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Boating in the Lower Keys of Florida
It's fantasy fest all year long
Key West is just a short and picturesque drive from Miami, FL. Here in Key West there are plenty of things for you to do. The Florida Keys holds a lost of treasures. This island offers beautiful waters, tropical plants, fine dining, fresh seafood always available, and accomodations for any budget. The laid back lifestyle and Caribbean flavor is what makes Key West what it is today. Key West has alot to offer tourist from everyone in the world. World class fishing, water sports, diving, and so much more.
What to Do
The center of Key West historic waterfront, Mallory Square, stages the famous beautiful sunset celebration. Come be entertained by local entertainment, do some shopping, or also check out some of the local artists selling there paintings. But most of all enjoy the most beautiful sunset that you will see, this is a must stop place in Key West.
Since 1958 the Conch Train( http://www.conchtourtrain.com/index.htm,1-888-916-8687) has been entertaining visitors in the Island City of Key West. This 90 minute train ride takes you through the remarkable envolvement of Key West.
At the Key West Shipwreck Museum(http://www.shipwreckhistoreum.com/, (305) 292-8990) you will step back in time as you discover Key West's unique maritime heritage and see how it became the richest city in the United States. This musuem has actors, films, and actual artifacts, from the 1985 rediscovery of the wrecked vessel of Isaac Allerton, which sank in 1856. Or check out the Key West Aquarium( http://www.keywestaquarium.com/, 1-888-544-5927) one of the best kid attractions in the whole city.
Key West in January brings the top sailors from around the world for the Acura Key West Race Week (www.premiere-racing.com). Hundreds of race boats work the wind, crewed by Olympians, professionals, and your everyday Joes and Janes. It's kinda like getting to play golf with Tiger Woods... you can share the race course with "rock stars" during the day and rub elbows with them in the party tent at night.
For speed of another kind, the World Superboat Offshore Championships (www.superboat.com) are held in the fall. Moving at a much slower pace, Hemingway Days fill in the lazy, hazy days of summer in July. The Conchs won't rest on their laurels so they commemorate the Conch Republic Independence Celebration (www.conchrepublic. com) annually to mark the secession from Florida in 1982. December brings the lighted boat parade, but the ultimate crazy Conch experience comes with Halloween's Fantasy Fest. It's so bawdy we can't publish our pictures.
Sunken ships were the livelihood of Key Westers in the early days, yet it was Mel Fisher who came up with the biggest booty in the 1980s. More than 350 years after several Spanish galleons sank in the Florida Straits, Fisher discovered the remains of the Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita off the Marquesas Keys. It took him nearly 20 years, scanning 100,000 square miles of ocean, before he came across this sunken Fort Knox, valued at more than $60 million (some say $2 billion). Find the treasure for yourself at the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society Museum (305- 294-2633), less than two blocks from Mallory Square.the coral safely, and without doing damage.
Come check out the oldest house in Key West, The Wreckers Museum( 305-294-9502). Here at this non profit museum you will see many original furnishings, ship models, maritime artifacts, documents relating to the activites of wreckers, and items recovered from Key waters.
Pop over to Hemingway House (305-294-1136 or www. hemingwayhome.com), once the home of Ernest "Papa" Hemingway. Today, it's a cat house, where you'll find a colony of six-toed felines guarding the grounds. While living here, Hemingway wrote in the morning, swam or fished in the afternoon, and caroused at night.
Hemingway's biggest addiction was fishing, and the charter captains in Key West can satisfy anyone's passion. Most marinas offer deep-sea or backcountry trips. The biggest fleets are located at Harborwalk (305-296-3838) and Charter Boat Row in Garrison Bight.
How about catching up on military history at Fort Zachary Taylor State Historic Site (305-292-6713), named after the 12th president. Begun in 1845, the brick fort took more than 20 years to build and was active during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and both world wars. If your interests are more suntan-inspired, there's a beautiful beach next to the fort that will keep you occupied while others in your group tour the facility.
The 44-acre former Truman Annex Naval Station nearby was auctioned in 1986 for $17 million to a New England developer. Most of the significant historic structures at the Annex have been rehabilitated, including the Little White House (305-294-9911). Built in 1890 as the commandant's quarters, the house evolved into the base VIP lodge.
While Presidents Taft, Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy all visited Key West, only Truman actually stayed overnight in the building. From 1946 to 48, Truman made 11 visits to the island, and his casual demeanor and gaudy tropical shirts endeared him to the citizens.
For the ultimate in kitsch, head southeast of the Annex to the very end of Whitehead Street, the southernmost point in the continental United States. Have your photo taken in front of the large black, white, red, and yellow concrete buoy. This is undoubtedly the most photographed attraction in all the Keys, yet one that you're obliged to visit.
When the sun goes down, Key West lights up. There's a local "dance" called the "Duval Stumble" and it needs no music. Let's just say Duval Street is a fun-loving playground for adults.
Where to Eat
Boaters looking for food along the waterfront have multiple options. The Half Shell Raw Bar is a fine place to start for ample portions of fresh seafood served up on throw-away dinnerware. If you'd rather sit down and use a cloth napkin, crawl over to her sister restaurant, Turtle Kraals (305- 294-2640), where live music often accompanies the meals. Want to shoot the breeze with other boaters? Head around the corner to Schooner Wharf Bar (305-292-9520). It's rumored that more lies per hour are told here during the January race week than a year's worth of UN negotiations.
Next door, the Waterfront Market (305-296-0778) offers upscale take-out options and provisioning opportunities, including sushi, sandwiches, wine, espresso, and freshly-squeezed juices.
Just off the water on Caroline and Williams Streets, B.O.'s Fish Wagon (305-294-9272), produces some of the best food you'll ever eat in a place that looks, well, let's say it has a lot of "character." No breakfast (that's across the street), eight tables, some barstools, and you place your order under the rusty tin roof.
Breakfast is a must at nearby Pepe's (www.pepescafe. net). Hurricanes or not, they haven't closed for 20 years, serving three meals a day seven days a week. As their menu suggests, after almost 100 years of restaurant experience, "you'd think we'd have our act together." Trust us, they do. As a general rule in Key West, if you've never seen the restaurant name anywhere else, and if it looks somewhat dicey, it's probably will be one of the better experiences in you culinary lifetime.
The Conch Republic Seafood Company (305-294-4403 or www.conchrepublicseafood. com) is on the waterfront near A & B Marina. Open spaces, live music, and a Caribbean feeling say it all.
The locals thrive on Caroline's (305- 294-7511) on Duval Street for inexpensive but tasty lunch and dinner. According to the menu, they deliver anywhere in the continental U.S. (some restrictions may apply). But the fresh food, and the free local delivery, is no joke.
For some Mediterranean flavors, Abbondanza Italian Restaurant (305-292-1199) provides casual dining with fresh pasta and seafood. The blackened chicken pasta and shrimp baskets keep them coming. Other favorites of the locals include The Deli (305-294- 1464) at Simonton and Truman, Camille's (305-296-4811) on Simonton, Harpoon Harry's (305-294-8744), Alonzo's Oyster Bar (305-294-5880), and Mangia Mangia (305- 294-2469).
Antonia's (305-294-6565 or www.antoniaskeywest.com) on Duval Street is something special, truly special. They provide five-star service and indescribable gourmet Italian meals. You can't do better than this in New York, Boston, or Palm Beach.
If you're hungry for an authentic Cuban breakfast or lunch, don't miss El Mocho (305-296-7490) on Maloney Street. They're open for early risers from 5 a.m. until 3 p.m. The food is excellent, and their homemade watermelon juice will bring you back again and again.
For dinner, it's the Hogfish Bar and Grill (305-293- 4041). This is Old Key West at its finest with fish tacos, lobster BLTs, and fresh shrimp to die for.
Boating in Lower Keys/Key West
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