All the glory and fame seems to go to Key West, I guess if you’ve driven that far south on US-1 (160 miles from Miami) then you want to go all the way to the southern most point of the US, and as well you should, we love Key West and have written quite a bit about it in the past. However, if you’re done with the basics, you’ve seen Duval Street, been to The Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square and all the rest, heading up a bit to the other lower Keys just East and North of Key West gives you a better glimpse as to what the Keys lifestyle is all about.
Over the past couple of decades, Key West has become more developed, with more tourists, more hotels rooms, higher real estate prices, The Gap has moved to Duval, a Banana Republic and other “brand stores” are overtaking the crazy T-Shirt shops and other local oddities. (Big sigh).
The adjacent Keys, to Key West have a lot to offer, are lots of fun and very relaxing. If you want even more of an escape, and isn’t that why us Northerners head all the way South, then we’ve got a couple great suggestions here and can offer some advice.
There are a couple of Keys just above KW that are easy to get to and each has their own personality:
Stock Island, where all the Key West locals really live.
Shark Key, a gated private retreat, quiet, peaceful, beautiful.
The Sugarloaf Keys, very low key and very local.
While there are about 40 (give or take, depending on definition) individual Keys that make up the Lower Keys, we’re going to start with our guide of the three listed above.