Best Museums the Island of Key West Has to Offer

Visiting a museum is always a unique experience, as each one has its own distinct characteristics, style, and of course, content. Museum subjects vary greatly from city to city, and can range from firefighter's museums to fine art, to sports. In Key West, in addition to numerous historical museums you'll find family-friendly attractions like the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, which offers hands-on experiences for the kids and a chance to learn about the marine life of the island. Each of these museums showcase a different part of the island culture, whether it's the way of life of the crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham, or the treasures discovered on Spanish galleons on display at the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum.

Located just 90 miles from Cuba, Key West's culture has largely been impacted by their nearby neighbor, and the San Carlos Institute is the best place on the island to learn about Cuba's past. A number of U.S. presidents have also visited Key West, and the Harry S. Truman Little White House has been their temporary home in paradise. For an overview of Key West's history, the Custom House and Fort East Martello offer a little of everything, including some local artwork, while the tiny Flagler Station provides insight about a lesser-known railroad.

Lastly, no visit to Key West is complete without visiting the legendary Hemingway Home and iconic lighthouse.

Not all "tourist traps" are meant to be skipped because the have been given that label. 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...  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. On the...  Read More

This structure was constructed in 1862 to protect Fort Zachary Taylor from confederate attack. Now it is an eclectic museum that houses various artifacts from Keys life and history. See found art sculptures by Stanley Papio, woodcarvings by...  Read More

By the time he was 50 years old Henry Flagler was one of the richest men in America. Due to his wife's ill health they spent much of their time in Florida, particularly in the Keys. In 1905 Flagler undertook the mission of building a 130-mile...  Read More

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

It is a wonder why more travelers don't stop by this treasure trove of history. The Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society is a non-profit organization that works to preserve archeological artifacts and educates visitors on maritime history. The...  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

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

This Richardsonian Romanesque Custom House was built in the 1820s when Key West was designated an official point of entry into the United States. Various exhibits track Key West's ascendancy from port town to richest city in the country. The...  Read More

This well-preserved time capsule was an integral part of the Coast Guard history from 1936 to 1988 and was instrumental in WWII and Vietnam. The ship was awarded 19 ribbons, 17 battle stars, and two Presidential Unit Citations for service in...  Read More

The San Carlos Institute was founded in 1871 by Cuban exiles of Key West as an educational, civic, and patriotic center, and now serves as a museum, library, art gallery, theater, and school. The museum played in important role in Cuba's history...  Read More


Meet Amber Nolan

Originally from upstate New York, this restless traveler has a knack for befriending interesting characters. You can usually find her just about anywhere that has a hammock. Amber's favorite...  More About Amber