A FEW TIDBITS ABOUT THE CONCH REPUBLIC
The Florida Keys are a unique chain of small and not-so-small islands and mangrove clusters stretching southwestward from the tip of the bottom of mainland Florida over 100 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Key West, the southernmost city in the United States, is the most populated and best known of all the Keys in Monroe County. Some say Key West is the end of the road…we think it’s the beginning of an adventure; let us know what you think on your Key West vacation! Check here for driving directions to Key West Fl
Key West, a 4 mile by approximately 2 mile island, is 159 miles southwest of Miami, 90 miles north of Cuba and 755 miles further south than Los Angeles. Both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico border Key West. The population is approximately 25,000 permanent residents. The Keys are linked to the mainland by the Overseas Highway (US 1) with 43 bridges (that’s a lot of bridges) from Florida City to Key West. The mile marker system starts with MM126 at Florida City (south of Miami) and ends with MM Zero at the corner of Fleming and Whitehead Streets in Old Town Key West. Key West is actually located much closer to Caribbean islands than to mainland Florida. It’s the southernmost tip of land in the contiguous United States and the last and most exciting of the Florida Keys.
SO, WHAT’S A CONCH?
We speak of Conch food, Conch houses, Conch talk, the beautiful Conch shell, and conch as in seafood (fritters, ceviche) as well.
The word “conch” (pronounced KONK) also refers to a native of Key West, someone born on the island. An old Conch may never have left the island of Key West. Some believe that the name originated with the migration of Bahamians to the Keys who were “Conchs;” others think it came from the tradition of placing a Conch shell on a stick in the yard to announce another birth had taken place on the island. No matter, a “Conch is a Conch” and only those born on the island are true Conchs. New residents to the island, other than those on a Key West vacation, are called Key Westers. For free things to do in Key West check out the Annual Conch Shell Blowing Contest for a fun time with the whole family.
KEY WEST GLOSSARY
Café Con Leche – strong coffee with steamed milk (be sure to specify how many sugars you want)
Cuban Mix – really yummy pressed sandwich with ham and roast pork – order it “all the way”
Mangos – you know, to make mango daiquiris
Dolphin – yes we eat dolphin here, no not Flipper! You might know this fish as mahi mahi
Polydactyl – referring to the 6-toed Hemingway cats
Bugs – Caribbean spiny lobster…bring on the butter!
No-see-ums – tiny biting midges…watch for them at dawn and dusk
Conch Republic – we seceded from the Union in 1982, something about a Border Patrol blockade…hey, it was the 80’s
Duval Crawl – There are A LOT of bars in Key West and most of them are on Duval Street…you figure it out
Green Flash – After finishing your Duval Crawl at Mallory Square, you might be lucky enough to see the famous Green Flash at sunset
Due to the Gulfstream in the Straits of Florida and the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Key West has a subtropical climate. The average temperature is 77.7 degrees with the average possible days of sunshine at 76% of the year. The average temperature range is 14 degrees between summer and winter. Yearly average rainfall is 40 inches, and the rainy season lasts from June through November (which is also our hurricane season), though rainy days in Key West usually consist of downpours followed by sunshine.
To locals, a hurricane means more than a strong rum drink! Hurricane season is from June 1st through November 30th, but since the dedication of the grotto at St. Mary’s, Key West has never endured the full force of a hurricane…hey, we think it’s working!
KEY WEST-OLD TOWN AND NEW TOWN
Key West Florida attractions, like Old Town, has many small shops, restaurants, galleries, nightclubs, bars, specialty shops and a smattering of chain stores.
In New Town (on the Eastern side of the island) there are currently three shopping plazas:
- Searstown – hosting Sears, Outback and Publix
- Key Plaza – home to K-Mart, OfficeMax and Publix
- Overseas Market – with Winn-Dixie, Ross, CVS and Pier One