The Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center in Key West will take you on a fascinating journey among the flora, fauna, and animal life native to the Keys, both on land and underwater. Spanning over 6,000 square feet, the center features the world’s only underwater laboratory and plays host to plenty of interactive exhibits.
As you approach the center, you will be taken aback by its colorful exterior, which is a conglomeration of marine-inspired artwork featuring the deep oceans, mangrove shorelines, and reefs. The exterior allows you to get an idea of what lies within the center and makes for some excellent photo opportunities.
The first National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1975, and since then the concept has expanded to include thirteen different sanctuaries and two marine monuments. Today, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary acts as guardian to 2,900 square nautical miles of waters and helps bring attention to the impact of rising ocean temperatures and the threats faced by the ecosystems contained within.
What does the center has to offer?
The center provides exhibits ranging from corals, artificial reefs, marine animals, shipwrecks, and the open ocean as well as the ocean floor. For those who enjoy diving and snorkeling, you have the chance to go below the waves of the ocean and explore the shipwrecks that rest there. The sanctuary provides a shipwreck trail, which leads you from wreck to wreck, both in shallow and in deep water.
Of course, the main attraction is the center itself,as it gives you a direct glimpse into the rich and diverse environment of the Florida Keys while providing educational and informative exhibitions to help open your mind regarding just how fragile the system is. Inside the center, you have the chance to visit the Mote Marine Laboratory, where you can interact with some of the native marine life via touch pools and enjoy the 2,500-gallon aquarium reef.
Educational Learning Opportunities
The Mommy and Me program is aimed at helping little ones aged 2-5 years old discover the oceanic world alongside their favorite adults. The program takes both children and adults to the nearby bay, where you will spend time wading in the waters and collecting marine life using small nets. The fee for this program is $20.
There are also plenty of opportunities for schools and groups, college learners, and family fun days. The center and the surrounding area help children and adults alike gain a better understanding of the native species and how to better protect them.
The center offers you the chance to do a little retail therapy at its gift shop. Here, you can find plenty of interesting souvenirs, trinkets, and keepsakes that will keep the memory of your visit alive. The net profits from the sale of the items in the gift shop are returned to the center to help with its educational programs. You can find gifts suitable for all age ranges, from books, videos, and games to mugs, key chains, and stationary.
Operating Hours and Entry Fees
The center is open Tuesday to Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm and closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Admission is free, as is parking.
Mommy and Me Program
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays every week from 10:00am to 11:00am from fall to spring and 1:30pm to 2:30pm on Thursdays only. Classes at the Whale Fountain meet at the entrance to the aquarium 10 minutes before classes begin, at 9:50am and 1:20pm.
Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center, 35 East Quay Road, Key West, FL 33040, Phone: 305-809-4750