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6. The Best Stay-Overs
Forget designer-name hotels, go for historic character and comfort. Simonton Court, which once housed the workers and operations of a 19th century cigar factory, is a lushly landscaped haven from busy Duval Street. Another winner is The Marquesa, a superbly appointed boutique hotel thats on the National Register of Historic Places. Heron House is also a must-see, if only for its hand grown rare orchids.
Youll find them congregating wherever theres the prospect of another fishy meal, which in the Keys in virtually off every shore and boat dock. Feed them some morsels, watch them scrap, but keep them at a good wings length. These birds have enough attitude to rival a New York cabbie.
8. Hemingway House
Fan or not, this wonderful mansion is peppered with Hemingway eccentricities, not least of which is a drinking fountain made out of a urinal and the homes famous six-toed cats. Theres 31 polydactals of the 61 resident felines, all of which are named after famous folks such as Charlie Chaplan, Ava Gardener, and Edgar Allen Poe. Did anyone tell Liz Taylor shes actually in the cat cemetery? Incidentally, Hemingways boat, Pilar, is at World Wide Sports at Islamorada.
Parking is a tight commodity around Key Wests busy and narrow streets which is why folks zip around on mopeds and scootcars. Believe it or not, a great place to rent the former is at the Moped Hospital. The latter can get a bit pricey but are heaven sent if it rains.
10. Bones & Bullies
Nicknamed the "gray ghosts of the flats," bone fish put up a warp-speed chase that will challenge the best of anglers, provided a bully doesnt get into the fight. Four and five foot long barracudas are hook savvy predators but the promise of their explosive sky-dives and cartwheeling jumps are a lure that will convert wannabes into sports-fishing enthusiasts.
Words for the road
First stop towards Key West should be Alabama Jacks on the "old road" to the Keys. Its a bit off the beaten track but a favourite haunt of Harley riders and those in the know. It looks rough and ready from the outside, but dishes up the best conch fritters in the Keys.
Second stop should be breakfast at Robbies , a tiny 1950s-style diner at Islamorado, where man-size pancakes, bacon and eggs are served alongside the opportunity to hand-feed some pretty feisty (finger-grabbing) tarpon. Marker 88 nearby is a good option for dinner and patio cocktails. Take the time to detour through Pine Key ; the thigh-high Key deer are a delight to find and unexpectedly tame.