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.