Key West, founded in 1829, is the southernmost city in the contiguous United States. In the middle of the 19th century
salvaging shipwrecks (called "Wrecking") became big business in Key West, and for a while made it the richest
city in the country. One can visit the Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum (formerly the Historeum Museum) to learn all about "Wrecking".
Now of course the big business in town is TOURISM. The majority of businesses in Key West are geared toward the tourist trade, so take lots
of tourist dollars when you visit. I have been to Key West twice, almost exactly 20 years apart (1999 and 2019). There's a lot to
see, so I divided Key West into 2 volumes. We'll tour along the waterfront and visit the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in volume 1.
In volume 2 we'll check out some more of the touristy part of town and pay visits to Hemingway House and Fort Taylor.
Click here to view photos as a slideshow. May take a few seconds to run.
Our first stop will be along the waterfront at the westernmost end of Key West. The waterfront area features attractions like the Key West Shipwreck Treasures Museum, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Mallory Square, the Key West Art and History Museum, Marqueritaville, etc. There are lots of eateries, drinkeries, and specialty shops along the waterfront. I had conch chowder at the Conch Republic Restaurant and it was delicious. I didn't take the tour of the Key West Shipwreck Museum, but did take some photos from its tower. I did tour the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, which is presented in the next section. Also, it's almost mandatory to view the sunset from Mallory Square.
Mel Fisher Maritime Museum
Mel Fisher was one of the most famous and successful undersea treasure hunters. Originally from Indiana, he moved to California and opened the state's first dive shop. He formed a slavage company (Teasure Salvors, Inc.) with his wife and sons, and became somewhat obsessed with finding the wreck of the Spanish galleon Nuestra Señora de Atocha. After several years of searching he finally located the wreck on July 20, 1985 off the coast of Florida, and recovered some $450 million worth of gold, silver, copper, and jewels. After a years-long fight with the State of Florida, SCOTUS finally ruled "finders-keepere", and the Fishers were awarded all of the treasure (less a hefty percentage in taxes). Much of the treasure is on display in the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, and artifacts can also be purchased at the associated Mel Fisher's Treasures gallery ($$$$). The museum's second floor features pirate exhibits and artifacts from the slave ship Henrietta Marie, also discovered by the Fishers.
Key West is surrounded by water, so naturally the city is into all things aquatic. Key West is known for its clear waters and coral reefs. There are boat tours of every kind - snorkeling, diving, fishing, and trips to Dry Tortugas National Park. Key West is also a port of call for many cruise ships.