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This national park is the only at-sea national park in the United States of America and is home to the historic Fort Jefferson. The park is located about 70 miles (112.65 kilometers) west of Key West and is accessible only by boat or chartered seaplane. The park and fort lure divers, snorkelers and nature lovers from all over the country who flock here to get a closer look at the highly-endangered staghorn coral, angelfish, rare birds and the loggerhead turtles that gave the island its name. Built in 1846, the five-sided fort covers more than 11 of the island's 16 acres (6.47 hectares). The fortress was never finished but when construction stopped, records showed that 16 million bricks had been used to build this monolith of a building. The park is also an integral component of the UNESCO-certified Everglades & Dry Tortugas Biosphere Reserve.
If you're a fan of the delicate winged creatures, then this is definitely the place for you. The Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, which treats visitors to amazing sights and smells of mother earth, has a climate controlled enclosure for about 60 species of butterflies. The colors, size, shape, history and lifespan can be studied at the Learning Center - a great experience for children and adults alike. The gallery and gift shop have lots more in store.
The Hemingway Home & Museum was the residence of the renowned author Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was known both for his grander-than-life personality and his amazing writing, including the books The Sun Also Rises and Farewell to Arms. The rooms and the collections on display give you an insight into the life of this famous writer. Keep a look out for the museum's many polydactyl (six-toed) cats that are rumored to be descendants of Hemingway's pet cat Snow White.
Spanning a distance of 113 miles (182 kilometers), the Overseas Highway is exactly what the name suggests. Offering a route between Key West and Key Largo with several intersections at different islands, the highway offers a route unlike any other. Initially an overseas railway, the route was made suitable for road traffic by constructing new roads at a different alignment from the railways. However, today, the route comprises several bridges that allow people to traverse one of the world’s most scenic highways. As you drive over the bridges, over the crystal clear blue waters of the ocean from island to island, the stunning views are sure to take your breath away.
Located by the historic Key West waterfront, this open-air marketplace and entertainment complex is a great place to start or end your visit to Key West. Known for its magnificent sunsets, the area is also home to many shops, including Shell Warehouse, Key West Sponge Market and Caribbean Cargo. The Square also features daily entertainment, which includes guitar music, juggling, and animal performances. Local sightseeing tours also depart from the Square.
Nestled in the recesses of the historic Old Town, the Little White House is a startling canopy of pristine white, which lends deep insights into the Truman Presidency. Formerly a naval base which served as the White House of America for the winter session until 1952 , this site is more like a breathing museum entrenched in a long-standing military history. To this day, functions, meetings and private events are held here, whereas elaborate tours unfold layers of the house's presidential and political history. Part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, this white-washed house yet retains some of its ancient features like well-furnished spaces including bedrooms and dining halls, treasured documents and opulent furniture. Harry S. Truman Little White House is an integral edifice etched on the pages of America's political history.
Built in 1845 and occupied by Yankee forces in 1861, the fort was finally completed in 1866. Now a National Historic Landmark, the fort offers tours to visitors. In January the park hosts the annual Sculpture Key West; if you're here in February, you'll be treated to Civil War Days. The west side of the State Park is ideal for fishing and snorkeling. In addition, the park also provides tables and grills for a picnic.
Before tourism became Key West's major source of income,'wreckers' earned their living by salvaging what they could from ships wrecked on the reefs. At the Key West Shipwreck Historeum, you can learn about the 'wreckers' and see jewelry, china, house wares and other artifacts from the Isaac Allerton, which sank in 1856. An observation tower offers a great view.
Opened in 1934, this educational and entertaining aquarium features diverse exhibits on sea life in the area and live demonstrations. Wander among the many varieties of marine life or take a guided tour. One of the major attractions of the aquarium includes daily feedings of shark and fish. Children usually enjoy the touching area, where visitors can touch marine creatures in shallow pools.
This strip of sand is one of the best-known beaches in Key West. Named after a former governor, it is just west of the airport and, at two miles long, it is the island's longest strip of sand. This beach is an excellent choice if you have children. With plenty of parking, restrooms, concession stands, chair rentals, picnic tables, watersport rentals and more, everything you need to have a great day in the sun is right at hand. The beach was hit hard by a hurricane in 1998, but it has recovered well and is flourishing once again.
Before you head back home, be sure to make your way to the corner of Whitehead and South streets. Why? Because geographically it is the southernmost point of the United States. You'll know you're in the right spot by the posted sign proclaiming the site's fame, and by the street vendors selling souvenirs and conch shells. Believe it or not, standing here you are closer to Cuba than Miami; from here, it is 150 miles north to Miami and only 90 miles south to Cuba. If you are so inclined, hang out until the evening, as this is also a great place to watch the sun set.