Key West Tourist Attractions
The southernmost city in the continental United States, Key West features a unique mixture of cultural influences. The colorful history of the four by two-mile island is filled with tales of poverty and prosperity, death and re-birth. The early economic ventures in Key West involved "wrecking," where locals salvaged the goods of ships run aground in the shallow waters and sponge fishing.The architecture is mainly Caribbean with many houses built out of coral-rock or salvaged ship-boards; others came directly from the Bahamas. They were dismantled and shipped, then re-assembled here. The food is Afro-Caribbean and Spanish and there is a certain tropical, laid-back feel to the town.Key West is known for the sunsets that draw tourists from all over the U.S. and beyond. Several famous writers have called the island home including Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, and Tennessee Williams. Key West continues to attract artists today and its Bohemian and tolerant atmosphere characterizes it.
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Hemingway was one of the first important writers to live in Key West. He bought this 1851 Spanish Colonial house in 1931 and lived in it until 1940. It features his lush tropical garden and the salt-water pool, that he claimed nearly wiped him out financially, and contains his "last penny" pressed into the concrete. Descendants of Hemingway's original brood of house cats still roam the property. He wrote a number of novels here including "A Farewell to Arms", "Death in the Afternoon", and "For Whom the Bell Tolls".
Address: 907 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040-7473, United States
Opening hours: 9am-5pm
Entrance fee in USD: Adult $12.00, Group discounts $10.00, Child 12 & under $6.00, Child 5 & under FREE
Useful tips: Tours run every 15 minutes and are 1/2 hour long.
Typical Visit: 30 minutes
Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society
The Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society tells the story of Mel Fisher who discovered the wreck of "Senora Nuestra de Atocha", a Spanish Galleon that sank 40 miles off Key West during a 1622 hurricane. The museum displays numerous artifacts from this wreck and three others including a 77.76 carat emerald and several other gold and silver religious and functional items. There are also exhibits on underwater archaeology, films and hands-on demonstrations.
Key West's claim to fame as the southernmost point in the continental U.S. is made concrete in this red, black and yellow marker at the corner of South and Whitehead streets. Street vendors and performers congregate around the site to sell souvenirs and showcase their talents. The marker itself is less than inspiring but nonetheless, visitors often have their picture taken at the marker. It was erected in the early 1980s.
Audubon House and Gardens
This 1840's home was built by ship carpenters for Captain John Greiger, a noted harbor pilot and wrecker. Colonel Mitchell Wolfson restored it in the 1960's initiating the subsequent preservation movement in the rest of Key West. The property is noteworthy both for the house and the beautiful gardens and grounds. The house contains many 18th and 19th century period furnishings, much of it from Europe, and a substantial collection of engravings by John James Audubon, who stayed here in 1832. The gardens in the back are contains the variety of tropical plants including birds of paradise, hibiscus and different palms.Visitors are given a guided tour the Audubon House and then given the opportunity to explore on their own and take time to appreciate the grounds.
The Oldest House in South Florida, built in 1829, was the former home of Francis B Watlington. It was originally built by Richard Cussans in a different location and later moved to Duval Street.The house offers a chance to see and learn a little about the history of Key West. It is not as extravagant or as lovely as some of the city's other historical houses which are open to the public, but has its own unique charm.Within the house are some original furnishings, family portraits, and displays on the history of Key West. Ship models and information on the history of industry in the area are on display. At the rear of the house is a garden and a cookhouse, which was typical of the period. There is also an exhibit pavilion containing additional documents of interest.
Conch Tour Train
The Conch Tour Train is a tourist trolley which makes stops at various locales in the town and surrounding area. The 14-mile, 90 minute guided tour includes the Old Town, Duval Street, Hemingway's House, and the waterfront, among others. It offers perspective on the railroad days, the depression, and WWII, as they relate to Key West.This is a good way to learn the history and see the sights. The train makes three stops. One is a short rest break at the Station Depot. The second, at Truval Village, is where visitors may wish to get off to see a museum or other sights, and then catch a later train to continue the tour. The last stop is at Flagler Station.
A Key Encounter Nature Theater and Planetarium
A Key Encounter offers a variety of unique nature related attractions. Chief among these is the Nature Theater, where visitors can watch wildlife footage showing rare key deer, a variety of Florida Keys fish, sharks, dolphins, rays, eels, and other critters unique to the Keys.On the Jungle Walk, live exotic birds, including toucans, macaws and cockatoos can be heard and seen. The birds are accompanied by animatronic creatures that add life to the jungle such as a crocodile, a manatee, and a bobcat.The George M. Kretschmar Jr. Planetarium shows a short feature film on skyviewing.
Key West Aquarium
The Key West Aquarium first opened its doors in 1934, making it one of the first open-air aquariums in the U.S. For practical purposes of algae control, a roof was later added and the facility was upgraded.Exhibits include the "Atlantic Shores" and the large outdoor holding pens. A number of tanks house local marine life including puffer fish, snappers, and angelfish. There are also tanks with barracuda and sharks, and a "touch tank" which allows visitors to get up close and personal with conch, starfish and other invertebrates. During the tours visitors can watch the sharks being fed and touch a juvenile nurse shark.
Address: 1 Whitehead Street, Key West, FL 33040, United States
Opening hours: 10am-6pm
Entrance fee in USD: Adult $12.00, Child 12 & under $5.00, Child 3 & under FREE
Useful tips: Tours and shark feedings occur daily at 11am, 1pm, 3pm, and 4:30pm.
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Guides: Guided tour included with admission.
Typical Visit: 1 hour
Fort Zachary Taylor
Built between 1845 and 1866, Fort Zachary Taylor protected this part of Florida's coast during the civil war. Today, it is a State Historic Park, renowned for both its historical attractions as well as the beach at the southern end. The park has picnic grounds, a swimming beach, snorkeling areas, and fishing opportunities.There are two short walking trails which lead through natural areas, with tropical hammock and other native vegetation. There are also interpretive plaques along the routes. Guided tours of the fort are offered daily.
Fury Water Adventures
Fury Water Adventures is located at the Westin Marina. Visitors can choose from a variety of water based activities. Some of the options include an underwater exploration on a reef snorkeling boat, parasailing, or viewing marine life from the comfort of Fury's glass bottom boat, "The Pride of Key West".Among the most popular activities is celebrating Key West's sunset from one of the Sunset Sails and Sunset Cruises. Choose a peaceful sail into the sunset, or enjoy a little entertainment on the "Sunset Sails with Live Music".
Harry S Truman Little White House
The Harry S Truman Little White House was built in 1890 and served as an officers quarters. The museum was once the vacation retreat for U.S. Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy. The original furnishings and decor have remained intact from the Truman era, who first came here in 1946. A 10-minute film and 20 minute tour details his life and presidency. Visitors can see Truman's piano and the desk he used during his "working vacations".The house underwent restoration work between the late 1980s and 2009.
San Carlos Institute
Housed in a Spanish Colonial building dating from 1924, the San Carlos Institute is an educational resource center which was founded in the 1870s. Intended to preserve the Cuban heriage, the center is multifunctional, serving as a museum, an art gallery and a theatre.The museum contains exhibits on José Marti, Cuba's drive for independence from Spain, Cuban presidents, Cuban postal stamps, and other unique displays.The theater, which is used for various performances, and is available for rent, can hold 360 people.
The Shipwreck Historeum is housed in the replica of a 19th century wrecker's warehouse with exhibits tracing the history of the salvage industry in the area. Many people made their lively hoods from shipwrecks, and were known as wreckers.Actors in period costume recount the story of the "Isaac Allerton", which sank in 1856. Artifacts from the shipwreck are displayed and visitors can also watch films and videos on the subject. A 65-foot observation tower offers good views of the surrounding land and seascape.
Key West Lighthouse Museum
This lighthouse was built in 1847 and stands 86 ft high. Visitors can climb up for great views from the observation deck near the top.The original lighthouse keepers house was torn down in the 1880s and replaced with the current structure. It has been well restored and today houses a museum, furnished to recreated the early 20th C. A short video provides an interesting look at the history of the Key West Lighthouse. Photos and other artifacts are also on display.
Old Town Trolley
Old Town Trolley Tours leave downtown Key West and can be joined at any of the 13 stops along the way in a hop on hop off fashion. The tours are narrated and provide information on the history, geography and legends of the area. Some points of interest are the Key West Aquarium, Duval Street, and Ernest Hemingway's house.In addition to the regular day tour, Old Town Trolley also offers specialty tours and tours designed specifically for cruise passengers with limited time.
Curry Mansion was built in the mid-1800's for millionaire Key West Mayor William Curry, and expanded by his son Milton in 1899, this Victorian mansion is now a luxury inn. The 28 rooms contain a diverse collection of wicker and antique furnishings. The main entrance of Curry Mansion has handwrought spindles and Tiffany glass sliding doors.
Donkey Milk House Museum
The Donkey Milk House, a ten-room mansion listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been restored and decorated with period furnishings including hand painted Italian ceilings from 1890, a black walnut staircase, and antique furniture. The unusual name comes from the donkeys that used to cart milk from the alley located behind the house.
Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum
Ripley's Believe It Or Not in Key West presents exhibits, while films and other multi-media presentations tell the stories of bizarre people and strange stunts from around the world. Some of the highlights here at the Key West facility are the white buffalo and a car made of dimes. There are also games and other entertaining displays.
Heritage House Museum (closed)
Built around 1834 and restored in 1934 for 5th generation Key West resident Jessie Porter Newman, this Caribbean Colonial mansion contains an eclectic collection of original 19th and 20th century furnishings as well as seafaring artifacts. For 16 winters, from 1945 to 1960, Poet Robert Frost lived in a cottage in the rear garden of the property. Visitors can sit in the tropical garden and listen to recordings of Frost reading his poetry.The historic Porter family home celebrates Key West's conch and literary history, pirate folklore and island life.
Nancy Forrester's Secret Garden
Opened to the public in 1994, the botanical garden was established by Nancy Forrester and friends behind their homes in Key West. The garden is a gallery of living art. The intension behind the garden was not only to create a place of beauty but also to preserve the land from development and maintain it in a natural state.
Glass Reunions is a contemporary art gallery that features unique works in glass, and metals. Some of the creations include interesting perfume bottles, lamps, jewelry, mobiles, stemware, and more. The works are available for purchase.
Key West Cigar Factory
In 2002 a disastrous fire destroyed the retail store of the Key West Cigar Factory. The company moved to online sales until 2006 when it announced it would be closing. Since then plans have emerged to reopen a location in Key West in 2008.
Liberty Fleet of Tall Ships (Closed)
THE LIBERTY CLIPPER IS NO LONGER SAILING FROM KEY WEST.The Liberty is a replica of an early 1800's schooners used to carry cargo and by New England fishermen.
More Key West Pictures
Map of Key West Attractions