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Must Know - Key West Cruise Port

Overview

Introduction to Key West
Docking, Piers, Things To Do and See, Beaches, the Old Town

By: Editor-in-Chief | Date - May 25, 2017

Hurricane Irma Note About Key West

Due to the devastation of the Hurricane Irma that is not yet fully accessed, Key West is now a cruise port off limits. All cruise ships calls have been suspended until further notice.

Together with Saint Martin and St. Thomas, Key West has been for long one of Editor's Favorite ports of call in the Caribbean itineraries. The Editor couldn't be sadder with the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.

Hopefully, in the near future - sooner than later - all these ports will be re-open and cruise travelers will have once again the opportunity to visit their wonderful landmarks, sites and unforgettable attractions.

IQCruising has no hidden interest in encouraging all cruisers to visit these ports as soon as possible - all of them without exception desperately need everyone's help. In the paragraphs below is the review written and photographed not long ago. Do please join IQCrusing in wishing a fast recovery and do all we can to get these ports back into cruise ship itineraries.

A Day in Key West

It will be difficult to find a cruise traveler that has been in Key West whom will not have anything but words of praise for this Port of Call. It's laidback ambiance, wonderful weather, history, vernacular architecture and delicious cuisine have more of a Caribbean character than what would be expected of an American city.

Photo of Duval Street in Key West.

Duval Street in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

In a unique way, Key West blends the best of the Caribbean with the benefits of refined conveniences: it is safe, easy to explore on your own, has a good number (and variety) of attractions, lots of possible sightseeing options, great transportation, affordable tours, excursions, and an almost endless offer of restaurants and bars to enjoy a taste of tropical flavors.

Docking in Key West

Cruise Ships dock in one of three possible Piers. The most regularly used is known as Pier B and is part of the private marina of the Weston Resort.

Photo of Pier B in Key West.

Pier B in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

If your cruise ship is the only one in port - which happens quite frequently - this will be most probably where she will dock. This is a perfect location just, literally, a couple of minutes walk away from the Old Town - one of the the top attractions of Key West where many highights are located.

There is also the possibility that your cruise ship will dock at another pier close by, also right at the heart of the Old Town, in Mallory Square - this is a famous spot where crowds gather to watch the sunset and it can get very busy when returning onboard at the end of the day.

Photo of Outer Mole Pier in Key West.

Outer Mole Pier in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Finally, the Navy’s Outer Mole Pier is only used when there are other ships in port. Although those that have been in Key West before and docked downtown always complain about docking at the Outer Mole because it is not right by the Old Town, it's location is just a 5-minute shuttle ride away from the Old Town and all cruise lines provide a shuttle.


Things To Do and See

One of the nicest and inviting aspects of Key West is that whatever the cruise traveler would like to do or see it is always very easy to get to anywhere on your own.

Photo of Conch Tour Train  in Key West.

Conch Tour Train in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Most attractions and landmarks are at walking distance and the Old Town is a wonderful grid of quaint architecture to explore on foot. The Old Town Trolley Tours, the Conch Tour Train and the City View Trolleys offer great sightseeing.

Photo of Scooter Rentals in Key West.

Scooter Rentals in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Renting a bike, a scooter or an electrical car are great ways to travel around and the public buses have stops close to all main attractions. Renting a car is only advisable if you wish to travel to other Keys nearby as Parking in Key West is both expensive and very limited.

Photo of Fishing Tours in Key West

Fishing Tours in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

For those that are interested in the cultural aspects of Key West there is plenty to choose but, after all, Key West was made famous by one of its most ilustrious residents - Ernest Hemingway - and his passion for Ocean activities. Naturally, sailing, deep sea fishing and all type of water sports are a main atraction of Key West and there are lots on offer including a few nice beaches - more about these below.

The Hemingway Home and Museum is a must see/visit along with landmarks and museums such as the Truman Little White House, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum and the Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit.

Photo of Aquarium in Key West.

Aquarium in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

For the cruise traveler with children there are many interesting venues - the Key West Aquarium, the Shipwreck Treasure Museum, the Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, the Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden, the Nancy Forrester Garden, the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens, or the Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Photo of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church in Key West.

Saint Paul's Episcopal Church

Photo © IQCruising.com

Historical landmarks like the Custom House Museum, the Lighthouse and Keepers Quarters, the Fort East Martello Museum, the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and the Curry Mansion Inn have a charm not be ignored. And a handul of small museums display unique exhibits worth a visit: Turtle Museum, Oldest House Museum, Flagler Station Museum, Richard Kemp House, Hellings House Museum and USCGC Ingham Maritime Museum. Two religious sites must also be mentioned - the Saint Paul's Episcopal Church (on Duval Street) and the catholic Basilica of Saint Mary Star of the Sea.


Beaches

Unless you are planning to book a full-day excursion to the Bahia Honda State Park or the Dry Tortugas National Park, the cruise traveler that is an avid beach goer may be a bit disppointed to discover that Key West doesn't have the spectacular type of beaches found in Caribbean Islands like Grand Cayman or Antigua. There are a few very nice beaches but none that compares to Magens Bay (in St. Thomas) or Orient Beach (in St. Martin).

Photo of Beach in Key West.

Beach in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

There are a few small sand strips with shallow waters and nice beach-bars like South Beach (by the Atlantic end of Duval Street) or Lagerheads Beach Bar in the Old Town at the end of Simonton Street, but the best are slighlty off track. The good news is that on the larger beaches you will find all sorts of watersports, renting of chairs, umberelas, kayaks, paddle-boards. All have public restrooms, nice seaside bars and restaurants. But you should expect shalow waters and, depending of the season, sometimes rocky and with seaweeds.

Photo of Higgs Beach in Key West.

Higgs Beach in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

In the Fort Zachary Taylor Park, besides the Historical Fort, you will find one of the nicest beach in Key West and the closest to the Cruise Port - slightly over 1-mile (half hour walking). It is great for snorkling. Entrance to the park is $2.50 per person if walking or biking (a nice way to get there). Higgs Beach is on the Atlantic side, east of Duval Street or 2-miles from the Cruise Port. Great for cruise travelers with kids, Higgs Beach has a distinctive wooden pier and lots of watersports are available.

The half-mile, hand-made, Smathers Beach is the largest in Key West and also the farthest from the Cruise Port - 3-miles from the Cruise Port. Besides the usual beach facilities (restrooms, chairs, umberellas), the cruise traveler will also find the best Watersports available in Key West such as sailboats, windsurfing, paddle boards, kayaks, jetskis or parasailing. Be aware that public restrooms closed at 4:00 p.m.


The Old Town - Landmarks

Photo of Mallory Square in Key West

Mallory Square in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Regardless of where you dock, the Old Town is a top highlight impossible to miss. The Old Town is the western tip of Key West and where famous streets (and attractions) are found. Mallory Square is a good point of refrence for your orientation. Right behind the square, Wall Street is where the Aquarium and the Shipwreck Museum are found, along with the stops of the Old Town Trolley (great sightseeing), an Information Center and the famous restaurant El Meson de Pepe.

Photo of Custom House in Key West

Custom House in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Parallel to Wall Street, Front Street is a good reference thoroughfare as it connects to all other major streets in the Old Town - Duval Street, Whitehead Street, Greene Street or Caroline Street. If docked at Pier B, the cruise traveler will be exiting right into Front Street by the Custom House Museum and next to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum.

The southern section of Front Street is a dead end, although the Truman Little White House is close by, but at the northern end the cruise travel will find the 'off-the-beaten-track' A&B Marina - a quaint harbor with very nice restaurants (Lobster House, Alonzo Oyster Bar, The Commodore) and a boardwalk (aka Harbor Wak) that will take you to the Historical Seaport.

Photo of Harbor Wak in Key West

Harbor Wak in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

The Turtle Museum, and a handfull of well known restaurants/bars (Conch Republic, Turtle Kraals, Half Shell Raw Bar, Dante’s Key West) are found at the Historical Seaport. At the northen end of the port you will find the the Flagler Station Museum.

Photo of Flagler Station Museum in Key West.

Flagler Station Museum in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Both Greene Street and Caroline Street also end by the Historical Seaport but the later doesn't have much to see along the way besides the Richard Kemp House.

Photo of Duval Street in Key West.

Duval Street in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Duval Street is certainly the most famous of all streets in Key West, known for its lively nightlife and profusion of stores with well known brands, one of a kind shops, boutiques, art galleries and souvenirs.

Photo of Sloppy Joe’s in Key West.

Sloppy Joe’s in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Photo of Whistle Bar in Key West.

Whistle Bar in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Inevitably, because cruise ships sail before Duval Street starts pulsing with revelers, you will miss this aspect of Key West but, even so, many bars are still fun to enjoy during the day - Sloppy Joe’s (Hemingway was a regular patron) and Whistle Bar are two to look for. Other big names have bars here such as Hard Rock Cafe, Margaritaville Cafe or Fat Tuesday. The cruise traveler will also find on Duval Street attractions like the Hellings House Museum, the Wrecker's Museum at the Oldest House, Ripley's Believe It or Not, the historical Saint Paul's Episcopal Church and, close to the Atlantic end, the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.

Photo of Art Gallery in Key West.

Art Gallery in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Above all, walking Duval Street is a delight. No visit to Key West is complete without a stroll on Duval Street, in particular, along the charming six blocks between Greene Street and Petronia Sreet. Be aware that Duval Street crosses the Old Town - north to south - and it is 2 miles long ending at South Beach, which is a small strip of sand dominated by the homonymous cafe.

Photo of NAME in Key West

Hemingway's House in Key West

Photo © IQCruising.com

Whitehead Street is parallel to Duval Street and although it is a reference thoroughfare is mainnly famous for three historical landmarks: the Hemingway's House and Museum (five blocks south of the Mallory Square), the Lighthouse and Keepers Quarters close by and the marker of the Southernmost the tip of the continental U.S. - known simply as Southernmost Point - at the end of the street on the Atlantic Ocean side.


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Useful Links

Key West Cruise Port

Official Website:
flaports.org

Key West Info

Official Website:
www.keywestinfo.com

Official Keys Tourism

Official Website:
www.fla-keys.com

Gay Key West Visitors Center

Official Website:
gaykeywestfl.com

Transportation

Key West Public Buses
Official Website


Uber
Official Website

Key West Highlights

Key West Aquarium
Official Website


Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
Official Website


Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden
Official Website


Shipwreck Treasure Museum
Official Website


Truman Little White House
Official Website


Hemingway Home and Museum
Official Website


Audubon House and Tropical Gardens
Official Website


Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
Official Website


Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit
Official Website


Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
Official Website


Custom House Museum
Official Website


Lighthouse and Keepers Quarters
Official Website


Fort East Martello Museum
Official Website


Curry Mansion Inn
Official Website


Theater of the Sea
Official Website


Nancy Forrester Garden
Official Website


Dry Tortugas National Park
Official Website


Historical Seaport
Official Website


Mallory Square
Official Website


Southern Most Point
Live Webcam


Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Official Website


Flagler Station Museum
Official Website


Turtle Museum
Official Website


Oldest House Museum
Official Website


Richard Kemp House
Official Website


Saint Paul's Episcopal Church
Official Website


Basilica of Saint Mary Star of the Sea
Official Website


Hellings House Museum
Official Website


USCGC Ingham Maritime Museum
Official Website

Excursions and Tours

Old Town Trolley Tours
Official Website


Conch Tour Train
Official Website


Historic Walking Tour
Official Website


Key West Art & Historical Society
Official Website


Dry Tortugas National Park
Official Website


Seaplane Tours
Official Website


Air Adventure’s Helicopters
Official Website


Classical Harbor Line
Official Website


Key West Eco Tours
Official Website


Key Lime Bike Tours
Official Website


Key West Food Tours
Official Website


City View Trolleys
Official Website


Viator
Official Website

Activities

Captain's Corner Dive
Official Website


Key West Dive Center
Official Website


Lost Reef
Official Website


Dolphin Tours
Official Website


Captain Seaweed
Official Website


Fury Cat
Official Website


Lagerheads Beach Bar
Official Website


Barefoot Billy’s
Official Website


Danger Charters
Official Website


Sunset Watersports
Official Website


Sebago Watersports
Official Website


Key West Golf Club
Official Website


Snuba Key West
Official Website


Jet Ski
Official Website


Electrical Cars
Official Website

Bike and Scooters Rentals

Eaton Bikes
Official Website


Fury Bike Rentals
Official Website


We Cycle
Official Website


The Bike Shop
Official Website


A & M
Official Website


Sunshine Scooters
Official Website


Lloyd's Bike Tour
Official Website

Boat Rentals

Spencer’s Boatyard
Official Website


Fury Boat Rentals
Official Website

Fishing Charters

Charter Boats Linda D.
Official Website


Captain Moe’s Lucky Fleet
Official Website


Fying Fish
Official Website


Double Down
Official Website


Far Out Fishing
Official Website


Fish Key West
Official Website

Flavors - Restaurants & Bars

Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe
Official Website

Duval Steet and Around

Grand Café
Official Website


Hard Rock Cafe
Official Website


Sloppy Joe’s
Official Website


Rick’s Bars
Official Website


Gas Monkey Bar N Grill
Official Website


Margaritaville Cafe
Official Website


Smokin’ Tuna Saloon
Official Website


Kelly’s
Official Website


El Meson de Pepé
Official Website

Historic Seaport

A&B Lobster House
Official Website


Alonzo Oyster Bar
Official Website


Sunset Tiki Bar
Official Website


The Commodore
Official Website


Conch Republic
Official Website


Schooner Wharf Bar
Official Website


Turtle Kraals Restaurant & Bar
Official Website


Half Shell Raw Bar
Official Website


Dante’s Key West
Official Website


Fisherman’s Cafe
Official Website


The Waterfront Brewery
Official Website


Cuban Coffee Queen
Official Website


Bo’s Fish Wagon
Official Website

Car Rentals

Jeep Adventures
Official Website

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Last Update: May 25, 2017

The information on this page was accurate when last updated and published but changes may have occurred without notice.
It is advisable to confirm details with local tourist information before planning your cruise, tour or excursions of Key West Cruise Port.
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