In 2017, my friend, Jess, and I did a road trip across the USA. Miami to Seattle, truly a cross-country road trip if there ever was one. Jess, at the time, lived in West Palm Beach, FL and repeatedly asked me why Miami was on the itinerary and if we could skip it. Despite her reluctance, I was convinced that we needed to do the USA from the South East to the North West. I’d put a considerable amount of effort into making my itinerary and if Jess wasn’t going to join me, then I’d go alone.
As I’d be alone in Miami without a car, my itinerary had to be adjusted a little. I’d no longer have time to do the Keys, the Everglades and explore Miami, Miami Beach and Wynwood as much as I wanted in two short days. As much as I wanted to see the Everglades, I sacrificed it for a day trip to Key West – realising that if it really were to be a South East – North West road trip, I’d have to visit the most South East place. Plus Lana Del Rey never sang about the Everglades, so we they really that special?
I booked a coach tour to take me to Key West and had a great plan for what I’d do when I was down there. The Turtle Hospital being the number one thing as I’d seen it crop up on the top ten things to do on almost every travel blog.
The day didn’t exactly go to plan though. It rarely does it with me, but let’s just say a day that starts with a paedophile trying to abduct you is never going to be a great one, is it?
The Journey to Key West
The coach journey was roughly three hours long. We stopped in Key Largo for a coffee. Dunkin’ Donuts don’t do soy milk so I had a time trying to explain what a black Americano was to the barista and she took just over 20 minutes to serve me. Myself and a Swedish girl around my age had to run back to the coach so we wouldn’t miss it.
Our coach driver was knowledgeable about all the different towns in the Keys. This is where I experienced the third and biggest disappointment of the day. “Here is the Marathon Key,” he said as we continued down the road, “where the Turtle Hospital is located.” WHAT? How did I not realise that? Absolutely all the blogs said that the Turtle Hospital was a must see in Key West. Was I the only person to skip the description under the bullet point that said ‘located in Marathon Key, an hours drive across the seven mile bridge’? Probably. Either way, I sadly replied to the email I sent to them saying I wasn’t able to make it to the Turtle Hospital after all and I quickly had to find something else to do in Key West with my limited time left on the bus.
It was raining hard. Hurricane Irma was on her way and many people were planning their evacuation. I, however, was on my way to Cuban Coffee Queen for lunch. I ordered a sandwich and an iced coffee. Despite the rain, it was a warm day and the coffee was delicious as was the sandwich.
After this, I made my way to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. A house dedicated to the life and works of Hemingway. The best part is that it is inhabited by roughly sixty six-toed cats. As a cat and book lover, this place was paradise and a sweet place to visit if you’re interested.
After the coffee and the cats, I walked up to the top of the Key West lighthouse to see the views from above. I love to find the highest points in cities and you will probably find me at the top of a church tower, lighthouse or skyscraper wherever I go. The views were average, probably because of the storm, so I wasn’t too impressed. I did love the sheer amount of trees on the island, though. The views were almost like that of a forest from above.
I decided to walk down to the Southernmost tip of the USA. You kinda have to, don’t you? Unfortunately, it was extremely busy round here and getting a picture of the sign post without people nearby is almost impossible especially at peak time hours. I didn’t stay for long.
I walked down to Mallory Square to experience the strange quirkiness of Key West first hand. It’s a kitschy little place full of fake art deco buildings, theme park rides and gift shops. The weather was so bad it was hard to enjoy but I could imagine how lively it must be on a sunny day and for the first time, I was grateful for the rain.
I was running out of activities so I decided to walk down to Fort Zachary Taylor, the national park in the Keys. The sun was coming out now and my luck was beginning to change. A family with a national park pass let me pretend to be a part of their group and I got into the park for free. Yay! I saw plenty of cool iguanas, which was interesting. Until this point, I only saw chickens as the entirety of Key West seemed to be overrun with them. Fort Zachary Taylor was different and it was nice to be surrounded by nature after the busy, hustle and bustle of Miami.
It was a long, hot walk back to Cuban Coffee Queen, where I went to pick up a sandwich for the journey home. I seemed to have exhausted the small city of things to do and I kinda just sat around until the sixth hour, when I returned to the coach early.
The Return Journey
The journey home should have taken three hours, but it ended up taking six. There was a bit of a traffic jam on the seven mile bridge, which meant we got back to Miami in the early hours of the morning. I was more than grateful for the amount of coffee I consumed to get me through the long day.
Would I recommend Key West? Meh. It really depends. Maybe I was bitter and disappointed that all the travel blogs lied to me and I never got to see the turtles. Maybe it was the rain. Either way, I was not overly obsessed with Key West, but I did appreciate the chilled out strangeness of the city. It was so entirely different from any other place I visited and for that reason, I’d say the whole day was worth it.