When the first Spanish fleets began to travel across the Florida Straits back in the 16th century, ships wrecked along the dangerous reefs of Key West and the Florida Keys. Salvaging the wreckage of those ships and their cargos, as well as the rescue of their crews and passengers — was the foundation of Key West’s economy throughout the 1800s. By the mid-1850s, Key West had become the richest city in the entire United States, all due to the lucrative wrecking industry.
The Key West Shipwreck Treasure Museum celebrates the history of the Key West wreckers with two floors of artifacts from shipwrecks that includes treasures from the Spanish fleets of the 1600 and 1700s, as well as a large collection of pieces from the 1856 wreckage of the Isaac Allerton, one of the richest shipwrecks in Key West history. Explore them all and try to lift the silver bar from the wreck of a Spanish treasure ship in 1656.
There are also a variety of audio/visual presentations, including a below-sea-level theater that provides a look into Key West’s past to see what life was like for those people who risked their lives to recover the remains of shipwrecks. In fact, much of the salvaging was done without the use of any diving equipment. Ask any of the storytellers who wander the museum in period costumes.
Finally, visit the 65-foot lookout tower for an amazing view of the island city of Key West.