21 Best Museums in Key West Florida, To Visit

As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, Key West, Florida, is known for its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and charming atmosphere. But beyond its picturesque scenery and lively streets, this tropical paradise also offers a rich history and culture that can be explored through some of the best museums in Key West Florida. From art and history to maritime and diving, there is something for everyone to discover in the diverse collection of museums found on this small island. So, if you’re planning a trip to Key West, be sure to add these must-visit museums to your itinerary.

Key West Museum of Art & History

Located in the historic Old Town district, the Key West Museum of Art & History is housed in the historic Custom House building. Built in 1891, this iconic structure served as a government center and customs office for over 60 years before being converted into a museum in the 1990s. Today, visitors can explore its grand halls and galleries, which showcase a variety of exhibits featuring local and international artists, as well as displays of the island’s unique history and culture.

Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

For those interested in maritime history, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is a must-visit attraction. Named after the famed treasure hunter who discovered the shipwreck of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha, this museum houses a vast collection of artifacts recovered from shipwrecks in the Florida Keys. From gold and silver coins to cannons and navigational tools, these relics offer a glimpse into the lives of sailors and pirates who once roamed the seas.

Truman Little White House

Another historic gem in Key West is the Truman Little White House, which served as President Harry S. Truman’s winter residence during his presidency. Constructed in 1890, this charming home has hosted many other US presidents and dignitaries over the years. Today, visitors can tour its rooms and learn about the political history that took place within its walls.

Key West Firehouse Museum

Housed in a former fire station dating back to 1907, the Key West Firehouse Museum is a unique attraction that showcases the island’s firefighting history. From antique fire trucks and equipment to interactive exhibits, this museum offers an engaging experience for visitors of all ages.

Turtle Cannery Museum

For a taste of Key West’s agricultural past, head to the Turtle Cannery Museum. This historic building was once a bustling factory that processed thousands of sea turtles for their meat and shells. Today, it stands as a museum dedicated to preserving the island’s turtle harvesting industry and educating visitors on the importance of conservation efforts.

Keeper’s Quarters Museum

Located within the Key West Lighthouse, the Keeper’s Quarters Museum offers a glimpse into the daily lives of lighthouse keepers and their families. Visitors can explore the various rooms that have been restored to reflect different time periods, as well as learn about the fascinating history of this iconic landmark.

The Custom House Museum

Aside from being home to the Key West Museum of Art & History, the historic Custom House building also houses its own museum. Here, visitors can delve into the island’s maritime heritage through various exhibits and displays showcasing ship models, salvaged artifacts, and more.

History of Diving Museum

With its crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life, it’s no surprise that Key West has a long history of diving. The History of Diving Museum pays tribute to this tradition through a vast collection of diving equipment, photographs, and interactive exhibits that educate visitors on the evolution of diving over the years.

Key West Shipwreck Museum

Step back in time to the 19th century at the Key West Shipwreck Museum, where visitors can relive the treacherous journeys of sailors and their vessels through interactive exhibits and live actors. Learn about how shipwrecks played a significant role in shaping Key West’s economy and culture.

The Hemingway Home and Museum

Another iconic Key West attraction is the former home of legendary author Ernest Hemingway. Now a museum, visitors can tour the Spanish colonial-style house where Hemingway wrote some of his most famous works and discover the fascinating history and stories behind this literary icon.

Fort East Martello Museum

Located on the east side of Key West, Fort East Martello is more than just a historic military site-turned-museum. This unique attraction also houses a diverse collection of folk art, including the renowned sculptures created by self-taught artist Mario Sanchez, which offer a glimpse into the island’s vibrant culture and community.

Sails To Rails Museum

Located in the historic Key West Seaport, the Sails To Rails Museum takes visitors on a journey through time. This unique museum showcases the island’s rich maritime history, starting from its early days as a thriving seaport for ships and sailors. The highlight of the museum is the massive 19th-century lighthouse, which offers stunning views of the city and surrounding waters.

Oldest House Museum & Gardens Key West

Step back in time at the Oldest House Museum & Gardens Key West. This charming Victorian-style house was built in 1829 and is a testament to the island’s colonial past. Explore the beautifully restored rooms filled with period furniture and learn about the lives of its former inhabitants. Don’t forget to stroll through the lush gardens and admire the tropical plants and flowers.

Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

Get up close and personal with the diverse ecosystems of Key West at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. This interactive museum features exhibits on the island’s unique habitats, including the mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrasses. Learn about the importance of conservation and sustainability through engaging displays and hands-on activities.

Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit

Fans of literature won’t want to miss the Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit. This small museum is dedicated to the famous playwright who lived in Key West for over 30 years. Explore the life and works of Tennessee Williams through personal artifacts, photographs, and memorabilia. Don’t forget to take a guided tour for a deeper understanding of this literary icon.

USCGC Ingham Maritime Museum

Step aboard the USCGC Ingham, a decommissioned Coast Guard cutter turned floating museum. This impressive ship played a significant role in World War II, and visitors can learn about its history through fascinating exhibits and guided tours. Don’t miss the opportunity to go below deck and explore the living quarters of the brave men who served aboard this vessel.

Keys History & Discovery Center

Venture off the island to nearby Islamorada to visit the Keys History & Discovery Center. This museum focuses on the unique history and culture of the Florida Keys, from its Native American roots to present-day. With interactive exhibits, artifacts, and educational programs, this museum is a great way to learn about the entire region.

Key West Heritage House Museum

Experience life in Key West during the late 19th century at the Key West Heritage House Museum. This beautifully restored house was once home to Captain Francis Watlington, a prominent figure in the island’s history. Take a guided tour to learn about the family’s life and their impact on Key West.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

For a dose of history and outdoor adventure, head to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. This 54-acre state park is home to one of the nation’s best-preserved Civil War forts. Explore the fort’s walls and learn about its strategic importance during the war. Afterward, relax on the beach or take a hike through the park’s nature trails.

Hellings Curry Museum

Delve into the unique history of Key West at the Hellings Curry Museum. This small but fascinating museum showcases artifacts and exhibits related to Key West’s founding families, including the Curry family. Learn about the island’s early days as a trading post and its transformation into a bustling seaport.

Donkey Milk House Museum

Last but not least, don’t miss the quirky Donkey Milk House Museum. This tiny museum is dedicated to educating visitors about the traditional use of donkey milk in skincare and medicine. Explore exhibits on the history and benefits of donkey milk, and even try some samples for yourself!

With so many incredible museums to explore, a trip to Key West wouldn’t be complete without adding these stops to your itinerary. Immerse yourself in the island’s rich history, culture, and natural beauty at these unique and captivating museums. Whether you’re a history buff, a literature lover, or simply looking for a fun and educational experience, these museums is must visit destination.

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