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Top 15 Best Museums in Key West

Top 15 Best Museums in Key West

On our first trip to Key West, we had no idea how many museums in Key West there were. Key West is a small island but packed full of interesting history.

Most visitors come for the sunshine and end up staying for the museums and local stories. Think of a museum, and Key West has probably got it. They even have a museum pass because there are so many! There are museums about prominent historical figures and underwater wildlife. There are shipwrecking treasure-seeking museums and floating ones too.

Here are the top 15 best museums in Key West to add to your itinerary. There’s something for history buffs, families, locals, and tourists alike. They’ll leave you realizing there’s more to Key West than just endless ocean and sunshine.

Expert tip: Purchase the Key West Museum Culture Pass, which is a museum pass that admission to the following four museums in Key West:

  • Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarter
  • Tennessee Williams Museum
  • Custom House
  • Fort East Martello

Hemmingway House Outside Key West Floirda

Time Estimate: 30-90 minutes

1. Ernest Hemingway House

Time Estimate: 30-90 minutes

World-renowned novelist Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West throughout the 1930s. The house he owned until his death in 1961 is now a museum. If you love Hemingway’s work or literature in general, you’ll love visiting the Ernest Hemingway Home. If you’ve heard of the house with the six toed cats, this is the place!

If you are a cat lover like me, this is one of the must-do things to do in Key West!

Father and son at the Key West Lighthouse

2. Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Museum

Time Estimate: 30 minutes

The 22m high Key West Lighthouse opened in 1848. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1969. The lighthouse has now been turned into an amazing local museum.

Look through old lighthouse photographs, then head up the 88 stairs to the top. The lighthouse has a ton of information about Key West’s economic history. From shipwrecking to cigars, Key West has an absorbing past.

Exterior View of the Shipwreck Museum - Things to see in Key West

3. Shipwreck Treasure Museum

Time Estimate: 1 hour

The Shipwreck Treasure Museum is a playground for pirate and treasure lovers. This museum is one of the best things to do in Key West with kids.

The museum is filled with exciting artifacts from shipwrecks in the area. In the golden age of sailing, 100 ships would sail by Key West daily. Kids love to climb the 65-foot lookout tower and shout, “Wreck Ashore!” You can purchase tickets here.

Exterior view of the Harry Truman Little White House in Key West - Top Tourist Attractions

4. Truman’s Little White House

Time Estimate: 1 hour

The Little White House was used by President Truman for 175 days of his presidency. Six other American presidents also used the house.

Though presidents are still allowed to stay in the house, it’s now also a museum. You can explore the house, and you’ll find a detailed timeline of Truman’s time in office.

Windstar Wind surf sail with sunburst

6. Flagler Station “Sails to Rails Museum”

Time Estimate: 1 hour

Key West is renowned for its maritime history. At one point, Key West was the richest city per capita in the entire U.S.

There are plenty of things to entertain the kids at the Sails to Rails Museum. Interactive stuff for the kids and historical artifacts for everyone else.

Key West Art and History Museum at the Customs House

5. Key West Museum of Art & History at the Customs House Museum

Time Estimate: 1 hour

This four-story, 19th-century building was originally a customs office, district court, and postal service. Now, the Custom House Museum showcases Key West’s art, culture, and people.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum in Key West

7. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Ingham Maritime Museum

Time Estimate: 1 hour

Hop aboard the USCGC Ingham, a floating museum where you can explore this prestigious military vessel.

The Ingham served as a coast guard ship for over 50 years. It is the last floating U.S. Warship to sink a WW2 German U-boat, and it’s even been given National Historic Landmark status.

dolls displayed at the voodoo museum in new orleans

8. Fort East Martello Museum

Time Estimate: 1 hour

The Fort East Martello Museum guides visitors through the local wrecking history. The most popular exhibit is the haunted doll, which would often act humanly, performing all sorts of voodoo. Visit this museum and learn about the “most haunted doll in the world.”

We recommend this Fort East Martello Ghost Tour & VIP Robert the Doll Experience.

9. Tennessee Williams Museum

Time Estimate: 1 hour

Many famous faces have called Key West their home over the years. One of America’s finest playwrights, Tennessee Williams, is no exception.

Williams’ notable plays include “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” Williams visited and lived in Key West between 1941 and his death in 1983. The Tennessee Williams Museum showcases Williams’s literary accomplishments and life while in Key West.

Oldest House Museum & Garden Key West

10. Oldest House Museum & Garden

Time Estimate: 1 hour

The oldest standing house in Key West is well worth a visit. The house was built by former ship captain Richard Cussans in 1829. The house reflects the classic conch style found all over the Florida Keys today.

Inside, portraits of the first owners of the house document the stories of Key West. Several maritime artifacts also tell local stories of shipwreckers and their discoveries. Learn more about the museum here.


11. Key West Turtle Cannery Museum

Time Estimate: 1 hour

The name of this museum may sound but don’t worry; the Key West Turtle Cannery Museum aims to protect sea turtles through its educational exhibit.

It’s the same building that, between 1912 and 1957, used to be a turtle cannery. The museum highlights how the turtle meat industry almost eliminated the species completely.

Though this Key West museum is free, donations to protect the sea turtles are always welcome!

Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West

12. Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

Time Estimate: 30 minutes

Mel Fisher was a treasure hunter known for finding one of the most famous shipwrecks.

The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum presents this enthralling shipwrecking discovery. Discover underwater archeology, piracy, and the Henrietta Marie slave ship.

One of the museum’s highlights is the lab tour, which shows visitors how salvaged artifacts are cleaned and preserved.

Red and purple soft corals while diving in Koh Lipe - Top dive sites in Lipe Island

13. Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

Time Estimate: 1 hour

The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center showcases plants and animals native to the Florida Keys.

The center’s main attraction is a mockup of an underwater lab. Aquarius is an underwater lab situated 5.4 miles off Key Largo on Conch Reef. Here, you can witness coral spawning and other ecosystem processes. It’s hard to believe this is one of the free museums in Key West.

Address: 35 Quay Rd

The Key West Firehouse Museum

14. Key West Firehouse Museum

Time Estimate: 30 minutes

Built in 1907, this station is one of the oldest fire stations in Florida. Now dedicated to telling the history of the firehouse, the Alex Vega Key West Firehouse Museum is a must-see museum.

The firehouse’s history spans from horse-drawn servicemen with hose carriages to the modern-day.

Audubon House Key West Museum

15. Audubon House Garden

Time Estimate: 1 hour

The Audubon House Garden features the work of artist John James Audubon. Explore the Audubon house for displays of local history and to see 28 of Audubon’s original works. Outside, visit the serene tropical gardens. Palms, croton, and orchids fill the garden.

Why Should a History Buff Visit Key West?

You may be surprised, but Key West is a great place for history buffs. There are so many different history museums in Key West you’ll be spoiled with choices. There’s so much to see, from museums showcasing local shipwrecking history to notable literary houses.

Where are your favorite museums in Key West?

Sloppy Joe's Key West Florida at Night