Thursday, March 12, 2015

2014 changes in Key West

Key West 2014
What in Key West changed for the better and what changed for the worse in 2014? Here is my annual review of Key West changes - a personal selection. If you want a comprehensive list then read the Citizen! I do this every year and you can see links to previous years' reviews at the end of this post.

The two anncouncements offering the most impact were not new or surprising and had been brewing for years:

US to normalise relations with Cuba - 90 miles from Key West
Cuba came whole lot closer to Key West in December when President Obama announced more normal relations with Cuba, including relaxing travel barriers for vacations to Cuba. Subsequently, Cuba was named the #2 top destination in the New York Times's 2015 list.

This has potential for profound impact on the closest US real estate to Cuba (e.g. Key West) and could well mean a lucrative tourist route starting between the two. Day trip to Havana, anyone?

The alternative prediction for Key West is a reduction in cruise ship traffic because they choose to stop off / divert to new, interesting, different Cuba rather than good ol' Key West (which regrettably is looking more indistinguishable from all Caribbean / sunny destinations with each passing year).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

2015 changes Key West

It was all change in Key West in 2015. The biggest story of 2015 (officially, according to a Florida wide poll) was Florida gay weddings - the very first of which were conducted right here in Key West. Just after midnight on January 7 2015 (as soon as it had become legal in Florida) on the steps of the county courthouse in Key West. Watched by a good sized crowd who wanted to be part of history being made.

Keeping with gay, later in the year on 29 May 2015 a "gay" (i.e. rainbow) crosswalk was installed (painted on the road) in the gay block (Petronia Street) of Duval Street. I think this is a most excellent idea and as I believe they are permanent, I look forward to seeing them when I visit later in the year. They gained lots of international media coverage.

Now to the major themes running throughout the whole of 2015 in Key West. According to my radar, in order of strength of signal, I would say they were:

1. Key West is going to the dogs. Typified by talk like: "Woe is me, Key West is getting busier, very noticeably this year, especially with all the tour buses arriving for the day. Key West isn't what it was, the homeless have taken over..." etc etc
2.  Tree commission is out of control and literally killing Key West's natural heritage
3. More new building development hits Key West. In particular inappropriate construction approved in Old Town.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Seaplane to Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson

The Dry Tortugas are a group of small islands 70 miles west from Key West and visiting them by seaplane is the best thing I've ever done from Key West and one of my highlights of the year. The flight is only at 500 feet so the ocean views are stunning but that's only a warm up for the island itself which is dominated by the huge Fort Jefferson, the largest brick made structure in the Americas. Then there's the beach and snorkeling. I visited Key West for years without visiting the Tortugas and that was a mistake - make sure you include the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson in your itinerary.
View of Fort Jefferson and the snorkeling area in front from the seaplane at the Dry Tortugas
Here are 11 things that are cool about a seaplane trip to the Dry Tortugas:
  • You get to fly in a small, 12 seat seaplane! That's cool!
  • You get amazing aerial views of Key West on take off and landing
  • For most of the flight you're at only 500 feet so you see loads of turtles, dolphins and other marine life in the water
  • You get to see all the lonely keys and sandbars between Key West and the islands - along with informative commentary from pilot
  • You're immersed in the Caribbean colors of the ocean - beautiful blues and greens
  • When you land on water at the Dry Tortugas experience how soft a water landing is
  • If you go on the morning trip you arrive 90 minutes before the ferry so you have the fort and island to yourself, which is awesome and makes a real difference
  • Fort Jefferson, with its 16 million red bricks, is very photogenic
  • As is the vista out to open ocean which includes the Dry Tortugas lighthouse, 157 feet high, a few miles away on Loggerhead Key
  • The snorkelling, very close (like 10 metres) off the island, is easy to do and good. Much better than any snorkelling in Key West
  • The colors, clarity and contrasts are stunning and you end up with some amazing photographs. The photos you see below are the set I'm most proud of across all my tens of thousands of photos of the Florida Keys - see below
FAQs - visiting the Dry Tortugas