The exterior of the Key West lighthouse, one of the best places to learn about Key West history.

Where to Learn about the History of Key West

While Key West may be known for its incredible nightlife and fantastic beaches, this small Florida island is also home to a deep and fascinating history. From the boom of the wrecking industry (salvaging goods from sunken ships) to the Bahamian migration, everything that took place in its past helped shape Key West into what it is today. 

Make your vacation as special as possible by reserving your stay at Eden House, part of the PRIME VACATIONS family. This charming Key West boutique hotel, once called the Gibson Hotel, celebrates its 100 anniversary in 2024. Located near Duval Street, you’ll be within a short distance of several Key West attractions that tell the island’s story.

A Guide to Key West Museums

One of the best ways to dive into Key West’s past is to visit the museums scattered all over the island. These attractions cover a wide range of subjects.

  • One of the most popular museums in Key West is the Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House. The building now houses exhibits that cover two centuries of history, art, and events.
  • Another popular option is the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. Learn about the famous author’s life at the place he called home for roughly 10 years. Keep your eyes open for the cats that wander the grounds.
  • Mel Fisher’s Maritime Museum houses countless artifacts rescued from 17th-century shipwrecks. In addition to permanent exhibits, the museum also features special exhibits that cover a range of topics.
  • One of the biggest industries of the past was wrecking. Learn about not only this industry but also Key West’s nautical history at the Key West Shipwreck Museum.
  • Take in sweeping views of the island from the Key West Lighthouse. Before climbing the stairs, take your time looking at the belongings and photographs that tell the story of the keepers that once lived there.

Visit Key West Forts

Museums aren’t the only historical places you can visit. There are several forts on or near Key West.

  • Head to Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles west of Key West, to visit Fort Jefferson, which monitored the Gulf of Mexico waters and provided a stopping place to resupply.
  • Construction started on both Fort East and West Martello in 1862, and both were abandoned after the Civil War.
  • Named in honor of President Taylor, Fort Zachary Taylor is the centerpiece of a state park and is known as one of the best snorkeling spots.

Celebrate the History of the Eden House

The exterior of a historic Key West hotel near the best museums to learn about the island's history.

As the longest, continually operating hotel on the island, the Eden House has been around for 100 years of Key West history. Learn about this boutique hotel’s past by booking your stay today. Enjoy the heated pool before grabbing a drink at the Tiki Bar or dining at the award-winning restaurant. No matter which room you reserve, you’ll have a relaxing space to call home. Learn more about this Key West hotel or another PRIME VACATIONS property by calling 941-222-2101.

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