There is no doubt that Key West is a great place to visit. But with each passing year the island becomes a bit more commercial. It has to when it is a major Florida tourist destination. Key West has to be able to compete with Orlando, Miami, and other areas that draw lots of tourists with modern amenities and many activities. We have to change with the times. Otherwise, the island would fall into the tourist doldrums and end up a dead zone like Silver Springs, once a tourist mecca, has become. But that does not mean that with a very short cab ride or drive away you that you cannot still get that old Key West feel. Just cross Cow Key Channel Bridge onto Stock Island and you will find a taste of the way Key West once was.
Stock Island is home to several marinas; some marinas have fishing charters departing from them while others have water sports activities, restaurants, or other attractions. Sunset Marina is home to Dream Catcher Charters, the largest fishing charter company in Key West. Hurricane Hole Marina has paddle boarding tours, kayaking tours and rentals, safari boat tours, and boat rentals. And many people who come down via boat enjoy staying at either Oceanside Marina or the Key West Harbor Yacht Club. Murray Marine has one of the best Mercury Marine mechanic facilities in all of South Florida. There are also a few smaller marinas on the island with assorted activities.
Some great restaurants can also be found on Stock Island. Actually, some of our favorite restaurants are located here. Here are some of the more well known spots that are a haven for locals, but there are several other smaller delis on such on the island as well.
Chico’s Cantina located on US1 N has the best Mexican food in Key West. This is definitely a locals spot. Their chips and salsa are the best I have ever had anywhere, hands down, and they have fabulous guacamole too. Some of my favorite meals from the Chico’s menu are the shrimp and chicken fajitas for two, the Cayo Hueso salad with chicken and ranch dressing, the seafood enchiladas, and the crunchy beef tacos. They also have great sangria and margaritas. There is indoor and outdoor seating available.
The Hogfish Bar and Grill is located on Front Street on Stock Island, on the old shrimp boat docks. The bar is open air with outside seating as well, and canine companions are welcome to join their owners at the outside tables. If you sit outside you can feed the snapper your left over french fries. Their signature meal is the hogfish sandwich which is awesome! But I have never had anything here that was not tasty. The hamburgers are really good, the onion rings and fish dip appetizers are yummy, but I especially love the stuffed hogfish dinner – OMG! And make sure to keep an eye out for live musical entertainment in the evenings.
Rusty Anchor has been around forever. Wednesday nights is always crowded because of their prime rib special. But you can go there any afternoon or night for a drink and a fresh seafood meal. I like the blackened fish dinner. The place is dark and cold and I don’t think it has been redecorated since the place opened, but that definitely gets diners into that old Key West feel.
Hurricane Joe’s, located at Hurricane Hole Marina, has both indoor and outdoor seating. This is another place where you can bring your four-legged friend to dine with you under the stars. The food and service here is very inconsistent, but the drinks are always good and if you have fresh catch that you want cooked up they do a fabulous job blackening, frying, and grilling it up for you. Look for Alvin as your server; he is the best.
There are also some wonderful activities on Stock Island for the entire family that one would not necessarily even think of when they hear Key West.
There is a Children’s Petting Zoo at the Monroe County Sheriff Station on College Road (just next to Sunset Marina). The Park is open to the public free of charge the second and forth Sunday of each month from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Started in 1994 as a haven for homeless animals, it has grown to house all types of species including horses, ponies, chickens, pigs, goats, rabbits, llamas, tortoises, snakes, cavies, and birds of all sorts.
The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden is located on College Road. This is truly a corner of paradise. See a short film then grad a self-guided pamphlet and check out the gardens. You may also find butterflies, birds, and the hidden pond in the USA’s only frost free botanical garden. The Garden is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year Day, and Independence Day. Admission is $5.00.
Believe it or not, there are several theatrical shows preformed in Key West. And the Tennessee Williams Theatre located at the Monroe County Community College on College Road has some of the most interesting shows around. Paradise, Big Band, Orchestral and Cabaret concerts are a regular. But we also have Broadway shows such as Midtown Men and Monty Python’s Spamalot. I have seen Lynda Carter in concert here and watched the theatrical version of Gilligan’s Island starring Mary Ann from the original TV series and Greg Brady from the Brady Bunch. Comics such as Joan Rivers and Lily Tomlin have also graced the stage.
The Key West Golf Club is also located on College Road. This Rees Jones 18-hole design course encompasses over 200 acres. Club rentals are available, so don’t feel the need to have to bring your own gear.
Also on College Road are the ASPCA and the Hospital. You can probably volunteer at he ASPCA if you are missing your pet from home. They always need help walking the animals. And hopefully you won’t need to visit the Lower Keys Medical Center during your stay!