Saturday, March 14, 2015

Key West history

For a tiny place Key West has a massive history. Here's a super summary of Key West's distinguished and crazy history: Ponce de Leon was the first European, setting foot in the Key West swamps in 1521. Then not much happened for 300 years until businessman John Simonton purchased Key West in a Havana bar in 1822 for $2000. Greene, Whitehead and Fleeming laid out the island plan in 1829 (and stole for themselves the names of the best streets).  Life in Key West was then dominated by - in turn - shipwrecking, sponging and cigar making, all of which left their particular marks and scars on the city. Key West was in glorious isolation until 1912 when the rail road arrived thanks to the determined and expensive efforts of billionaire Henry Flagler, then it was blown away in 1935 by the most intense hurricane ever to hit the USA, which killed the railroad link and 408 people. Then there was an arty phase with Hemingway and Williams and others. Once America's richest city per head, it was for 30 years a poor and run down place until someone came up with a bright idea of tourism. Restoration started in 1960 thanks to tight knit community spirit. The first cruise ship arrived in 1969 and started an unstoppable trend that now results in over 1 million tourists per year and all the stresses that produces on this tiny tropical place.

A little bit more....

Key West is island #823 - and is tiny, geographically speaking

Key West is an island of 7.4 square miles in Florida, 129 miles from Miami and 106 miles from Cuba.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Seaplane to Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson

The Dry Tortugas are a group of small islands 70 miles west from Key West and visiting them by seaplane is the best thing I've ever done from Key West and one of my highlights of the year. The flight is only at 500 feet so the ocean views are stunning but that's only a warm up for the island itself which is dominated by the huge Fort Jefferson, the largest brick made structure in the Americas. Then there's the beach and snorkeling. I visited Key West for years without visiting the Tortugas and that was a mistake - make sure you include the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson in your itinerary.
View of Fort Jefferson and the snorkeling area in front from the seaplane at the Dry Tortugas
Here are 11 things that are cool about a seaplane trip to the Dry Tortugas:
  • You get to fly in a small, 12 seat seaplane! That's cool!
  • You get amazing aerial views of Key West on take off and landing
  • For most of the flight you're at only 500 feet so you see loads of turtles, dolphins and other marine life in the water
  • You get to see all the lonely keys and sandbars between Key West and the islands - along with informative commentary from pilot
  • You're immersed in the Caribbean colors of the ocean - beautiful blues and greens
  • When you land on water at the Dry Tortugas experience how soft the landing is
  • If you go on the morning trip you arrive 90 minutes before the ferry so you have the fort and island to yourself, which is awesome and makes a real difference
  • Fort Jefferson, with its 16 million red bricks, is very photogenic
  • As is the vista out to open ocean which includes the Dry Tortugas lighthouse, 157 feet high, a few miles away on Loggerhead Key
  • The snorkelling, just off the island, is easy to do and good. Much better than anything from Key West
  • The colors, clarity and contrasts are stunning and you end up with some amazing photographs. The photos you see below are the set I'm most proud of across all my photos of the Florida Keys
FAQs - visiting the Dry Tortugas

Saturday, January 10, 2015

2014 changes in Key West

Key West 2014
What in Key West changed for the better and what changed for the worse in 2014? Here is my annual review of Key West changes - a personal selection. If you want a comprehensive list then read the Citizen! I do this every year and you can see links to previous years' reviews at the end of this post.

The two anncouncements offering the most impact were not new or surprising and had been brewing for years:

US to normalise relations with Cuba - 90 miles from Key West
Cuba came whole lot closer to Key West in December when President Obama announced more normal relations with Cuba, including relaxing travel barriers for vacations to Cuba. Subsequently, Cuba was named the #2 top destination in the New York Times's 2015 list.

This has potential for profound impact on the closest US real estate to Cuba (e.g. Key West) and could well mean a lucrative tourist route starting between the two. Day trip to Havana, anyone?

The alternative prediction for Key West is a reduction in cruise ship traffic because they choose to stop off / divert to new, interesting, different Cuba rather than good ol' Key West (which regrettably is looking more indistinguishable from all Caribbean / sunny destinations with each passing year).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Cheap hotels in Key West

There are very few cheap hotels in Key West as it's not a budget place to stay. Key West has a lot of visitors chasing a limited number of hotel rooms - it is a tropical island after all and for 1 million visitors a year there are not that many hotels. If you want value you'll need to widen your search to cheap guesthouses and cheap B&Bs in Key West. This is because there are many more good value B&Bs then good value hotels in Key West and also the guesthouses here are generally much nicer and more central. Also if budget and price is a major factor then when you visit Key West will be important. The off season in Key West is up to 40% cheaper.

The golden rules for finding good value hotels, B&Bs and inns in Key West are:

Monday, December 1, 2014

Top 10 posts on Key West Lookout

Here are the top 10 most read articles on this blog since I started Key West Lookout in 2009. Key West Lookout is written by me and only me. I am a regular Key West visitor, and have been taking vacations in Key West since 1998. My aim is to provide the best, most comprehensive and most up-to-date Key West vacation guide on the planet. See you in Key West!

#1: Best time of year to visit Key West

#2: Key West hotels

#3: Top things to do in Key West

#4: What to do in Key West when it rains

#5: Key West restaurants

#6: Gay Key West

#7: Best cocktails and martinis in Key West

#8: Key West guesthouses

#9: Planing a Key West vacation

#10: Key West pictures




Sunday, November 30, 2014

When is the best time of year to visit Key West?

Best time to visit Key West is January to May
Most visitors say the best time to visit Key West is January to May because the weather is perfect: it's not unbearably humid yet, and it's so cold at home. In fact, from November to March Key West is the hottest place in the entire contiguous USA. As a result, it's peak season, very busy and super expensive in Key West in these months. The off season (June to December) has its charms, but big downsides too, as I explain below, including a month by month guide.

Let's start with some Key West best time of year Frequently Asked Questions….

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Planning a Key West visit

This post will help if you're planning a Key West visit or vacation and have planning questions and worries like when to visit Key West, how long to stay, what to wear, how to get to Key West, if it will rain, how expensive it is, or even if Key West is the king of place for you. Of course, you've hear about famous Key West but what's it really like? Please read on.
Planning a Key West visit. Key West is a small island, 126 miles down a dead end highway, and can be a busy place. So make sure you've done your planning. Shown here is Duval Street in the setting sun. It's not normally this quiet, this is taken during the summer when crowds are much fewer.
This post will answer these questions:
  • When should I visit Key West?
  • How to get to Key West?
  • How bad is the traffic?
  • Where to stop off on the way down the Keys?
  • How long to stay in Key West?
  • Do you need a car / what to so with the car while in Key West?
  • What to wear in Key West?  How formal is Key West?
  • Where to stay and what to do?
  • How good is Key West for children?
So click on the link below and let's get going....

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Welcome to Key West

Welcome to Key West
This blog is for those planning a Key West vacation or if you're already on holiday here.

It'll help you decide if Key West is the place for you. Or, for those already on vacation in Key West, to make sure you don't miss anything.

It's written by me, a fellow visitor to Key West who has visited dozens of times over the years. The blog is totally independent, please feels free to browse the 200 posts covering all manner of subjects related to Key West. This blog is kept up to date, with the latest update on 7 March 2015. 

Where to start?
The top 10 viewed posts on this blog are here. 

Looking for the Best in Key West? You can find that here.

Finally, here's some posts along the Key West useful/fun spectrum.


Me,  Key West David
This is me drinking a Key Lime Martini in Blue Heaven, a unique Key West restaurant:
Key West David in Key West
If you're interested, here's more about me, including how to contact me. I'd love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment in the comment section below, or follow this blog.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Key West Lookout photo blog

Key West Lookout, this blog, is part photo blog and photographs and images of Key West have always been a vital part of the blog from the beginning. There must be more than a thousand images on this blog by now, with more being added all the time. And these selected carefully from the tens of thousands of pictures I have taken in Key West over the years.

Here's my picture of the week, I LOVE it!
Pelicans in free flight during Key West sunrise
click below for more picture of the week...

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Aqua nightclub Key West

Inga on the stage at Aqua nightclub Key West
9pm at Aqua bar and nightclub on Duval Street in Key West is showtime when the Aquanettes hit the stage with their drag show called Reality is a Drag. It's $15 entrance (no drinks included in this price): get there for the 9pm show and, if you like it, you can stay through the next show for free (which is at 11pm Friday and Saturday). This is a great show, good fun, not for the easily offended and highly recommended.
For more pictures of the show and the performers click below…

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fantasy Fest 2014 live

7 November 2014. Well Fantasy Fest 2014 is well and truly over. Amazing fun, great events, little inhibition (I definitely saw too many naked bodies with too little body paint), and tens of thousands of beads later. No rain for the main events on Friday and Saturday, and actually great weather. It was super busy on Saturday of the main parade. But then Key West got much less busy immediately before and after the main parade. The parade was ok to good - congratulations to the private groups and individuals who spent so much time on their parade floats. I was not so keen on the corporate floats. Well done to all the people who selflessly organise, and raise money around, Fantasy Fest.

The best: Ten times better than Saturday's parade, and the best event of Fantasy Fest overall, was the Masquerade March on Friday. Brilliant! Key West locals you're the best. I love you. We had an amazing party again. Your variety of fancy dress was amazing!

Here's looking forward to Fantasy Fest 2015!


My best pictures: I took hundreds of pictures, so here are a very small number of my favorites:
Of the thousands of costumes and fancy dress creations on the 2014 Masquerade March here is my very favorite 
Fantasy Fest 2014 Masquerade March and my favorite picture overall - the view along Simonton Street of thousands of locals and visitors in full costume
One of the brilliant things about the Masquerade March, where everyone expresses themselves as they wish, is the occasional contrast this philosophy produces, like the one shown above 

Fantasy Fest Key West

This is my guide to Key West's Fantasy Fest if you're new to it and are Fantasy Fest curious. Fantasy Fest Key West is a 10-day series of events and crazy parties which runs the last two weeks of October. The 2015 dates are 23 October to 1 November 2015. Fantasy Fest always has an annual theme which most people ignore: for 2014 was Anim├ęted Dreams and Adventures, 2015's is All Hallows Intergalactic Freak Show (who thinks these themes up?!).

Fantasy Fest 2014 Key West
Fantasy Fest 2014 Key West
2014 was the 36th annual Fantasy Fest in Key West and the very best events (in my view) come at the end: the Masquerade march on Friday 24 October and the big showpiece event, the parade on Saturday 25 October 2014.

Link on my blog: 2014 Fantasy Fest live blog + 200 pictures

Continue reading for my guide to Key West Fantasy Fest for new visitors and first timers.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Key West signs

Key West sign. This is a good sign (Schooner Wharf)
There are some fantastic signs in Key West. Visually striking signs, funny signs, historic signs, homemade signs, famous signs...I take hundreds of pictures of signs, logos and signage. Here is my selection of my favorite Key West signs.

One Human Family in the Conch Republic
Birthplace of Pan American World Airways Key West - Caroline Street and Whitehead St
Half Shell raw bar sign in Key West. Eat it Raw

To see dozens more Key West signs click below....I've added the newest additions at the top...

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Beautiful Key West

Beautiful Key West
Key West is a beautiful collision of nature, the ocean and the sun at full power. Get off Duval Street and take the time to get into the relaxed and tropical vibe. Beauty in plants, flowers, trees and animals combine with the ocean and spectacular, varied, historic architecture. Add the backdrop of weather (often blue skies) then Key West's getting pretty high on the beauty scale.

You have to come here in person and walk around the place. So all I can give you is an impression. Everything you see below is available in a few square miles in Key West Old Town. All these pictures are all mine and unadulterated by Photoshop or the like.

If you're visiting Key West, take some time to get off Duval Street and explore. If you're not, then sit back, look at the following pictures, and dream tropical!

The ocean
Dolphin in Key West waters, very close to shore - this taken from the East Quay wall at the Truman Waterfront
>>> MORE below for Beautiful Key West Trees and Flowers; Animals; Sunset….