Key West, a U.S. island city, is part of the Florida Keys archipelago. It’s also Florida’s southernmost point, lying roughly 90 miles north of Cuba. Famed for its pastel-hued, conch-style houses, it’s a cruise-ship stop also accessible from the mainland via the Overseas Highway. It’s known more for its coral reefs – destinations for diving and snorkeling – than for its beaches.
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West, Florida
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, one of the top Key West, Florida attractions, is a beautiful Spanish Colonial style mansion built in 1851 from rock native to the area. Ernest Hemingway and his wife Pauline first moved here in 1931 when Pauline’s rich uncle Gus bought the house for them. The house still features the Hemingways’ personal effects and unique European antiques they collected during their many trips.
Hemingway brought the animal trophies and skins scattered around the house from his African safaris and hunting expeditions. Visiting the studio where Hemingway produced so many of his wonderful books is particularly exciting. It was in this studio that he wrote his novel about the Key West in the Great Depression “To Have and Have Not.” Interestingly, the museum serves as a home to the numerous descendants of Hemingway’s six-toed cat.
907 Whitehead Street, Key West, Florida, Phone: 305-294-1136
Mallory Square, Key West, Florida
Located on Wall Street in Key West’s historic Old Town, Mallory Square is a waterfront plaza just west of Duval Street. The square faces west towards the Gulf of Mexico, and because of this convenient location, its “Sunset Celebration” is one of the most popular things to see and do in Key West.
If you are wondering what to Do in Key West, Florida today, this is a great place to start exploring. Every evening about two hours before the sun begins to set, hundreds of tourists gather here to watch the beautiful sunset and to enjoy exhibits of arts and crafts, taste what the food vendors have to offer, and see street performers like clowns, jugglers, magicians, and local musicians. This tradition began in the 1960s, and the fun parties for which the area is famous still take place every day.
Key West Garden Club
The Key West Garden Club, also known as the West Martello Tower, is located on Atlantic Boulevard on Higgs Beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The garden is free and open to the public, and volunteers are responsible for its upkeep. Its educational goal is to teach people about tropical gardening.
There are brick pathways that lead visitors through arched courtyards amid lush tropical plants including bromeliads and orchids; there is also a lovely water lily pond and a waterfall. The West Martello Tower is a Civil War citadel that is listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Special events such as weddings are often held in the garden’s white gazebos.
1100 Atlantic Boulevard, Key West, Florida, Phone: 305-294-3210
Dry Tortugas National Park
For history buffs, a visit to Dry Tortugas National Park with its spectacular 19th Century Fort Jefferson is a must. The park, which consists mostly of water and seven small islands, is located about 70 miles from Key West. It lies in magnificent blue waters surrounded by a variety of healthy coral reefs and diverse marine life. There is also a large colony of migratory and tropical birds.
You can get to the park using your own boat, a chartered boat, a seaplane, or the ferry. Enjoy the 45-minutes guided tour of the Fort to learn about its history or take a walk along the moat for a spectacular view of the surrounding reefs and sea life. Snorkeling and swimming, available in designated areas, are thrilling activities in which you can participate.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Located on Truman Annex near the southern tip of Key West, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is a popular park and beach that offers many activities. Also known as Fort Taylor or Fort Zach to the locals, it is a Florida State Park that is listed as a U.S. National Historic Landmark because of its Civil War-era fort.
There are several special events that take place in the park, including Civil War reenactments that last for a week. Considered to be one of the best beaches in Key West, the park also offers beach equipment like chairs and water sports equipment such as snorkel gear and floats. There are several places to eat throughout the park.
Key West Lighthouse and Keeper’s Quarters Museum
The Key West Lighthouse originally opened in 1848. The U.S. Navy had established a base in Key West in 1823 and recognized the importance of building a lighthouse because of the many coral reefs and shallow waters around the island. Over the years, improvements were made to the lighthouse including the addition of the lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters and eventually the electrification of the light.
Because of new technologies, a keeper was no longer necessary, and thus the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969. Today it serves as a museum dedicated to the lighthouse keepers. Visitors can climb the 88 steps and look at the photographs and belongings of the former keepers.