Key West Cruises
You really haven't seen Florida until you've seen the Florida Keys. This archipelago consists of a 126-mile string of 1,000 beautiful coral islands stretching out at the south end of the state. Many of them are connected by the Overseas Highway (Highway U.S. 1). Key West, located 155 miles south of Miami, is the best known and southernmost spot in the continental U.S. It is a tropical blend of exotic foliage, beautiful waters and history-rich attractions. Since its founding in 1822, Key West has gone through many phases; over the years pirates, smugglers, writers and revolutionaries have made the Conch Republic their home. Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost and Thornton Wilder are among the most noted who came here to enjoy the idyllic setting and casual, relaxed atmosphere.
In the early 1800s, pirates found the Keys' busy shipping lanes quite profitable and Key West an easy escape. When piracy was defeated, a new, legal industry emerged – wrecking. The history of the wreckers can be learned in the Wrecker's Museum, which features treasures of some of the most successful salvage operations. Other industries developed, including sponging and fine cigar making; the latter was introduced in the 1830s by Cubans who escaped from Spanish tyranny. In 1912, Henry Flagler's railroad between Key West and the mainland was completed; it was destroyed by a hurricane a few years later. Cigar makers moved to Tampa and the railroad and shipping trade with Havana ceased; the resourceful islanders discovered tourism as their salvation.
Visitors to Key West find a number of attractions to enjoy – unique architecture and charming gardens, treasures from shipwrecks, picturesque streets to stroll around, delicious cuisine and scores of souvenir shops and art galleries.