You’ll have plenty of things to see and do in Key West, an island city in Florida. The colorful architecture in this part of the United States is mainly Caribbean. You’ll find many homes here that have been built using coral rock. Some of them have also used salvaged ship-boards in their construction. While exploring the city’s attractions, you’ll notice a unique mix of cultural influences.
Key West is also popular for its sunsets. In fact, watching a beautiful sunset from Mallory Square is one of the top things to do for tourists. This city has also been home to many famous writers, including Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway. Even today, Key West continues to draw creative individuals from distant places owing to its tolerant and Bohemian atmosphere. Here are some of the things you can do while exploring Key West:
1. Visit Dry Tortugas National Park by taking a boat excursion
Dry Tortugas National Park is located about 65 miles southwest of the city and comprises seven reef islands. This national park was given its name by the explorer Ponce de Leon owing to the turtles found here. This isolated park offers some exciting opportunities to indulge in snorkeling. If you’re not in the mood for snorkeling, you can simply relax on its sandy beaches.
The Catamaran Boat Excursions leave from Key West to this national park. These excursions include lunch and also provide equipment for snorkeling. One of the dry parts of the national park is Garden Key, which is home to Fort Jefferson. This 19th-century fort was constructed by the United States government. The purpose was to protect and control the shipping channel of the Gulf of Mexico.
During the American Civil War, the fort functioned as a prison for the deserters of the Union. It had also housed Dr. Samuel Mudd. He was a co-conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Currently, the Dry Tortugas National Park is run by the National Park Service.
2. Get on the Conch Tour Train
You can find several historic homes and some of the renowned tourist attractions of the city along Duval Street. It also has many shops and restaurants that entertain passengers of cruise ships and tourists. Undoubtedly, this street is the main tourist strip of Key West. It begins from Mallory Square and stretches all the way to the Southernmost Point market.
Throughout the year, a variety of festivals and events are hosted in this area. The most popular among them is the Hemingway Days Festival. You can take the Conch Tour Train, which is a perfect way to enjoy the sights of the area. This train travels through key areas like Duval Street, Hemingway’s House, and the waterfront.
3. Explore the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum displays many artifacts that were mostly obtained from the shipwrecks. It also provides valuable information on Mel Fisher, a diver who discovered many shipwrecks that carried valuable artifacts. One of them was an English ship. It was first discovered about 35 miles west of the city in 1972.
The ship was identified as the Henrietta Marie later on. It was a slave ship, which had disappeared in the 18th century after selling 190 African captives in Jamaica. It had some invaluable artifacts that offered a glimpse into the history of maritime slave trade.
Fisher and his team discovered the wreck of the Santa Margarita in 1980. It was a 17th-century ship from Spain that held valuable objects. They ranged from bars and coins of gold and silver to precious jewelry. In addition to all these artifacts, you’ll also find exhibits on diving and underwater archaeology.
4. Tour the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Upon visiting this property, you’ll witness Ernest Hemingway’s amazing collection of Spanish furniture. These items are originally from the 17th and 18th centuries. Besides the furniture, you’ll come across some descendants of the legendary author’s original brood of house cats. Hemingway had written a number of novels while staying at this property.
They include Death in the Afternoon, A Farewell to Arms, and For Whom the Bell Tolls. He had purchased this Spanish Colonial house of the mid-19th century in 1931. He lived here until 1940. The property features a salt-water pool and a lush tropical garden. According to the author, the pool had nearly depleted his wealth.
5. Click a selfie at the southernmost point of the United States
When you get to the corner of South and Whitehead streets, you’ll find a red, black and yellow concrete marker. It is the marker indicating that the place is the southernmost point in the continental United States. This is truly a lively spot, where you’ll get to see the performers showcasing their talents.
The street vendors also arrive here to sell some souvenirs. You can take a selfie with the marker as the background. Another landmark that’s similar and equally popular for photo-ops is the US1 mile-marker. The ‘0’ sign marks the beginning of the route, which covers almost the entire east coast.
6. Delve into an intriguing history at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is home to an extensive collection of armaments from the Civil War era. It also hosts an array of annual events, which include sculpture contests, pirate festival, boat races, and concerts. Fort Zachary Taylor was constructed between 1845 and 1866 to protect this area during the Civil War.
In recent times, it is a National Historic Landmark and a State Park. Besides all the historic attractions of this park, you can also enjoy its beautiful beach. It has dedicated areas for snorkeling as well. It can also be an ideal place for couples to witness the sunset and enjoy some romantic moments.
7. Visit Harry S. Truman Little White House
President Truman first visited this house in the year 1946. He used it as a vacation retreat many times during his presidency. The house was constructed in 1890 and served as the naval command’s headquarters through the Second World War. Although it has been restored, the original furnishings and decor from the Truman era have remained intact.
You’ll find the piano of Truman and the desk that he used in a perfectly preserved state. There are helpful guides that give you an insight into the history and political significance of the building. After exploring the interiors, you can enjoy a self-guided tour of the spectacular botanical gardens of the house.