Note: This story is from my book Overlooked Florida, available on Amazon.
Most people know about the big tourist attractions in Key West – Duval Street, the daily Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square, President Truman’s Little White House, Ernest Hemingway’s house, and the Mel Fisher Shipwreck Museum. But there is a lot more to see on the island that the tourist brochures don’t always list.
One hidden gem we discovered was the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, a facility of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), dedicated to educating the public about marine life and habitat.
Located in the Truman Annex area, the Eco-Discovery Center offers visitors exhibits that interpret the resources and management efforts of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, two national parks, and four national wildlife refuges.
Highlights of the 6,400 square foot facility include a simulation of the Aquarius underwater research habitat, complete with sights and sounds experienced by the aquanauts who live and work in it beneath the sea, and a high-definition theater featuring a video about the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Visitors can peer through an underwater camera to watch coral spawning, learn about the plants and animals that call this region home, or take a journey through the natural habitats of south Florida, from the Everglades to teeming coral reefs.
A high-definition theater shows a seventeen minute video about the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary by world-renowned filmmaker Bob Talbot. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which is managed by NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program, protects 2,896 square nautical miles of important marine habitat, including maritime heritage resources, as well as coral reef, hard bottom, seagrass meadows, mangrove communities, and sand flats.
We spent a couple of hours checking out the different habitat exhibits, learning about the threats mankind poses for the natural world, and admiring the fish in the Center’s impressive 2,400 gallon salt water aquarium.
Admission to the Eco-Discovery Center is free, and it is one of the few places in Key West that offers free parking while visiting.
The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center is located in the Truman Annex at the foot of Southard Street in Key West, near the entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. The Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (305) 809-4750.
Thought For The Day – Thanks to the people who walked into my life and made it better. And thanks to the ones who walked out and made it amazing.