Top 10 Key West Tourist Attractions Not to Miss!

Key West Tourist Attractions

Although Key West is very, very small in size (coming in at just around eight square miles) there are a many things to do here for guests porting in on Western Caribbean cruises. With Key West now serving as an alternate stop for Grand Cayman, the area is livelier than ever, with ship after ship coming in to one of the area’s three port docks. There are some familiar activities in Key West that no doubt first time visitors will surely take advantage of like watersports and snorkeling, but there are also some lesser known attractions that should not be overlooked, whether you are a first time visitor or coming back for a repeat visit. We have put together a list of the ten best attractions not to miss during your time in Key West, and whether you are looking for a peaceful garden, a bit of history or a high flying adventure, you can find it in this island paradise.

1. Key West Aquarium: Although there is more than enough sea life swimming in the waters around Key West, you do not necessarily have to go snorkeling to see them. The local Key West aquarium houses a dazzling array of brightly colored fish, curious eels, reclusive sea horses, and of course, sharks! Both children and adults alike will enjoy the brief, hour long tour through the fish friendly environment, and the aquarium is an inexpensive activity that the whole family will enjoy. Like many Key West tourist attractions, the aquarium is located near the port, and is easy to get to.

2. Dry Tortugas National Park: If you want to be able to brag to your friends that you visited one of the hardest to get to attractions in all of the Caribbean, then booking a seaplane tour to the Tortugas is simply a must do. This lesser known of Key West attractions is perhaps so because the Dry Tortugas National Park is only reachable via catamaran tours, speedboat or small sea plane. This attraction is found seventy miles west of Key West, and for repeat visitors is one of the most splendid Key West tourist attractions not to miss. An abundance of wildlife, plants and stunning scenery awaits guests willing to board these low flying planes as well as superb snorkeling along the reef.

3. West Martello Tower & Botanical Gardens: There is no shortage of plant life in Key West, and the area is truly synonymous with paradise. But, the exceptionally well maintained gardens at the West Martello tower should not be missed by guests aboard cruises to Key West. Orchids are the stars of the show, boasting multi colored petals dangling perilously atop high reaching stems, but numerous tropical plants can be found here. The gardens are so popular, they play host to a handful of weddings every single year. The gardens are free to visit, unlike many Key West tourist attractions, and are maintained by volunteers and the local garden club.

4. Fort Zachary Taylor: Fort Zachary Taylor combines the best of both world for those who just can not decide between the beach and historic Key West tourist attractions. Situated on a very rocky shore, the fort was an important part of both the Civil War and the Spanish American War. The fort offers guided tours daily and guests can walk in the footsteps of long gone soldiers or take their pictures with a stack of cannonballs. After checking out the fort, the beach awaits. It is best left for experienced swimmers and the adventurous type however, as its rocky entrance and known stingray population make it potentially dangerous. The grounds are also an excellent venue for a picnic or watching the sunset.

5. St. Mary Star of the Sea: Although it may sound like a lighthouse or even a docked ship, the St. Mary Star of the sea is actually a church that really draws a crowd for Sunday mass. Guests traveling to Key West aboard Western Caribbean cruises can stop in for a service, or simply to visit the elegant, southern style church. The windows are actually doors, and the open air feel provides a tranquil and relaxing environment for guests whether worshiping or just visiting. Exquisitely maintained surrounding gardens feel like an oasis and the intricately designed interior is truly mesmerizing.

6. Truman House: You do not have to be a history buff to check out the Truman House, one of the neatest Key West tourist attractions that often gets skipped over entirely. The little white house was the winter “White House” for the 33rd President, and he spent thirteen vacations and 175 days in this house in paradise. The original furnishings remain as well as a whole slew of interesting Presidential memorabilia to enjoy. Knowledgeable tour guides take guests through the house, explaining a wealth of information about the former President’s winter getaway as well as the treasures found inside.

7. Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden: A little hidden gem among Key West tourist attractions awaits guests who have a penchant for feathery friends. The Secret Garden houses a colorful array of parrots including the majestic Central and South American Macaws, and guests are not only encouraged to get up close and personal looking at them but also have an opportunity to hold and touch the birds as well. Nancy Forrester’s Secret Garden boasts knowledgeable bird experts that share valuable information about the vividly hued birds, and guests are encouraged to enjoy the scenic setting of the gardens by bringing a picnic lunch and listening to music or even painting while on the grounds.

8. Duval Street: Most destinations on the itineraries of Western Caribbean cruises offer a main drag or a center of town where both locals and tourists alike gather to eat, drink, shop and enjoy. In Key West, Duval Street is the center of the hustling and bustling action, and here visitors will find a wide array of various stores, almost every kind of dining establishment imaginable, and numerous places to enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two. It has been compared (though on a smaller scale) to Bourbon Street, and guests enjoy the kitschy activities that spring up on Duval street like palm readings as well as what is often referred to as “people watching.”

9. Hemingway House: Fans of the written word will no doubt want to visit the decade long home of Ernest Hemingway, who composed nearly three quarters of his work here. The home remains nearly unchanged from the days that the famous literary genius resided here, and is also home to some other very famous residents, the six toed cats, which may be one of the most interesting Key West tourist attractions not to miss. Knowledgeable guides share with guests the history of the home as well as the beloved writer, and tours are long enough for visitors to gain a wealth of knowledge, but short enough to allow for more time for other area activities. Past guests do however encourage an early arrival, as the popular attraction can really draw a crowd as the day wears on.

10. Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum: These museums of oddities can be found in various places around the world, however each holds exciting and downright strange exhibits that vary from one to the next. The offering in Key West holds a delightful array of the weird and unusual from a shrunken human torso (courtesy of local legend Ernest Hemingway) and a mastodon skeleton. Guests will also enjoy the vortex tunnel, an interactive experience than challenges guests to remain in an upright position. The Ripley’s Museum is an excellent choice among Key West tourist attractions because it showcases items unique to the area as well as a delightful assortment of oddities from around the world.