Big Pine Key and the surrounding islands of the Lower Keys is very different from the Upper Keys and Marathon. Once you cross the Seven Mile Bridge, it's a whole different world. It's your reward for driving this far out, because fewer people make it this far, and consequently there is less development, less frenzied congestion, fewer retail stores and signs lining the Overseas Highway. After the expansive strip through Marathon, where you pass chain food store after store, with endless choices of where to eat, once you hit Big Pine Key and the rest of the Lower Keys, it's lonely driving until you hit Key West. There is a little outdoor mall here, like a shopping plaza, but it doesn't exactly inspire thoughts of fine cuisine. If you're hungry, stop in Marathon unless you plan on committing a crime and spearing one of the Key Deer on Big Pine. There just aren't that many places to eat from here on out. If you do happen to find an open restaurant on Big Pine or surrounding islands, be warned: you might wish you'd stopped at McDonald's after all.
Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge
You won't find geat dining facilities, but you will find a lot of trees. Big Pine Key is wonderfully dark, wooded, and au natural compared to the rest of the Keys, and you'l find more scrub and slash pine here than anywhere else along the 100 or so miles of Keys. There are actual small areas of woods here, more precious than gold in some respects, in a region that seems to favor condos and malls over anything natural. The land is low and wet, so "preserving" it wasn't a difficult choice in many cases. There are a lot of sinkholes here because of the way the island was formed. Alligators love the network of sinkholes throughout the island, so watch out. The area used to catch on fire when the old railway was in use. Sparks from the wheels grinding against the tracks as the train passed used to shower off into the woods, setting the trees on fire. The early Keys people (settlers is what they really were) used to just up and burn the trees to make charcoal or as a drastic way to hunt the Key Deer. Pretty severe methods for a pretty severe way to scratch out a living, apparently.
Seven miles offshore from the Big Pine Key area you'll find Looe Key, which is perhaps the best, clearest reef to dive and snorkel in all of the Keys. Like what happens in Key Largo, the Gulf Stream waters come very close to this part of the reef and are constantly cleansing the water, making it super clear.
Because of the abundance of trees on Big Pine, it's also a haven for all types of birds, but especially predator birds. These would be your hawks, ospreys, falcons, and eagles. Birdwatchers, this is a good place to view Osprey nests, a Florida Keys specialty. They mate for life. The larger the nest, the longer the "couple" has been together. Also, starting in the waters around Big Pine Key, is the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. The Florida Keys (and Southern Florida) are the only place on earth where the Great White Heron is found. It's the largest wading bird in North America, and it is a beautiful creature. The refuge was created in the 1930s and extends all the way to Key West. Keep your boat wake low, don't use a jet ski, and don't anchor near the islands in the refuge, because you might disturb the Herons, their nests, or their babies.
If you have the time, check out the Blue Hole, which is a giant sinkhole made even more giant by blasting. There's a parking lot and you can get out and walk the short trail. There are definitely alligators in here! Watson's Hammock is another good nature-lovers' destination on Big Pine. Hammock means "small stand of trees" and you'll see this word a lot in Southern Florida and the Keys. Any time there's a hammock still standing, you can bet it will become a park and there might be trails. That's how rare hammocks are these days.
By Car: Either traveling on busier Route 1 with “crocodile crossing”
signs or Card Sound Road, a longer but more beautiful and scenic route
to the Florida Keys, Big Pine Key is located only 20 miles from Marathon.
By Air: With several domestic and international airports
to choose from, Big Pine Key can be easily reached by travelers around
Big Pine Key
Florida Keys Marathon
Monroe County Florida
9400 Overseas Hwy
Marathon, FL 33050
Key West International
3491 S. Roosevelt Blvd
Key West, FL
Miami International Airport
4200 N.W. 21 Street
320 Terminal Drive, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Enjoy Big Pine Key’s Yearly Climate
Of the entire state of Florida, the Keys receive the lowest amount of
average yearly rainfall. When it does rain, it comes in brief periods,
often returning the skies to a beautiful, clear day for continued outdoor
activities. As for brutal, humid, summer heat, you won’t find it
in Big Pine Key. And hurricanes like to skirt around the Keys, leaving
its beauty untarnished. With the ocean breeze to keep cool, visitors love
the reliable, balmy climate of the Florida Keys.