LEARN MORE ABOUT KEY WEST AT AREA MUSEUMS – WHERE HISTORY COMES TO LIFE!
Renowned for its clear waters and sun-filled skies, Key West also boasts a rich and interesting history. Key West museums offer you a glimpse into the extensive maritime heritage, strong military and political significance, and vast array of fascinating artists, authors, and noteworthy citizens. There’s so much to learn about this tropical paradise. Appreciate your vacation destination even more as you embark on an educational adventure!
The Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum
First lit on January 13, 1826, The Key West Lighthouse has a fascinating history. Interactive exhibits teach you about the Mabrity family, and specifically, Barbara Mabrity, who was the head keeper here from 1832 until 1864. You’ll also learn of the treacherous hurricane of 1846 and the destruction of the original tower. Take a walk back in time as you tour the Keeper’s Quarters Museum and discover what life was like for the dutiful and brave men and women who kept the light burning. Once you’ve learned the rich history of the inland lighthouse, climb the 88 steps to the top deck. Your reward is a magnificent 360 degree view of Key West and the surrounding waters.
Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
After searching for over 18 years, Mel Fisher finally discovered the elusive sunken treasure of the Spanish galleon Atocha. Discover it for yourself at the only fully accredited museum in the Florida Keys. Open seven days a week, this museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts from several major shipwrecks and includes a state of the art conservation laboratory where you can learn the history and science behind underwater archaeology. Travel back in time as you ascertain the fascinating and sometimes tragic maritime and colonial activity of the Florida Keys.
Comprised of over 16 million bricks, Fort Jefferson is a massive coastal fortress and the focal point of the Dry Tortugas National Park. Located 70 miles west of Key West in the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, this fortress was once populated by approximately 2000 people, mainly military personnel and prisoners. Now known as America’s most inaccessible National Park, Fort Jefferson can be reached daily by ferry or privately chartered sea vessels. Hear the rich history of this remote marvel on a guided tour and then spend the afternoon swimming on the reef with a variety of sea turtles, for which the island was named.
The Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House
An architectural wonder and an award-winning museum, the meticulously restored Customs House showcases exhibits which weave together two centuries of art, people, and events. Snap a fun selfie with one of the giant statues which recreate famous paintings, peruse the collection of Ernest Hemmingway’s personal affects, feast your eyes on Mario Sanchez’s folk art, and stand in the room where the U.S. declared war on Spain. The Key West Museum of Art and History offers a fun and informative way to trace the rise of this island oasis from port town to Florida’s most affluent city.
The Fort East Martello Museum
Despite its southernmost location and largely Confederate-supporting population, Key West remained under Union control during the Civil War. Fort East Martello was erected to protect the island against a Confederate sea assault and in 1950 restored and then opened as a museum. More than a vast collection of significant historical artifacts and military memorabilia, however, this museum also rates sky-high on the creepy chart. Don’t know what (or who) Robert the Doll is? Feel like hanging out with some ghosts? Want to learn a bizarre tale about living with a corpse? Come learn all this and more at The Fort East Martello Museum!
Old Town Trolley Tours
Hop aboard the Official Trolley of the Conch Republic and see the best of Key West! Your sightseeing tour of the island includes a fun and entertaining narrative from a knowledgeable and humorous conductor. Offering unlimited re-boarding and the bonus of a second consecutive day free, you can explore the city at your own pace as you hop on and off the trolley.
Conch Train Tour
A tribute to Henry Flagler, who brought the first railroad to this Florida island, the world-famous Conch Train Tour is a relaxing and informative way to learn about Key West. The 90 minute tour covers over 100 sites and shares amazing facts about this intriguing city. Let this yellow open-air train transport you back to the exciting railroad days of the early 1900s – there’s so much to see and learn on the Conch Tour Train!
Harry S. Truman Little White House
Located in the neighborhood of Old Town, Key West, and Florida’s only Presidential Museum, this was the winter White House for President Harry Truman and the site of several political summits. Guided tours detail its use in times of both war and peace and showcase some of Truman’s personal belongings, including his famous “The Buck Stops Here” sign. History buffs will not want to miss this highly educational and fun attraction!
Key West Shipwreck Museum
From Wrecks to Riches! History comes alive at the Key West Shipwreck Museum. Learn of the perils of sailing the treacherous reefs of the Florida Keys, where shipwrecks averaged one per week! This interactive, hands-on museum combines storytelling actors in period costumes with films and actual shipwreck artifacts to teach you all about the unusual industry the provided for the livelihoods of the early settlers of Key West. Hear about tragic wrecks and daring recoveries, climb the 65 foot high lookout tower and scan the reefs for a recent shipwreck, and head over to the museum’s gift shop to scout out some booty of your own to take home.
Hemingway Home & Museum
Journalist, Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning author, and decorated war hero, Ernest Hemingway lived a fascinating life and is hailed as one of giants of American literature. Located across from the Key West Lighthouse, the Hemingway Home & Museum is a significant destination on any Key West itinerary. Tour the rooms, still decorated with Hemingway’s furnishings, as educated guides offer stimulating insights and answer your questions. Roam through the home and stroll through the lush gardens while taking delight in the famous descendants of Hemingway’s original cats -over 45 of these polydactyl beauties live here! See the infamous poolside penny and make a stop in the gift shop. You’ll be glad you visited this inspirational and truly beautiful site.
Key West Cemetery
Key West is a lively and distinctive city, full of unique charm, and its cemetery is no exception. Located in the “dead” center of Old Town Key West, this cemetery includes a community of iguanas crawling on and around the above ground graves and some of the funniest headstone engravings you’ll ever see. Also the location of the USS Maine Monument, gorgeous cemetery architecture, and historical plots of significant Key Westers, a stroll through the Key West Cemetery offers history and humor.
The Southernmost Point in the Continental USA
Grab your camera and head south to one of the most visited and photographed Key West attractions! Designed as a replacement for an often stolen sign, the Southernmost Point Buoy is an anchored, brightly painted, concrete buoy sitting at what is known as the southernmost point in the Continental US. This famous buoy is actually neither the southernmost point nor only 90 miles from Cuba, but you’ll want to be certain you get a great group shot or selfie with it anyway!
Our Lady Of Lourdes Shrine
After numerous fierce hurricanes caused monumental loss of life on the small island of Key West, Sister M. Louis Gabriel and her fellow nuns created this grotto to honor and remember those lost. During its dedication, Sister Gabriel blessed the grotto saying “For as long as this grotto stands, this island will never suffer the full force of a hurricane”. The grotto is a center of prayer when hurricanes threaten and Sister Gabriel’s blessing still seems to be working. Since the dedication of the shrine, Key West has been spared any major hurricane devastation.
Henry Flagler had a dream of building a railroad from Miami to Key West. Eight years and $30 million later, he did just that. Flagler Station celebrates the success of Henry Flagler and pays tribute to his pioneering vision and the Key West railroad he built. The 130 mile “railway over the sea” allowed trains to travel to Key West from around the United States and was hailed as an engineering marvel until its tragic destruction in 1935. Visitors to Flagler Station can walk through an actual railroad car; see artifacts, photographs and memorabilia; and watch “The Day The Train Arrived”, a film that highlights that momentous day when Flagler arrived on the train from New York.