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Key West, Touring in an Electric Car: A Visitor’s Point of View

Key West is full of history at every turn, literally. Even the street names have a story all their own. There’s Truman Ave., Roosevelt Blvd., Roosevelt Dr., and Washington St., all named after Presidents of course. Flagler Ave is named for the industrialist that brought the railroad all the way to Key West. But what about the main streets that crisscross the historic business core of the island?

Streets like Whitehead, Fleming, Simonton, Greene, Thompson, and Duval tell the story of Key West’s early development. In 1815 Key West, then known as Cayo Hueso, was still part of the Spanish holdings in the New World. The Spanish Governor of Cuba at the time deeded the little island to a Royal Spanish Navy Artillery officer by the name of Juan Pablo Salas. Not long after that, the Spanish claim to Florida was transferred to the United States, and seeing an opportunity to make a nice profit, Salas sold the island . . . TWICE. He had at first agreed to hand over ownership of the island to the owner of a sloop he’d had his eye on, but then met John W. Simonton in Havana and agreed to sell to him for about 2,000 pesos in 1821. Simonton snapped up that deal because his friend, John Whitehead, had been stranded in Key West after a shipwreck in 1819, and understood how valuable the island’s location in the Straits of Florida and its deep harbor would be to American shipping.

After Simonton secured a clear title to the island, he subdivided it and sold the plots to John Mountain, John Warner, John Whitehead, and John Fleming. Mountain and Warner turned around and resold their holdings to Pardon C. Greene. It was Simonton, Whitehead, Fleming, and Greene that were influential in building Key West into the city we know today. In 1829 William Adee Whitehead laid out the modern city and gave the major streets the names of the four “founding fathers.”

Duval Street, now famous for all the pubs and shopping within easy walking distance of visiting cruise ships, was named after Florida’s first territorial governor, who had taken office in 1822. Thompson Street is reflective of the first name given to the island when Matthew C. Perry planted the first US flag on the island in 1822. He physically claimed the Keys for America and named the island Thompson’s Island in honor of the Secretary of the Navy at the time, Smith Thompson.

With so much history at every street corner, what’s the best way to see it all?

I’d say as up close and personal as you can get, but walking up and down all these streets would be tiring and time consuming. Bicycles are a great option that a lot of people choose, but in the narrow streets you are competing with the motor vehicle traffic, and that can be a bit too exciting at times. Scooters are a great choice, but you really do need to have some prior experience to get around on one of those safely. If you have never been on a scooter and don’t like playing “chicken” on a bicycle, I would highly recommend an electric car. They operate exactly the same way as your own automobile, but their smaller size is better suited to the narrow historic streets of Old Town. Personally, I like them because they are more open than my car and they are much cleaner and quieter than a standard gasoline driven vehicle.

But why take my word for it? There are tons of people that have enjoyed the Conch Republic from the seat of an electric car.

Sune’, Krista, Judy, and Anna visited not long ago and rented an electric car from Sunshine Key West Rentals. According to Sune’, they had a complete blast. They were able to cruise the entire island with ease and had a lot fun driving that electric car.

Zebulon, of North Carolina, has visited Key West more than once. The last two trips his family made, they also rented an electric car. Riding around Key West in them was so much fun that he asked about who the manufacturer was and where he could buy one for use at home.

There are several rental service companies in Key West, but Sunshine has by far the nicest and largest fleet of electric cars and scooters. They will pick you up at the airport, ferry terminal, hotel, or cruise ship and shuttle you off to your own transportation. When you return your car, they also drop you off. All of their electric rental cars are licensed for parking in residential zones making that task quite a bit easier. Each car travels for upwards of 35 miles on a single charge and are easily recharged at your hotel, condo or guest house – or you can plug it in at their visitors center at 1910 North Roosevelt.

But I can chatter about this all day.  What you really need to do make arrangements to tour Key West in an electric car of your own!


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