Key West, the Towers and Beaches.

A morning exploring the East Martello Tower and Museum, followed by an afternoon at the beach and a visit to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Bring a picnic, or buy a snack lunch at a beach stall. Don’t forget swimming gear and sunbiock.

Built in the mid-1800s to protect Key West from enemy attack, the city’s two historic towers are located on the southeast side of the island, both facing the Atlantic Ocean. The East Martello Tower (daily 9.3Oam-5pm) is on South Roosevelt Boulevard next to the entrance to the Key West International Airport.

Looking like an upside down flower pot, this cylindrical, Civil War brick fort was never fully completed or ever used in the defense of the island.

Designed to ward off coastal attacks, the tower was modeled after an ancient Corsican design.

A small part of the tower now serves as a museum for military uniforms and artifacts from the US battleship Maine, which was blown up in Havana Harbor in 1898, during the Spanish-American War. A circular staircase in the fort’s main tower leads to a citadel which provides a wonderful, sweeping view of the island and ocean. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the fort itself is a well respected attraction.

But the main draw of the tower is the East Martello Historical Museum and Art Gallery.

Run by the Key West Art and Historical Society, the museum has some very dramatic exhibits on native Indians, on Key West’s thriving cigar and sponging industries, the Overseas Highway, and Cuban history. There’s a horse-drawn hearse that once transported soldiers killed in the Spanish-American War, plane tickets and travel posters from the time when Key West was a jumping-off point for Havana vacations, and memorabilia from movies shot in Key West.

If also has a display of books by many of the famous writers (including seven Pulitzer Prize-winners) who lived and worked in Key West. Another interesting exhibit is a makeshift bamboo raft, with a tobacco sack as a sail, that was used by cuban refugees who sailed the frail vessel to key west. one of the finest museum in the state, its 13 vaulted rooms are always breezy and cool, an evoke soul stirring memories of the island’s rich history. (end of the first part)

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