South Florida Sunshine


Tour Key West by Jet Ski

Summer is officially here! Of course here at the Southernmost Point of the continental United States, it has felt like summer for quite some time. When it heats up like this, I start searching for ways to cool off.

One way in particular will not only cool you off but I promise will be the ride of your life. Taking a jet ski out into the gorgeous waters off our little slice of paradise is a total blast, but I need to give you a few tips to make sure that you have the time of your life.

There are a LOT of companies here in Key West that offer jet ski rentals, but beware, not all jet ski companies are created equal. Unfortunately there are some “fly-by-night” folks around here that truly are here today and gone tomorrow. It’s always best to educate yourself so that you spend your time and money wisely.

Things that you should be on the look out for:
– If the deal seems a little too good to be true; it most likely is.
– Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Make sure that the equipment is in good shape and well-maintained.
– If you are going to rent a jet ski to ride on your own, be sure you understand how big a riding area you are allowed to navigate in. Several places won’t let you out of sight of their operations base and give you a very limited area to ride in.
– If you decided after arriving here that you want to go for a ride, don’t be shy to ask around about where to go. The locals know which companies will treat you right.

Having said all that, I do have 3 companies that I like very much. They aren’t the only reputable jet ski businesses in town, but these 3 do have a very consistent track record.

In no particular order:

Barefoot Billy’s

Billy’s now has two locations. They are located at the south end of Simonton Street, on the Atlantic side of Key West, right next to The Reach Resort and at the Key West Marriott Beachside Hotel on the North Western tip of the island on the Gulf side. They provide both jet ski rentals and an amazing jet ski tour. Billy prides himself on making sure that his guests have a great time. To that end, all of Barefoot Billy’s staff are helpful, friendly, and very knowledgable. I have had several guests come back and tell me that the tour exceeded their expectations.

Check out this video to get an idea of what it’s like to go for an adventure with Barefoot Billy’s:

Fury Water Adventures

Fury is located at the far North end of Duval Street very near Mallory Square. They have surf shops and kiosks all over the island, so trust me, you won’t have any trouble finding them. They offer a ton of great activities and I have to say that they have a unique twist on jet ski fun.

They offer a day trip called the Ultimate Adventure that includes jet skiing, parasailing snorkeling, and kayaking. The trip sets sail on a 65′ Catamaran at 10:00 AM. They serve breakfast while you make your way out to the reef for snorkeling. Then another sail takes you to Fury’s adventure island for a picnic lunch and jet skiing, parasailing, and kayaking. This trip is a total blast, especially if you want to try out several water sports.

Island Water Sports

This group is located in the marina at the Westin Resort, not far from Fury. Like Barefoot Billy’s, they offer jet ski rentals and an island tour. What’s really cool, in my mind, is that since they are located on the other side of the island from Billy’s you can get a great view of the sunset as you wind up your afternoon cruise. Again customer service is top-notch and they will take great care of you.

For more information about planning any Key West activities as well as bookings please just ask me either by leaving a comment, by email, or on Twitter. I would be happy to help!

Related articles of possible interest:

Key West Beaches
Key West: The Family Friendly Side

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Key West – Blue By You – Photo Walk Guest Post part 3

Bio picToday we continue with part 3 of our 5 part special photo walk feature of Key West as presented by our friend, photographer, designer, and blogger Lynda Quintero-Davids.  Join us as we share Lynda’s inspiring viewpoint in this installment entitled: Key West Color Blocks Blue By You.

Just a play on words for Hurricane Season and the color of the season: BLUE … A color block post packed with so many blues to discover down in Key West: Caribbean and cool water blues, Gulf and pool aquamarine blues, navy and news blues, teals and turquoise blues, baby and sky blues, and peek-a-boo-blue … And mind you, this was unintentional. I was … (click to  read more and see the rest of Lynda’s photos for this segment) Key West T-Shirt Factory doors Key West colors
For more information about planning your Key West activities as well as booking them please just ask me either by leaving a comment, by email, or on Twitter. I would be happy to help!


Key West Beaches

By now you’ve had time to browse the blog and find the perfect cup of morning coffee, several bars and restaurants to check out, a great deal on getting around town in an electric car, and the perfect book to read. You’re all set with your beach towel and sunscreen. Which Key West beach are you going to pick to kick back and relax? For such a small island, we have several to choose from.

Smathers Beach

Smathers Beach - Witold Skrypczak, Lonely Planet Images

This two mile stretch of white tropical sand is the largest public beach on the island. Offering wide views of the Atlantic Ocean, this is a beach you could spend the whole day enjoying and if the sand between your toes feels like it did on your last trip to the Bahamas; you’re right!  As with all the sand on our beaches, it was imported, this one from the Bahamas.  Smathers offers volleyball, snorkeling, and other water sports right from the beach.   There are picnic areas to enjoy a snack from the local beach vendors. Public restrooms can also be found nearby. Several moderately priced hotels can be found all along this beach, making it a favorite of the Spring Break crowd. As with parking anywhere in Key West, be prepared to pay a meter.

Higgs Beach

This beach is located ½ mile further south of Smathers on Atlantic Blvd. near White St. This little beach with its shallow water and beach side playground has much to offer families with small children. Along with swimming and water sports, you can find a pier, restaurant, volleyball, tennis, and handball courts nearby. Dogs are welcome at the dog park across the street. There is even a civil war era fort and garden to enjoy with your children. A limited amount of free parking is available for this beach.

Dog Beach

Located on the southern end of Vernon & Waddel Streets this is the only beach in the Keys were dogs, as well as other pets, can go to freely swim and play.  It is a favorite of families with pets but don’t plan on having the kids build sand castles or laying out on your towel to catch some rays while Fido is frolicking with Fifi; it is a dog’s beach!  It is not cleaned by the city; just by responsible pet owners.  This parcel of land is squeezed between Louie’s Backyard and The Reach Resort.  To make sure I don’t steer you wrong I called our friends at Louie’s Backyard and confirmed your pooch is still welcome at the bar during lunch hour so you can grab a delicious bite to eat while your dog catches the waves.

As a side note: if you want to go to Louie’s for dinner and bring the dog, to be on the safe side, you should give the manager a call first to see what the crowd is like.

Rest Beach

Located next to Higgs Beach, Rest Beach is wheelchair accessible and where you will find the White Street Pier.  This is a great place to fish, relax, and enjoy the natural vegetation.

Fort Zachary Taylor

This 54 acre state park is where the Atlantic meets the Gulf of Mexico and home to probably the all around best beach Key West has to offer.  If you prefer to sit in the shade; no problem.  If you like to roast under the sun; no problem.  If you want to swim or snorkel; no problem.  If you’d rather sit on a beach chair but forgot to bring one; no problem.  If you like to bike or walk along the wooded park; no problem!  I think you get the idea.  In addition to all that there is also the Civil War fort which you can get a guided tour  of and fishing is allowed on the western end.  It is a wonderful place to see the famous sunset views Key West is known for.  Public restrooms, a food and drink kiosk, chair rentals, picnic tables and BBQ grill pits are there too.  The beach can be a bit rocky so I advise bringing your flipflops.  There is an admission fee.  To get to the beach you enter through the Truman Annex at Southard Street.

South Beach

Despite its name the beach is not related to its Miami namesake.  This small and open area is a favorite of locals.

Sign at South Beach

The beach is nice and sandy and the water is fairly shallow allowing you to walk out quite a way.  There is also a concrete pier.   There are no restrooms or facilities but there is a snack bar and you can easily walk to nearby restaurants.  The beach is located at the south end of Duval Street on the Atlantic Ocean.

Broken Glass Beach

At first glance this probably was not the best choice in names for a public beach area in a tourist town, however; there was method to the madness and it has to do with a bit of Key West history, albeit the less exciting side.  This strip of the Atlantic shoreline is best accessed at low tide and getting to it does require steeping down off a retaining wall. The terrain is somewhat rocky and thus this not my first recommendation for beaches.  The name Broken Glass Beach stems from when the local garbage dump used to be situated on the site many years ago and it has been obviously well cleaned up since.  Well some of the broken glass remained and after years of being pounded by the surf and being rolled back and forth over the rocks, corral and sand, these glass pieces are now nicely rounded and are much sought after by jewelry makers!

Simonton Beach

We love our town and all its charm to bits and I want you to enjoy every part of what I share with you, however; suffice it to say Simonton Beach is not really a place you need to visit.  We added it here to cancel any doubt about not having included it, just in case you wonder why when you see it on a map.

Sunset Key Beach

* * This just in! * * Our apologies go out to the Sunset Key Westin – they have a great beach and we neglected to include it originally, so here goes…

Sunset Key Beach - a Starwood Hotels property

Sunset Key is a 27 acre island just a bit more than a stones throw off the end of Duval Street and is easily accessed by a 24 hour ferry service.  About 1/4 of the island is home to guest cottages belonging to the Westin Resort and dedicated to the sophisticated traveler.  An exclusive residential community covers much of the rest of the island.  The beach, made of soft white sand, is so inviting it makes you want to just sit and stare out over the water all day long!  Cabanas, lounge chairs and attendants complete the scene.  Slightly back from the water you’ll find a lovely pool, whirlpools as well as two tennis courts.  To round out your day of relaxing don’t forget to stop by the Flipper’s Pool Bar for a cool drink before heading off to a beach-side dinner at Latitudes.  For a different view of Key West, give the Sunset Key Westin a call to book your next stay here!  Tell them Sunshine Michelle referred you 🙂

Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas

Fort Jefferson - National Park Service file photo

Dry Tortugas - National Park service file photos

Articles like this wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the most inaccessible national park in America, 70 miles off the shores of Key West, out on Garden Key.  This group of seven small islands, first discovered by Ponce de Leon, is home to the largest coastal fort; the majestic Fort Jefferson.  The only ways to get there are by high speed ferry or seaplane, both of which depart from Key West and since seating is limited on each trip out you are best advised to book in advance.  The trip is worth it though.  The palm lined beaches are pristine  and snorkeling over the living reef is an experience you’ll never forget!

For more information on getting out to Fort Jefferson or about planning any other Key West activities and bookings please just ask me either by leaving a comment, by email, or on Twitter. I would be happy to help.

Related articles of possible interest:

A Key West Local’s Favorite Bars

Key West: Where to Find The Perfect Beach Book


Key West and a Local’s Favorite Bars

We are happy to present our good friend & Key West local Laura Murphy with another guest post on our blog.  After much begging on her part we finally caved in and agreed to have her write another article for us.  Local flavor is what we want to present so why not?!  Plus she is a pretty darn good writer as well!  Please share your thoughts by leaving us a comment after reading.

Back home we all have our favorite bars.  We fall in love with them for the great location, warm atmosphere, cheap appetizers and great selection of beer! But you’re not at home…you’re in Key West.  Now what?

Well; you’re in luck!  There are more bars in Key West per capita than in the entire USA (and churches too; figure that one out).  As someone who appreciates a nice bar to frequent, I’ve compiled a list of great places for you to enjoy while visiting this island paradise.  Even better, I offer you this comparative; we’re not made of money, and so we try to keep our outings reasonable.  Here are some of the places we frequent:

If you’re a music lover, The Bottle Cap Lounge and Liquor is the spot for you!  This hotspot is like getting three in one: a standard pub complete with pool table, an outside patio and, my personal favorite, the lounge.  It hosts dim lighting, couches and chairs for that night club feel.  If you come before 9 pm, you’re likely to find music videos playing on the bar TVs.  After 9 the live music or DJ kicks in.  You can find micro brews here as well as great martinis.

Looking for cheap domestic beer?  Guy Harvey’s is the spot for you.  It’s a short step away from Duval Street and offers $2 taps.  The food here is good, though quite ‘spendy’.  Guy Harvey’s own artwork covers the walls and you can almost always catch a game on their flat screens.

Beer connoisseurs: look no further than The Rum Barrel.  They have an outstanding selection of brews, both on tap and in the bottle.  If you arrive by ship, it’s just a few short steps away from port and the food is fantastic!  I highly recommend any menu selection containing fish.  On a warm night you can sit on the quarter deck and enjoy some fabulous live music.

Half Shell License Plates

Half Shell License Plate Collection

If you’re looking for oysters you won’t find a better deal than at Half Shell Raw Bar.  You can order them steamed or raw at less than $1/oyster and the seafood doesn’t stop there.  They also offer clams, shrimp, crab, lobsters and lots more.  We like to treat ourselves with a special combo of lobster, clams and shrimp.  And don’t pass up the potato salad; it’s fantastic!

Just mere steps away from Half Shell you’ll find Turtle Kraals.  My personal favorite on the island is home to a wood fire grill and The Tower Bar which overlooks the Historic Seaport and offers a great view of the sunset.

Tower Bar Sunset

Tower Bar Sunset

Daily happy hour appetizers are inexpensive and taste delicious; just be sure you’re sitting at the bar or in The Tower Bar, or you won’t get happy hour pricing.  You’ll find a good selection of brews here as well, though only a few are on tap.  You can sometimes catch live music, though if you’re upstairs you’ll miss out.  TK’s is becoming a Friday ritual for my husband and me.  I greatly enjoy some happy hour nachos or wings, a fresh crisp side salad and that fantastic view of the sunset from The Tower Bar.

These are just a few of my personal favorites…there are plenty of great places in Key West to drink and be merry. Thanks for choosing to come to our island!

If you’d like to see and read more of Key West from a local’s perspective, check out my blog at sunshine4chloe.tumblr.com, or if you need quick local advice and @SunshineMichele isn’t available, feel free to tweet me @TheMrsMurphy.

Laura & her husband moved to Key West last summer from some place up north called Minnesota and have no plans on leaving any time soon.  If not watching a game on a big screen or taking a well deserved break at one her favorite spots, Laura can sometimes be heard singing backup for some of the bands in town.  Be sure to ask for her autograph – it will be worth a fortune one day!

Please take a moment to leave us your thoughts on this article, or perhaps on something you would like to learn more about from down here in our little part of paradise called Key West.


Key West: Invitation to Paradise

Spring is in the air at last.  The days are getting longer, the sun is getting warmer, and life of all sorts is getting ready to burst forth in bloom.  All around us, we feel a change coming on, a time for something new.

Even here in Key West, we are welcoming the warm coming of Spring.  It’s been an unusually cold and wet winter here.  Many in the local tourist trade have had to scramble to come up with alternatives to our usual warm weather offerings.  But, as always, we have managed to greet unusual circumstances with a laid-back, no-worries, Island attitude.

And now that Spring is renewing us all, I think I will try something new.

* * * This Blog * * *

For a while now, I have been tweeting away, commenting on Facebook, and extolling the virtues of my island paradise to anyone who is willing to listen.  To my great pleasure, many have stuck around to become friends.

From the very first time I visited, Key West captured my heart.  I have a passion for this place and the amazing people that live here.  It is that passion I want to share with all others out there that have ever longed for an island get away.

So, come along!  Rent a scooter and see the Key West I love so much, up close and personal.

I want to share so much with you.  Let me treat you to a Key West vacation like only a Floridian can.  I want to introduce you to not only all the fantastic hotels on the island, but also the little out of the way accommodations like historic B&Bs, beautiful vacation bungalows, and all the wonderful people that live to welcome visitors to our island.

Let me show you how to get around like a local.  It’s amazing how much freedom you can find on a scooter or in a little electric car.  Just imagine all the sights I can show you when we don’t have to stick to someone’s tour schedule.

There are so many wonderful things to see and do here.  It’s almost impossible to know where to start.

What do you think?  Have you even been here before?  What is your favorite memory of Key West?

If you haven’t been here yet, what do you most want to do?

Let me be your guide to fond memories and the open door to wonderful new ones, here in Key West.



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