Florida Keys – Islamorada

After my great trip to Key West and Fort Jefferson last Christmas, I got inspired to check out more of the Keys and in particular, the lighthouses down that way. I found that there is a snorkeling boat cruise out to a lighthouse on Sombrero Reef just off the coast of Marathon. Since this winter has been unseasonally cool, I’ve been waiting for it to warm up enough to do this trip, so I decided to give it a try this past weekend. I figured while I’m down in the Keys, I might as well plan some other fun adventures too, so I also booked a small boat trip out to Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key.

After leaving at 6am on Saturday morning, my first stop 2 1/2 hours later was at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada. Myself and 6 other passengers took the boat ride out to Indian Key first, which has been turned into a historic state park. Rich with history, particularly around the 1830’s, a ghost town of streets is all that remains, with ruins of long-gone buildings from its storied past. As I walked the deserted streets, it reminded me of the ghost town remains from Egmont Key in St. Petersburg. We then took the boat over to Lignumvitae Key, another island that has been converted to a botanical state park. The island features the Matheson House from 1919, and a tour guide gave us the history of the house and island, along with a walk along an abandoned road that featured many different types of trees, including the Lignumvitae tree. The three-hour boat tour was very cool and it was great to learn more about the Key’s history. I even got to see the Alligator Reef lighthouse way out in the distance. It was tempting to ask the boat captain if he could swing by it.

After the boat ride, I headed down south about 10 miles to Long Key State Park. I’ve been through this park once before, but this time, I got out and hiked all the cool trails along the beach. There is also excellent beachside camping here, but the waiting list for a site is quite a few months. I was also hoping to paddle the canoe trails, but the strong wind gusts prompted a small craft advisory, and no canoes were allowed in the water at that time. My next point of destination was a roadside fishing pier along one of the many bridges that connect the Keys. And from all the fish being caught, it was a good day for quite a few fisherman. As I continued my trek south, I stopped by Curry Hammock State Park, which I cannot recall that I’ve been to before. I ended up doing the 1.5 mile hike through the hammock on the other side of the main road, which I thoroughly enjoyed and found to be much different than alot of the hikes I go on in Florida. I didn’t plan on going to this park, but I did plan on my next locale – Crane Point Nature Center & Historic Site in Marathon.

Featuring the Museum of Natural History and a Wildlife Bird Center, this area was named after the Crane family, who built a house here in 1954. Yet it’s another house at this area that really shows off its history, as the Adderley House was built here in 1903 and is the second oldest in the Keys. Made of tabby, a type of concrete, it is the only house remaining from that time as the other wooden houses in the area were eventually destroyed by the various hurricanes in the the area.

After Crane Point, I checked into the campground at Knights Key and did the 2-mile walk to the end of the old Seven Mile Bridge and onto Pigeon Key. Since I had planned to take a boat cruise out to Pigeon Key on Sunday, I decided to walk back the 2 miles to my car instead of hanging out down on the key. Just as I finished my walk, the sun was getting ready to set, so I ordered a scrumptious pineapple-habanero grouper dish at the aptly named Sunset Grille and Raw Bar. After enjoying a beautiful sunset over the bridge and walking around the area for a bit, I retired to my tent, where I endured a constant 25-mile wind blowing up the sides of my tent and chilly low-50’s temps. I’m not sure how much I slept that night, but I do remembering dreaming, so I think I got some sleep.

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