KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Most well-informed Key West visitors are aware that the colorful subtropical island was once home and inspiration to world-renowned writers Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.
Far fewer realize the depth of its literary heritage, or that many other notable writers — ranging from poets Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop to novelists Alison Lurie and Ann Beattie — have been captivated by the island’s honest charm, natural beauty and unconventional characters.
While the late Hemingway and Williams no longer stroll the Key West streets, visitors can view a wealth of sites and landmarks that recall world-renowned writers’ presence and showcase the island’s importance in the literary realm.
The best way to discover Key West’s unique literary history is through the Old Town Literary Walking Tour, launched by the team behind the acclaimed annual Key West Literary Seminar.
Scheduled each week at 5 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday, the 90-minute tour departs from the island’s pink-walled public library at 700 Fleming St.
A knowledgeable and entertaining guide leads the comfortably paced ramble, intriguing participants with tidbits and tales about famous (and a few not-so-famous) resident writers and their works.
The contemporary exploration was inspired by a previous walking tour created by the late author and literary seminar founder David Kaufelt. It features the former or current homes and haunts of playwright Williams, eccentric author Shel Silverstein, beloved young adult novelist Judy Blume, poets Bishop and Frost, renegade writer Thomas McGuane and many others.
Insightful and well researched, the tour provides an intimate glimpse of the Key West that typical visitors rarely discover — but should.
Tickets are priced at $30 per person and advance purchase is required. Discounts are offered for teachers, librarians and students. Private tours are available by special arrangement.
Tour information and ticketing: kwls.org/tour or 305-293-9291
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
David Kaufelt, the late founder of the Literary Seminar, leading his original Key West literary walking tour, which inspired the current tour.