Key West is an island at the southernmost tip of Florida Key. Key West covers an area of 5.27 square miles, 4.2 of which is mainland and is considered part of the city of Key West in Monroe County, Florida. Key West was originally inhabited by Calusa Indians, but after the arrival of Spanish explorers Key West became a fishing village and home to a garrison. Britain took power in 1763 but returned to Spain 20 years later. It was declared US property in 1822.
In Key West, conchs are people born in Key West. You’re not considered a conch by simply living in Key West; but if you’ve been a local for at least seven years, you may be considered a “freshwater conch” in some circles.
The first European to visit Key West was Ponce de Leon in 1521. He had been searching for the mythical ‘fountain of youth’.
Key West has a healthy population of chickens that roam free on the island.
Key West was originally called ‘Cayo Hueso’ which translates to mean ‘Island of Bones’.
As it’s famously stated on the Southernmost Buoy at the end of Simonton Street, Key West is 90 miles to Cuba. But to get to Key West from Miami, it’s a 150-mile drive down the Overseas Highway.
In 1763 when the British took over Key West the Native Americans and Spanish on Key West were sent to Havana, Cuba.
The Overseas Highway is one of the most beautiful drives in the country. Completed in 1938, it connects a string of keys and coral rock with 113 miles of concrete roadway. The aptly named Seven Mile Bridge is the longest and most scenic.
The Spanish regained control of Key West, and it was sold to a U.S. businessman John Simonton for only $2000 in 1821.
The Overseas Railroad operated from 1912 to 1935 and you can still see remnants of the original track on the drive down to Key West today.
In 1822 Key West was claimed for the United States. In the 1830s Key West became a wealthy city because of treasure from shipwrecks in the area.
Key West is famous for its sunset and there’s no place like Mallory Square to celebrate every night amongst street performers, musicians and food stands.
Key West is roughly one mile wide and four miles long, and has a famous main street called Duval Street that runs 1.1 miles long.
On average, you can expect temperature highs in the 70s to 80s year round with low temperatures in winter dipping into the 60s and sometimes 50s.
Originally Kew West was about half of its current size but salt pons on the island’s eastern side were filled in in the 1950s, expanding the size of the island greatly.
Other famous scribes who called Key West home include Tennessee Williams, Shel Silverstein, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop and more.
Key West is the most southern city in the United States. The island Key West is a part of the city in terms of government.
Known as the Florida Straits, Key West’s coral reef extends 150 miles north towards Miami and 70 miles west to the Dry Tortugas.
At one time Key West was the busiest of all the cities in Florida because of its location for trade.
Key West’s diverse and unique ecosystems are a result of the convergence of two major bodies of water. You’ve got the deep blue Atlantic and its Gulf Stream current to the south and the shallow flats of the Gulf of Mexico to the west.
Key West has a tropical climate.
Key West made its riches from wrecking and salvaging ships that crashed on the reefs and shallow waters offshore. Locals made their riches auctioning off or reselling the valuable cargo.
Key West is only about 90 miles from Cuba. Following Cuba’s revolution many Cubans settled in Key West.
Today, Key West thrives on tourism, which is also largely based on the bounties of the water.
Key West has 42 bridges connecting it to the mainland.
With only 25,000 full-time residents, people from across the country and the world have made Key West home.
Just off the coast of Key West is the 3rd largest coral reef in the world.
The last week of October in Key West is the Fantasy Fest celebration, a raucous party that takes over the island in a swirl of glitter, beads and costumes that dare to bear, culminating in a Saturday night parade.
The sand on Key West’s beaches was shipped from the Caribbean.
Spanish settlers originally called Key West Cayo Hueso, which translates to bone island, referring to the bones of the Calusa Indians who had once lived in the Florida Keys. English speakers mistook Cayo Hueso, thinking it sounded like Key West and the name stuck.
A person born in Key West is referred to as a ‘conch’.
Key West is not the western-most key. The Keys extend across uninhabited islands to Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson, which can be explored in a day trip or overnight camping trip via the Yankee Freedom III ferry.
Key West is the only place in the United States that does not get frost.
Key West is often referred to as the Conch Republic.
Key West was hit by a hurricane in 1935 that killed more than 500 people in Key West and the Florida Keys.
While key lime pie is abundant in Key West, key limes are no longer harvested in the Florida Keys. These sweet and tangy limes are imported from Mexico, India and the West Indies.
The highest temperature recorded in Key West was 97 degrees Fahrenheit on 1880 and 1956.
Sunset Key, which is now home to luxury homes and a resort, as well as neighboring uninhabited Christmas Tree Island are man-made islands constructed by the US Navy.
Part of Key West is built on landfill.
Sunset Key was a fuel tank depot during the Cold War and its official name is actually Tank Island.
Key West has been home to many famous residents including Jimmy Buffet (musician), Tennessee Williams (author), Ernest Hemingway (author), Harry S. Truman (United States President), Calvin Klein (fashion designer), and many others.
A 64 year old woman named Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Key West and became the first person to complete the journey without the use of a shark cage.