Paradise Found, Key West Butterfly Conservatory

Summer in the Adirondacks

Having grown up in upstate New York’s Adirondack Mountains, I guess it’s only natural I adore jagged landscapes covered by mature evergreens. As a teenager, I traveled with my family to Maine where I had my first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean, its pounding surf at Pemaquid Point’s mesmerizing. Years later, I fell head-over-heels for palm tree sunsets as I ventured further from my homebase. Oddly enough, another place I consider to be a slice of heaven isn’t out in the wild, but inside a building on Duval Street in Key West, Florida.

One of the many reasons I am drawn back to Old Town each year is the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. This must-see KW attraction was one we almost overlooked, having toured St. Maarten’s butterfly farm years earlier and wrongly assuming we could cross this activity off our travel to-do list. Thankfully, our B&B’s manager convinced us this conservatory was worth the fee and our time.

The first stop on the self-guided tour is the Learning Center, a smallish room with educational exhibits. Here the guest may view a short butterfly video and look at butterflies in various stages of their life cycle. Wall maps also show worldwide butterfly species distribution. Once a person has had her fill of facts, she enters the main part of the building where the large, glass-domed conservatory serves as a weather-controlled tropical oasis for its lucky residents.

Between forty to fifty exotic species of butterflies rest, fly, or sip nectar, unconcerned about human presence within the conservatory and co-existing with butterfly-friendly birds that control the room’s mosquito and aphid populations. Tranquil, filtered music harmonizes with birds chirping, while a water feature provides a backdrop of soothing white noise. Fragrant tropical flowers scent the space as the guest strolls along the brick walkway. Winding through the leafy, colorful interior, the path crosses over the koi and turtle pond via a wooden bridge. Photography and videotaping within the conservatory is allowed and all guests encouraged to stay as long as they wish.

As for my husband and me, we spent more than two hours in our little Paradise Found, much of our time simply relaxing on butterfly-shaped chairs as we bird watched. When photographing, I was amazed how easy it was to get the ethereal butterflies to pose. Unlike my previous butterfly farm experience, no Zoom or Sport camera setting was needed!

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I hope you’ve enjoyed these photos–my little escape from the ordinary. Whether you find beauty in a dew-covered spider web, blooming orchids, an Alaskan glacier, or Saguaro cactus, I wonder:  Where on Earth do you find paradise?

31 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jaja Radak
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 06:16:43

    Love butterfly… a very nice creature

  2. Catie Rhodes
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 09:21:48

    How neat. We’ve never been to one of these, even though they have one in Houston. I think it would be beautiful, but, like you noted, it’s one of those things you just don’t put high on your list. I’ve discovered the things you expect the least of often turn out to be the most worthwhile. 😀

    I love your Key West stories.

  3. Jeannie Moon
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 14:07:43

    Gorgeous. I’ve been to the butterfly farm on St. Maarten and was awed by it. If (and when) I get to Key West, I’ll make a point to stop here.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 01, 2011 @ 16:37:48

      In the meantime, you may want to check out YouTube videos about the KW Nature Conservatory (I included one of my faves in the post). The only problem I have with most of them is the audio seems much harsher than in reality. It does give you a feel for the sheer numbers of butterflies and the beauty of the flora though. I liked the St. Maarten butterfly farm, but was unable to capture any good shots there. Those butterflies were quick!!

      Thanks for stopping by, Jeannie!

  4. Patty Blount
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 15:31:40

    Pretty! Thanks for sharing.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 01, 2011 @ 16:44:30

      Hi Patty,

      I’m very much an amateur photographer, too, but was still able to capture the beauty of this incredible place. Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  5. Tuere Morton
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 17:23:00

    Lovely, lovely pictures Jolyse!!My paradise is anywhere in nature where it’s quiet and peaceful…and comfortable. Not too hot, not too cold but just right. A good book helps and great food is better! 😉

  6. Jaja Radak
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 02:39:39

    You should stop by at my page. Because I have some pictures of them in wild. 🙂

  7. Debora Dale
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 07:38:45

    What a calm and soothing post. I loved this. You made me feel like I was there. What a treat to find and enjoy these little pieces of paradise. When we want an escape, we head to the NY Botanical Gardens. We’ve been to so many wonderful places over the years and they all stir us in some way, but the Gardens are close – right in the middle of The Bronx. Stepping inside is like Dorothy walking into Oz. One step away and it’s another world – peaceful, alive, green, lush. That’s our go-to escape when things get hectic at home. Your post made me want to make another trip there. Soon.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 02, 2011 @ 08:01:08

      Thanks for writing about your go-to place for peace and relaxation, Debora.

      I lived in Riverdale near the Botanical Gardens for two summers, but never visited. Now you’ve piqued my interest. I’ll have to trek into the city to experience this special oasis.

      Enjoy your next trip, Dorothy. 🙂

  8. Maggie Van Well
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 10:29:28

    Beautiful! I also go to Butterfly Conservatories whenever I see one in my travel destinations.

    The one in Niagara Falls is awesome. I went to another one, too. Damned if I can remember where though. lol Might have been St. Martin or San Antonio…or was it San Francisco? Ah, well. Either way, thanks for sharing the great pictures!

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 02, 2011 @ 12:35:00

      I wasn’t aware there are so many butterfly conservatories. I’d love to see photos of all your travels, Maggie. You’ve been to many more places than me. 🙂

  9. Alica
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 11:34:20

    Our local botanical gardens has a green house for tropical plants and butterflys they are so amazing.

  10. Patricia Yager Delagrange
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 11:47:39

    Jolyse, that was beautiful. Your photos all look professional and are so soothing. To be honest I have been creeped out by butterflies all my life and not until recent years have I been able to appreciate their beauty. I’d love to go to that Conservatory. I think we may have something like that here in San Francisco. I’ll have to check it out.
    Thank you for making my morning.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Aug 02, 2011 @ 12:42:01

      Hi Patty!

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m an amateur photographer with a great camera that does all the work. I’d love to hear about your take on the San Francisco conservatory, should you go.

      I’m happy I added some cheer to your morning. 🙂

  11. Doree Anderson
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 16:45:45

    Tranquil. I would enjoy this. Very nice pictures. I enjoy sitting on the rocky shore of the Ozarks early in the morning looking across the lake. The calm smooth water periodically breaks with the splash as a fish jumps out to catch a bug. A little nip in the crisp fresh air. I’ve got to get back out there soon 🙂 Thanks Jolyse.

  12. Jennette Marie Powell
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 18:31:34

    If I ever get back to Key West, I’ll definitely have to check this out. My family visited a similar butterfly conservatory in Niagara Falls, ON – amazing how much there is to see! Your photography is gorgeous, too!

  13. Donna Coe-Velleman
    Aug 03, 2011 @ 17:02:29

    Thanks for the wonderful pictures. I’ve never been to one, although want to. Put that on my to-do list.

    My tranquil place is my mother’s back yard. She lives right on the shores of Jarrett Bay in N.C.. I sit on her back porch for hours reading or looking out at the few small undeveloped islands. I especially love it when the sun starts to set. The ever darkening indigo sky transforms the water and trees into mere silhouettes as the gently lapping waves lull you with their siren’s call. Ah tranquility.

  14. Jessica Thomas
    Aug 04, 2011 @ 21:10:26

    How wonderful! It looks likes a bit of heaven on earth. Great pictures too.

  15. Carolyn
    Sep 04, 2011 @ 16:15:33

    I’ve been to St. Maartin once and Key West three times but never noticed any butterfly conservatories. But that was back in 1989-90 when I worked for Pan Am.

    I planted my backyard in wildflowers two years running and attracted many birds, bees and butterflies (but too many gophers) her in the Southern Sierras. Nice photos.

    • Jolyse Barnett
      Sep 04, 2011 @ 19:06:03

      Hi Carolyn!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I love to hear from fellow travelers. It sounds like you have your very own conservatory in your backyard (complete with pesky gophers, oh well). That’s really nice. I’ve considered planting butterfly bushes in my backyard near the pool. Maybe I’ll do that this fall in anticipation of next summer.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. Visit any time. 🙂

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