Shipwreck Historeum Tower
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Shipwreck Historeum

Shipwreck Historeum

Shipwreck Historeum

The Shipwreck Historeum is a highly visible Key West attraction, located right behind Mallory Square and across from the Key West Aquarium.  It is not, however, one of the Top Ten Things to Do in Key West.  The tour guides visitors through the dark hallway of salvaged goods from yesteryear, set up in a way so we can easily imagine the warehouse as it was back in the 18th and 19th centuries. You can purchase tickets at a booth just outside the building.

The tour guides are dressed in period costume and give the tour in character, but we would have been a lot happier with just a pamphlet or audioguide for our mp3 player.   The salvaged goods were strewn about in dark corners without much attempt at interpretation or museumship.  In other words, it seemed like it was still just a warehouse, the only difference is now there’s an admission fee which includes being led around by an irritable clown dressed up in costume.

The supposed big highlight of the tour was being able to watch clips from an old 1940s movie made about the salvaging industry in Key West.  We skipped it because it’s not that great of a movie, to begin with, and we’d seen it on Netflix.  Not even sure it was filmed in Key West.

The saving grace of this Key West attraction was the rooftop observatory, which back in salvaging days was used to spot ships wrecked on the reef.  Once spotted, these shipwrecks became targets of aggressive, competing for salvaging operations who raced out to be the first on the scene….not to save the men overboard, but to claim ownership of the treasure and management of wrecking activities. One can get nice views and snapshots over Key West from up there.

Shipwreck Historeum Tower

Shipwreck Historeum Tower

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