Sea Critters, Sunken Treasure and Sandy Beaches Keep Key West Compelling

Even if you only have half of a day to spend in Key West on a cruise excursion, there are plenty of attractions near the port that make it easy to enjoy the island’s unique history, architecture, marine life and culture. For a quick primer, take the Conch Tour Train, which lazily winds through the side streets past the quaint Victorian homes and notable sights. In Mallory Square there are several attractions within feet of each other, like the Key West Aquarium, with its popular marine life touch-tank, and the Key West Shipwreck Museum, where costumed storytellers share the tales of 400 local shipwrecks. The nearby Mel Fisher Museum exhibits the mother lode of treasure pulled from some of those same ships.

A stroll along the scenic boardwalk of the historic seaport allows you to peruse funky shops and indulge at seafood restaurants in the ocean breezes. At the opposite end of Duval, the Butterfly Conservatory offers a magical respite with hundreds of butterflies and chirping birds in a peaceful garden. On Whitehead Street, you can hit the 1847 Key West Lighthouse and the Hemingway Home (with the famed six-toed cats), which are across the street from each other. A little more off-the-beaten path is the free Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibits about the dynamic Keys’ eco-systems. For a morning at the beach, rent a bike and head to Ft. Zachary State Park for a picnic on the sandy shores in the shadow of a Civil War fort.

A common misconception travelers have when planning a trip to Key West is that there will be sparkling white-sand beaches awaiting them. In fact, large natural beaches are few and far between. Fort Zachary Taylor is one of the exceptions and is...  Read More

Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
Photo courtesy of

When the museum admissions and snorkeling tours start to add up, free options are always the way to go - especially when the kids can learn a thing or two. The Eco-Discovery Center provides a look into the ecosystems of the Florida Keys. Just a...  Read More

Just three weeks after arriving in Key West, Ernest Hemingway finished "A Farewell to Arms", and he and his wife fell in love with the island. They built their home in 1851, and it is now a National Historic Landmark. Beautiful gardens blooming...  Read More

Key West Lighthouse Museum
Photo courtesy of Amber Nolan

Key West's iconic lighthouse was built in 1847 and originally powered by 15 oil lamps that helped guide sailors to the island. Although it no longer serves as a functioning lighthouse, visitors can climb the 88 winding steps to the top for...  Read More

Soothing music, birds, fish, turtles, fountains and over 80 species of butterflies make a relaxing break from Margaritaville. The entrance to the conservatory offers a wealth of interesting information about the life cycle and behavior of these...  Read More

Back in the late 1700s, the Key West Historic Seaport had a safe anchorage and stocks of drinkable water at primitive wells ashore. Settlers of the island relied heavily on marine life as an integral part of the economy, including fisheries for...  Read More

Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum
Photo courtesy of Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum

Let out your inner treasure hunter at the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum. Fisher is famous for finding the 1622 wreck of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha in 1985 with an estimated $450 million cache of gold, silver, emeralds...  Read More

Key West Shipwreck Museum
Photo courtesy of Key West Shipwreck Museum

The stories of the 400 shipwrecks along the Florida Keys are told with all the bells and whistles at this part-museum, part theme-park attraction. Visitors are greeted with a 15-minute live story telling presentation before touring the museum....  Read More

You'll spot the Key West Aquarium off Mallory Square by the distinctive great white shark bursting from the top of its façade. Built between 1932 and 1934, it's one of Florida's oldest aquariums. While on the small side, the facility offers...  Read More

The Conch Tour Train makes a lot of top 10 lists, and for good reason. While it may feel a little touristy, it's an easy way to get acquainted with the entire island and its history. The bright yellow train has been in operation since 1958....  Read More


Meet Claudia Miller

Claudia Miller has been writing about South Florida for over 17 years--seven from Key Largo. A budding photographer, she can usually be found stalking a sunset. Despite being a tad...  More About Claudia

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