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Key West Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Key West

Key West is one of the richest cities in the USA. The city is famous for its shipwrecks and also for the famous American writers who lived here. The one thing that separates this city from other cities is its world-famous sunsets. This self-guided tour will lead you to different most popular landmarks of Key West.
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Key West Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Key West Introduction Walk
Guide Location: USA » Key West (See other walking tours in Key West)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 17
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.8 Km or 3 Miles
Author: Caroline
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Mallory Square
  • Key West Aquarium
  • Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum
  • Key West Museum of Art & History
  • Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
  • Audubon House & Tropical Gardens
  • Harry S. Truman Little White House
  • St Paul Church
  • Nancy Forrester's Secret Gardens
  • Key West Cemetery
  • St. Mary Star of the Sea
  • Key West Lighthouse & Museum
  • Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
  • Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
  • The Southernmost Point
  • Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
  • Duval Street
Mallory Square

1) Mallory Square (must see)

Every night of the year the Sunset Celebration takes places at Mallory Square, attracting hundreds of tourists and locals. It has become a tradition in the city to gather around this square and to admire the sun sinking into the Gulf of Mexico. There is a military memorial in the square, and around it there are many bars and cafes that also offer unforgettable views of the sunset and the sea. The breeze is usually pretty refreshing even on hotter and humid days due to the oceanfront location.

It can get very crowded near sunset time as it's quite a popular destination, but the people watching is fun as you have all kinds of walk of life.
As you walk down the boardwalk you have street performers whom some have been there for many many years. Bring cash and if you stop to watch, tip them.
Key West Aquarium

2) Key West Aquarium (must see)

During the Great Depression, Key West turned over its charter to the federal government due to the economic disaster that hit the island. The federal government believed that Key West's weather and location would make it an ideal tourist destination. The Works Project Administration (WPA) was sent in and built this tourist attraction. Opened in 1934, the Key West Aquarium attracts tourists by its uniqueness. The Aquarium was originally open-air – one of the first and largest at the time. Original admission was 15 cents for adults and 5 cents for children. The aquarium is now home to exhibits on alligators, Atlantic Shores talks, jellyfish, shark feedings, sea turtle conservation, and a touch tank.

Why You Should Visit:
The shark feeding is something to see, plus some really interesting murals of the local history in a very quaint space.
Tours aren't crowded; you can easily hear and there is enough breathing room around you if you avoid the heat of the day.

Check their feeding schedule to take advantage of the whole experience.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum

3) Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum (must see)

The Shipwreck Treasure Museum (formerly Shipwreck Historeum) combines actors, films and actual artifacts to tell the story of 400 years of shipwreck salvage in the Florida Keys. The museum itself is a re-creation of a 19th-century warehouse built by wrecker tycoon Asa Tift. Many of the artifacts on display are from the 1985 rediscovery of the wrecked vessel Isaac Allerton, which sank in 1856 on the Florida Keys reef and turned out to be one the richest shipwrecks in Key West's history, having resulted in the Federal Wrecking Court's largest monetary award for the salvage of a single vessel. Also included are relics from Spanish galleons, including a silver bar salvaged from the Nuestra Senora de las Maravillas that guests are encouraged to try to lift. Guests can also climb the 65' lookout tower.

Why You Should Visit:
To learn about the many interesting artifacts and history of the shipwrecks that made Key West one of the richest towns in the US.

Taking a small flashlight, to read many of the signs and posters or labels, would be quite helpful.
Also, you can get a great discount by buying combo tickets for other Key West museums.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5:30pm
Key West Museum of Art & History

4) Key West Museum of Art & History (must see)

The Key West Museum of Art & History is housed in a historical Romanesque-style building that used to be the city's Custom House and Post Office. The structure was built in 1891 with red bricks brought from New York, iron from Pennsylvania and workers from the whole of the USA. Exhibits include local history, famous personalities including Ernest Hemingway, maritime history, and works by local artists. Overall, it's a very comprehensive museum and there is also an upstairs space for visiting exhibits.

Be sure to make time for the gift shop!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-4:30pm
Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

5) Mel Fisher Maritime Museum (must see)

The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum contains an extensive collection of artifacts from 17th-century shipwrecks. A rotating gallery on the 2nd floor is also currently displaying an exhibit or artifacts belonging to Cuban Rafters, Balseros, who arrive to Key West in hand-crafted vessels. Terrestrial archaeological sites include The African Cemetery of Key West, located on Higg's Beach. The museum is named for founder Mel Fisher and was created as a non-profit charity organization, thus Fisher's fortune is not financially linked to the museum. It is a museum, a lab, and a nationally recognized research facility.

Within the museum is a fully operating Conservation and Archaeology lab, where guests are allowed admittance during a daily private Lab Tour and are able to touch the artifacts while learning about the various stages of artifact conservation. Some artifacts, depending on type and density, can take anywhere from weeks to years for full conservation before they are placed on display in the museum.

Skip the Audio Tour but add the Conservation Lab Tour (extra fee) conducted by the extremely knowledgeable marine archeologist who will take you through each step of the process from discovery to the de-encrustation and preservation of artifacts. Plus it's really cool to be able to actually handle an encrusted artifact from a shipwreck and see all of the tools being used.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8:30am-5pm; Sat, Sun & Holidays: 9:30am-5pm

Lab Tours:
Mon-Fri: 11:30am-2pm (Holidays excluded)
Audubon House & Tropical Gardens

6) Audubon House & Tropical Gardens (must see)

The Audubon House & Tropical Gardens offer a view of tropical plants. There are brick-paths in the garden and an 1840-style nursery. The house was slated for demolition in 1958 but was saved by the Mitchell Wolfson Family Foundation. This was the first restoration project in Key West. The house contains a lot of antique furniture purchased from auctions in Europe and the first works of the outstanding ornithologist, John James Audubon. Just near the house, there is the Audubon Gallery that displays his original art.

Why You Should Visit:
For those who enjoy nature, art, botany, architecture and photography, this is an amazing place to be.
The grounds are very beautiful and although a corner property, it still manages to be private and very personal.

Don't miss the unique gift shop in the garden. The items sold are high quality, well above much of what you see in Key West.
Also, make sure to stop at the door to listen to the volunteer's history of the place, then view the video on the 3rd floor to gain further information.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-5pm
Harry S. Truman Little White House

7) Harry S. Truman Little White House (must see)

The Harry S. Truman Little White House in Key West was the winter White House for President Harry S. Truman for 175 days during 11 visits. The house is located in the Truman Annex neighborhood of Old Town, Key West.

Built in 1890 and originally waterfront, it was the first officer's quarters on the submarine base naval station. During the Truman visits, Cabinet members and foreign officials were regular visitors for fishing trips and poker games. Truman visited Key West shortly after his 1948 re-election and Division Street was renamed Truman Avenue in his honor.

In 1991, the house opened as a state historic site & museum. Today regular guided tours take visitors through the site, and one can enter the rooms where the Trumans lived, worked and relaxed. Items such as President Truman's briefcase, books, telephone, and his famous "The Buck Stops Here" sign are still at his desk. (The reverse of the sign says, "I'm From Missouri.")

Why You Should Visit:
Docents here are friendly and knowledgeable and the facility has all of the original furnishings, making very authentic.

Although the entry fee is rather steep, there is a better deal if you visit both this and the Ernest Hemingway Home together (they take credit cards).
It is also worthwhile to walk & explore the Truman Annex area which is a beautifully landscaped part of Key West that many miss.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm (last entry: 4:30pm)
Tours are offered approx. every 20 minutes
Sight description based on wikipedia
St Paul Church

8) St Paul Church

The most prominent feature of St Paul Church is its amazing stained glass windows that depict religious scenes. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Key West had the first chime of bells in Florida. It was destroyed several times by weather calamities. It is a place where the locals congregate to worship and weddings are solemnized.
Nancy Forrester's Secret Gardens

9) Nancy Forrester's Secret Gardens

Come have fun with talking, laughing and dancing parrots. Artist and environmental activist Nancy Forrester has been rescuing abused and orphaned parrots for 28 years. Join her at 10-11am daily for a special presentation – "Parrot 101" or "Storytelling" – where guests can take pictures of un-caged birds, hold them and ask questions. Families with children and animal lovers are welcome to the Secret Garden to interact with the endangered South & Central American macaws and other parrots. Educational material for each parrot is offered.

Bring a picnic lunch, play musical instruments, paint, write, sing, and dance. Parrots love music and videos played on smart devices!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-3pm (guided 10-11am; self-guided 11am-3pm)
Key West Cemetery

10) Key West Cemetery (must see)

Located in the northern part of Key West, the city cemetery has as many as 100,000 people are buried there, many more than the 30,000 residents who currently live on the island. Slaves, ill from the sea voyage to slavery in "The New World," were buried there prior to the US Civil War. One headstone has a birthdate of 1792. Another records a death in 1843. Some newer graves are put in above-ground vaults, similar to the cemeteries in New Orleans since the space for below-ground burials has become increasingly limited. In 2005, the cemetery was among those profiled in the PBS documentary "A Cemetery Special". A free comprehensive self-guided tour map is available at the cemetery's front entrance... although sometimes it's nice to just stroll around.

You will walk in full sun, so check hours as early or later in the day may be best.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-7pm (summer months); 7am-6pm (winter months)

Guided Tours:
Tue, Thu: 9:30am
St. Mary Star of the Sea

11) St. Mary Star of the Sea (must see)

St. Mary Star of the Sea is a very beautiful Catholic basilica; one of the oldest Catholic parishes in the state of Florida and the oldest parish in the Archdiocese of Miami. With local coral rock used as construction material, the exterior of the church reflects the eclectic period of American Victorian Architecture. It also shows elements of a modified, early Renaissance Revival style. This may be found in the rusticated walls, rounded arches and lunettes that are composed of transitional gothic arches, louvered shutters and colored glass. Many interior elements have both Romanesque and early Renaissance characteristics. Behind the altar is a stained glass window that depicts the church's patroness.

Once you exit the church building, you find yourself on the grounds. A cemetery, grotto, and a marker can be found there. As you walk toward each, you will notice that the stones underneath your feet come together to form the shape of a rosary. This Rosary Path is meant to make you pray the rosary as you walk from stone to stone. You will notice the lovely grotto at the end of the path, which contains statues of Lourdes and Bernadette. It is said that one of the members, named Sister Gabriel, remarked on its dedication day "Key West would never experience the full brunt of a hurricane". And as all residents can attest, there has not been a severe storm on the island since the erection of the Grotto in 1922. This is a famous spot for broadcasting any hurricane threats to the island.

Why You Should Visit:
Lovely, peaceful grounds! The basilica itself is inviting, with a sanctuary containing many Caribbean design features, and has opening doors all along the sides for cool airflow.

Be sure to explore the Stations of the Cross garden adjacent to the grotto before heading inside to admire the beauty and tranquility of the basilica.
If you go inside, please donate (a complex like this has ongoing needs) or stop by the well-stocked gift shop behind the building.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8:30am-12:30pm / 1:30-4:30pm
Key West Lighthouse & Museum

12) Key West Lighthouse & Museum (must see)

If you can fend off the claustrophobia and don't mind heights, you can climb to the top of this historic lighthouse (completed in 1848) to see the old lantern and to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire island/key and the ocean. There are 88 tiny and constricting steps to the top. There are also three small landings you can stop on to rest if you need to. Near the tower, you can see an interesting banyan tree that seems to have been planted when the lighthouse was built. There is also a small museum house that tells the history of the lighthouse.

The stairs up the light might get a little interesting if you're not in sneakers, so it might be a good idea to swap the flip flops if you do the climb.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9:30am-4:30pm
Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

13) Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum (must see)

Ernest Hemingway's house was transformed into a museum that tells us something about the life and career of one of the most well-known American writers. This place is a National Historic Landmark that attracts crowds of tourists. This was Hemingway's home from 1931 to 1939, although he retained title to the home until he died. It is a private, for-profit landmark and tourist attraction now populated by six and seven-toed cats that are descendants of Hemingway's cats. His mansion with its beautiful garden is located in the heart of Old Town Key West. Here, the famous author wrote some of his best novels.

Why You Should Visit:
The house is terrific, the Hemingway memorabilia is great, the guided tour comes at no extra cost, and you can afford yourself the time to explore the grounds (with a small pond) on your own.

Don't miss the sad but adorable six-toed kitty graveyard in the back.
They only take cash on the door so make sure you have some.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

14) Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park (must see)

Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1973, this popular 87-acre (352,000 m²) state park is anchored by a famous Civil War fort housing the nation's largest collection of Civil War cannons, which plays host to several special events throughout the year – including week-long Civil War reenactments. On the weekend preceding Halloween, it is transformed into a haunted fort, much like a haunted house but on a grand scale and with a distinctive Civil War theme. For its time, the fort was an engineering marvel, with sanitary facilities flushed by the tide and a desalination plant that produced drinking water.

The beach here is shaded by several acres of Australian pine trees so it's always a bit cooler than the rest of Key West. It's also less crowded, with good deep water swimming, restrooms, showers, a concession stand, and picnic tables. Best snorkeling from the shore in the Keys, too, with protected water for kids!

Why You Should Visit:
The entire beach seems like an island paradise, instead of one minute from the city center. A must-see beach with great sunsets, ready to enjoy!

If you're a history lover, make sure to take the daily guided tour starting at 11am at the Fort. Be prompt – they start on time.

Opening Hours:
8am until sundown, 365 days a year (Fort closes at 5pm)
The Southernmost Point

15) The Southernmost Point (must see)

The Southernmost Point of the continental USA is marked by a concrete buoy in Key West. It was originally just marked with a sign, which was often stolen. In response to this, the city of Key West erected the now famous concrete buoy in 1983. The concrete buoy is actually an old sewer junction that was dug up in the area and found too heavy and large to move, so it was painted up to look like a buoy. This is the most popular attraction in Key West and it is always crowded during the day (be prepared to queue up for about 30-40 mins for the photo op). If you don't like crowds, you can come here early in the morning and admire the unforgettable view of the sun rising from the Atlantic.

It's the journey, not the destination for this one...
Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

16) Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory (must see)

The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is a butterfly park that houses from 50 to 60 different species of live butterflies from around the world in a climate-controlled, glass-enclosed habitat. It is a genuine educational experience as guests can get a close-up view of a variety of live caterpillars feeding and developing on their host plants. Also, there are flowering plants, trees and waterfalls, along with several species of free-flying "butterfly-friendly" birds, such as red-factor canaries, zebra finches, cordon-blue finches and "button" or Chinese painted quail.

Best to go in the morning while everything is out and moving. You will love it!
You can spend as much time as you like, but be sure to follow the tour guide to get the lowdown on everything in the enclosure. The self-guided tour has signs and descriptions explaining all of the different types of butterflies otherwise.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm (last admission: 4:30pm)
Duval Street

17) Duval Street

Duval Street is a famous downtown commercial zoned street in Key West, Florida. There are hundreds of shops on and around Duval Street selling souvenirs, clothing, jewelry but also specialty shops. On the Atlantic Ocean end of Duval Street there is a mix of early Key West Victorian mansions and bungalows’ dotting the neighborhood. Art galleries, boutiques, inns and Bodega’s line the wide sidewalks. Although this end of Duval is more residential and less filled with tourists, the sidewalks still bustle with activity. At the north end, tourists from the cruise ships that dock at the Margaritaville Resort & Marina, Mole pier or Mallory Square are often seen traversing Duval Street's many shops in the afternoon looking for souvenir trinkets and cheap T-shirts. Beware! the streets are congested with Pedi cabs, trollies, bikes, mopeds, cars, and the Conch Train all adding to the touristy feel of this heavily visited end of Duval. Duval Street was designated a “Great Street” in 2012 by the American Planning Association.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Key West, Florida

Create Your Own Walk in Key West

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Key West offers some unique and exceptional museums related to the history and location of the city. As it is situated on an island, this place was often visited by pirates in the past, and so there are many museums about pirates. The famous American writer Ernest Hemingway lived here and there is a museum dedicated to him. Key West is also the birthplace of some really famous artists. You can...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 Km or 1.5 Miles
East Key West Walking Tour

East Key West Walking Tour

East Key West is the southernmost place in the USA. It is just 90 miles from Cuba. In this area you have the best beaches, a historical park, Key West Light which indicates the southernmost point of the USA and lots of other attractions. This self-guided tour will lead you through the eastern part of Key West showing to you some of its unique attractions and landmarks.

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.9 Km or 3.7 Miles
Key West Nightlife Walking Tour

Key West Nightlife Walking Tour

The most famous nightspots in Key West are those offering the world's most famous sunset. The city's tradition is to view the exceptional sunsets on the decks of bars. Besides the views the bars offer beer, a variety of tropical drinks and good music. This self-guided tour will lead you through the hottest nightspots of Key West.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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