The southernmost city is one of the most popular vacation destinations in Florida and not just for its crystal waters and laid-back persona. For those who love history, the island’s rich past includes pirates, Indians, and even sunken treasure. Here are the top Key West historic sites to visit while you’re on vacation.
Ernest Hemingway House & Museum
Home to Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway, this charming Key West house offers a personal look into his life and work. As you tour the property and walk through the rooms and gardens, you’ll learn about the time the famed author spent on the island, see where he wrote and discover many fascinating facts about him. The house, built in 1851, still contains items and furniture that belonged to Hemingway and is inhabited by the descendants of his beloved six-toed cats.
Fort Zachary Taylor
A National Historic Landmark, Fort Zachary Taylor is one of the most popular parks in Key West and home to a Civil War Fortress. The fort was built in 1866 and played important roles in the Civil War and the Spanish-American War. You can tour the fort, learn more about its history, and enjoy various amenities the park has to offer including a beautiful beach, great snorkeling, swimming, fishing, picnic areas, nature trails and biking paths.
Home to an ancient Civil War fortress, The Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson is a must visit while you’re in Key West. Just a ferry ride away on the Yankee Freedom, this cluster of little islands offers a day full of adventure, history and eco-discovery. You can tour the massive fort, see where the prisoners of war were kept, including Samuel Mudd, their most infamous inmate, learn its history, see cannon demonstrations and more. You can also snorkel in the warm shallow waters, see exotic birds and other wildlife, or simply relax on a sandy beach.
Audubon House & Gardens
Built between 1846 and 1849, the historic Audubon House was a family home for Captain John Geiger, a harbor pilot and master wrecker. After members of the Geiger Family occupied the house for more than 100 years, the home was restored and opened as a museum in 1960. Today, visitors can tour the home and gardens and see antique furnishings and personal items that date back to the early 19th century. And for those with an affinity for art, the extensive collection of original hand-painted lithographs of John James Audubon will be of particular interest. Although it is unclear whether Audubon ever visited this house, he was in Key West in 1832, and his painting of the white-crowned pigeon features a Geiger tree like the one found in the front yard of the Audubon House.
When Harry Truman first visited Key West it was his intention to gain a little R&R at a winter retreat. But after being on the island for just a day, he was enchanted by its relaxed ambiance, friendly locals and natural beauty. He then stayed for 175 days, running the presidency from this charming little house that was once a base for naval officers. Today, you can tour the Little White House Museum, learn about the life and work of our 33rd President and view various personal items, furnishings and memorabilia that belonged to Truman and his wife Bess.