Located at the southernmost end of Duval Street, the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is one of the island’s most popular family-friendly attractions. It’s home to more than 60 species of butterflies and 20 species of exotic birds. A visit to the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is divided between the climate-controlled conservatory where the butterflies flutter freely, the learning center, an art gallery and a gift shop.
It’s a wonderful, educational way to spend an hour or two in Key West, especially for those interested in science and nature.
Delicate butterflies flutter about among flourishing plants and tropical flowers; you may even have one land on your shoulder. At the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, hundreds of butterflies of every size, shape and color live in a tropical haven. Learn about how the butterflies are bred in captivity and many other interesting facts about these graceful creatures. Kids and adults enjoy this unique and beautiful attraction.
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory’s main attraction is the glass-enclosed conservatory habitat where hundreds of butterflies flutter freely amidst tropical flowers and leafy trees. Meander down the path past a babbling brook and over a wooden bridge to a cascading waterfall as you marvel at the winged wonders that are often known as “flowers of the sky.”
Through exhibits and a 15-minute film, you’ll learn all about butterflies inside the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory’s Learning Center. You’ll view maps and illustrations teaching you about butterfly anatomy and their life cycle, as well as the Monarch Butterfly’s migration path and where different butterfly species call home around the world. You’ll even see live caterpillars feeding or wrapped inside their cocoons in different phases of their metamorphosis into butterflies.
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory’s gallery is where art meets science. Here, you’ll find “Wings of Imagination,” works by artist Sam Trophia who preserves butterflies in airtight, clear acrylic cases once they’ve lived out their lifespan. These one-of-a-kind works capture butterflies restored in brilliant colors. Pieces range from wall and table mount displays depicting everything from a single butterfly frozen in mid-flight to creative, multi-panel murals in kaleidoscopic patterns. Works are on sale at the gallery and commissions are also available.
Who can resist leaving a museum without a visit to the gift shop? At the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, you’ll find t-shirts, hats, jewelry, coloring books, educational resources, magnets, calendars, toys, art and a wide variety of souvenirs.
When it comes to planning your visit, the best way to experience the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is to start with the Learning Center and the 15-minute film. While heading straight to the Conservatory is tempting, the Learning Center will prime you for your visit by providing a broader understanding of what you’ll see throughout the rest of the museum.
You’re guaranteed to see hundreds of butterflies in flight no matter what time of day you visit, but different butterflies are active at different times of day. In the morning, look for certain species feeding on flowers or sunning themselves. And in the evening, the Owl Butterfly – the largest species at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory – comes out to play while others head to bed.
Once you’ve wrapped up your visit at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, head to one of these nearby attractions:
If you come to Key West, it’s practically required that you make a journey to the Southernmost Point Buoy. One of Key West’s most iconic landmarks, it’s also where the famous “90 miles to Cuba” saying is scrawled. Be sure to stop for a photo – complete with views of the Atlantic Ocean behind you.
One of the most whimsical historic homes in Key West is the Victorian-style Southernmost House mansion at the end of Duval Street, built in 1896. Today, this 13-room bed and breakfast is easily recognizable for its unique conch shell pink and sea foam green color scheme, making it one of the prettiest houses on the island. The lobby encompasses a small museum open to the public where you’ll find everything from presidential artifacts to Ernest Hemingway’s correspondence. The zero entry pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean is also one of the most picturesque places to enjoy a breezy cocktail.
Just across Duval Street from the Southernmost House, you’ll find South Beach. This small stretch of beach is perfect for an afternoon swim. With beach chair and stand-up paddle-board rentals, there are plenty of options to enjoy your day in the sun.