As the southernmost city in continental America, the charter destination Key West enjoys a balmy, tropical climate all year round. Combine this with buzzing nightlife, exceptional water sports opportunities, a rich literary history, and a sea-faring heritage, and you have the perfect destination to visit by yacht.
Nearby, it’s possible to visit Ernest Hemingway’s home and see the room where For Whom The Bell Tolls was written. Today, the mansion is home to the spoils of his hunts in Africa, as well over sixty cats with six toes, descendents of his beloved Snowball. At the end of the day, head to Mallory Dock for the nightly Sunset Celebration, where street performers of all kinds bring the streets to life while the sun descends over the Gulf of Mexico.
Scuba diving is excellent in the waters round Key West. Numerous reefs near the island play host to groupers, moral eels, parrot fish, and barracuda. Further afield, 35 miles from the Key West coast, lies the fabled shipwreck of the Atocha—a Spanish galleon laden with gold, silver and gems, sunk during a hurricane in 1622. In 1985, diver Mel Fisher found half the treasure, worth around $450 million, and jewels continues to be found to this day by divers. If treasure hunting doesn’t take your fancy, there are also many companies offering parasailing, glass-bottom boat tours, jet skiing, and kayaking in the surrounding crystal waters.
By yachting in Key West, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the famous Dry Tortugas National Park: 100 square miles of coral reefs, scenic islands, and abundant marine life, which is accessible only by boat or seaplane. The park is home to the striking Fort Jefferson—a masonry fort built in the 19th century to guard the Gulf of Mexico—and a huge bird population.
The best time to visit the Dry Tortugas is between May and October. During this time, it’s likely the weather will be balmy with little or no wind, making visibility for snorkeling and diving excellent. In the winter season, strong cold fronts can lead to swells of five feet or more and 20+ knot winds, though experienced sailors can take this opportunity to see the species of bird that blow in with these fronts. Note that to dock at the Dry Tortugas, you’ll need a permit from the park.
Key West enjoys a tropical climate with mild temperatures and sunshine all year round. November to April is the dry season, with less than a quarter of the annual rainfall, and average temperatures ranging from 23º to 27º. Between May and October, rain is more common, normally in the form tropical downpours in the early morning. Easterly trade winds and sea breezes stop the temperatures from ever becoming unbearable, with average highs of 32º in August. The sea is excellent for swimming at any time of the year, with temperatures ranging from 21º in January to 31º in August. However, sailors should take particular note of weather reports between June and November, the hurricane season.