Port of Key West
The Key West Historic Seaport
Key West Bight
100 Grinnell Street
Key West, Florida 33040
Phone: (305) 293-8309
For passengers cruising to the Caribbean and beyond, balmy, subtropical Key West’s remote island allure laced with continental United States comforts have made the Port of Key West one of the cruise industry’s all-time popular ports of call.
Familiar customs, currency and language have enormous appeal for many cruise passengers. Attractions that are within easy walking distance from docks (negating need for booking pricey shore excursions), and breezy, often irreverent attitudes among locals strike pleasant chords with just about everyone.
Little wonder that President Harry S Truman, upon one of his 11 visits to the island city’s Little White House, wrote to wife Bess, “I’ve a notion to move the capitol to Key West and just stay.”
Historically, it was in 1969 that the Port of Key West received its first regularly scheduled cruise ship – the Sunward -- calling on Key West monthly at either the Navy's Mole or Pier B facility. Between 1969 and 1984, Key West logged 266 port calls, posting steady growth ever since. In fiscal 1999, 415 cruise ships called on the Port of Key West, allowing 597,009 passengers to sample the island charm that makes many visitors plan return trips to expand on their Key West euphoria.
In a perfect world, passengers might prefer extensive pre-or-post cruise Key West exploration, rather than settle for short port of call visits. Yet because air lift is limited and the 123-mile Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West (the latter being closer to Havana than Miami) is often jammed, larger cruise ships are unlikely to ever homeport out of Key West.
It wasn't until 1984 that city commissioners improved the city-owned Mallory Dock, making it a full cruise ship docking facility. The Port of Key West now consists of three docking facilities: Mallory Square Dock, Pier B (privately owned) and the Navy Mole.
Facilities for passenger in transit are on the upgrade, and revamp of the Outer Mole Pier is underway with an extended recreational harbor walk and green space. For such a tiny island, an extraordinary variety of excursions, historical tours, unique architecture, Spanish treasure exhibits, world-class fishing and diving, famed saloons and eclectic shopping await disembarking passengers.
For passengers in transit calling in Key West, it’s simply a matter of tendering in from ships moored offshore or descending dockside gangplanks for tastes of all that awaits. For land-based travelers seeking to watch cruise ships arrive and depart at Mallory Square Dock (where sunsets are sublime), there’s only one road: The Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West. The Greyhound Keys Shuttle, (800) 231-2222, has daily scheduled departures from Miami International Airport. Major airlines also offer direct service to Key West from Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.
For pre- and post-cruise adventure, here’s a sampling of hotel, dining and attraction options near the Port of Key West:
A&B Lobster House
With music in the background, lobster and other gems from the sea along with farm-raised baby conch are accompanied by an extensive, impressive wine list at the A&B Lobster House, open since 1947. 700 Front Street, Key West. (305) 294-5880
Camille’s Key West Restaurant
For more than two decades, Camille’s has doubled as a combo Soho Café with a menu of “inexpensive gourmet” and a funky place favored by locals “where everyone knows your name.” Lunch and dinner menus are friendly to both vegetarians and Atkins dieters. Breakfasts include Yellow Corn Cashew Waffles and Decadent French Toast with Godiva white chocolate sauce. 1202 Simonton Street, Key West. (305) 296-4811
Conch Republic Seafood Company
Offering casual waterfront dining overlooking the Historic Seaport, this open-air eatery is known for an eclectic menu of great seafood including grilled dolphin prepared with Caribbean influences, along with Black Angus dry aged steaks. CRSC also claims the largest bar between Cuba and Miami. 631 Greene Street, Key West. Phone (305) 294-4403
Green Parrot Bar
A Key West landmark since 1890, the Parrot ranks as the first and last bar on U.S.1 and has its own blog – The Green Parrot Bar No Snivelling Zone -- for patron comments. Hailed for great drinks and bad art, the Parrot also has pool, darts, pinball, and popcorn. Next door, Meteor Restaurant serves Memphis-style dry-rubbed baby-back ribs and barbecue. 601 Whitehead Street. (305) 294-6133
Hog’s Breath Saloon
With the original up the Florida coast in Fort Walton Beach, Key West’s infamous Hog’s Breath Saloon (following a philosophy that “hog’s breath is better than no breath at all”) serves up Hog’s Breath Lager and local seafood from the raw bar, while the grill handles other tastes. Patrons are encouraged not to leave town without a Hog’s Breath T-shirt. 400 Front Street. (800) 826-6969
Kelly’s Caribbean Restaurant & Grill
Owned by actress Kelly McGillis, this Caribbean bar and grill in the original home of Pan American Airways, makes its own brew on premises to wash down a menu of Pescada Negra (blackened local fish), curried shrimp with salsa verde, and more. 301 Whitehead Street, Key West. (305) 293-8484
Schooner Wharf Bar
Located on the seaport’s Historic Harbor Walk on the site of the old Singleton Shrimp factory, Schooner Wharf Bar – “A last little piece of Key West” – has tasty Conch Fritters, Coconut Dipped Shrimp, Oysters on the Half Shell, Schooner Burgers and more, with nightly live entertainment. 202 William Street, Key West. (305) 292-9520
Offshoots have opened in other locales including Fort Lauderdale, but Key West’s legendary original – it opened on Dec. 5, 1933, the day Prohibition was repealed -- has a lock on Hemingway era-charisma. 201 Duval Street, Key West (305) 294-5717
City Marina's 250 slips straddle the Palm Avenue Causeway in Garrison Bight. The marina is home to Key West's historic Charterboat Row and a community of live-aboard homes comprising a pleasant, eclectic neighborhood.
Compass Rose Charters
Head out for reef, harbor, wreck or offshore fishing – or customize the day by mixing it up. Some Compass Rose anglers like to fish in the morning, eat lunch on a deserted island, then snorkel shallow water wrecks, and fish again later in the afternoon. (877) FISH-N-KW or (305) 294-5161
Conch Tour Train
A 90-minute, narrated tour covers much of the island and more than 100 points of interest including Harry S. Truman’s “Little White House” and architecture of Key West. 1805 Staples Avenue, Key West. (305) 294-5161
Discovery Glass Bottom Boat
Narrated tours allow those aboard to see colorful coral, exotic tropical fish and hundreds of varieties of marine life without getting wet. Discovery, which sails champagne sunset adventures, is handicapped accessible. (305) 293-0099 or (800) 262-0099
Key West Shipwreck Historium
On Mallory Square, this multi-media museum helps visitors step back to 1851 for discovering the treacherous world of shipwrecking and how it made Key West the nation’s richest city. Artifacts, live actors, laser technology and a 60' lookout tower add to the experience. One Whitehead Street, Key West. (305) 292-8990
Old Town Trolley Tours
A 90-minute narrated tour of Key West has nine tops, allowing passengers to disembark and re-board if they wish for sightseeing, shopping and dining. 122 Simonton Street, Key West. (305) 292-8939
Schooner Western Union
The 130-foot schooner Western Union, the world’s last sailing cable ship, also is the last tall ship built in Key West. After launch in 1939, she served the Western Union Telegraph Co. for 35 years. Western Union, enduring a high stakes espionage run-in with Cuban gun boats, also has survived hurricane winds and dismantlement efforts. Key West’s flagship sails daily, and the crew invites those aboard to lend a hand. 202 William Street, Key West. (305) 296-9729
For more on where to stay, what to see, where to dine, and what to do, visit:
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