Where can you find a conch train, conch fritters, conch shells, and the Conch Republic (pronounced “konk”)? They’re all located in the same two-by-four-mile island community of Key West, Florida! If you’re thinking of heading south for spring break this year, or you’re already snowbirding in that direction, consider going all the way—to the southernmost point of the Sunshine State.
It’s true, touristy Key West is overflowing with beaches, bars and shopping boutiques, but this remarkable port city also offers plenty of other fun-in-the-sun options— city tours, historic homes, museums, and of course, key lime pie. It’s especially easy for history buffs to get acquainted with Old Town Key West’s real character, because much of its entertaining history and highlights are within walking distance of each other.
Conch Tour Train. Does riding an open-air train through the charming streets of Old Town while listening to stories of bone-bleaching Indians, Spanish explorers, and cigar barons sound like your idea of exploring? Take the 90-minute Conch Tour Train. To say it’s fully narrated is an understatement. Knowledgeable train drivers expertly tell the tales and lively legends of Key West as the train passes more than 100 points of interest. Learn what gingerbread has to do with architecture and which former U.S. president wanted to move the U.S. capital to Key West.
Hemingway Home & Museum. Need literary inspiration for writing the next best seller? Visit the tropical home and gardens where Ernest Hemingway penned a good number of his greatest stories. Built in 1851, the Hemingway mansion-turned-museum still contains original antique furnishings used by “Papa” Hemingway and his family. Guided tours are as entertaining as the six-toed felines that inhabit the place. Over sixty cats, descendents of Hemingway’s original furry friends, make their home at this National Historic Landmark.
Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Society and Museum. Intrigued by thoughts of gleaming shipwreck treasure once lost for centuries at sea? You’ll find gold doubloons, dazzling jewels, bars of silver, cannons, and much more at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum. Take a self-guided tour and learn the long and sometimes tragic story of the Fisher family’s struggle to locate and surface one-of-a-kind artifacts and riches. Collections from the 1700’s English merchant slave ship Henrietta Marie and the 1600’s Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha are on display in this maritime museum. Jewelry and coin replicas are on sale in the Trade Goods museum store, along with nautical-themed books and videos.
Still have energy to spare? Hope so, because there’s much more to conch-er in Key West! Check back next week to learn about “Flager’s Folly” and to find out when to visit Mallory Square.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com