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To Ernest Hemingway it was home. To locals it is Conch Town. And to motorists driving south on US Highway l, it is the end of the line. Officially, this southernmost tip of continental America and year-round favourite with vacationers is Key West.

A train or trolley tour will acquaint you with the city, your bonus being a driver whose humour has you smiling most of the way. But, with ninety per cent of its attractions confined to an area roughly four miles (6km) long and a mile wide (2km) wide, Key West is really made for walking.

Roads shaded by palm trees will lead you past old Bahamian style houses tucked behind tropical foliage spilling onto the sidewalks. Large fragile looking structures with vast verandahs and lots of gingerbread trim, these homes have weathered a century and a half of hurricanes and tropical storms. From sturdy cypress, mahogany and cedar, with wooden pegs instead of nails, many were built by carpenters from ships wrecked off this coast. Knowing all about the sea's treachery they installed widow's watch platforms, from which nineteenth century women waited and watched for their men....

The most popular stop on our walking tour is the Spanish-style mansion on Whitehead Street that Ernest Hemingway called home on and off from 1931. A tour of the 1851 house includes his study in which he wrote 75% of his life's work, including 'A Farewell to Arms' and 'For Whom the Bell Tolls', 'The Sun Also Rises' and 'To Have and Have Not' which is set in the Florida Keys.

IF YOU GO: For information on Key West, telephone the local information centre at: 1-888-245-5397. Or click on Their accommodation guide details everything from hotels and motels to condos, Bed and Breakfasts and private homes.