If you’re looking for a taste of history while on vacation Key West is rather the place to be, but there are some great historic sites in the Middle Keys too! From geologic history to tragedies in the not so distant past, Islamorada and Marathon (and the other islands of the Middle Keys) have quite a bit to share. These Florida Keys towns are home to historic sites, parks, and museums easy to add to a history-lover road trip.
I think you’ll find the state parks and historic districts of the Middle Keys to be quite the surprise. This is a part of Florida history that you may not have expected, particularly since the central story to the area is only within the last century or so. Take a look at our picks for historic sites in the Middle Keys, and as always, if you have something to add, leave a comment or send us a note. We’re always happy to share more!
Historic State Parks in the Middle Keys
The Middle Keys are where we go to chill and explore. We love how quiet it is here as opposed the busier historic district of Key West. You’ll find that a lot of the history here centers around the building of the railroad but there’s more to the story.
Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park
One of the most distinctive places in Florida Keys is the Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park. The park is home to a variety of rare and endangered plants, as well as several species of bird. Visitors to the park can experience activities such as picnicking, hiking, bird watching, and swimming. There is also a visitor center where you can learn more about the park and its wildlife. If you’re looking for a place to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, then Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park is the perfect place for you.
Location: 77200 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park is a Florida State Park that was a former quarry used by Henry Flagler in the early 1900s to help his building of the Overseas Railroad. The park is home to a large coral reef, a popular spot for snorkeling and diving. The reef is also a designated National Natural Landmark. It is open year-round and offers a variety of activities for visitors to enjoy. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park is a great place to learn about the area’s history and ecology.
Location: 84900 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036
Indian Key Historic State Park
Indian Key Historic State Park is based in the beautiful Florida Keys. This island is a true paradise with white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and lush vegetation. What makes Indian Key Historic State Park so special is its history. This island was once home to a thriving community of shipwreckers and salvagers. In fact, it was the first county seat of Dade County. Today, the island is a popular spot for picnicking, swimming, fishing, and bird watching. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day at the beach or an adventure-filled outing, Indian Key Historic State Park is sure to please. So get ready to experience all that this island has to offer!
Museums in the Middle Keys
If you’re visiting the Florida Keys in the summer, then you’re going to be looking for ways to stay cool if you’re not used to the combo of intense heat and humidity. And that’s where museum visits come into play! There are a few cool museums in the Middle Keys that help tell the history of the area and are a great break from the heat.
Keys History & Discovery Center
Keys History & Discovery Center is a sleek and modern space dedicated to preserving and sharing the history and culture of the Florida Keys. Here you’ll find thoughtful displays and exhibits depicting the early days of Key West and the First Peoples of the region. The Discovery Center is also home to a working model of an authentic Conch House, which was once a common sight in the Keys. Explore and learn about this unique place at the Keys History & Discovery Center.
Location: 82100 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036
The History of Diving Museum
The History of Diving Museum in Islamorada is a unique place that explores the history of underwater diving. The museum’s exhibits include a collection of diving helmets, vintage underwater diving equipment, and various artifacts dedicated to aquatic diving history. The museum is a must-visit for all visiting that are interested in the history of diving or the ocean.
Location: 82990 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036
Historic Sites in the Middle Keys
Even if there’s not a park or museum, there are quite a few places in the Middle Keys that demonstrate the history of the island chain. Even if it’s just a simple pull to the side of the road, you can see the past.
Old Bahia Honda Bridge (start of the Lower Keys)
I start here because this historic site is the transition from the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys. The Old Bahia Honda Bridge is one of the icons of the Florida Keys. Suffering from hurricane damage and age, this portion of the original railroad bridge is broken into sections, visible from Bahia Honda State Park, while driving the Overseas Highway, and from the southern end where the largest gaps are. This is a beautiful place to get a historic view and experience the wildlife in the rare tidepools (very few in the Keys!).
A short stop to make on the Florida Keys road trip, the Hurricane Monument is located in Islamorada. This monument is a good stop to understand how delicate living in the Keys can be. The 1935 Labor Day hurricane is memorialized here, as are other stories. This specific event utterly changed how the Florida Keys developed and was a key moment for making the islands what they are today.
Note: the monument could use some maintenance and updating, but it’s still worth the stop!
Islamorada Lighthouse aka Alligator Reef
Islamorada Lighthouse, also known as the Alligator Reef lighthouse, is a great historic site in the middle keys to visit. This lighthouse has been standing since 1873, making it one of the oldest structures in Monroe County. I wish you could climb your way to the top for the views, but you cannot. You can observe the lighthouse from the Overseas Highway, or visit on a snorkeling or fishing expedition.
Location: Atlantic Ave, Ocean Twp, FL
Founders Park in Islamorada is a one-of-a-kind park that offers an array of amenities for visitors to enjoy. The 45-acre park features a swimming pool, splash pad, sports facilities, playgrounds, and ocean access. Founders Park is the perfect place to spend a day with family and friends. Visitors can swim in the pool, play a game of basketball, or simply relax on the beach. This park’s founders have created a paradise for all to enjoy. Yes, this is more of a modern community destination, but thanks to the founders of the Village of Islamorada and their understanding of bonding a community together, it exists for public enjoyment.
Location: 87000 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036
Other Places of Interest in the Middle Keys
Robbie’s of Islamorada
Robbie’s of Islamorada is a world-renowned restaurant located in the heart of the Florida Keys. This establishment has been serving up seafood dishes for over 25 years, and it’s a favorite among locals and tourists alike. The menu features both local and exotic catches, all of which are cooked to perfection. Robbie’s is also well-known for cooking up whatever YOU catch! Whether you’re looking for a mellow dinner spot or a place to celebrate a special occasion, Robbie’s of Islamorada is definitely worth checking out.
Location: 77522 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036
Theater of the Sea – NOT RECOMMENDING
The Theater of the Sea is a marine mammal park located in Islamorada, Florida. It was founded in 1946 and is one of the oldest marine parks in the country. The park features a wide variety of marine mammals, including dolphins, sea lions, and seals. Visitors can see the animals perform in shows or simply swimming in their pools. The Theater of the Sea is a popular tourist attraction in the Florida Keys and is historic, but NOT a place we condone or support due to their policies on keeping cetaceans (dolphins) in captivity with the focus being entertainment vs education. If you look at their Rescue page, many animals are listed, but NO dolphins are.
Location: 84721 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036
If you’re looking for a unique Florida Keys experience, be sure to visit the historic sites, parks, and museums in the Middle Keys. With so many unique and fascinating spots to visit available, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest. Each one offers its own fascinating story and other activities to enjoy while you’re there.
If you have your own recommendations for historic sites and activities in the Middle Keys, please leave a comment or send us a note. We’re always happy to share more!