“We didn’t come here to lose weight or save money!” – Andrew Harris
We recently took a trip to Key West, Florida to celebrate a good friend’s wedding. I had never been to the island and was very excited to explore a new place and discover new things. I had compiled a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish during my first visit to the Southernmost city. Top of the list was to try conch, followed by seeing the Hemingway House, and hopefully working on my tan. We easily accomplished all of these during our stay on the island. I could see quickly why our friends love this place and chose to marry here.
We had a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Key West. Delta Airlines gave our entire wedding party drink vouchers. The celebrations started off from the jump. The flight was smooth and quick. The airport in Key West is tiny. Grabbing our luggage and hopping in a taxi was easy and took seconds. We were at our rental house within a flash of an eye, which was centrally located just a block off Duval Street. We unloaded our luggage and started cruising on our bikes, which had already been delivered to our house by Eaton Bikes. I loved the ease of being able to go everywhere via a quick bike ride or a short walk. Everything is literally within a few blocks.
We were fortunate to be traveling with long-time Key West locals. They were perfect guides for the trip. We saw and ate everything that was ‘a must’ during a trip to the Key. First, we biked down Caroline Street to the Half Shell Raw Bar on the marina. This was a perfect first stop. They had all the fresh seafood our hearts desired and water views. We ordered raw oysters, fresh shrimp, conch fritters, and the fresh catch fish sandwich. I was delightfully surprised at how delicious the conch fritters were. I am not certain I would enjoy a raw version of conch but served inside the yummy hush-puppyish breading, they were very enjoyable. You cannot go to the “Conch Republic” and not have conch.
After having a late lunch at the Half Shell, we wandered over to Schooner’s Wharf Bar. This was another local dive bar on the water off the Historic Seaport harbor walk. They had every drink you could imagine, including my favorite vacation drink, the frozen piña colada. They had live music, plenty of seating, and as most places are, were pet-friendly. Within hours of being in Key West, I was in love. You can walk or bike everywhere. You can get fresh seafood just about every place you stop. Best of all, you can take your pups with you most places. This place is pretty close to heaven on earth.
We continued wandering around the island from here biking the two miles to West Martello Tower on the opposite side of the island. This was to be the location of the wedding ceremony. The island is flat and there is a nice sea breeze in the air which made biking around delightful. I preferred it to walking, however, some of the gentlemen in the group would beg to differ. We briefly toured the gardens at the tower and took in some nice beach views while the bride and groom worked on finalizing the upcoming wedding day details.
From West Martello, we continued to the Key West courthouse to get the marriage license. While they ironed out the last few wedding details, we waited at The Green Parrot on Whitehead Street, directly across from the courthouse. Born out of an 1890’s grocery store, the now Green Parrot came to life in the 70’s and has long since been a watering-hole haven for all walks of life. This ended up being my favorite bar during our time on the island. They had the best live music and some of the best people watching.
It was hard to pull us away from The Green Parrot, but our hungry stomachs helped. We ventured over to Pepe’s Cafe for dinner based on a recommendation from the mother of the groom, who lived in Key West for close to twenty years. Her recommendations during our entire trip were spot on. She lured everyone with the promise that every Thursday night is Thanksgiving at Pepe’s. This dinner special entailed Thanksgiving turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, cornbread, and green beans. My husband and I ordered some of the stone crab claws as well, which is one of my absolute favorite things on earth. The owner was a friend of the groom’s mom and sent out a slice of Key lime pie for us to all share. You cannot go to Key West and not have Key lime pie. All of it was food for the soul and made you feel like you were home.
After dinner, we wandered back down to The Green Parrot and danced the night away to a Grateful Dead cover band. Perfect ending to our exciting first day in Key West.