Monday, February 6, 2012

KeysSpeak: A Bubba And A Conch Head To The Rock

From the mainland to Bone Island a Conch and his bubba ride a conch cruiser through the 18 mile stretch, over causeways and bridges, past mile marker after mile marker, bluewater oceanside, flats on the other, bights and Fat Albert on bayside, one chickee after another, home to the Rock for a Duval Crawl.

If you don't know where the Conch - a Key West native - and his bubba - a Conch - are headed, you've never been to Key West. You can translate the above using this glossary:

And you might want to check out the rest of the skinny on the island chain in the Kindle edition of Nancy Toppino's Insider's Guide Florida Keys and Key West.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Things to Do in Key West : Free Or Next To Nil

Key West has plenty of wonderful attractions for free or next to nothing. A few of my favorites:

The Oldest House - Cook House in the Foreground

The Oldest House - Go back in history and learn how Key West’s earliest settlers lived. Wreckers and pirate chasers and pretty maids, oh my. The shaded garden benches are a lovely quiet spot to get off the mad dash of Duval for a few shady Docent tours daily. Docent tours of the house are free, though donations are welcome. Open daily 10-4 except Wednesday and Sunday. While you are there, pick up a copy of the Pelican Poop Trail Guide. 322 Duval Street.

Pelican Path Self-Guided Tour of Old Town Key West - While you’re at the Oldest House pick up a free copy of the Pelican Path. The map and descriptions of historic homes and places allow you explore our colorful streets and quaint architecture at your leisure. The map and guide can also be downloaded here:

Florida Keys Eco Discovery Center – At the foot of Southard Street is a non-descript grey building that houses a world of local color. The exhibits and displays illustrate our fragile eco-system both above and below the seas. Don’t miss the 20 minute documentary (every half hour) on our underwater world. It tells the eco story of the Florida Keys through the eyes of a little girl who grows up here and can’t stay out of the water. There’s also a simulated dive to 1600 feet, and an excellent exhibit on Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Tuesday to Saturday 9-4 33 E. Quay Rd. Key West, FL 33040
(305) 809-4750

Fort Zachary State Park – Beach and Historic Fort. Many residents feel Fort Zach is the best of Key West. It certainly is our best beach – though a bit rocky, the shore drops off quickly to for swimming, and offshore currents keep the water very clean. It’s a great place to watch the sunset – away from the crowds at Mallory Square. If you’re interested in Civil war history, this fort played a very important role in the war between the north and south and the free guided tours are very informative. Or wander around the fort on your own. Entrance to the Florida State Park: $2.50 per person on foot or bike. Noon tours of the fort are free. 601 Howard England Way - At the foot of Southard Street, then left:

Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square – Not to be missed if you like crowds, inexpensive arts and crafts, street performers and yummy conch fritters. Every night from 2 hours before sunset to one hour afterwards.

The City Cemetary is worth a wander. Key West’s first cemetery was at Whitehead Point close to the original lighthouse. When a terrible hurricane in 1846 destroyed the lighthouse and all but 8 of the homes and buildings in Key West, it also disinterred the bodies buried there and strewed bones across the island. The City soon purchased the land on high ground (16 feet above sea level) in the center of Old Town. As in New Orleans, most are buried in above ground crypts. Look for the brochure near the Margaret Street entrance and be sure to find the most popular inscription. The stele of a local hypochondriac Betty Pearl Roberts reads, “I Told You I was Sick.”

White Street Pier is worth a visit. It’s a favoreite spot with locals for sunrises (year round) and winter sunsets. When you are out at the end of the pier, you are at a more southerly point than the “official” Southernmost Point.

The Beaches are free: Higgs Beach, just north of White Street Pier and Smathers Beach, which graces the southeast end of the island are a little shallow, but have nice sandy swaths, and public restrooms. There’s a children’s park acorss the street from Higgs. Dog Beach is a great place to let your pooch enjoy the sand and water. Next to Louie's Backyard on Waddell St. Dog Beach

What's your favorite thing to do in Key West for free?