Patrick Goggins
5 min readDec 24, 2021

Having been visiting Key West since 1984, and having lived there for six wonderful months in 1995, I am often asked for travel tips to the Conch Republic. This listicle is for tourists visiting Key West for the first time, or for locals and regulars, who are always looking for hidden gems.

Green Parrot Bar

On Your Way Down and Back

The Drive from Miami to Key West is just over three hours, so its sometimes nice to take in a stop or two on the way. Here are a few highlights:

Alabama Jack’s

58000 Card Sound Rd, Key Largo, FL 33030

Dive-y biker bar, but with a strange, almost Acadian local presence. Have drinks and seafood on the canal, while sometimes a Cajun band plays for line dancers in ethnic period wardrobe. Moderately surreal.

Harriette’s Restaurant

95710 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037

Amazing breakfast place, a perfect distance away from Miami to lay a foundation for an afternoon in Key West. Famous for its baked goods. Biscuits and gravy are amazing, and you must get blueberry muffins.

Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar

96 Madeira Rd, Islamorada, FL 33036

Great lunch and sunset happy hour. Live music at night. Super low-key (but nice) waterfront location.

No Name Pub

30813 Watson Blvd, Big Pine Key, FL 33043

Still 45 minutes out of Key West, need to take a stop? This gem has great food, drinks and atmosphere.

Key West


Hotels in Key West are obviously all expensive in season, so you might as well stay somewhere nice, and in walking distance of Old Town — basically the northwestern triangle from the Southernmost Point marker, to Mallory Square, to the Half Shell Raw Bar. There are tons of mid-price hotels in this area, almost all are acceptable to all but the extremely snobby.

Eden House

1015 Fleming St, Key West, FL 33040

This is my go-to place. I’ve been going there for years. Comfortable tropical vibe. Happy hour at the pool is always fun.

Pier House Resort & Spa

1 Duval St, Naval Air Station Key West, FL 33040

Very she-she and resort-y, but right there in the middle of it all. Top flight.

Heron House

412 Frances St, Naval Air Station Key West, FL 33040

Probably the best B&B on the rock.

Casa Marina

1500 Reynolds St, Naval Air Station Key West, FL 33040

A historic Henry Flagler hotel, done up right. It is far enough away from the din on Duval Street to feel like you’re really on vacation, and close enough to get back safely after a night out.


Breakfast in Key West is on island time. In some places it is served all day. Wherever you go, check before you go to make sure you don’t miss the switch to the lunch menu.

Pepe’s Café

806 Caroline St, Key West, FL 33040

A local favorite, which harkens back to Key West’s Cuban roots. Food’s good, atmosphere is great.

Blue Heaven

729 Thomas St, Key West, FL 33040

This is the iconic Key West spot, it is always crowded. Those in the know learn to put your name in with the host, and have a few bloodies at the bar while you wait for your table. In season they usually have live music. Located in the Bahamian Village, featured are the free-roaming chicken and cocks.

Bars and Restaurants

Drinking and eating are the primary activities in Key West, which makes it an ideal adult playground. The locus of the bar scene is the north part of Duval Street, and while there are many fine places there, most cater to tourists, which means you get the same crowd of louses, drinking the same Michelob Lite Ultras, listening to the same Jimmy Buffet wanna-bees playing the same gee-aren’t-we-having-fun-now songs. My inclinations are to places where locals go, which usually have more interesting people, better entertainment, and cheaper drinks. Among those, these are some of my favorites:

Schooner Wharf Bar

202 William St, Key West, FL 33040

This place is truly the heart of Key West. Cheap drinks, great food, quirky wait and bar staff, and there is always live music, including the local legend Michael McCloud, who will sell you a CD for any price you set (“If you haven’t taken advantage of anyone yet today, let me be the first”).

Sandbar Sports Grill

511 Greene St, Key West, FL 33040

Great sports bar, dozens of screens. If you want a table or a seat at the bar on an NFL Sunday, though, you better get there early.

Hog’s Breath Saloon

400 Front St, Key West, FL 33040

Best live music in Key West. Good raw bar, great atmosphere. Gets crowded after sunset when the Mallory Square crowd wanders back into town.

Sloppy Joe’s

201 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040

Yes, it’s a tourist bar, but it’s the tourist bar. A must stop, even if to take in the atmosphere, and imagine Hemingway pulling up a seat next to you.

The Bull Bar

224 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040

This is the dark horse pick. Most people hate the place. It does suffer from a sort of trashy vibe, but the architecture is amazing, the drinks are cheap, and window table will give you the best people watching in town.


524 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040

The address is listed as Duval Street, but the entrance is on the north side of Appelrouth Lane, which is probably the coolest street in Key West. Advertised as a martini bar, it is still nominally a gay bar, but in typical Key West fashion, straight people are always welcome. Great small combo live music, cool local crowd.

Little Room Jazz Club

821 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040

The place to go if you want some upscale atmosphere, far enough away from the loud, drunken tourists to catch a breath and relax. Food, drinks and music here are all top shelf, great local crowd.

Green Parrot Bar

601 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040

Yet another icon. No pub crawl is complete without a stop here. Great bands, super jukebox, cheap drinks, and a crowd of mostly locals and island regulars. Ask a bartender about the story behind Smirk.


Mr. Z’s

501 Southard St, Key West, FL 33040

No night out is complete without some greasy food that will moderate the effects of perhaps a few too many drinks. This place has the choicest cheesesteaks and some pretty decent pizza, and it’s a stone’s throw from the Green Parrot.



Patrick Goggins

Lawyer, writer, musician, bon vivant. Born in Flint, Michigan during the Cuban Missile Crisis.