On Upper Duval Street is a fairylike world of flowering plants, vibrant butterflies and cascading waterfalls at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Day-trippers can experience magical winged creatures at the facility that boasts more butterflies per square foot than any other in the country.
“We have butterflies from every continent except Antarctica and there are more than 50 varieties. Every time you come back you will see something new,” said store manager Amanda Scott. “It was created by owner Sam Trophia to realize his boyhood dream. He has wanted to create something like this since he was nine years old.”
Located right on Duval Street, visitors enter a “normal” Key West structure of clapboard and dormers and gingerbread architectural details that conceals a massive conservatory to the rear. There, butterflies, moths and birds flutter about, landing on delicate flowers full of nectar such as the powder puff plant, fruits and sometimes a human visitor (it tickles!). In October, visitors might glimpse the vibrant Bishop Weaver with its bright orange wings during mating season or the enormous Atlas Moth.
“The Atlas Moth can have a wing-span of up to 12-inches. The largest one I have seen was 11-inches in my three years working here,” said butterfly caretaker Charlie Croston.
The conservatory also features pink flamingoes, coy fish and plecostomus — commonly known as sucker fish — but about 10 times bigger than those in home fish tanks.
“They grow to the size of their surroundings and they obviously get a lot larger with the room to grow,” Croston said.
Get there early because butterflies tend to wake up when the sun comes out. And an admission ticket is good for the whole day so guests can come back later.
Also on that same side of town are the best sliders in town at Key West Pub. Stop by with the family and enjoy a fine meal in the cool, air-conditioned restaurant with kind staff and a long, tasty menu.
1316 Duval St., general admission $12
1114 Duval St., $$