The Key West Mystique

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Key West Tropilca Forest Walkway

Five things to do with your Key West house guests without running into mask-less jerks

By Linda Grist Cunningham, editor and proprietor

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of Key West Island News and KeyWestWatch Media LLC. She and her husband, a park ranger at Fort Zach, live in Key West with their Cat 5s.


If I hear one more sanctimonious coronavirus fan-folk tell me to stay at home, I’m going to snatch them bald. I don’t want to stay at home. I want you to wear your mask, stay six feet away and wash your dang hands. Why should I have to hunker down in my living room because you’re being an entitled jerk?

Telling me to stay at home while you’re swanning around with abandon — mask-less, of course — is a self-centered defiance that willfully risks your health and mine. Surely your right to sneeze ends before my nose? But, so be it. My annoyance is for naught. For whatever the reason, you’ve chosen the misguided “man up” over “mask up.” Not much I can do to change your mind. Best to find solutions so I can be out-and-about and avoid you while I’m at it.

You see, we’re going to be at this coronavirus health thing a long time. Like maybe a couple-three years long time. So, I’ve been thinking I need a different list of things to do, places to go and entertainments to be experienced that minimize the chances of sharing air with the mask-less.

I started with a list for my Atlanta grandson and his MaMaDaDa, who are visiting in July. Their visits are my time to enjoy the fun kid tourist things, like the Conch Train, a beach day at Fort Zach, the butterfly museum, the lighthouse and aquarium, a trip to the Dry Tortugas. Those things are mostly off-limits this summer. They’re packed with too many tourists escaping their own hometown Covid-19 restrictions and flouting our mandatory mask requirements. I don’t need to be sharing Duval Street, a restaurant or a tour boat with cheek-by-jowl visitors who never heard of social distancing and consider a mask an affront to some misunderstood constitutional thing.

I wanted a kids’ to-do list that (1) was inexpensive or free; (2) rarely included more than 10 people; (3) was mostly outdoors. One and three were easy. Number two? Not so much. Sunset sails, snorkeling adventures and the like are generally large group affairs with little to no ability to social distance. I knocked off all the name brand water sport companies, leaving me with a handful of small charters — and some hefty price tags.

Here’s what we’re going to do. I’ll let you know how it goes. Feel free to share your own.

Miniature golf at Boondocks: Miniature golf keeps the group to just your peeps, gets you from one hole to the next with decent social distancing and keeps the cost manageable. Probably avoid the weekends. The unknowns include whether Boondocks itself is crowded, though when I drove past mid-week, it wasn’t overly so.

Nature walk: The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden is open daily, cost is less than $10 (free for members); everything is outdoors and there’s space galore to social distance. Use the self-guided nature walk for scavenger hunts, exploring the fresh-water ponds and Art in the Garden sculptures. The Key West Garden Club at West Martello Tower is another wonderful outdoor space, but it’s only open on weekends right now and isn’t quite as interesting for kids as the botanical garden.

Dolphin watch and snorkeling: Although there are several small, private charters, I picked Honest Eco Tours out of Key West for two reasons: a great review from a friend and because we’d have almost the whole boat to ourselves since there are five in our group. Four hours; electric boat; four days a week.

Kayaking at Geiger Key: If you’ve not got your own kayaks, one of my personal favorites for kayaking is at Geiger Key. Was up there two weeks ago and the social distancing and masking is decent around the marina and restaurant. Kayaking is, of course, always socially distanced once you’re in the water. Oh, and there are hogfish tacos at the bar for afterwards. Key West Eco Tours offers guided tours and self-service rentals.

Private desert island: Well, not exactly a desert island or private for that matter. But close. Walking distance from my house. Wander the mangroves, gather shells on the sand, snorkel off the beach. Take a picnic lunch and leave no footprints behind. Free and open to the public. Probably the least known, most carefully held “secret” hideaway in Key West and right on a main drag. We were there last weekend when the rest of town was crowded. One couple; one mother and toddler. Where? Hey, I’m not telling.


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