State Parks of the Middle and Lower Keys
In the Middle and Lower Florida Keys, four unique state parks - Long Key, Curry Hammock, Bahia Honda and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic - are easy to explore and offer some of the best recreational opportunities in the 125-mile-long island chain.
FLORIDA KEYS - In the Middle and Lower Florida Keys, four unique state parks - Long Key, Curry Hammock, Bahia Honda and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic - are easy to explore and offer some of the best recreational opportunities in the 125-mile-long island chain.
With the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States paralleling the Keys, state park waters are teeming with tropical fish and colorful coral formations. These four parks, open daily from 8 a.m. until sunset, also offer some of the destination's best beaches.
Long Key State Park
Located in the Middle Florida Keys on Long Key, just southwest of the town of Layton, the park was the site of railroad magnate Henry Flagler's Long Key Fishing Camp in the early 20th century.
The park's campground, with four hike-in and two group tent-camping sites, is undergoing an extensive renovation targeted for completion by late 2022. Once completed, the campground is to offer 44 campsites within the once-luxury destination for the rich and famous traveling on Flagler's famed Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad.
Birding is popular along the 1.1-mile-long Golden Orb Trail that leads visitors through five nature areas. Along the trail, white-crowned pigeons and rare Key West quail doves can be spotted. Other attractions include picnic tables with grills, sea kayaks for rent and restrooms with showers.
Long Key State Park is located at 67400 Overseas Highway, mile marker 67.4. Visit floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/Long-Key-state-park or call 305-664-4815.
Curry Hammock State Park
Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon offers the largest uninhabited parcel of land between Key Largo in the Upper Keys and Big Pine Key in the Lower Keys. Year-round birding is popular. The park, with a beautiful mangrove creek and miles of pristine coastline, preserves essential Keys native ecosystems that include mangrove swamp, rockland hammocks and seagrass beds.
Secluded protected waters make the park an ideal place to kayak and paddleboard. Curry Hammock is known as a hidden spot for shallow-water fishing. When conditions are windy, the park's oceanfront is a popular place to launch windsurfers and kiteboards. Hikers can enjoy a 1.5-mile trail through the park's bayside hammock.
Other attractions include a 28-site oceanfront campground and an unspoiled coastline.
Curry Hammock State Park is located at 56200 Overseas Highway, mile marker 56.2. Visit floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/Curry-Hammock-State-Park or call 305-289-2690.
Bahia Honda State Park
This 500-acre park, located on Bahia Honda Key in the Lower Keys, is a top family getaway with award-winning beaches, soft sand, warm shallow water and excellent snorkeling. The park is undergoing a $2.96 million restoration of its northernmost mile-long Sandspur Beach, its 24-campsite Sandspur campgrounds, a 155-car parking area and two shower towers at the day-use area, with completion targeted by late 2022.
Railroad magnate Henry Flagler's famed Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, completed in 1912, helped to transform Bahia Honda Key into a subtropical destination. From the old Bahia Honda Rail Bridge, known as the Over-Sea Railroad Bridge, the park offers sweeping views. The original trestle railroad structure, with a highway built on top, is a must-see point of interest.
Bahia Honda means "deep bay" in Spanish and the park was named after its deep natural bay, a harbor for sailors, under the bridge. A nesting ground for sea turtles including the hawksbill, the park also attracts wading seabirds and shorebirds. Bahia Honda's beaches include Calusa Beach, adjacent to the Bahia Honda Bridge, and Sandspur.
Overnight visitors can enjoy 80 total campsites - 48 sites for both RVs and tents, and 32 tent-only sites, 16 with electricity and water and 16 nonelectric sites with water - and six cabins on stilts. Cabins can be reserved up to 11 months in advance. Other park amenities include pavilions, freshwater showers, restrooms, grills, picnic tables, beach wheelchairs and a mobi floating chair for in-water accessibility. Concessionaire Coral Reef Park Co. sells food, souvenirs and beachwear, rents kayaks, and operates daily snorkel trips to the reef at Looe Key.
Bahia Honda State Park is located at 36850 Overseas Highway, mile marker 37. Visit floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/Bahia-Honda-State-Park or call 305-872-2353.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Florida's southernmost 56-acre state park in Key West is the island city's favorite beach park, known for excellent snorkeling, swimming, picnicking, fishing and nature trails. Among locals, it's a popular gathering spot for families and friends.
Fort Zachary Taylor was constructed from 1845 to 1866, one of 47 built to defend the nation's southeastern coastline. The fort, named after President Zachary Taylor, played important roles in Civil War and Spanish-American War history. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973.
The beachfront Cayo Hueso Cafe offers a variety of beach sundries, souvenirs, snacks and sandwiches. Snorkel and water gear, lockers and beach chairs can be rented.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is located at 601 Howard England Way in Key West. The fort inside the park is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Visit floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/fort-zachary-taylor-historic-state-park or fortzacharytaylor.com, or call 305-292-6713.
Florida Keys state park information: floridastateparks.org
Florida Keys state park overnight stays: floridastateparks.org/stay-night or call 800-326-3521
Florida Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com or 1-800-FLA-KEYS
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