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Key West, Florida (The Conch Republic)   by John Pelley

Key West Hotels

Originally settled by the Calussa Indians, the Spanish conquistadors tried to take over this prime real estate in the Southwestern Keys. The beaches became the burial grounds for many of the natives, thus giving the Island the name of Bone Island; Cayo Hueso in Spanish. The English Anglicized this name to Key West.

John Simonton, and American businessman, purchased the island from Juan Pablo Salas and developed the island with the help of Greene, Whitehead, and Fleming. They encouraged the Navy to open a base to combat piracy in the area.

The island prospered because the coral reefs brought many ships to Davy Jones Locker. Many became millionaires from salvaging the numerous shipwrecks. At one point the people of Key West became the richest city per capita in the United States.

Key West Lighthouse, Key West, Florida, USA
Key West Lighthouse, Key West, Florida, USA
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Henry Morrison Flager, against all odds and better judgement, built a railroad from Homestead to Key West. The first train arrived on January 22, 1912. This connected the mainland with Key West. From Key West, Havana Cuba was only ninety miles away. Considered the Eighth Wonder of the Modern world, the Overseas Railroad spanned 42 stretches of sea with causeways and bridges, the longest being seven miles. From 1912 to 1935 Key West exploded as a tourist and business center. A major Class five hurricane destroyed much of the tracks in 1935. Once again Key West had been cut off from the mainland.

The State of Florida purchased the Overseas Railroad right-of way and turned it into the Overseas Highway in 1938, using the roadbed and bridges Henry Flager built.

World War II brought new prosperity to the island with the Naval Base. Ernest Hemmingway and Tennessee Williams resided and visited the island. Cuban tobacco became hand rolled cigars.

In 1981 the Us Government set up road blocks near Key Largo, cutting off the tourist trade to Key West. Not too sure why this happened. The citizens of Key West decided to secede. They formed the Conch (Pronounced conk) Republic. Many still fly the flag today. They demanded billions in reparation and foreign aide. The US Government ignored their wishes; but they did remove the roadblocks.

Today Key West thrives primarily on tourism. Arrive by driving the 128 miles along the Overseas Highway on the old railroad bed, or fly into Key West Airport, or take the Key West Express ferry from Marco Island or Ft. Myers Beach. To acquaint yourself to the island take the 1½ to 2 hour Conch Tour Train. Tickets can be purchased at the booth at the Flager Train station or at The Old Town ticket booth near Mallory Square. The guided tour travels just about every street in Key West: a great orientation to the island. Other forms of transportation on the island are electric cars, bicycles, mopeds, taxicabs, and bicycle carriages for two. Walking the streets, perhaps, is the best way of seeing the island, which is four miles long and one mile wide. Traffic can be a real challenge, especially along US 1, which has its terminus at mile marker 0.

Looking for action? Duval Street is your goal. Stop and have a beer at Hemingway's watering hole, Sloppy Joe's bar and restaurant (the original bar is ½ block away at Capt. Tony's Saloon). If your interests lean toward Jimmy Buffet, go to Margaritaville, only four short blocks down the street. Up and down Duval restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and people watching beckon everyone to the narrow sidewalks. You might even come across one of Key West famous chickens strolling the street.

Duval Street, Key West, Florida, USA
Duval Street, Key West, Florida, USA
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Other highlights include Hemingway's home, with guided tours running $12.00 at this time. Views from the exterior are free. Across Whitehead Street stands the old lighthouse and keepers quarters. The lighthouse was moved inland to protect it from hurricanes. A couple more blocks down the street is the Truman White House. President Truman used this resident and the many outbuildings during his time in office. Other dignitaries also followed his lead: John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Colin Powell. Talking about President Truman, not to be missed is the Margaret Truman Laundromat. Rumor has it that it was named for Margaret Truman, the president's daughter. Its location is at the corner of Margaret and Truman Streets. Thus its named.

Along Truman Street sits the convent of Our Lady of the Sea. Many survivors of the hurricane of 1935 were treated there. The nuns erected a grotto next to the church in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes. When hurricane season approaches many candles light the grotto as a prayer to keep Key West free and safe. A marker designates the Southernmost spot in the Continental USA. Tourists love to have their picture taken by it.

We ate lunch at Pepe's Restaurant on Caroline Street, near Flager Station. This eatery, established in 1909, features American food in abundance. I had a hard time finishing my open faced meatloaf sandwich.

A trip to Key West is taking in the numerous water sports: parasailing, jet skis, snorkeling, riding glass bottom boats, deep sea fishing, or just relaxing on the beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side. A day trip to The Dry Tortugas National Park (Fort Jefferson) leaves daily from Key West.

Above all people-watching, the climate, and the laid back atmosphere draws people, young and old, to the Conch Republic. It beckons you too

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About the Author - John Pelley is a Geriatric Gypsy. He is retired from the rat race of working. He is a full-time RVer, who ran away from home. He began our travels on the East Coast and, like the migrating birds, seek the warmth of the seasons He has discovered volunteering with the National Park System. He has a CD he has recorded of Native American flute music., A Day with Kokopelli. For pictures, links, and more information visit
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Casa Marina Resort - Waldorf Astoria Collection Key West
The oldest and largest resort in Key West, Fla., the Casa Marina Resort - Waldorf Astoria Collection was built in 1920, less than 2 miles from the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, Key West Lighthouse Museum and the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens. The hotel features Sun Sun, an open-air wood pavilion overlooking the pools and the beach, serving light lunch and dinner options under umbrella tables. The hotel boasts the largest private beach in Key West with more than 1,000 feet of pristine beachfront property. The resort includes two pools and padded lawn chairs that line large sundecks. Bicycles and watercraft equipment can be rented from the resort's pier where guests join snorkeling, scuba diving and dolphin-viewing excursions, go deep-sea or flat fishing and sail aboard catamarans at sunset.
Comfort Inn Key West
Comfort Inn Key West (Fla.) sits at the northern point of the island, and is just one mile from Smathers Beach. The Key West International Airport is within two miles of the hotel. The Bone Island shuttle stops adjacent to the hotel, while the Conch Tour train has a depot just two blocks away. The hotel serves complimentary continental breakfasts and coffee each morning. Business services are available, and wireless Internet access is complimentary. The hotel features an outdoor pool and white-wood patio. Select guestrooms overlook the pool and sundeck.
Days Inn Key West
The Days Inn Key West, located in central Key West near the beach and close to sightseeing and entertainment, provides the perfect location for a Key West vacation. Located within walking distance of beaches, restaurants, shopping and local attractions, and only a mile and a half from the airport and two miles to downtown Key West, guests will feel centrally located. At the Days Inn Key West, one is never far from the beaches and a choice of water activities. The Key West Golf Course is less than a mile away. The hotel's full-service concierge can arrange for fishing charters, sightseeing trips, dive and snorkel excursions, day trips to the Dry Tortugas, sunset cruises and anything else one could think of. 
Fairfield Inn and Suites By Marriott Key West
Discover the true spirit of the islands, as well as the area's best value, at the beautifully renovated Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Key West. Our convenientldy located Key West Florida hotel offers signature Marriott comfort and style - just minutes from pristine beaches and the shops, restaurants, and clubs of world-famous Duval Street. Choose from more than 100 redesigned guest rooms and suites, including poolside accommodations. Stretch out on a luxurious, brand-new pillow-top mattress while you decide what amazing activities to enjoy. Completely updated as part of an extensive, $7.5 million renovation, our Key West hotel rooms offer exceptional service in an outstanding location.
Hotel Key West
Located across the street from the Gulf of Mexico and a waterfront promenade, the Hotel Key West (Fla.) is less than two miles from Key West International Airport. Public spaces are brightly painted in red, green and pink hues with an airy lobby decorated with historical Key West photographs. An on-site Denny's Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner while Splash provides casual, poolside fare and drinks. The Hotel Key West offers 1,200 square feet of meeting space while high-speed Internet access is provided in the lobby. The hotel features a fitness center and outdoor pool that showcases fountains. An umbrella-flanked sundeck is surrounded by towering palm trees. Massages are available within the fitness center and by the pool.
Hyatt Key West Resort And Spa
Located within two blocks of Duval Street and Mallory Square, the Hyatt Key West Resort and Spa offers a great location amid the revelry of Key West, Fla. The Key West Aquarium, Sculpture Garden and Audubon House are within three blocks. Key West International Airport is four miles from the property. This compact, cream-colored Hyatt is comprised of multiple four-story buildings. A highlight of the property is its outdoor courtyard which features koi and turtle ponds, hammocks, a splash pool and a spa tub. The area opens to a waterfront deck and the hotel's own slice of beach. Several water sports are available at the hotel, which provides the equipment to parasail, wave-run and scuba dive.
The Inn at Key West
Located on North Roosevelt Boulevard overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, The Inn at Key West is three miles from historic Duvall Street and the Hemingway House in Key West, Fla. Convenient to area shops, restaurants and entertainment venues, the hotel is approximately three miles from Key West International Airport. Guests enjoy seafood in the open-air café, The Café at the Inn at Key West, for breakfast and lunch. Surrounded by tropical vegetation, the Tiki Bar serves up icy cocktails all day. Meeting facilities, complimentary high-speed Internet access and business services are available, should a business need arise. Guests are surrounded by palm trees and umbrellas at the free-form outdoor pool and spa tub. 
Ocean Key Resort - a Noble House Resort Key West
The Ocean Key Resort & Spa in Key West, Fla. is located two miles from Key West International Airport, between lively Mallory Square and Key West Harbor. Guests may stroll down Old Town Lane while enjoying colorful 19th century architecture and may window shop at various quaint boutiques. Literature buffs can appreciate a tour of the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, and nightly celebrations are a must-see at Sunset Pier. Overlooking the ocean, the resort offers guests impressive amenities. Guests may stretch lazily by the heated pool, or enjoy body treatments at Spa Terre. Guests experience gourmet dining at Hot Tin Roof, where "conch fusion" cuisine is on the menu.
Sheraton Suites Key West
The Sheraton Suites Key West is located in Key West, Fla., across the street from Smathers Beach. The Key West Lighthouse Museum and the Garrison Bight Marina are one mile from the hotel. The Ernest Hemingway home and museum is less than two miles away. The Sheraton Suites Key West is one-and-one-half miles from Key West International Airport. The Sheraton Suites Key West mimics Key West's tropical ambience. The lagoon-style pool is landscaped with palm trees and offers shade under white umbrellas. The spa tub seats eight and is secluded behind a waterfall. The Cabana bar offers a light menu of sandwiches and frozen drinks and overlooks a freeform pool. The Beach Restaurant provides indoor and outdoor dining and a menu of seafood, steak and pasta. 
The Reach Resort - Waldorf Astoria Collection Key West
The Reach Resort - Waldorf Astoria Collection is a tropical playground offering the best of Key West, Fla. With the only natural beach on the island as a backdrop, this hotel is an ideal destination for sun and water enthusiasts. The private 450-foot stretch of white-sandy beach provides unimpeded entry into the Atlantic Ocean. Guests are within two miles of Duval Street, Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum and the Key West Lighthouse. One of the hotel's top attractions is its restaurant, The Strip House. The restaurant specializes in prime cuts of charred meat and 24-layer chocolate cake and has an extensive wine list. Room service is available. The hotel also has a fitness center. Resort staff members roam the beach and pool areas, distributing frozen towels and Popsicles to sunbathers.
The Westin Key West Resort & Marina
The Westin Key West Resort & Marina is located in Key West Florida, close to charming boutiques and cafes. The hotel is in the heart of historic Old Town and with close proximity to Duval Street. Designed in classic, romantic Victorian style and overlooking the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Westin Key West offers 19th-century atmosphere with 21st-century amenities. The resort is within walking distance of all local attractions including The Truman White House, Customs House Museum, The Mel Fisher Museum and numerous art galleries, shops and Key West's famous bars. Guestrooms have balconies, most with views of the Gulf and Key West's world-famous nightly sunset celebration.
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