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A Place in Florida – Margaritaville is More an Attitude Than a Place
A Place in Florida – Margaritaville Is More Than a Place
There is a place in Florida called Margaritaville. It’s more about a song, a singer, an attitude and a lifestyle than drinking alcohol.
- The song, of course Margaritaville.
- The singer is, of course, Jimmy Buffett.
- Attitude, of course live and let live.
- Of course, lifestyle can be said beach bum chic
Key West has been Margaritaville since Buffett, a transplanted Mississippian, turned the city into the “Parrothead Capital of the United States” in 1977 with his hit album. Changes in Latitude, Changes in Position Buffett has earned the parrotheads a cult following that brings him more than $100 million a year.
And this place in Florida – not to belittle the former ‘favorite sons’ of Ernest Hemingway, Tennesee Williams and President Harry Truman – will be forever grateful. Jimmy Buffett is arguably the biggest attraction Key West has ever had.
At one of his 20-30 concerts a year, Buffett said, ‘People ask me where exactly Margaritaville is. I say wherever you want it to be.’ If his songs are any measure, he’ll want to be on the beach — the free and easy life so popular in the Florida Keys. Buffett, now in his 60s, now lives in seaside (and tony) Palm Beach.
The dominant attitude is alive and well here in Florida. Over the last half century, the city has become a beacon for the gay and lesbian community, hosting a nine-day Gay Pride Festival every spring.
The only time in recent memory the city has been busted was when the US Border Patrol set up a roadblock on US Route 1 in 1982 to search northbound traffic for drugs and illegal immigrants. The feds couldn’t figure out what to do with the tourist revenue (which was predictably unpopular), and the city was furious.
It’s time to protest! In typical Keys fashion, the City Council declared the independence of the Keys, calling it the Conch Republic. Of course, it was all a joke. After a minute of separation, the mayor surrendered to an officer at the Naval Air Station and asked for $1 billion in ‘foreign aid’.
The stunt was successful. The road ban was lifted. But the name Conch Republic lives on in the hearts of many key residents.
It seems that the tourists of the Strait do not care about the reputation of the city as a ‘colorful’ city. They keep coming, thanks to magnets such as the Hemingway House and Museum, Conch Train Tour, Old Town Trolley, Aquarium, Historeum Shipwreck Museum, Butterfly Museum & Nature Conservancy, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, and Little White. The house.
Harry Truman loved Key West. While president, he spent 175 days in the Little White House, which today is Florida’s only presidential museum. It has been visited by many leaders.
In recent years, unearthed shipwreck treasures, as displayed at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, have become a major attraction.
Few first-timers to Key West fail to visit the ‘Southernmost Point in the United States of America’. That’s the inscription on the buoy at the corner of South and Whitehead streets in Key West. But did you know that’s not really the case? Here’s why:
The most accurate southern point on Navy property is west of the buoy marker. But a tourist attraction can’t be visited on Navy property, so it has to be done, someone decided a long time ago. It brought me there! And we’re not talking about the islands just south and west of Key West.
If you don’t fly into Key West International Airport, it’s a long drive from Miami (130 miles). But it’s a memorable trip on the Overseas Highway, especially going over the Seven-Mile Bridge. On both sides there is nothing to see but water. Like being in a ship on wheels.
The Overseas Highway was built on the tracks and bridges of the Overseas Railroad, which Henry Flagler built in the early 1900s. But the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 destroyed all but part of the tunnel, so the railroad sold it and the bridges to the state. The federal government built the Overseas Highway, completed in 1938.
As you drive down US 1 towards Key West (assuming you started in Miami), you will see Mile Markers to tell you how far you are from Key West. They are a helpful backup to ‘Flagler’s Folly,’ as the railroad was called, and they form the basis for the house numbering system in this area of Florida.
Key West? When you reach Mile Marker 100 near the Key Largo post office, you’ll know you’re headed in the right direction. You’ll know you’re there when you reach Mile Marker 0 near the Key West post office.
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