Saturday, October 8, 2011

Long Key and Windley Key State Parks

To finish up my visit to Islamorada, I decided to explore the two state parks in the area that did not need a boat to reach.

Long Key State Park was a few miles south of the resort I was staying so that was the first stop on the list. Long key has a large camp ground and by the number of motor homes heading in and out, a popular one. There were also several primitive camping pavilions right on the beach with tent tie downs in the floor and hammock hooks on the posts. Not my first choice of keys lodging and after seeing the snake cross the path, not even on the top 100. There is a mile long nature trail which clearly states may be subject to being underwater. It was a bit soggy in spots but luckily we timed our trek for low tide. For about half the walk we were shadowed by a pair of osprey. The other half, carefully stepping around scurrying crabs. In between dodging dragon flies and spider webs from various species of spiders. It is pretty safe to say that watching out up, down, and straight ahead was a must. Most of the walk is inland with views of thick green foliage but at the one spot, where it's open to the ocean, a flock of wading birds were just waiting for my camera.  If you are big on camping and walking in the tropical Florida jungle then Long Key is for you.

From my seat at
On the way north, it was getting close to lunch time and Robbie's of Islamorada was the only choice. Robbie's is a full service Florida Keys style entertainment center. The best place to rent kayaks, jet skis, boat charters, grab a meal, and do a little shopping. My favorite entertainment is watching the tourist feed the Tarpon. I grabbed a seat right on the dock and watched the show while I had lunch. For a couple of bucks, you can get a bucket of fish and toss them to the giant, always hungry fish that swim right under and around the dock. Never a good idea to tease them as they will leap out of the water and try to get the dangling fish and maybe your hand. They don't have teeth but they do have a huge mouth with bony plates and will leave quite a mark and emotional scars on the little ones.

Just up the road at mile marker 85 is Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park. Fossilized coral that took hundreds of thousands of years to create was chopped out of the ground and used as fill for Henry Flagler's railroad. Around the park are the remains of the quarry and some of the coral cutting machinery. Even as late as the Sixties, the quarry was cutting decorative stone for building facades. There is a self guided tour around a maze of trails but be warned, the mosquitoes are a nuisance. Luckily I carry a spray bottle of OFF for just such South Florida emergencies but the mosquitoes were like a cloud just following and waiting for the moment I ran out of juice. The guide book loaned at the office has some 80 points of interest along the pathways. I think I learned about every tree in Florida both native and non native. Glad there was not a quiz at the end.

To walk the same ground that only a hundred years ago, men worked day in, and day out with no relief from the heat and insects and built a railroad through the jungle is almost impossible to relate to. Who now could last ten minutes in that environment. I would like to thank everyone who went before me so that I could drive home quickly and safely on a straight, smooth road in my air conditioned car, while day dreaming about this fantastic trip to Islamorada and the Florida Keys. 


  1. Very cool! Gotta say I am more of a full service gal than a primitive camping one. But heck, half the fun is in the adventure getting there!

  2. Oh don't tell me we have a psychic connection ... check out MY fossil post if you want to know what I'm talking about ...

  3. @Tex - Yes but getting back alive should always be part of the plan.

    @Red - We live in a parallel universe. One green, one red.