At the convergence of Whitehead and South streets on the south coast of Key West, Florida, sits an enormous concrete monument. Made to look like a buoy sticking out of the coral bedrock, this monument just 90 miles from the coast of Cuba marks the southernmost point in the continental United States.
Rather, it claims to mark the southernmost point. The qualifier “continental” before “U.S.A.” is required because Hawaii is actually farther south than Key West. But aside from that, there are technically several islands, part of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge, that are farther south than the monument. And there are even points on the island of Key West proper that lie farther south than this celebrated point.
The Southernmost Point monument, however, offers an easy destination to reach for a photo and a story, even if the claim is technically untrue. The site of the monument has led to the development of several Southernmost-themed hotels, inns, restaurants, bars, and gift shops along South Street, radiating a robust tourist economy that’s a byproduct of making a place that’s fascinating and difficult to reach accessible to everyone.