The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum – A Travel Guide

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum – A Travel Guide

The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West, Florida offers a glimpse into the daily life and legendary literary career of one of America’s most renowned authors. As both Hemingway’s home for over ten years and the place where he wrote some of his most famous works, this estate turned museum provides unmatched insight while also capturing the vibrant essence of Key West. This travel guide details everything you need to know to fully experience the magic of this famous residence.

Hemingway’s Key West

In 1928, Ernest Hemingway and his wife Pauline visited Key West while traveling from Paris to Wyoming. Captivated by the remote island’s adventurous tropical spirit, the couple bought a Spanish Colonial house in 1931 and made Key West their home base until 1940.

During his decade living and writing out of Key West, Hemingway penned some of his most celebrated novels and short stories, including Death in the Afternoon, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, and To Have and Have Not. His fishing exploits became legendary as he set sail to catch mammoth marlins from his boat Pilar. The wild island provided the perfect escape and inspiration for the writer, who enjoyed observing the lively Key West characters and their escapades at Sloppy Joe’s Bar.

Today, the house remains just as Hemingway left it, filled with original furniture, memorabilia and of course, his beloved cats. By touring the estate and its lush tropical gardens, visitors gain wonderful insight into this Nobel-Prize winning author’s remarkable life.

Getting to the House

The Hemingway Home resides at 907 Whitehead Street in Key West’s Old Town neighborhood, nestled among charming historic homes dating to the late 1800s. Those arriving by car can easily find parking along neighboring streets, with free spots opening up within a few blocks at most times of day. For visitors flying into Key West International Airport, taxi rides to the museum take around 15 minutes. And for cruise ship passengers, scheduled shuttle services provide transportation to all major Key West landmarks and museums, including the Hemingway Home. Renting a bicycle also offers a classic way to explore the island and work up an appetite before your tour.

Purchasing Tickets

Tickets to the Hemingway Home can be purchased online via the museum’s website up to six months in advance for a small fee, allowing visitors to reserve a specific tour date and time. Purchasing well ahead of your trip helps avoid sellouts, especially during the busy winter tourism season between Christmas and Easter.

Walk-up tickets are also available daily from 9am to 5pm at the home’s admissions window on Whitehead Street. Be aware that substantial wait times to enter can occur during peak spring break and summer travel seasons without an advance reservation.

Admission tickets grant access to both the museum residence as well as the property, detailed later in this guide. Visitors should allow 1 to 1.5 hours to fully experience the grounds and home. After checking in, you’ll receive a complimentary map and informational pamphlet for self-guided tours of the estate. Know that interior photography is not permitted out of respect for the museum collection. However, guests can take as many photos as desired within the lush outdoor grounds.

Touring the Residence & Gardens

From the moment you walk through the front gate and spy the stately house draped in lush palms, vines and bougainvillea, the serene mood Hemingway often wrote about conjures itself. Your journey begins out front, where guides offer details about the home’s unique history and architecture, including its construction from native limestone in 1851 by wealthy widow and salvage wrecker Asa Tift. This provides the perfect introduction before heading inside.

Within the thoughtfully preserved rooms, displays provide glimpses into the daily lives of the Hemingways, from their dining habits to lounge areas where the novelist would both write by hand and later type out pages on his trusty typewriter. Several black and white photographs showcase the family’s exotic travels and adventures big game hunting in Africa and deep sea fishing in the Caribbean. Upstairs, the master bedroom where Ernest and Pauline slept remains intact, along with the towering bookcase the author used to store his weighty collection of texts. Perhaps most special is his second floor writing studio, where he drafted literary classics like Green Hills of Africa over his cherished, well-worn wooden desk. Tour guides remind visitors to pause and absorb the inspiration that obviously filled this cherished space where Hemingway did some of his finest work. For true fans, walking these creaking floorboards offers a magical glimpse into the daily existence of possibly America’s most influential 20th century fiction writer.

After thoroughly exploring the old home’s nooks and crannies, guests then wander through the sprawling tropical gardens surrounding the residence. Luxuriant foliage like giant banyan trees, swaying palms, fragrant frangipani and colorful bougainvillea immerse visitors in the natural beauty and seclusion that Hemingway regularly enjoyed. For green thumbs, the home’s gardener also provides complimentary tours explaining the history behind the estate’s unique botanical features.

While making your way around the grounds, visitors will undoubtedly notice the many polydactyl (six-toed) cats lazing about – many direct descendants of Hemingway’s original feline pet named Snow White. These friendly resident felines now have free rein of the property and serve as one of the museum’s most iconic highlights.

Tips & Recommendations

To make the most of your Hemingway Home tour, keep these tips in mind:

1. Visit Early – Arrive right when the museum opens or at least before 11am to avoid the largest crowds. You’ll have more unrushed time to linger inside the home and outdoors. The mood also feels more serene early in the day.
2. Dress Lightly – Temperatures hover around 80 degrees year-round, with intense humidity. Light-colored, loose breathable fabrics help you stay cool.
3. Wear Comfortable Shoes – With an acre of gardens and rooms on two floors to explore, broken-in walking shoes prove much more pleasant than sandals or flip-flops when touring the property.
4. Bring a Hat and Sunglasses – Florida sunshine glares brightly, making UV protection a must during your outdoor tour portions. The gift shop also sells panama hats perfect for shading à la Papa Hemingway.
5. Photograph the Cats – No trip to the Hemingway Home is complete without snapping pics interacting with the legendary polydactyl felines. But don’t disturb any sleeping cats.
6. Peruse the Gift Shop – Find everything from Hemingway novels, Spanish tiles, home décor, cat toys and local artisan crafts to commemorate your visit. Sales directly support preservation of the landmark property.
7. Refuel at Local Restaurants – After soaking up the atmosphere, take a short walk to Duval Street’s famous restaurants and watering holes that Hemingway himself frequented. He loved drinking daiquiris at Captain Tony’s Saloon!

No trip to Key West feels complete without paying respects to native son Ernest Hemingway at his cherished island residence. Wandering the halls where an American literary giant found inspiration and escapism offers an unforgettable experience for bibliophiles and casual visitors alike.

Share this article on social