Check Out This Hidden Gem In Key West

by joeheg

There are plenty of things you think about when planning a visit to Key West. You might want to hit the famous bars along Duval St. or get a picture at the Southernmost Point. Nature lovers can go for a trip to nearby snorkeling locations or maybe you just want to sit by the pool.

However, there’s one location that visitors often walk right past on the way to stand in a queue for a picture with a large buoy. We’re embarrassed to say that for our many trips to Key West, we never visited until recently.

The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
1316 Duval Street Key West, Florida

The location is open every day from 9 AM to 5 PM, with the last entry into the conservatory at 4:30 PM. They do close early on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Here are the admission prices.

  • General Admission – $15.00
  • Local (Monroe County) -$13.00
  • Seniors 65+ and Military -$12.00
  • Children 4-12 years – $11.00
  • 3 years and under – Free

For Key West, those prices are reasonable considering that your admission is good for the entire day.

When you enter the building (through the gift shop), it looks like another gift shop/art store on Duval St. The main building is a two-story home and blends into the surroundings so that it’s easy to walk right by. It’s when you pay your admission and enter the back that it gets amazing.

You start by walking through a display explaining the lifecycle of butterflies and caterpillars feasting on host plants. All the butterflies on site are bred for the conservatory, with none of them caught in the wild.

There’s an entry area to the conservatory and when you walk in, it’s an amazing sight.

a green garden with plants and trees

While the green oasis is impressive enough, it doesn’t do the area justice. The frenzy of kinetic motion is overwhelming. I’ve been to butterfly gardens where you have to look around to find them. That’s not the case here, as they are everywhere.

Floating on air, the ballet done by the butterflies is mesmerizing. Many guests could only stand and stare at the scene around them.

butterflies flying in the air

The butterflies take time to rest and feed on the plants, giving a perfect time to get some better pictures.

a butterfly on a plant

Butterflies are the main focus of the conservatory, but there are other animals as well. Several tropical birds are flying around the trees and then there are two of the newest and most famous residents. A breeding pair of flamingos named Rhett and Scarlet arrived in 2013 and quickly became guest favorites.

a group of flamingos in a pond

Living in a pond at the center of the conservatory, you’re able to get up close and personal if they want to be social.

a flamingo standing in front of plants

I lost Sharon for about 15 minutes as she just stood there and watched them (Note from Sharon: I LOVE flamingos).

a person looking at flamingos in a fence

We did encounter one other resident.

a turtle on a wood deck

Once you have your fill (there are plenty of places to sit down along the path if you want to relax and soak it all in), you exit back into the shop. There’s a large display of butterflies mounted in frames. Since the average lifespan of a butterfly is only 14 days, there’s no supply shortage.

a wall with butterflies in frames

Knowing that these beautiful creatures are only alive for such a short time makes you want to live your life with a little more purpose.

While many touristy places in Key West trend to the cheesy side, the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is a place where you can leave all of your problems outside, marvel at the world around you, and live in the moment.

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