Among Key West locals, there is a general loathing of cruise ship passengers. They come for a day, drink, and leave. This weekend, I had the opportunity to take some people touring Key West. Yes, they arrived via ship, but they saw more of the island in a day than many tourists see in a week.
We started by strolling toward the Customs House Museum to see the impressive Seward Johnson sculptures, then headed to Mallory Square, along Sunset Pier, then to the historic seaport. From there we drove to see the Basilica of St. Mary’s, along with the grotto which, as the tale goes, was built by nuns in 1922, and when dedicated, the nuns said that as long as the grotto stands, Key West will be spared from the direct hit of a hurricane. (Apparently nobody remembers Hurricane Wilma in 2005.)
From St. Mary’s we saw the Casa Marina and headed to the White Street Pier and the African Burial Grounds at Higgs Beach. Three illegal slave ships were diverted to Key West in 1860 by the U.S. Navy. At that time, the community came together to feed and house almost 1,500 people that would have otherwise been sold into slavery. This glimpse into the history of Key West bypasses most visitors.
We saw Tennessee Williams’ former home, walked through the Key West Cemetery (and saw the gravestone of the town hypochondriac, which reads “I told you I was sick“), and got an overview of Key West architecture. We explored the nooks and crannies that make Key West special and ended the day at the Hemingway House.
These short-term visitors saw, firsthand, that although Margaritaville is a fun stop, there is certainly more to the island. On your next visit, get off the beaten path and explore more of this unique island.