The original seat of Dade County, settled in 1836, lies in limestone ruins swaddled in a tropical forest within sight of US 1, but offshore.
Indian Key takes a little planning to visit, but is well worth the journey.
Resources for exploring the area
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Fees: $2.50 per person
Land Manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM until sunset daily. No pets permitted.
Offshore from Lower Matecumbe Key and Indian Key Fill, within sight of US 1 to the east. Can only be reached by boat. Rentals available at Robbie’s Marina.
About the Park
A toilet, carved in rock, flushed by the sea. Streets laid out through a tropical forest.
Grand homes built by wreckers, who rowed out to the coral reefs to claim the ruins of Spanish ships that shredded in the shallows.
It was a rough and rowdy place, this island where Dade County began long before Miami showed up. Infamous wrecker Jacob Housman owned the island and filled it with tropical plantings.
Botanist Henry Perrine brought his family and got a government grant to experiment with growing sisal hemp in the Florida Keys.
Tragedy soon struck the close-knit community. A raiding party of more than 100 Seminoles attacked the island on August 7, 1840, and Perrine was killed.
Abandoned soon after, the ruins of the community are now surrounded by interesting tropical trees and plants grown wild from Perrine’s original stock, including limes that might be the original key limes.
Although you can see it from US 1, Indian Key Historic State Park is accessible only by boat. There is no formal ferry schedule. Check at Robbie’s Marina at MM 78.5 for tours and kayak rentals.
Explore the park
Indian Key: An unusual ghost town
John takes a trip back in time with Florida Keys historian Brad Bertelli to discover the layers of history found on Indian Key, once the county seat of Dade County
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park
Wrapped in a dense blanket of mosquitoes, Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park is one of the United States’ most significant botanical treasures, a virgin tropical forest home to more than a thousand lignum vitae trees.
Green Turtle Hammock Nature Preserve
On a wild sliver of Upper Matecumbe Key, footpaths wind through a rockland tropical hammock where a rocky crevice emits sulfur fumes and you must beware of crocodiles near the mangroves
Plantation Hammocks Preserve
Adjoining Founders Park on Plantation Key, Plantation Hammocks Preserve showcases some of the Florida Keys most interesting flowers under a generous canopy of well-established tropical trees.
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
See coral fossils up close in a tropical forest at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park to learn the natural history of how the Florida Keys were formed.