After riding the Conch Tour Train, getting literary inspiration from Hemingway, and admiring riches found by Mel Fisher, you might think you’ve hit all the highlights. Not so. If you’ve still got energy, there’s still more to conch-er around Key West!
Flagler Station Over-Sea Railway Historeum. Would a walk through an early 1900s railroad car filled with historic Floridian photographs, railroading memorabilia, and rare film footage pique your interest? Board the Flagler Station Over-Sea Railway Historeum and discover how the arrival of Henry Flagler’s railroad in 1912 forever changed Key West. Hear recorded accounts from some of the first passengers as they retell the eight-year struggle to build a railway from Miami to Key West. Often called “Flagler’s Folly” the railway is also known as one of the greatest engineering and construction feats of the 20th century. Although the railway was destroyed by a 1935 hurricane, the original train route is actually the road that today links mainland Florida to the Keys.
Harry S. Truman Little White House. Interested in a little presidential trivia? If President Truman had had his way, the official White House would have been moved right here to Key West. In fact, President Truman used the Little White House for 175 days as his winter residence during his administration of 1945-1953. He also spent 11 working vacations here, and visited several times after he was out of office. Originally built in 1890, the house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and is open for tours. It also can be rented for private events. The Botanical Gardens surrounding the house consist of nearly an acre of tropical foliage and trees, bordered by the original 1890 wrought iron fence. Green thumbs will immediately notice how small houseplants commonly found in colder climates reach giant proportions in the frost-free climate of Key West.
Key Lime Pie. Time for an energy boost? Recharge with Florida’s official dessert—key lime pie. Made with the juice of tiny, greenish-yellow fruits originally from Southeast Asia, the recipe is rather simple—mix egg yolks, key lime juice, and sweetened condensed milk and pour into a graham cracker crust. But the exact amounts of each ingredient and how they are combined are always a mystery. Developing a “secret recipe” provides plenty of friendly competition among the chef’s at Key West restaurants—all want the distinction of serving the best key lime pie and vie for the honor in local contests. Honestly, though, they’re all a little different and they’re all good, so you just need to sample a few before determining your personal favorite!
Mallory Square. How about a little souvenir shopping and nautical entertainment all in one location? You’ll find it at Mallory Square—the center of Key West’s historic waterfront. Peruse the unique Sponge Market and pick up a conch at the Shell Warehouse. Pet a live shark and other “touch tank” sea creatures at the Key West Aquarium. Watch history come to life at the Key West Shipwreck Historeum and Museum. Actors, films, and laser technology tell the story of the recently rediscovered wrecked vessel Isaac Allerton, which sank in 1856 on the treacherous Florida Keys reef.
Mallory Square is best known as the place “where the sun sets and the fun begins.” It really comes to life at the end of each day as locals and tourists alike gather on the pier with street entertainers, musicians, and pelicans for the famous Sunset Celebration. If you have any appetite left after sampling all that key lime pie, try the fried conch fritters at Mallory Square. And as you watch the sun sink into the horizon, you’ll knowing you’ve conch-ered Key West pretty fully!
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