Thursday, December 22, 2016

Key West vacation

Welcome my Key West vacation guide - you're almost there!

A Key West vacation can be hot, sunny, beautiful, fun; and also at times expensive, humid and wet. 

This blog is all about helping you decide if Key West is right for you and hints and recommendations about how to make the most of your visit. 

Let's dive right in with the bad and the good about Key West. The not so good first.

Downsides of a Key West vacation
  • Key West is expensive - the hotels and B&Bs, especially in peak season (i.e. the season you'll want to come here) charge a small fortune. There are only a few good cheap accommodation options
  • Key West is small, really small
  • Key West in off peak (August to November) is uncomfortably humid 
  • There are only 2 beaches on the island and only 1 is good
  • Key West is not that geared up for kids
If you prefer to see the glass half full, here are the best things about Key West. 

Upsides of a Key West vacation 

  • Sunny
  • Hot but not too hot (heat is never a problem, it does get very humid between August and November)
  • Pretty - Key West style houses, tree laden streets, flowers, plants, lush tropical 
  • There are some great hotels but many of the B&Bs / guesthouses are even better (as they are original historic homes built in the 1800s so you are living like a local in a cool looking property)
  • Mostly friendly people
  • It's a walking, not driving, town
  • Can be busy in peak time, but walk a few streets away from Duval Street and it's quiet and peaceful
  • Great selection of bars covering all tastes
  • Great selection of restaurants covering all tastes
  • 80% of bars and restaurants within walking distance of most hotels and B&Bs - meaning you don't have to drive and so you can relax (and drink a lot!)
  • Some world famous stuff like Sloppy Joe's, the Hemingway House, Blue Heaven restaurant
  • Historic - Key West has a long and fascinating history to discover (e.g. Key West museum, lighthouse, Audubon House)


click below to read more....

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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! This blog was last updated in January 2017.

#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

  • Crazy Key West - 25 of my funniest, silliest pictures from the last 10 years in Key West. Yes, Key West is eccentric and a little mad.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Planning a Key West visit

This post will help if you're planning a Key West visit or vacation and have questions like when to visit Key West, how long to stay, when is the rainy season, what are the best budget hotels, and how to get to Key West. Here's the Key West truth from a fellow Key West visitor.
Planning a Key West visit. This picture is taken during the summer when crowds are much fewer
This post will answer these questions:
  • When should I visit Key West?
  • How many days should I stay? Is a weekend too short?
  • 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....

Beautiful Key West

Beautiful Key West
Key West is a really beautiful place to visit. It's a beautiful collision of nature, the ocean and the sun at full power. 

You'll need to get off Duval Street, relax a bit and wander. 

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!

Below please find, for your visual pleasure, Key West's beautiful:

  • Ocean views
  • Trees and flowers
  • Buildings
  • Animals
  • Sunsets (and a sunrise too)

The ocean
Dolphin in Key West waters, very close to shore - this taken from the East Quay wall at the Truman Waterfront
Perfect pelican off Higgs beach

>> MORE below for Beautiful Key West Trees and Flowers; Animals; Sunset - 43 amazing pictures….

Monday, December 19, 2016

Flying from London to Key West

London to Key West is an 17 hour trip door to bar
London to Key West is 4,554 miles and the flying time is 10 hours, via Miami airport. Door to door the travel time is about 17 hours with good connections. This means you can leave cold, miserable London in the morning and end up in hot Key West with a cocktail in hand at 9pm the same night.

Here's how I do it: I fly out of London Heathrow at 11am and walk through the door of my Key West guesthouse at 8pm the same evening. Once in my Key West room, I down a glass of wine, catch a quick shower, and am out by 8.45pm and by 9pm sitting in Virgilio's, potent martini in hand, looking out at the crazyness of Duval Street and preparing to eat at the bar from their wonderful Italian menu. And relax.

Then because of the martini(s) consumed, the jet lag is hours from kicking in, so a detour via Bourbon Street pub is inevitable. Hit the pillow after midnight. All in one day.

As I write (November 2015), I've done the London to Key West trip 19 times - 19 flights out, and 19 flights back. Yes it's a long way but it's worth it. Key West is great for Brits! And about 30,000 Brits and 40,000 Germans visit Key West every year for vacation.

Most beautiful Key West houses and homes

There are some very expensive and beautiful homes in Key West. They are all in Old Town Key West and so very walkable in an hour if you are in a rush or a few hours if you just randomly wander down a few streets in Key West.

Here are a just a few highlights to make you want to come to Key West and also to make you jealous of these beautiful and historic homes.

I think this is my favorite Key West home, 1029 Fleming Street. Immaculate white and all the elements of the house work together in perfect harmony. Very Key West Old Town it also helps that this house is very imposing and also huge. The second image below shows the side view, showing how long the house is. It's not so uniform from the side, for example the 4 sided feature, which I think  makes it even more interesting.

One of the most beautiful homes in Key West - 1029 Fleming Street

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 a water 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, very close (like 10 metres) off the island, is easy to do and good. Much better than any snorkelling in 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 tens of thousands of photos of the Florida Keys - see below
FAQs - visiting the Dry Tortugas

Cheap hotels in Key West

Here are my 5 tips to find cheap Key West hotels and B&Bs and then my current top recommendations. You'll need all the help you can get - Key West is beautiful but a very expensive place to stay. Last updated: 14 November 2015.

1. Don't limit your search to hotels - there are 20 times more good value guesthouses than hotels in Key West. It's just that kind of place. This is a good thing.

4 more tips...

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What to do in Key West when it rains

If you're reading this then it's probably raining in Key West and you're looking for ideas about what to do. First I'm sorry it's raining and I hope it stops soon. Anyway, what to do? The traditional answer in Key West when it rains is: Drink! You have a multitude of choices and you'll find the bars packed today if it's raining. But there are alternatives, read on...
What to do in Key West when it rains. Here on Duval Street someone has a different option than a rain poncho.  

Fantasy Fest 2016 live blog

Fantasy Fest 2016 is over and all that remains are a few hangovers, memories, a fancy dress outfit that needs to be locked away for another year, lots of pictures and blogs like this one. Enjoy!

Here are 3 pics but you can see loads more further down this blog post, which was a live blog during Fantasy Fest itself.

Here are some links to my other posts on this site which are Fantasy Fest related:

Click here for first timers curious about what Fantasy Fest is all about

Click here for info on Masquerade March / People's march - the best event of Fantasy Fest by far

Click here for live blog of 2014 Fantasy Fest

Now just browse below for my posts and pictures from the 2016 Fantasy Fest....

How long to stay in Key West?

How long to stay in Key West for your vacation is a key question. I think one week is the right length for a Key West vacation. Maybe you are thinking that visiting for only a long weekend is ok but Key West is a little off the beaten track (after all basically it's 127 miles down a dead end road) and as a result you'll spend too much of your vacation actually getting here so a little longer is better.

A week is not perfect of course. The perfect amount time to stay in Key West long as you can! For most visits Key West will be hotter, sunnier, livelier and way more fun than what you have waiting back home - so there is good reason to stay as long as you can. 

Plus there are hundreds of bars and restaurants and lots to do as well as great weather so you can chill by the pool and relax.

Here's some itineraries for how your stay might look over different time periods:

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Masquerade March at Fantasy Fest

The Masquerade March or Peoples' Parade or Peoples' March is by far the best event at Fantasy Fest, Key West's annual mad and crazy two week long party. The best thing about Masquerade March is that it features you.... visitor or local alike you are the march, you are the event - all 5000 (or more) of us. Don't be a boring spectator - get dressed up and be part of the fun.

p.s. it's not really a March - it could equally be called the Masquerade walk, stumble or dance.

The 2016 Masquerade March in Key West was on Friday 28 October. I did a live blog of the event with around 50 pictures of all the costumes and fun - click here to read it.

Masquerade Marching in the sunshine welcomes everyone

The walking route is through Old Town from one guest house to the next (i.e. from one free drink to the next - yep, happy days), and ends up on Duval Street. It goes at a very slow pace and lasts about 1hr 30 to 2 hours depending on how fast you go. There's no rush.

When you get to the end, on Duval, the street is blocked off and you can continue to party.

But here's the thing: it's a masquerade: a false show, or pretence, being someone you are not. Or, in simpler words, fancy dress!

Get your fancy dress thinking caps on. Almost everyone dresses up, in a thousand different outfits.

It's excellent!

Come as you are or go crazy on your costume. Use your creativity at Key West Masquerade March
My award for outfit of the year at 2016 Masquerade March goes to these monsters
Party on Duval at the end

Duval Street at the end of Masquerade march is busy and fun

Here are some links to my other posts on this site which are Fantasy Fest related:

Click here for first timers curious about what Fantasy Fest is all about

Click here for live blog of 2014 Fantasy Fest, including lots of pics of Masquerade March 2014

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Key West itinerary

We're back in Key West for 10 days of fun and I thought it would be good to show you our itinerary as it happens. So here's what we got up to here in Key West.

Day 1 - Travel day - Wednesday 27 October 2016

10.40 plane from Heathrow. Picked up the rental in MIA and hit the road at just before 5pm. Heavy traffic through Miami but ok once we got onto Highway 1 at about 6pm. Good traffic through the 128 mile drive through the Keys, sunset at 6.30 and arrive at guest house at 8.45 - so good run of almost 4 hours. Took 10 mis to a find a non resident parking space.

In Virgilio's, with Chocolate Raspberry Bomb in hand, at 8.35.

Dinner at Virgilio's, our server was Catherine, a fellow brit. Most of the old guys still at Viriglios which is great, except Erin has moved on.

Day 2 - Thursday

Overcast and light rain on getting up. Drove car to Publix to get booze for tomorrow then dropped it off at rental office and walked back into Old Town. Lunch inside at Hard Rock which was a great decision as within 10 mins of sitting down, torrential tropical rain for 15 minutes.

Then walked to Fairvilla (local large fancy dress store) to get final pieces for Masquerade March costume tomorrow. While in store, starts to rain really, really hard again.

Wait for it to stop and then walk to 801 bar for some drinks. When it's raining in Key West - drink, as I advise in this post. Weather was very dramatic today with wind and hard rain which I like (as long as it stops in the next few days and we have some blue skies!). But I think we made the most of it!

Evening. Tried to get into Virgilio's for quick martini but the place was busier than I have ever seen it. Said brief hi to a very busy Tiffany but then left.  Went to a deserted Mangoes. More cocktails on the list than previous visits and a nice refurb - fab to people watch on Duval. Still would never eat here though!

Meal tonight is in best veggie in town: The Cafe on Southard Street. Good meal as always. I was going to choose butternut squash but other half said this was too healthy so chose more calorific shrimp stir fry (yes they don't do meat but they do seafood). Was nice but wish I had chosen butternut squash. This is one of the few Key West restaurants we visit twice per vacation, so will try this one next time.

Still jet lagged to home early. Big day tomorrow.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Key West changes 2016

When you have not been somewhere for two years you you really notice the differences. And wow Key West has changed a lot in the two years I've been away.

This quote from the Key West Aids memorial summarises what made Key West so great - i.e. because it was different:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. Robert Frost

I'm afraid, Key West heads even more rapidly and inextricably towards being the same as every other town.

A perfect example was when I went into one of the shops mid-Duval and asked the sales lady a question. She was Latvian, which is fine, but her unfriendly, aggressive attitude was horrible. I left the store immediately. Wow!

Of course, another example of this downward trend, one which is close to my heart, is the continued widespread permanent vandalism by the Tree Commission in allowing the chopping down of historic trees in Key West. You know, I just don't get why this happens - beauty is Key West's number 1 selling point - or how locals stand by and allow it to happen.

It's been a continual trend in the Citizen's Voice:

"This weekend we took our visiting guests to legendary spots. Our guests pointed out the beautiful trees surrounding these properties, including many trees growing straight through the roofs and canopies. I laughed because the current Tree Commission would allow those trees to be cut down like the beautiful trees on the corner of Southard and William, which now looks like an open parking lot.” 

and again...

"The Florida Keys are the best place to live in the USA and maybe the world! Yeah for us who live here. Sadly, since we realized our dream and moved here, the crazy, fun, shopping, eating, drinking, galleries of Duval Street are changing, and not for the better. More funky shops and restaurants have closed. So, leaders find out what’s going on and stop it. Losing Fast Buck Freddie’s was a devastating blow and each month more closures. Pretty soon Duval will look like every- where USA. Not a big deal, but charm does not equal for-rent signs!”
citizens voice 7 july