[gmap address="key west, fl" html="key west, fl" zoom="7"]

Mel Fisher Museum
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Mel Fisher Museum

Mel Fisher Museum

Mel Fisher Museum

The Mel Fisher Museum in Key West is chock full of important items from the life of a famous and great man.  Both a tribute the history of diving and salvaging and homage to the man who made his dreams come true, the Mel Fisher Museum is worth a visit for just about anyone.  It’s one of the few Key West attractions that is not a tourist trap but rather offers a glimpse into real Key West history and culture.

The life of Mel Fisher is a great story that’s been told many times by many people, including folks at major national magazines and television shows.  He was always a celebrity in the diving and salvaging world, but he became famous to the rest of the world in the early 1908s when he discovered the Atocha, a Spanish galleon full of gold and silver and other treasures, that went down in 1622.

The story of Mel Fisher goes beyond treasure hunting, however.  There are several dramas that occurred throughout his life which make his successes bittersweet in some ways.  There’s also a epic struggle against the State of Florida over ownership of the treasures he found.

Visitors to the Mel Fisher Museum come away with a sense of admiration and respect for a great man who has become a local hero.  In his famous words Save the Day, Mel exhibited the kind of perseverance and human spirit that anyone can recognize as the mark of a great man.

Mel Fisher Museum

The Gold Bar at the Mel Fisher Museum.  It was stolen Summer 2010.

Treasure at the Mel Fisher Museum

Treasure at the Mel Fisher Museum

Audubon House Garden
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Audubon House and Gallery

Audubon House

Audubon House is Mid 1800s Architecture

Audubon House is many things: a gallery of fine art filled with Audubon original lithographs and engravings, a tropical garden that can hold an event with up to 300 people, and a museum dedicated to a fascinating part of Key West history.  However you decide to look at it, a visit to Audobon House makes a very pleasant afternoon.  Set near the northern end of Duval Street amid the hustle and bustle, the mid nineteenth century house and gardens offer a very welcome retreat from the crowds and sensory overload of this busy end of town.

The docent will give an extremely informative and interesting tour of the House where John James Audubon stayed while studying birds and capturing them on paper.  You’ll learn about Audubon but also about the family that hosted him while he drew birds in their garden and at the Dry Tortugas.  Captain John H. Geiger, his wife, and  family of nine children were wealthy as a result of Captain Geiger’s work in the salvaging industry.

The gardens out back are lovingly kept, with orchids, lush tropical foliage, a brick patio, and more than an acre of delightful gardens with moon lighting at night.  Weddings are held here, as well as other large functions.

The gift shop is reason enough to visit Audubon House, for it is filled with fanciful and eclectic items aimed at the bird lover.  In addition to the original engravings and lithographs circa 1830 to 1859, visitors can also purchase reproductions of the originals and gift items as well.

Audubon House Garden

Audubon House Garden

Key West Aquarium
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Key West Aquarium

Key West Aquarium

Looking Down at the Key West Aquarium

The Key West Aquarium may be the oldest tourist attraction in town, but it offers a true view of the marine world that exists just outside its walls, in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.  An authentic experience hasn’t changed much since the 1930s, when this quaint building was completed…visitors can still enjoy the sense of wonder and discovery when they touch a sea cucumber at the touch tank, or watch the sharks during a frenzied feeding time.

Inside the mail hall there are shallow open tanks where you can really get close to certain non-threatening species like nurse sharks and rays.  The walls are lined with tanks filled with reef fish like grouper and snapper.

The Key West Aquarium lets visitors get up close to the sea life that lives on and around the reef in Key West.  Look directly into the eyes of a Goliath Grouper, or several other types of Grouper for that matter, through the eye-level tanks installed in the walls of the building.  Go out the back to the fenced off areas in the harbor,  and see sharks at feeding time, from a safe distance!

There’s another area off the side of the building for bay fish, like redfish and tarpon, where you can see them up close as they swim around in their little lagoon area.

The Touch Tank at Key West Aquarium

The Touch Tank at Key West Aquarium

Key West Aquarium

Inside the Main Hall at the Key West Aquarium

Fort Zachary Beach
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Fort Zachary Taylor Beach

Fort Zachary Beach

View from the Picnic Area

Fort Zachary Taylor is actually a State Park and holds the best beach in Key West.  The Fort itself is historical late 1800s era, and you can take a tour before you hit the beach.  There are also paths around the park for bicycling or walking, and you can rent kayaks and beach chairs year round.

There’s a nice concession stand where you can get food and water, and the entire beach is lined with beautiful tall pine trees for lots of nice shade if you need it.  Under the trees you’ll find picnic tables, making for one of the best places in Key West for a picnic lunch or barbeque dinner.  It’s a great place to hold an event like a birthday party or a reunion or meeting.

Because of its location on the island and the currents that carry water across the inshore waters, For Zachary Taylor beach is also the cleanest beach in Key West.  This is the top reason it’s the best beach in Key West, but a few other factors make it top of the list as well:

  1. plenty of parking
  2. tour of the historical fort
  3. nice picnic area
  4. shady trees
  5. concession stand
  6. quiet, far from traffic

In wintertime, large sculptures are placed on For Zachary Taylor’s open spaces as part of an arts program.

Fort-Zachary-Taylor-concession-stand

The Concession at Fort Zachary Taylor

Fort Zachary Taylor Beach

Tourists on Fort Zach Beach

The Key West Lighthouse
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Key West Lighthouse

The Key West Lighthouse

The Key West Lighthouse

Tucked away on the edge of  Bahama Village, near Hemingway House, is the Key West lighthouse.  It’s an historical lighthouse, built in 1847 and together with the lighthouse keeper’s house, makes a fun Key West attraction for anyone who wants to learn about the history of Key West or who loves lighthouses.  It replaced an older tower that was built in 1825 to help ships navigate the dangerous reefs off Key West.  The original was 46 feet high.  In 1894 it was extended to 86 feet tall.

Visitors can climb all the way to the top of the lighthouse on a circular stairway for a great view of Key West if they reach the top.  Many of the old features of the lighthouse have been restored, including pipes that carried acetylene gas for the lights.  Originally, the lighthouse was lit by oil lamps – 15 of them.  It was electrified in the 1920s.

The Key West lighthouse was operational until 1969 and made a museum twenty years later.  The keeper’s quarters are also restored and open to the public.