Now that you’re done with Marathon, it’s time for the most iconic part of the trip, driving over the Seven Mile Bridge.
The newer one, that is. Which is parallel to the original Seven Mile Bridge, that you can see on your right the entire way. Most of it is abandoned, and there’s even large bushes growing on parts of it. If you want to get a closer look at it, though, go to Pigeon Key. I can’t recommend that highly enough.
Pigeon Key was used as a base camp for the workers constructing the Overseas Railroad between 1908 and 1912. There’s two main ways to get there. There’s still an intact 2 mile stretch of bridge from the Marathon end to Pigeon Key, which you can walk or bike or skateboard along.
Or you can take a boat with included guided tour from the folks at the Pigeon Key Foundation. Twelve bucks, with departures every hour and a half. Once you’re on Pigeon Key, take the tour and stay as long as you like. If you want to spend the day there, feel free. You can see the underside of the old bridge, and the new bridge in the distance. If you saw True Lies, this is where that scene was filmed. UM has a research station there, and the Key is sometimes used for weddings. I can only imagine how cool it would be to get married there. Go, go, go to Pigeon Key when you’re in the area. Seriously. Go.
- George Adderley House (5550 Overseas Highway) (NRHP)
- Crane Point (5550 Overseas Highway)
- Seven Mile Bridge (AGFHA)
- Pigeon Key Historic District (Off US 1 at mile marker 45) (NRHP)
On the other side of the Seven Mile Bridge is my favorite state park in Monroe County, Bahia Honda. Pronounced Ba-hee-ah or Ba-hay-uh, I’m not sure. I like the almost lagoon, the beaches, the nature trails, and another section of the old Overseas Railroad that you can walk on. When you get as far as you can on it, the view is stunning. The old railroad close enough to touch, the Seven Mile Bridges visible in the distance, Bahia Honda and beautiful water everywhere else. Another place I could see myself camping at some day. Moonlight on the ocean, the Milky Way filling the sky after moonset. Yep, gotta put that on the life list.
After you tear yourself away from Bahia Honda, you’ll soon be on Big Pine Key. It’s part of a cluster of larger islands at the last 30 miles of US 1. This is probably what people think of when they think about the Florida Keys. A mile or three of land, a bit of bridge, repeat. On Big Pine Key is the Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge. I wanted to check it out when I was there, but I couldn’t quite fit it in to the schedule.
About half way between here and Key West is Sugarloaf Key. It’s the home of one of the kitschiest things you’ll see on the entire trip, and it’s free.
Take the first right after the flashing light, about a tenth of a mile on, which is Bat Tower Road. There’s no street sign, and it doesn’t look like a street, but it is. The road ends in half a mile, and there it is, the Bat Tower. It was built over 70 years ago as a home for bats, in hopes that they would eat mosquitos in the area. But bats didn’t like it. So there it sits, empty, proving that you can’t always get what you want. It is rather amazing that an all-wooden structure this old in the Keys has survived sun and rain and hurricane. Moreso since I don’t think anyone takes care of it. (see Google map)
- Bahia Honda State Park
- No Name Pub (30813 North Watson Boulevard) (mentioned on the Travel Channel)
- Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge
- Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower (the end of Bat Tower Road) (NRHP) (AGFHA)
Next post, what most of you have been waiting for, I suspect. The Monroe County seat, Key West. Until then, see you on the road!