Key West, Florida, is a small island city located at the southernmost point of the continental United States. It is part of Monroe County and is situated about 90 miles north of Cuba. Key West is the westernmost island in the Florida Keys archipelago and is connected to the mainland by the Overseas Highway.
The geography of Key West is characterized by its tropical climate, stunning beaches, and unique ecosystem. The island is approximately 4 miles long and 2 miles wide, covering a total area of around 7.4 square miles. Despite its small size, Key West is packed with natural beauty and diverse landscapes.
One of the most prominent features of Key West is its coastline, which stretches for about 12 miles. The island is surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. The beaches of Key West are renowned for their soft white sand and crystal-clear waters, making them a popular destination for sunbathing, swimming, and water sports.
In addition to its beautiful beaches, Key West is also known for its coral reefs. The Florida Keys are home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States, and Key West is a gateway to this fascinating underwater world. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities, allowing visitors to explore the vibrant coral formations and encounter a diverse array of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and even dolphins.
Moving inland, Key West offers a diverse and captivating geography. The island is relatively flat, with an average elevation of only 3 to 4 feet above sea level. This low-lying topography, combined with its coastal location, makes Key West vulnerable to flooding and storm surge during hurricanes and tropical storms.
Despite its flatness, Key West is not devoid of natural beauty. The island is dotted with lush vegetation, including palm trees, tropical flowers, and mangrove forests. The mangroves play a vital role in protecting the island’s shoreline from erosion and provide a habitat for various species of birds, fish, and crustaceans.
Another notable geographic feature of Key West is its historic Old Town district. This area is famous for its charming, colorful houses and narrow streets lined with palm trees. Key West’s architecture reflects its rich history and cultural influences, with Victorian-style mansions, conch houses, and Caribbean-inspired buildings adding to its unique charm.
Key West is also home to several parks and nature reserves, offering opportunities for outdoor recreation and wildlife observation. The Dry Tortugas National Park, located about 70 miles west of Key West, is a remote and pristine archipelago known for its clear waters, coral reefs, and historic Fort Jefferson. The Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden is another popular attraction, featuring a diverse collection of native and exotic plants.
The geography of Key West, Florida, is a captivating blend of stunning beaches, vibrant coral reefs, lush vegetation, and historic charm. This small island city offers a unique tropical experience with its natural beauty, diverse ecosystem, and outdoor recreational opportunities. Whether it’s exploring the underwater world, strolling through the streets of Old Town, or simply enjoying the sun and sand, Key West is a true paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
History, Economy and Politics of Key West, Florida
Key West, Florida is a small island city located at the southernmost point of the United States. It has a rich history, unique culture, and a thriving economy. Originally inhabited by the Calusa and Tequesta tribes, Key West was discovered by Spanish explorers in the early 1500s. Over the next few centuries, the island changed hands multiple times between Spain, Britain, and the United States.
In the mid-1800s, Key West became a center for the lucrative wrecking industry, where salvagers would recover valuable goods from ships that had run aground on the treacherous reefs surrounding the island. This industry brought wealth and prosperity to the island, and many of the grand Victorian homes in Old Town were built during this time.
In the late 1800s, Key West became an important strategic location for the United States military, particularly during the Spanish-American War. The island was also a popular destination for writers and artists, including Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, who were drawn to its laid-back atmosphere and unique character.
Today, Key West’s economy is primarily based on tourism, with visitors flocking to the island to enjoy its natural beauty, historic sites, and outdoor recreational opportunities. The city is home to numerous hotels, restaurants, and attractions, and hosts several major events throughout the year, including the Key West Literary Seminar and the Hemingway Days Festival.
In addition to tourism, Key West also has a thriving arts community, with numerous galleries and performance venues throughout the city. The island is also home to a significant number of retirees, drawn to its warm climate, relaxed lifestyle, and affordable cost of living.
Key West’s politics are governed by a city commission form of government, with five elected commissioners serving staggered four-year terms. The city also has a mayor, who is elected by the commissioners on an annual basis. The commission is responsible for setting policy, approving budgets, and overseeing the city’s various departments.
Despite its small size, Key West has a long history of political activism and progressive values. In 1983, the city passed an ordinance declaring itself a “nuclear-free zone,” and in 2000, it became the first city in the United States to recognize civil unions for same-sex couples. The city has also been a leader in environmental preservation, with numerous initiatives aimed at protecting its unique ecosystem.
Key West is a fascinating and vibrant city with a rich history, diverse economy, and unique political landscape. Its natural beauty, cultural attractions, and laid-back lifestyle make it a truly special place to visit and call home.