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Closer to Cuba than Miami, Key West sits off the coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico’s crystal-clear waters. The tiny island city – just four miles long and one mile wide – doesn’t do things by the book, offering travellers an inimitable mix of the absurd and the familiar. Party hard or take it easy – it really is up to you.
Flip-flops are welcome almost anywhere in Key West – but leave your watch at home. Known for being progressively liberal, a quality that has lured everyone from hippies to literary titans to its shores, Key West is innately easy-going. With the tropical climate bringing sun-soaked days and balmy nights cooled by ocean breezes, you’re only a cocktail away from a true tropical paradise.
The azure waters surrounding Key West are a crowd-puller due to their reputation as fishing hotspots. Depending on the time of year, you can expect bites from different types of snapper, grouper and shark. If you’d rather just observe, strap on your scuba gear and hit dive sites to spot colourful coral, giant grey angelfish and submerged ships.
Lazy days often give way to lively evenings - the city’s nightlife is the stuff of legends. As the sun sets, the party starts at Mallory Square where you can expect incredible performances, from fire eaters and sword swallowers to cats jumping through flaming hoops (yes, this is a real thing). Afterwards, the numerous bars and clubs lining Duval Street keep the party going all night.
In a place filled with watering holes and celebrated for its fishing, you can see why Ernest Hemmingway found Key West appealing. The celebrated American writer lived on the island for ten years and you can visit the impressive house and grounds where he wrote, as well as his favourite drinking hangouts.
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