Preserving a patch of tropical forest surrounding a quarry opened in 1908, Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park showcases the uniqueness of the Florida Keys in both botany and geology, with vast slabs of coral frozen in stone awaiting your inspection.
Location: MM 84.9, Windley Key
Fees: $2.50 per person. Additional $2 for guided tour.
Open: Thursday to Monday, 8 AM to 5 PM
Please check in at the visitor center to pay your entrance fee before wandering the trails. You may also want to examine the exhibits and see a short film, which will clue you in on the importance of this historic site and its unique geologic wonders.
No bicycles permitted on trails. Collecting of fossils or plants is prohibited. You can, however, buy fossils in the gift shop to support the park. Avoid leaving the marked trails as the forest has a lot of poisonwood, one of the more common toxic trees in Florida.
Located 0.5 miles south of MM 85 on US 1 on Windley Key at 84900 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, the park entrance is on the bay side.
Fossilized coral, sliced and polished, graces the exterior of buildings throughout South Florida, including the grand estate Vizcaya in Miami and the Miami and Key West post offices. Its source? This long time quarry opened in 1908 by Henry Flagler during construction of the Overseas Railroad. It was first used for crushed limestone for the railroad bed, but by 1912, slabs of decorative stone were sliced from these quarry walls.
In the 1980s, the site was threatened by condo development. Local residents stepped up to the plate to preserve the remaining 30 acres of tropical hammock and historic quarries. The park has an excellent visitor center to interpret the unique history, botany, and geology of the site, and its trails interpret the fossil corals found in the walls of the quarry.
In addition to two quarries within sight of the visitor center, four interconnecting loop trails – the Windley Trail, Hammock Trail, and Flagler Trail, and Quarry Station Trail – offer 1.3 miles of exploration through this lush forest and its fascinating quarries.
Expect mosquitoes: make sure you use insect repellant. You may encounter great golden digger wasps along the park trails at certain times of year, as we did. According to a bulletin posted near the restrooms, “Great golden digger wasps are not aggressive and will not sting unless provoked.” We strongly suggest wearing closed-toe shoes while hiking here and not walking through any wasp swarms.
Guided tours are offered December-April on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10 AM and 2 PM.
Explore the park
- Flagler Quarry Trail- A short interpretive trail at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, the Flagler Quarry Trail leads you around the showiest of the quarries and the ruins of the railroad depot.
- Hammock Trail- In a tropical hammock, learn about the trees of the Florida Keys with a walk on the 0.6-mile Hammock Trail at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park.
- Windley Trail- A short interpretive loop at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, the Windley Trail circles through a tropical hammock before descending to showcase the fossil-rich rock walls of the quarry.