10 Best Key West Attractions: Conch Trains, Cemeteries and Civil War Forts

While Key West is packed with plenty of on-the-water activities from sunset cruises to snorkeling tours, land-lubbers will enjoy exploring the city's distinctive attractions. The quickest way to get the lay of the land is on the bright yellow Conch Tour Train. Their knowledgeable "engineers" entertain with an overview of the historic district and local folklore--like Robert the haunted doll.

The Southernmost City has always been a haven for larger-than-life characters. At the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, you can delve into the adventures of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning author--one of the island's most famous residents. The locals’ quirkiness shines brightest at the Key West Cemetery where the tombstones are downright lighthearted with cheeky epitaphs like “I Told You I Was Sick.”

Dig deeper into Key West’s history as a military port by visiting the Harry S. Truman Little White House where Truman spent 175 days of his presidency. Even the best beach on the island is flanked by a Civil War Era Fort at the 54-acre Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, and a day trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park (70 miles off shore) offers snorkeling amid the ruins of Fort Jefferson.

Just a few steps away from Fort Zachary, nature-lovers will delight in learning about the local ecosystem at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center with its 2,500-gallon Living Reef exhibit. A must-see is Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory--a soothing garden sanctuary filled with over over 1,000 colorful winged creatures. Don't miss the two pink flamingos in the wading pool.

Nowhere is Key West's lively spirit more evident than in the city's cemetery. Cheeky epitaphs like "I Told You I Was Sick" and "At Least I Know Where He's Sleeping Tonight" cover the gravestones.The tombs are stacked above ground since the rocky...  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

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 has served as a presidential retreat since 1880 when Ulysses S. Grant visited the island. This house belonged to Harry Truman and his wife Bess. Truman reportedly despised living in Washington and viewed this as his sanctuary. Truman...  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

Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
Photo courtesy of michellenicolelowe.com

When the museum admissions and snorkeling tours start to add up, free options are always the way to go. The Eco-Discovery Center features more than 6,000 square feet of interactive exhibits, which provide an up-close look into the ecosystems of...  Read More

Don't leave Key West without seeing the nightly Sunset Celebration on the Mallory Square Dock where the crowd is as colorful as the sky. Entertainers like jugglers, tight-rope walkers, psychics and musicians all compete for your attention and...  Read More

About 70 miles from Key West lies Dry Tortugas National Park, seven islands that straddle the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. The shallow waters surrounding the islands are perfect for snorkeling amid the ruins of Fort...  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

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


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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