Ernest Hemingway’s Home and Museum in the Florida Keys

Looking for something unique to do during your Florida Keys vacation? Check out the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. It might seem strange, but you don’t need to be a fan of literature to appreciate the Hemingway House in Key West or, more to the point, the Hemingway House cats.

It’s one of several attractions within striking distance of our vacation rentals at Playa Largo Ocean Residences. Contact us to find out more or book one of our great rentals, which are ideal for larger families or groups.

What is the Hemingway House?

Ernest Hemingway wrote some of his most famous books while living in Key West, so if you feel inspired while here, you are in the best company. Hemingway built a house here, and legend has it he chose a plot near the lighthouse so it would guide him home at night…after, you know, spending time in one of the local bars. His favorite was Sloppy Joe’s Bar, which is still open today, and you can eat there…or copy Hemingway…if you want.

When he died in 1961, the house was transformed into a museum. You can explore the beautiful grounds and then tour the house, where you will see the space where Hemingway worked. The home had an in-ground pool, a remarkable luxury at the time….although, before that, that site was a boxing ring where he took on local amateurs.

What’s with the Hemingway House Cats?

Most people don’t come here to see the house or even that swimming pool. In the 1930s, a passing sea captain gave Hemingway a surplus kitten, a cat he named Snow White.

Snow White wasn’t an ordinary cat, though. She had six toes! This is a genetic mutation known as polydactyly. (In fact, polydactyl cats have been known to have as many as nine digits on a paw, but six is more normal). The trait bred to some of her kittens, and the Ernest Hemingway House is now home to 60 cats, about half of whom have the extra toes. (The other half are just as cute, though). All of these cats are named after famous people. Some of them look rather as if they’re wearing mittens. Some of the cats are known to be descendants of Snow White, and most are likely related…Key West is not a big island.

The anomaly doesn’t cause any issues for the Hemingway cats with six toes (if it does, the extra digits may be removed). They may have an advantage in balancing, climbing, and catching prey. (Maybe they had a particular advantage on the moving deck of a ship, hence Snow White’s ship-bound relatives).

The cats have the run of the museum…and it’s best to remember it’s their home. Visitors are asked not to pick up the Key West author’s cats (remember they have extra claws), but you can pet them if they let you.

Things to Know

The museum is open for walk-ins from 9 am to 5 pm, with tours every 15 minutes, starting at 9:30 am. The 20 to 30-minute tour is included in your admission. Please don’t use flash photography at any time (it annoys the cats).

The museum is located at 907 Whitehead Street on Key West and is about a 2-hour drive from our vacation rentals…an amazing drive through the Keys. There are also bus tours available.

You can book the Hemingway Home Evening Writing Experience Monday through Thursday for the aspiring writer with money to spare. You and one guest get the tour and then access to the house, gardens, and Hemingway’s studio. Maybe you’ll be inspired to create your next masterpiece…if the Hemingway House cats will let you!

If you are interested in a trip to the Florida Keys, contact us today to learn more!

Our vacation homes have 3 or 4 bedrooms, perfect for families or groups. You can access the Ocean’s Edge Clubhouse with its pool, sun deck, and lounge. We also offer great packages, including a seaplane tour to Key West or a chef experience. Contact us to find out more.

Image Credit: Mathew Risley / Shutterstock

Skip to content