What to Know Before You Visit Key West

Thank goodness for Florida! They’ve done a great job of balancing their COVID needs with the need for tourism. As a professional tourist, I don’t even have the words to tell you how much I appreciate that! Key West was a wonderful travel experience for my husband Steve and me, so if you’re looking for a place to go safely during the pandemic, we highly recommend it! Here are all the best things to know before you go!

How to Get There

There are three ways to get to Key West: Boat, plane, or car. If you have a private boat or plan to visit on a cruise, great! For the rest of us, we’ll either be flying or driving, or perhaps both!

Plane

Believe it or not, there is a small international airport right on Key West! Thanks to a new non-stop flight from our home airport (Washington-Dulles, or IAD) on United Airlines, we were there lickety-split! The airport is small and easy to navigate, so even novice travelers can do it without intimidation! Note: You will be taking stairs on and off the plane and walking across the tarmac!

Be ready to walk a little bit and take the stairs!
Read next: A Beginners’ Guide to Flying

Other cities you may fly from non-stop or perhaps fly through include Arlington, VA (DCA); Atlanta, GA; Charlotte, NC; Chicago, IL; Dallas/Fort Worth, TX; Fort Jefferson, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and West Palm Beach/Palm Beach FL; and Newark, NJ. Hopefully more will be added in the future!

Don’t want to connect? You could also fly into Miami, then rent a car and drive! The trip will take about four hours, but you’ll get to see the other Keys along the way.

You could fly to Miami and drive to Key West!
Related: The Ultimate List of Road Trip Tips

Car

Whether you’re driving from Miami or from anywhere else in the country, you will be taking the overseas highway, which is part of historic Route 1. Don’t forget to get your picture at Mile Marker 0. Fun fact: It’s the most stolen sign in the United States, but don’t you take it!

You’ll find this at the corner of Whitehead and Fleming Streets.
More to come: 10 Things to Do in Key West

Getting Around

Walking

Key West, especially the Old City and Downtown area, is very walkable. It’s just over a mile across from north to south, and there are only about five blocks across from east to west of things to see and do. There are Ubers, taxis, and pedicabs available, but we enjoyed walking everywhere! Also, drivers in Key West are kind, and largely not in a hurry. We were amazed at all the drivers stopping to let us cross the street, and even let other drivers go first.

Uber

However, if you do take an Uber, be mindful of where Uber wants you to be picked up. We were staying at the Southernmost House, but every time I put that in for either drop off or pick up, the app wanted us to walk two blocks to the Southernmost Beach Resort. Not a big deal, but something to be aware of!

Old Town Key West from the air!
Helpful info: How to Read a Map

You Can Visit the Most Remote U.S. National Park

It’s true! It’s Dry Tortugas National Park, and there are two ways to get there: High-speed catamaran ferry or seaplane! We chose to take the seaplane, and it was an epic flying experience. If you choose to visit, you can snorkel, explore Fort Jefferson, or simply relax on a remote, white sand beach. Check back for my upcoming post all about What to Know Before You Visit Dry Tortugas National Park.

This remote national park is one of the mosst beautiful places I’ve ever visited!
More here: What It’s Like Taking the Seaplane to Dry Tortugas National Park
and How to Decide Between the Seaplane and the Ferry

Where to Get the Best Key Lime Pie

The “best” is certainly subjective, but really you just can’t go wrong with any key lime pie in Key West! The one below is Blue Heaven’s signature pie, and it comes with an actual mountain of meringue! Whether you like yours chocolate-covered, with whipped cream, or topped with torched meringue, you’ll be refreshed and satisfied!

You can’t come to Key West and forget the Key Lime Pie!
Keep eating: Where to Find the Best Key Lime Pie in Key West

Where to Find the Southernmost Point

Just keep heading south! But really, you can’t miss it. You’ll find it at the corner of South and Whitehead Streets. For the best light, go in the morning. The afternoon sun casts more of a shadow, and the line for photos gets longer and longer as the day goes on!

The good thing about there being a line is that there’s always someone around to take your photo!

Fun fact: Notice this says “Southernmost Point in the Continental USA.” The southernmost point in all the USA is actually on the Big Island of Hawaii!

Coming soon: Staying at the Southernmost House Hotel, Key West

Cuban Coffee Queen has Three Locations

There are plenty of Cuban coffee places in Key West, but the famous one with the Key West mural is quite a walk! It’s Cuban Coffee Queen, and they do have excellent Cuban coffee–they use coffee ice cubes (not made with water, but coffee!) in their iced coffee! The mural is up on Caroline Street, and is worth a walk if you’re interested, but if you just want the coffee, check out their downtown location just off Duvall Street, or their Mallory Square location on Front Street.

Waiting for my coffee and lunch to come out!
More here: Where to Eat in Key West

Check Your Coffee

My coffee had to get checked for bombs going through TSA! Even with Pre-check, even though it was whole bean coffee and not ground (and thus a powder that would need to be checked out), even though it was at the bottom of my well-packed, carry-on luggage, the TSA officer had to take it out and scan it with special wipes. The woman who checked it was really nice about it, and she even apologized for having to unpack my luggage!

Lesson learned: Put your coffee in your checked luggage, or put it in an easily-accessible spot in your carry-on luggage!

The two bags of coffee I bought were worth bringing home, but I would have packed them differently! Whoops!
Also helpful: How to Pack the Perfect Carry-on

Special COVID Regulations

Hopefully we won’t have to deal with COVID and the pandemic for too much longer, but in the meantime, here are some things to know about COVID and Key West:

  • Masks are required, even walking around outside. We were stopped by a police officer the first day while we were walking outside and told to put our masks on. Whoops!
  • No housekeeping at hotels or other accommodations. This is standard across the world right now, but hopefully not forever!
  • Some outdoor seating has been removed. Regular restaurants have plenty of outdoor seating, but grab-and-go spots and popular gathering spots like Mallory Square have removed tables and chairs, so if you get something to-go, you might have to walk a while before you find a place to sit!
We ended up walking a mile from Kermits’ Key Lime Pie Shop back to our hotel to eat our pie!
Must read: How to Prepare for Your First Trip Since the Pandemic Started

Want more? Check out all my posts about Florida and Key West on my United States Page!

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Published by quickwhittravel

Hey there! I am an avid traveller and adventurer, and you're always welcome to join me! The things I love most are God, my husband Steve, and seeing new places! My favorite places include Sydney, Australia; Ise City, Japan; and Bergen, Norway--but there's always room for more favorite places!

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