Adjoining Founders Park on Plantation Key, this City of Islamorada preserve showcases some of the Florida Keys most interesting flowers under a generous canopy of well-established tropical trees.
Location: Plantation Key, Islamorada
Length: 0.6 mile
Lat-Lon: 24.9619, -80.5664
Bug Factor: moderate to annoying
Restroom: stop at the Visitor Center or the restrooms outside the entrance gate to Founder’s Park
Open 8 AM to 5 PM daily. Dogs are not permitted. The preserve is right along the Overseas Heritage Trail, but must be accessed via the entrance to Founder’s Park. See directions for how to get to its trailhead, which is separate from Founder’s Park.
This preserve is at MM 87 on the bay side of the Overseas Highway. Turn in at the Founder’s Park entrance and make an immediate right to drive behind the Islamorada Visitor Center. Continue to the very end of this access road, which empties out into a natural surface parking area for the preserve.
Adjoining the ballfields and aquatic playground of Founder’s Park, Plantation Hammocks Preserve is the perfect place to look for butterflies. The Florida Keys are known for rare butterfly species, and its here among the tropical flowers and shrubs you may find them flitting.
0.0 > Although the City of Islamorada calls this “Plantation Hammock” on their website, it’s clearly plural on the sign near the trailhead. Wood chip trails make a network of trails throughout this linear preserve; we followed the perimeter of them counterclockwise. The paths are essentially access roads, broad and lined with a thick carpet of wood chips. At the first fork, keep left.
0.1 > Colorful works of art, benches topped with mosaics are at many of the cross-trail intersections, drawing your attention away from the profuse blossoms in the understory.
0.2 > A massive ficus tree provides deep shade and a natural screen against the tennis courts on the other side of the fence at Founder’s Park. You’ll find a canopied bench swing beneath the shade of the hammock at the next cross trail. Continue straight ahead.
0.3 > The clear waters of Florida Bay are just ahead. A picnic bench sits right on the shoreline adjoining the docks at the Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina.
Follow the beaten path along the shore to a bench in a slightly more private setting, where you can look out into the bay and see islands in the distance. Returning from the bench, follow the path that stays to the perimeter, close to the adjoining condos.
0.4 > John climbed up into a raised area along the path, finding the remains of a foundation and patio amid the summer blooms.
Purchased by the City of Islamorada in 2003, this property might have once been a nursery or a landscaped yard, given the sheer volume of flowering shrubs, dense flower beds, and young flowering trees beneath the tropical hammock canopy.
0.6 > At the final choice of junctions, take the right fork; the left one simply swings out closer to the condo and US 1. This path takes you back towards the parking area, with a delightful find of wild cotton along the way.
Once actively eradicated throughout South Florida at the prompting of the Federal government – under the mistaken assumption that it spread boll weevils to agricultural cotton – it is an endangered species. Ironically, state regulations still won’t let you propagate this species without a special permit, so enjoy it in this setting.