Florida Keys Big Pine Key
Big Pine Key
The Lower Keys of Florida span from Mile Marker 40 (Baha Honda Key) to Mile Marker 7 (Boca Chica Key). Immediately after Bahia Honda, Big Pine Key is the major island in this region and the nature sanctuary of the Florida Keys.
Home to the Key Deer, preservation of the natural environment is a priority here. Coming from the U.S. Highway 1 across the Seven Mile Bridge, drivers are invited to reduce their speed to 35 mph to avoid pollution and accidents because the friendly deer like to wander outside the National Key Deer Refuge located between this island and No Name Key.
Visitors to Big Pine Key will also find within this area the Bahia Honda State Park, the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary, the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, and the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
These last ones, along with the Key West NWR, are administered by the National Key Deer Refuge, an 84,000-acre wilderness area, established in 1957 and natural habitat for other 22 federally listed endangered species of flora and fauna.
Big Pine Key is the ideal setting for snorkeling and diving, or snorkeling and kayaking among the mangroves and salt marshes. In fact, you will find many tours, eco-tours, and day trips featuring diverse activities in communion with the environment, as well as those teaching visitors about Big Pine Key ecosystem.
Do not expect to find the bustle of Key West at this area, in fact shopping, dining and lodging facilities in Big Pine Key are reduced to those closer to Key West. However, this Key offers countless opportunities for camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, and picnicking.
Otherwise, you can visit the Big Pine Shopping Center at Mile Marker 30.5 Bayside, and enjoy the biggest public food market of the region, which is close to Big Pine public library, where you can learn more about this outstanding nature spot.
The Looe Key Reef Resort & Dive Center is the bigger dive shop, accommodations, and marina in the area, but most campgrounds around Big Pine Key and others of the contiguous Lower Keys provide you with dockage and boat ramps facilities.
During April, there is a Volunteer Recognition Ceremony, held at the National Key Deer Refuge each year. This is the time when the National Wildlife Week and Earth Day is also celebrated; where else better than this key for such an event?
Big Pine Key Deer are not confined to Refuge lands; hence as wild species, they can be seen surrounding the Lower Keys. Very few preservation programs in the world allow this freedom to both endangered species and visitors wanting to approach them. Visitors are only encouraged to respect Deer and not feed them.
Back to Big Pine Key entrance, The Bahia Honda State Park is the region’s preferred spot for sunbathing, swimming, or just enjoying the Caribbean-like surroundings.
The park encompasses 524-acre white-sand beaches and is located at the foot of the Seven Mile Bridge. Topless and nude sunbathing is forbidden here.
Bahia Honda is, in addition, your last opportunity to see exposed limestone that conforms to the natural topography of the Florida Keys. Limestone can be found hiking along nature trails flanked by endangered lily thorns, silver palms, and yellow satinwood.
The largest fresh water body in the Florida Keys is also located within the Big Pine Key area and No Name Key. The old quarry Blue Hole has plenty of freshwater and fish, turtles, alligators, and wading birds that call it home.
Accommodations and places to eat and drink are mostly located next to the southern Lower Keys toward Key West. However, the short driving distances and the excellent U.S. Highway 1 and local roads, streets and boulevards make it easy to travel there quickly.
Big Pine Key has also an historic attraction just off Mile Marker 17 Bayside, at Sugarloaf Key. The wooden Bat Tower was built in 1929 and recorded on the National Register of Historic Places.
Designed by Righter Clyde Perky, was supposed to attract bats that eventually would eat the mosquitoes of the region, making the Florida Keys the paradise it is today, even though bats never came to this place.
Not the place with the common attractions seen across the other Florida Keys but its own charm, Big Pine Key is a place to enjoy a pleasant stay.