Southernmost Golf in Key West

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The par 3 fifth hole at The Key West Golf Club

If you’re planning a visit to Key West and you enjoy playing golf, I’d recommend taking in 18 holes at the picturesque Key West Golf Club. The course sits on over 200 acres of Key West landscape and offers all the unique aspects of south Florida golf that you’d expect – flowers, palm trees, ponds, dense mangroves, wildlife – all on a fun course that plays fair…most of the time. While most days are perfect days to be out playing 18 holes, the challenge at The Key West Golf Club isn’t necessarily the course itself (as long as you’re hitting it straight), but the prevailing easterly winds that can feel like you’re having to take more club on almost all the holes.

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The tee box on the infamous mangrove par 3. The green is in the distance.

But don’t let the wind stop you from heading over to the course while you’re down in Key West. The last time I played the course, the fairways, rough, and greens were all in great shape and the iguanas, ducks, and other wildlife were out in full force. That’s right – iguanas are often seen roaming the course or lounging near the ponds along the fairways. I’ve taken numerous visitors to the course while they’re in town and everyone has enjoyed the course immensely. While the course does rent clubs, I’d recommend bringing your own set and make sure that you’ve got plenty of golf balls. There’s water on most holes and if it is a breezy day, you’re almost guaranteed to find it at some point. As well, the course is known for its famous (or infamous, as their site suggests) par 3 mangrove hole – a 140+ yard carry over dense mangroves that will have you teeing up more than one golf ball.

Golf is expensive enough as it is, without having to worry about the added costs of renting clubs and buying golf balls. This is especially true if you plan on losing a few balls out on the course (and you probably will!). But since Key West doesn’t really have any traditional sporting goods stores, you’re only option is to pick up a dozen brand new balls at the course. Like many things in Key West, the price of golf balls can be pretty expensive. I’d recommend heading over to my online store at theballguy.com and picking up a few dozen premium recycled golf balls prior to your visit to Key West. I sell only the best mint golf balls and I stand behind my products with a 100% satisfaction guarantee. You can get 2 dozen mint 2016 Titleist Pro V1 golf balls shipped to your door for about the price of one dozen brand new balls from the big-box golf stores.

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At The Key West Golf Club, the staff is friendly and there’s a full-service pro shop and restaurant on site. At $99 (plus tax) for 18 holes, the green fees may seem a bit on the expensive side during the winter months (November 1st thru April 30th). But remember that the next nearest 18-hole public course if roughly 15o miles away and about a 3-hour drive. Besides, it’s great fun to be able to say you’ve played the southernmost golf course in Paradise and it may be a while before you get a chance to play it again.

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Key West: Duval Street Favs – Part I

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Duval Street Sign – Courtesy of Sam H.

Centrally located in Key West’s famous Old Town district, Duval Street is just over a mile in length and runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Offering something for everyone, and frequently compared to New Orleans’ infamous Bourbon Street, Duval pulses with a lively, touristy, carnival-like atmosphere that draws vacationers from all over the world.

When we have guests visiting us (especially guests who haven’t been to Key West before), we tend to split our time: the beach during the day and Duval in the evening. While Duval certainly attracts (and often caters to) the tourists, that doesn’t mean you can’t find some genuinely good spots to grab a cocktail or eat dinner. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of bars and restaurants and revert to restaurants you know. So if you’re looking for alternatives to the Hard Rock Cafe and Margaritaville, then here’s just a few of our Duval Street favorites.

Duval pulses with a lively, touristy, carnival-like atmosphere that draws vacationers from all over the world.

At the southern end of Duval, sitting on the shore of the Atlantic, is the Southernmost Beach Cafe. Whether we have guests or not, we like to head to the Cafe Bar around happy hour for an app and a drink or two. This is an oceanfront bar on the beach with tropical drinks. Offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the restaurant is well worth a visit as well.

 

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The beach and bar at the Southernmost Beach Cafe

If you’re in the mood for a casual French bistro, then head just a few blocks north to the corner of Duval and Louisa for the Banana Cafe. Popular for breakfast, this spot also offers lunch and dinner in a casual setting with both indoor and outdoor dining available. Being somewhat new to Key West, we hadn’t been here until recently. Now it’s one of our local favs.

Another one of our French favorites is Le Petit Paris, at the corner of Duval and Olivia. Also offering indoor and covered outdoor seating, we enjoy heading over for a late breakfast and sharing their delicious pancakes, crepes, and fresh-squeezed juices while sitting outside.

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Duval Street – Courtesy of The Vintage Urbanite

If you’re in the mood for wood-fired pizza, then you’ll find Onlywood Pizzeria near the corner of Duval and Southard. It’s nestled down a short sidewalk, just steps away from the bustle of Duval. Aside from their pizzas, this Italian trattoria and pizzeria also offers a happy hour menu, apps & salads, Italian entrees, and an extensive wine list. Sit inside, outside, or at the bar. We mostly dine in when we’re here, but they deliver as well.

Also near the corner of Duval and Southard is the Old Town Mexican Cafe. This is one of my local favorites. If you’re in the mood for great Mexican food with open-air seating and a lively atmosphere, this worth a stop. The carne adovada is awesome – I get it every time.

At the complete opposite end of Duval, Sunset Pier is another of our oceanfront favorites. For spectacular sunset views, live music, drinks, and casual dining, the pier is a great place to relax and watch the sun go down after a long day at the beach.

If these restaurants aren’t enough to satisfy your quest for great food in Old Town, then go check out Our Key West Favorites, by Caribbean Sealife. This is a fantastic list of some of their (and my) local favs. Check back to Southernmost Points soon to enjoy some of my off-Duval-Street recommendations.

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Next Time – Off-Duval: Some Bahama Village Favs

 

Catch that Key West Sunset: Part I

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Sunset at the Pier – Courtesy of Heather K.

Whether you’re a local or a visitor, if you’ve spent any time in Key West, then you probably have your favorite spot to catch that famous Key West sunset. Here’s two great places to kick-start your evening.

When family & friends make the journey down to Key West to visit us, we almost always take them to the northern end of Duval Street to watch the setting sun from Sunset Pier. Open to the public, but part of the Ocean Key Resort, this casual hot-spot offers incredible water and sunset views, drinks and cocktails, live music and waterfront dining. We like to get to the pier about an hour before sunset and (hopefully) snag a seat along the bar that runs the length of the pier. These seats not only offer unobstructed views of Key West’s famous sunset, but from this vantage point you can see the Key West Express ferrying visitors in from Fort Myers, the Yankee Freedom III bringing tourists back from a day-trip to the Dry Tortugas, and the various sunset sails and cruises taking tourists out on the water for hors d’oeuvres, drinks, and music.

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Colorful Seating at Sunset Pier – Courtesy of @travelflkeys

We like to get to the pier about an hour before sunset and (hopefully) snag a seat along the bar that runs the length of the pier.

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Mallory Square at Sunset – Courtesy of Joe P.

If you’re looking for a little more action as you watch the sun go down, then head to lively Mallory Square for the famous Key West Sunset Celebration. Entertaining locals and tourists from all over the world, this nightly celebration begins roughly two hours before the sun begins its decent. The Mallory Square Sunset Celebration offers something for everyone. Aside from the setting sun and scenic views of the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find food, artists, musicians, and a variety of entertainers that has attracted people to Mallory Square in the evenings for decades.

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Sunset Sail – Courtesy of @wonderfulkeywest

Looking for a place to call home during your next Key West vacation? Check out our licensed vacation rental in Old Town Key West at oldtowntruman.com.

Next Time – A Few Duval Street Favs: Part I

 

Smathers Beach – What to Know

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Smathers Beach – Courtesy of CC

 

At slightly less than a mile in length, Smathers is Key West’s largest beach. For visitors anxious to enjoy the palm-lined, white sand beach, its a two mile (20-minute) bike ride away form the center of Old Town. When tourists envision spending the day at the beach, they flock to Smathers. Located on the southern side of Key West along the Atlantic Ocean, Smathers parallels A1A, has plenty of parking, and is easy to reach from anywhere on the island.

While you’ll find plenty of beachgoers at Smathers during the day, it never feels crowded. However, if you’re looking to avoid the masses who frequent the beach during the day, you’re in luck. Sunrise and sunset are superb times to appreciate the beauty of Smathers Beach while dodging the crowds. Just don’t forget your camera.

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Smathers Beach at Sunrise – Courtesy of CC

From swimming and snorkeling, to jet skis and parasailing, Smathers offers something for everyone. Other amenities include restrooms & showers, sand volleyball courts, and kayak & other water-sport rentals. Feeling hungry? Just head street-side and hit up one of the food trucks offering seafood, burgers, shaved ice, drinks, and more. 150,000 annual visitors can’t be wrong.

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Looking for a place to call home during your next Key West vacation? Check out our licensed vacation rental in Old Town Key West at oldtowntruman.com.

Next time: Catch that Key West Sunset: Part I

Higgs Beach – What to Know

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Higgs Beach – Courtesy of CC

If you’re staying in Old Town, then you’re only a 10 or 15  minute leisurely bike ride from Higgs Beach Park. One of Key West’s most-visited beaches, Higgs and its neighboring park encompass 16 acres along the Atlantic Coast. Located at the southern end of White Street (or Reynolds St.), Higgs has just about everything you’d want from a day at the beach. Arrive early, and for a daily fee you can claim your chair & umbrella. The staff at the chair rental stand will help you find the best spot and get you set up for the day.

Along with the beach, the park & surrounding area offers visitors a chance to experience and explore West Martello Tower –  a Civil War era fort, Key West garden club, Key West Wildlife Center, recently-discovered African cemetery and burial grounds, the AIDS Memorial, White Street Pier, and other events and activities.

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Higgs Beach – Courtesy of @wonderfulkeywest

With a wide, sandy beach, shallow blue water, long wooden pier, snorkeling, beach chairs, a restaurant, and free parking, Higgs Beach is tough to beat.

Recently, Jimmy Buffet fans who didn’t have tickets to his sold-out Key West show were able to enjoy the concert as it was televised live on Higgs Beach. The concert was free and hosted by Buffet’s daughter. Along with the concert, beachgoers were treated to food, drinks, and live music from local reggae band, The Skank.

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The Skank performs at Higgs – Courtesy of Heather K.

Locals and visitors alike enjoy heading to Higgs for Salute! On the Beach. Located directly on the beach, Salute! boasts a full bar, fresh apps, fish sandwiches, burgers, pasta, and nightly entree offerings. It’s hard to beat this beachside cafe for lunch, dinner & ocean views.

If you didn’t bring a picnic lunch or you aren’t quite feeling up to leaving your lounge chair for the stroll over to Salute!, have no fear. Local favorites like Sandy’s Cafe and Cuban Coffee Queen will happily deliver breakfast or lunch straight to you at the beach. Just tell them to meet you at the Higgs Beach chair rental stand and you’ll be set for the day.

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Looking for a place to call home during your next Key West vacation? Check out our licensed vacation rental in Old Town Key West at oldtowntruman.com.

Next time: Smathers Beach – What to Know

Who Says Key West Doesn’t Have Good Beaches?

Smathers Beach - Image Courtesy of CC
Smathers Beach – Image Courtesy of CC

With the temps dropping and winter quickly approaching, Colorado feels about a million miles away from the Florida Keys. It’s not even December and we’ve already faced one early snowstorm that threatened us with 12 to 16 inches in one night. As I type this, it’s 80 degrees, breezy and humid down there, and 30 degrees, blustery and dry here in the Rockies. This has me already wishing I was back in Paradise, sunning in a lounger at one of Key West’s fantastic public beaches.

So it’s ironic that over the last few days, I’ve had two people mention Key West’s lack of beaches. Key West doesn’t have any beaches! one of my condo neighbors exclaimed as we made small talk in the elevator. And prior to that, while talking travel at a local pub, I had to endure the myth yet again. How come you guys like Key West so much? It’s not like they have any good beaches!  And these two people have both been to Key West.

Clear Blue Water at Fort Zach Beach - Image Courtesy of CC
Clear Blue Water at Fort Zach Beach – Image Courtesy of CC

Wondering why travelers continue to underrate the Key West’s beaches, I did a quick online search and was surprised by what I read. On one site, a national travel blogger claimed that people who came to Key West for its beach scene had obviously never been there before. And another article in which the author suggested that if you came to Key West looking for beautiful, sandy beaches, you were going to be disappointed.

Key West has at least four wonderful beaches, and if you don’t mind a 45 minute drive up the Keys, Bahia Honda State Park is must-see.

Scanning through the search results, I came across some interesting perspectives on the many beaches that the tiny isle of Key West has to offer. Having spent a lot of time at the beach in Key West, I’m hoping I can help dispel some of the misinformation and offer vacation travelers a better perspective on the lower Keys beach scene.

I’ll give you the lowdown on the beaches to add to your itinerary, including Higgs, Smathers, South, Fort Zach, & Bahia Honda. Hopefully, your next Key West vacation will be more enjoyable now that you know what to expect.

Looking for a place to call home during your next Key West vacation? Check out our licensed vacation rental in Old Town Key West at oldtowntruman.com.

Next time: Higgs Beach – What to Know