Top Attractions in Key West

Come to partake in the rowdy sunset celebrations, but don’t limit yourself to a Margaritaville experience of Key West—its impressive literary legacy, the shipwrecks and lighthouses and trappings of its maritime history, and those blue waters demand your attention.

1316 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040, USA
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a hidden gem among the bars and bustle in Key West. The small glass-enclosed habitat is fluttering with more than 50 species of butterflies, as well as colorful birds and a large tortoise. Different species of butterflies are active at different times of the day: In the mornings, some types bask in the sun and feed on the flowers and fruits; as the sun goes down, the largest butterflies on-site, the owl butterflies, become most active. Within the 5,000-square-foot conservatory, there are fountains, ponds, flowers, plants, and trees. But the best part of a visit to this tiny wonderland is interacting with the butterflies. If you put out your hand, they’ll land right on your palm. The site includes a learning center and a gallery.
938 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040, USA
The U.S. Navy opened the Key West lighthouse in 1848 to help commercial and military vessels navigate the coral reefs around the harbor. After decommissioning, the lighthouse and the house in which its keeper lived were converted into a museum. Visitors can walk the narrow, winding steps up to the open-air observatory on top. A small museum in the former keeper’s quarters shares general lighthouse history and lore, has a display of lenses and artifacts, and offers a chance to see how the keepers and their families lived.
Florida, USA
Set 110 kilometers (70 miles) south of Key West is a group of seven uninhabited islands known as the Dry Tortugas, which makes for one of the area’s top day trips. It is one of 11 national parks in Florida. Once there you can explore the historic Fort Jefferson, an enormous military facility that was under construction for 30 years (1846–1875) but never completed. The isles are surrounded by coral reefs with great snorkeling in the crystal clear blue waters, and you can also see birdlife galore. Most visitors arrive by ferry, which takes about three hours each way and includes a four-hour stay on the islands, but you can also charter a seaplane for a hefty price.
601 Howard England Way
Yes, there is a fort here—a National Historic Landmark built in the mid-1800s to protect the country’s southernmost coastline—but locals know it for its excellent beach. A nice sandy expanse is a rarity in the Florida Keys—they’re surrounded by coral reefs, which make for primo fishing and diving but block the waves that are needed to produce a proper beach. But here, sand is trucked in to create a close facsimile—plus the water is wonderfully clear and calm, and there’s great snorkeling thanks to an offshore reef.
1 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040, USA
The Key West Shipwreck Museum transports visitors back to 1856, when the young city’s port had more than 100 ships passing through daily. Because of the coral reefs, shipwrecks were common at the time and salvage became a thriving business. At the museum, visitors will meet an actor portraying Asa Tift, an actual Key West citizen whose family made a good living salvaging, or saving, crew, passengers, and cargo from ships that were wrecked on the reefs. He’ll tell the stories of the many wrecks and recoveries of Tift’s time. The museum’s immersive experience includes films and historic artifacts, including the wreckage of the Isaac Allerton, which sank off the coast in 1895.
907 Whitehead St, Key West, FL 33040, USA
Key West’s most famous literary resident, Ernest Hemingway, lived in this two-story Spanish-colonial villa for nearly a decade and composed several of his best-known works here. His second wife, Pauline, insisted they add a pool to the spacious grounds—the first inground pool in Key West. The cost ballooned to around $20,000, a fortune in the 1930s, and was said to have contributed to the breakup of their marriage. It’s just one of the fascinating stories guides will share on the half-hour tour of the home and gardens (included in the price of admission). And yes, you’re guaranteed to see plenty of six-toed cats, descendants of Hemingway’s original six-toed cat, Snow White.

400 Wall St, Key West, FL 33040, USA
Key West is billed as “the Home of the Sunset,” which means every time the sun sinks below the horizon, it’s time for a party. Since the 1960s, Mallory Square’s dock has been hosting this nightly celebration, which begins two hours ahead of sunset with jugglers, musicians, artists, and street performers showing off their talents while food carts serve up conch fritters and Key lime pie. Soak up the quirky scene while waiting for the big show in the sky.

Whitehead St & South Street, Key West, FL 33040, USA
The Southernmost Point buoy, at the corner of Whitehead Street and South Street, marks not only the spot for the southernmost point of the continental United States but also the distance (90 miles) to the next country, Cuba. The buoy, installed by the city in 1983, is visited by thousands of people each day. (Before the buoy, a small sign stood at the spot alongside a line of seashells for purchase.) Taking a photo in front of the buoy is imperative for a first visit to Key West, so bring a tripod, or ask a stranger to snap a few shots. Buskers play music, and street vendors sell food and goofy souvenirs and slash open coconuts to drink.
513 Truman Ave, Key West, FL 33040, USA
The city of Key West has an incredible literary history, and one of its most celebrated residents was Tennessee Williams, who lived in town from 1941 until his death in 1983. A final draft of his most famous play, A Streetcar Named Desire, was written at La Concha Hotel here in 1947. Williams later bought and moved into a cottage in town. The exhibit, in another lovely yellow cottage, displays movie posters, newspaper articles, photos, first editions, and memorabilia like his vintage typewriters. The free exhibit is manned by friendly volunteers and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
8311, 111 Front St, Key West, FL 33040, USA
This wood house was originally intended as officers’ housing on the island’s naval base, but became famous as the Little White House when Harry S. Truman used it as a base of operations for several extended stays during his presidency. The house, now a museum, is dedicated to the history that took place here: Not just Truman, but Thomas Edison and presidents Taft, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, and Clinton all spent time here, and several key summits took place here as well. As you walk through the house you’ll view all of the original furniture and historical elements—including Truman’s famous “The Buck Stops Here” desk sign—which have been maintained for generations. The beautiful tropical garden is surrounded by the original 1890 wrought-iron fence.
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