the desperate Cubans who have drowned trying to cross to America.

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    • happyexplorer profile image

      happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere

      What a great list! I'd surely check these when I'm in the area. Thanks for sharing!