Preserving a patch of tropical forest surrounding a quarry opened in 1908, Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park showcases the uniqueness of the underlying geology of the Florida Keys.
Vast slabs of coral frozen in stone await your inspection, both as walls sliced into the earth as quarries and blocks removed from those sites.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Windley Key
Length: 1.3 miles in three separate loops
Address: 84900 Overseas Highway, Islamorada
Fees: $2.50 per person
Restroom: At the visitor center
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8-4, Thu-Mon. No bicycles. Collecting of fossils or plants is prohibited.
Avoid leaving the marked trails as the tropical forest has a lot of poisonwood, one of the more common toxic trees in Florida.
Expect mosquitoes: make sure you use insect repellent. You may encounter great golden digger wasps along the park trails at certain times of year, as we did.
According to a bulletin posted, “Great golden digger wasps are not aggressive and will not sting unless provoked.” We suggest wearing closed-toe shoes while hiking here and not walking through any wasp swarms.
Located 0.5 miles south of MM 85 on US 1 on Windley Key, the park entrance is on the bay side.
About the Park
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.
The quarry was first used for crushed limestone for the railroad bed, but by 1912, slabs of decorative stone were sliced from these 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.
Today, the site is well interpreted. In addition to equipment used in the quarries, which flank the visitor center, you’ll find habitat details and tree identification along the trails. The grounds include a picnic area.
Start your visit at the visitor center, which provides exhibits as well as a film about this historic site. You can purchase fossils in the gift shop to support the park.
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.
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.
Winding through an ecotone where tropical forest meets mangroves, the Windley Trail is a quarter mile loop that ends up amid interpretation of quarrying history.
See our photos from Windley Key State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
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
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.
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.