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Top Key West Attractions

The first time you visit Key West, or any new destination, the question asked isn’t usually what attractions should be scene but what attraction to see first, what to expect, how to get there, and how much time is needed. We’ve provided tips, advice, and other information about the top tourist attractions in Key West to help with your itinerary planning.

Mel Fisher Museum Mel Fisher Museum
Key West Aquarium Key West Aquarium
Hemingway Home Hemingway Home
Audubon House Audubon House
Duval Street Duval Street

Mel Fisher Museum

 Address 200 Greene St.
 Admission Free
 Hours 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM Daily.
 Phone (305) 294-2633
 Website www.mslfisher.org

Once a salvager’s dream, Key West in recent years attracted the attention of a modern-day treasure hunter: Mel Fisher. A long-time resident until his death in 1998, Fisher discovered the $400 million treasure of the shipwrecked Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha in 1985. It took the indefatigable Fisher 16 years to find the ship sunk in 1622. He later found other treasure-laden ships that went to the bottom of the sea from causes such as hurricanes. Artifacts from that ships found by the famous treasure-hunter are the cornerstone of the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society and Museum. Among items on display: a fortune in gold, silver bars and coins that were headed for Spain. A highlight is a gold chain worth more than a quarter of a million dollars.The museum also produces and hosts rotating exhibitions that explore different aspects of the New World’s rich maritime heritage. Interactive modules and audio and video components make this an interesting stop for visitors of all ages.

 

Key West Aquarium

 Address One Whitehead Street
 Admission $10
 Hours 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM Daily
 Phone (305) 296-2051
 Website www.keywestaquarium.com

You can find the Florida Keys’s coral reefs without getting your feet wet at the Key West Aquarium. Open since 1934, this was the area’s first tourist attraction. It has a 50,000-gallon tank with a huge variety of fish, including moray eels, sharks, sea turtles, barracuda, tropical fish, tarpon, parrotfish and grouper. The aquarium also has a touch tank for hands-on interaction between sea creatures and visitors. You can also observe feedings of resident sharks, rays and turtles as guides explain habits and habitats. Where else can you have a chance to pet a live shark? The aquarium is committed to helping protect the endangered sea turtles. It is associated with the Turtle Hospital and Florida Sea Turtle Stranding Network made up of state agencies, universities and marine parks, all involved in the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles. The Aquarium is currently home to several turtles on the mend, some of whom are permanent residents.

Guided tours are offered at 11 AM, 1 PM, 3 PM, and 4:30 PM.

 

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

 Admission $10
 Hours 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM Daily
 Phone (305) 294-1136
 Website www.himingwayhome.com

You can see where one of America’s best-known writers lived and worked at the Hemingway Home, which is a registered National Historic Landmark. Ernest Hemingway, who won both the Nobel and Pulitzer prices, lived in this Spanish colonial villa from 1931 to 1940. He owned the home until his death in 1961. The author wrote many of his best-known works in the second-story writing studio adjoining the house. Among those books: “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “The Green Hills of Africa.” The home’s furnishings and atmosphere evoke the Hemingway era. The area’s first swimming pool can be found behind the house. Hemingway’s wife, Pauline, had it built as a surprise to her husband off covering the Spanish Civil War. Guides tell visitors that when he learned the pool cost $20,000, Hemingway fished out a penny and angrily tossed it to the ground, saying she had spent his last cent. Pauline had enough of a sense of humor to have the coin imbedded in the pool, where it can be seen by visitors.

Guided tours are offered throughout the day. And an added attraction is to make friends with some of the many six-toed cats that roam the grounds.

 

Audubon House

 Admission $10
 Hours 9:30 AM - 4:30 PM
 Phone (305) 294-2116
 Website www.aubudonhouse.com

The Audubon House & Tropical Gardens offers a look at the famous artist as well as the early years of Key West. Artist and ornithologist John James Audubon visited Key West in 1832, where he sighted and drew 19 new species for his famous “Birds of America” folio. It’s believed that many of those detailed paintings were conceived in the garden of the 205 Whitehead Street property that now houses the museum. The 19th century home, originally built by ship’s carpenters for harbor pilot and shipwreck salvager John Geiger, has 28 original Audubon engravings. It also has a gallery featuring 500 Audubon lithographs and a rare collection of porcelain birds created by British artist Dorothy Doughty.The spacious, airy house is furnished with antiques, including furniture that was salvaged by former owner Geiger. Meticulous gardens with tropical foliage, native plants and exotics surround the home. Visitors stroll along tidy brick paths to see blossoming orchids, bromeliads, towering trees, a butterfly garden and a 19th century plant nursery. After falling into disrepair, the house was saved from demolition in 1958 when it was purchased and restored by the Wolfson Family Foundation. The house marks the city’s first restoration project. The museum also has a gift shop that sells affordable, original Audubon artwork.

 


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