Key West, FL

21 Mindblowing Facts About Key West That May Surprise You

Toni Koraza
Ernest Hemingway Photograph CollectionJohn F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

The city of Key West is known for its laid-back lifestyle, tropical weather, and the fact that it’s home to America’s southernmost point. It has a reputation as being one of the most relaxed places in Florida- perhaps even all of America.

This Key is a goldmine for interesting facts. Here are 21 facts about Key West that could even surprise its residents.

  1. Key West is closer to Havana than it is to Miami. This Key stands only 90 miles from Cuba and some 150 miles away from Miami.
  2. Key West tried to succeed from the US in 1982 and break all ties with the US government. Key West locals attempted to establish the Conch Republic but failed. Today, Conoch Republic’s independence is a significant cause for celebration that takes place in April.
  3. Driving from Miami to Key West takes roughly 4 hours without any breaks. The Florida Keys are connected with 42 bridges spanning a 159 (256km) miles long road. The road between Miami and Key West offers one of the most iconic drives on the East Coast.
  4. The word “key” comes from the Spanish word “Cayo,” which means small island. In case if you were wondering why Key Wes is a key.
  5. Key West was once the largest town in Florida because of its proximity to the Bahamas and Cuba and its connections to New Orleans.
  6. Henry Flagler built the first railway that connected Key West to Miami. It took 7 years of relentless work and was constantly hit by hurricanes and other natural disasters. The first train arrived in Key West on January 21, 1912. Henry Flagler died the following year.
  7. Key West is home to the only commercial airport on the Florida Keys. Marathon also has an airport, but it caters only to private planes and flights.
  8. Some 23 artificial reefs have sprouted around Key West since the 1980s. These reefs are somewhat artificial as they’re made from wrecked ships that soon became home to corals and tropical fish.
  9. Key West was home to many famous personalities, including Ernest Hemingway, Shel Silverstein, Harry S. Truman, Tennessee Williams, Calvin Klein, Jimmy Buffett, Paul Cotton, and many others.
  10. People recommend visiting Key West during spring and fall because you’re less likely to be hit by a hurricane. Also, Sun is more bearable, and there are fewer tourists around.
  11. Learn how to pronounce Conch with a hard K. Besides pink seashells carrying the same name, Conches are people born in Key West. You can’t join this exclusive group if you live in Key West’s Historic District.
  12. Forty-one degrees Fahrenheit is the recorded low temperature in the history of Key West. This happened twice on record — January 13, 1981, and January 12, 1886.
  13. Key West never experienced any kind of snow, not even once.
  14. The third-largest barrier coral reef in the world is located near Key West. The first two are Belize and the Great Barrier Reef in Australi.
  15. Two major bodies of water meet near Key West, creating a unique ecosystem—the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
  16. Key West was once the richest per capita place in the whole of the United States, primarily because of wrecking and salvaging ships in the vicinity.
  17. Duval Street is a mile-long pub experience, promising the best night of your life that you will never remember. Duval Street is a must-see place for all Key West tourists.
  18. Key West is the most populated Florida Key with a population of just 24,843 inhabitants (2019).
  19. American military built both the Sunset Key and Christmas Tree Island. Sunset Key served as a fuel tank depot, and it was initially called Tank Island. Today, these two human-made havens are home to some of the wealthiest people on the planet.
  20. Key West could be completely underwater in the next 30 years if the global comate disruption continues to affect sea levels at this pace.
  21. The Island may be hunted, according to folk tales from Robert the Doll and regular scares at the Key West Cemetary. Fans and curious folk can book Ghosts and Gravestone tours to spice up their vacation with a dash of supernatural.

Key West is a place of many contradictions and a long history. No matter how you look at it, there's something about this coastal enclave just south of Miami that makes people want to visit again and again. And if you've never visited before, we'll tell you what everyone else already knows: book your trip now.

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