The tiny island of Key West is only 3×5 miles. But it has a good number of gardens that are open to the public. There is no more tranquil spot in Key West than in one of the beautiful island gardens, and they provide a wonderful setting for weddings and other events. I enjoy visiting these spots in my spare time, but I generally chose to do this on cooler days as the heat can be quite stifling. Also, be sure to wear mosquito repellant when visiting any of these gardens as you will more than likely be eaten alive if you don’t!
Audubon House Gardens –
250 Whitehead Street. The Audubon House Gardens in Old Town Key West is an acre of land filled with orchids and bromeliads and lined with brick paths. The herb garden and nursery are set up in the 1840’s style, providing a historic look at gardening. Both native and exotic plants provide an environment that is reminiscent of old Key West. The trees and plants are labeled with their common names, Latin names, and country of origin. Open daily 9:30 – 4:30. Admission to both the house, which houses several pieces of art, and the gardens is $10 per person.
West Martello Gardens –
1100 Atlantic Boulevard. Located on Higgs Beach, the gardens are home to the Key West Garden Club. Once a civil war fort, later used by the Navy for target practice, the crumbling brick edifice is now filled with Banyan trees and lush tropical foliage; there are actually around 90 plant species in the gardens which are being labelled in an ongoing project. You will also find vaulted ceilings, gun mounts, gazebos, waterfall and water lilly pond, and a conservatory here. Admission is free, but hours are not regular so you kind of just need to wing it if you plan on visiting and hope that they are open.
Oldest House Museum and Gardens –
322 Duval Street. At the rear of the Oldest House is a large and peaceful garden. As you stroll through the garden you will see artifacts from the sea and many, many trees including Cuban trees, banana trees, coconut palms, oleander bushes, and more.The garden has brick pathways, benches to sit and relax as you take in the beauty, a gazebo, and restrooms. Here you will also see the only surviving Cook House in South Florida. Admission to the house and gardens is free and open to the public from 10 am to 4 pm every day except Sunday and Wednesday. Guides are available to provide historical information and to answer questions.
The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden –
5210 College Road. This is the only “frost-free” botanical garden in the continental USA, home to much endangered plant life and to many rare species of native birds. The forest also serves as a major migration stop many birds from as far away as South America. Another little known feature of the forest is that it actually has two of the last remaining fresh water ponds in the Florida Keys. The education center has several friendly volunteers to teach you about the forest. But you will also find several photos to look at as well as a short film to watch about the flora and fauna here. There are 4 self guided information tours, a courtyard with a waterfall playing home to happy turtles, and several species of butterflies fluttering around. Admission is $5.00 per person. Guided tours are available on request with advance notice; tours last approximately 1.5 hours. The cost is $15 per person or $25 for two persons. Locals bringing an out-of-town guest are free. The Gardens are open daily 10 am to 4 pm, closed on Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, and 4th of July.
Nancy Forresters Secret Garden –
1 Free School Lane. Located at the end of a hidden and narrow little street, artist Nancy Forrester has created a mini rainforest from her yard by planting several exotic tropical plants. There are actually around 100 species of plants living here, including ferns, orchids, fruit trees, and palms. The garden also houses many birds, mainly parrots. Nancy loves nature and rescues several birds from all over, not just Key West. Admission is around $10 per person which helps Nancy pay for the garden’s upkeep and the care of the birds. Open 10 am to 5 pm.
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservancy –
Not exactly a garden, but among the hundreds butterflies and birds is a collection of many beautifully flowering plants, waterfalls, and trees. There are about 50 species of butterflies here from around the world living in a climate-controlled, glass-enclosed habitat. No need for bug spray here!
Lastly, several of the B&B’s that dot the island are renowned for their beautiful gardens. Breakfast is typically served in the gardens each morning. Some with the most noteworthy gardens include the Gardens Hotel and Simonton Court.