The bearded brotherhood of Hemingway Look-Alike Contest winners gained a new member July 25 in Key West, home of legendary author Ernest Hemingway for most of the 1930s. Zach Taylor, a 63-year-old white-bearded Georgia man, triumphed over 136 other entrants to win the contest that highlights the island city’s annual Hemingway Days celebration.
For decades, Bishop Al Kee welcomed visitors to Key West’s Southernmost Point marker, acting as a smiling ambassador for the island. He sold fluted, pink-lined conch shells beside the iconic waterfront landmark, sliced open coconuts for those who wanted to drink the sweet coconut water inside, and cheerfully posed for innumerable visitor photos.
While the Florida Keys remain temporarily closed to visitors, it’s possible to stay connected by sharing Keys memories and stories of extraordinary people. People like “Shine” Forbes — a sparring partner of legendary author and 1930s Key West resident Ernest Hemingway — who was one of the island’s most unique links to the colorful author.
Key West’s colorful history includes Spanish galleon shipwreck treasures and artifacts, famous artists and eccentrics, a cigar-making heyday, a vibrant past as a bustling seaport and even an eerie haunted doll. So it’s no surprise to find that cultural and historic richness preserved, spotlighted and celebrated in the island city’s many museums.
In 1982, the Florida Keys & Key West seceded from the United States (for a very good reason) and formed the independent Conch Republic. Come to find out, the irreverent and gutsy spirit that inspired the Keys' secession also sparked the founding of a "country" on the other side of the world: the colorful “Republic of Whangamomona.”
Hidden gardens, nurtured and enjoyed by Keys locals, protect and preserve rare and exotic trees, plants and flowers. And they’re open to the public, providing behind-the-walls access, during winter garden tours. Exploring these spots is a unique treat that lets visitors make a meaningful connection to the island chain’s natural world.
Coffee Butler is a Key West treasure. The 90-year-old musician recently released an album with vocalist Cliff Sawyer, backed by a cast of stellar Key West musicians -- a collaboration that has been called a Key West version of the phenomenal Buena Vista Social Club. In words and photographs, guest blogger Ralph De Palma chronicles the story of the album's release.
Through the Keys' new “Connect & Protect” program, visitors can help preserve the destination's priceless natural world while having meaningful and memorable vacations. The program spotlights eco-travel offerings, natural experiences, environmental attractions and adventures, simple pleasures and ways visitors can make a difference while exploring the islands from Key Largo to Key West.
The Florida Keys are full of attractions that can make vacation days together absolutely unforgettable for parents, kids, grandparents and extended families. And from Sept. 3-30, the Key West Attractions Association invites families to explore everything from fun-filled tours to watersports adventures with the value-added "Kids Free" program.
It's sea turtle nesting and hatching season in the Florida Keys — AND two sea turtles rehabilitated at Marathon's Turtle Hospital were recently released to take part in the famed Tour de Turtles. Keys visitors and residents are buzzing about heartwarming video of brand-new hatchlings and the chance to track the Tour de Turtles "competitors" online.