What's Conch Got to Do with it?

If you’re considering a trip to Key West for a wedding, honeymoon, or just for fun, you’ve probably heard its nickname, the Conch Republic!

The story behind this name goes all the way back to the Revolutionary War. After America won its independence, those still loyal to the British, called Tories, fled to the nearest Crown soil: the Bahamas. Unfortunately for them, the British Parliament started taxing Bahamian colonists on imported food just like they had taxed Bostonians’ tea. In response, the locals said they’re rather eat conch - a large sea snail pronounced “konk” - than pay those taxes. And that’s what they did! Bahamians became known as Conchs, and eventually, many descendants of those Tories immigrated to Key West.

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Fast forward to April 18, 1982, when the U.S. federal government blocked U.S. Route 1, also known as “The Overseas Highway.” Intending to prevent drug trafficking and undocumented immigration, the feds started intrusive vehicle searching, causing massive traffic delays on the only road connecting Key West to the mainland. The major inconvenience, as well as the negative effect on tourism, did not sit well with islanders. On April 23, 1982, then-mayor Dennis Wardlow read the “Conch Republic Proclamation of Secession,” declaring Key West its own micronation. Hard, stale Cuban bread loaves were brandished as weapons, and the U.S. flag was replaced with a blue and yellow one featuring a conch shell.

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The not-so-intimidating rebellion didn’t last long, but luckily, the publicity around the event led to the swift removal of the roadblock. To this day, Conch Republic pride remains, and Key West residents are still called Conchs. Natives are sometimes referred to as “Saltwater Conchs,” and if you weren’t born here but have lived here for over seven years, you earn the term of “Freshwater Conch.” That’s me! After growing up in Kentucky, several years ago I fell in love with Key West’s character.

Now that I’ve photographed weddings here for over a decade, I know the island like the back of my hand. If you have a specific type of spot in mind for a photo shoot, whether it’s scenic, historic, or offbeat, I can recommend the perfect location. I’m always happy to brainstorm places with you that complement your personal style or unique relationship. There are countless settings here for engagement or wedding photography sessions, or just because!

I also love sharing my favorite places to get the most out of your visit to the Conch Republic. Please feel free to check out my guides!

  1. Key West’s Best Restaurants and Bars
  2. Best Happy Hours in Key West
  3. Where to Stay: Key West's Best Accommodations
  4. Rachel's Top Things to Do in Key West
  5. Your 3-Day Key West Vacation Plan

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