Shuttle to Key West from Fort Myers
KEY WEST EXPRESS FERRY - THE BIG CAT
If you’re considering a side trip to Key West, we recommend taking the Key West Express ferry from Fort Myers Beach. In just 3-1/2 hours, you can be having lunch at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville or enjoying live music and a beer at Hog’s Breath Saloon. It would take you at least twice that amount of time to drive to Key West, and you wouldn’t have half the fun.
Key West Ferry Details
Key West Express operates a couple different high-speed catamarans out of Fort Myers Beach and one from Marco Island. We took the Big Cat out of Fort Myers Beach. With an early morning departure, you’ll arrive in Key West in time for lunch. You can return the same day, or stay a few days to really soak up the Key West ambiance. The Ferry usually heads back around 6:00pm, arriving at the Fort Myers Beach marina at around 9:30pm.
The current fare for a round-trip is $155 per person, with reduced fares offered for children and seniors. If you book at least 8 days in advance, you will receive a substantial discount ($129 currently), but the fare will be non-refundable (if you, or Key West Express, needs to cancel the trip, you’ll receive a credit for a future trip). Call or check the website for discount details.
Soft drinks, muffins, breakfast sandwiches, soft pretzels, hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and other snacks are from the galley on a cash-basis only. Beer, wine and mixed drinks are also available at the bar and again this is cash only. If you prefer, you may bring your own breakfast/dinner on board with you.
On-Board the Key West Ferry
The ride on the Big Cat catamaran is very smooth and the interior is very comfortable. Inside seating is set up primarily with seats on either side of a table. This is especially nice if you’re traveling with a group and want to play cards or just socialize. The upper deck, with outside seating, has rows of seats (no tables). You probably won’t spend much time up on top, as it’s very windy and can be chilly once the catamaran gets moving.
During the 3-1/2 hour excursion, you’ll see passengers sleeping, playing cards, reading, watching one of the several plasma TV’s, eating and drinking
The Key West Express staff is very friendly and helpful. Before arriving at Key West, the staff will stroll through the cabin to pre-sell tickets on the Conch Tour Train. The Conch Tour Train is very popular, but I prefer the Old Town Trolley, which costs about the same and includes “on/off” privileges. It’s very helpful for first time visitors to learn the layout of Key West and identify places of interests for a future visit. And if you’re only visiting for the day, you’ll get a decent overview of the Key West lifestyle in a short period of time.
At Key West
If you visit Key West for just one day, you will have time to take a trolley tour, have lunch, do a little shopping on Duval Street, and possibly visit an attraction or two. Unfortunately, you will miss the sunset celebration that occurs daily at Mallory Square.
If you visit Key West for a few days, you will be able to better appreciate the Key West lifestyle, see a variety of attractions, sample several different restaurants and night spots, and perhaps go snorkeling, fishing or take a sightseeing boat tour.
A Couple of Tips
Arrive at the marina early for boarding. The best seats, along the windows, will be taken first. Whatever you do, don’t place your claim on a spot upstairs on the open deck. Once the boat gets moving, you won’t want to stay there. We recommend that you find your permanent seats inside — you can always go outside as you please. The same holds true for your return trip. As you check in at the Key West Ferry Terminal, you will be assigned a boarding letter (A, B, C, etc.). You will board in the order called.
You may want to take a sweater or jacket, especially if you tend to chill easily. The inside seating areas are air-conditioned and it can get a bit chilly.