Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key is in the Florida Keys.

Get in

There's only one road: US1, the Overseas Highway. All other visitors must arrive by sea, as there is no airport. A small, private airport is available on nearby Sugarloaf Key, and a larger facility in Marathon (roughly 25 miles ENE). The island can be reached by sea, of course, though marina facilities are slim here.

Get around

Big Pine Key is bisected east/west by US1, and the other major roadway is Key Deer Boulevard, which angles NW off US1 near the geographic center of the island. There a numerous smaller roads through residential areas.

Understand

Big Pine is one of the larger Keys, and is composed of an interface of two types of limestone rock. Key Largo limestone, ancient fossilized reef tract, extends from Key Largo to Big Pine Key and then slides under (so to speak) Miami Oolitic Limestone. Miami Oolitic limestone being more porous and rather dissolvable can retain rainwater in its solution holes and this can create a freshwater lens between the two rock layers.This is so very important as it provides year round freshwater access to unique species that are found nowhere else in the Florida Keys such as Caribbean Slash Pine, Key Deer, Key Bunny and a small variety of other unique, endemic plants and animals. It has many native hardwood trees, as well as the pines for which it is named. Blue Hole, a former limestone quarry, is quite pretty and contains at least one fairly large alligator. Like most of the keys, there are no sand beaches here. A bridge connects the northeast side of the island to No Name Key, a sparsely-populated island with hiking trails.

See

While driving on Big Pine Key, care must be taken to avoid hitting the diminutive Key Deer. These tiny whitetail deer, made dwarfs from thousands of years living on the island, are roughly knee-high. From a distance at night, you may confuse them for medium-sized dogs. They have become quite acclimated to humans, and are often seen around residents' yards and grazing on roadsides. Best times to see the deer are at dusk/dawn. They are also active at night, but are most often seen in your headlights while driving (be careful!).

At the Island's main shopping plaza (Winn-Dixie, Beall's Outlet), one can observe feral chickens. Several flocks—a black/rust-orange rooster accompanied by several darker hens—can typically be seen pecking at the ground and crowing at each other here.

Do

Other than observing the Key Deer/chickens, and hiking around the Blue Hole, fishing, kayaking, diving and snorkeling are common past times. Fishing charters are abundant. Solo or guided kayak trips in the backcountry are available at Old Wooden Bridge Fishing Camp adjacent to the No Name Key Bridge where Big Pine Kayak Adventures is located. You can explore the diverse seagrass meadows, sponge flats and mangrove tidal creeks of the National Wildlife Refuge island called No Name Key with one of the daily guided tours or on your own with a free loaner laminated chart of the area. Sugarloaf marina also has some great mangrove lined creeks to explore.

Snorkeling and dive trips to Looe Key, one of the best shallow water spur and groove reef formations in the Keys, are available from Underseas Dive Shop, Innerspace Dive Center, Strike Zone Charters and the Looe Key Resort. While staying in Big Pine Key, a day in Key West is typically part of the itinerary.

Buy

There are several stores along US1, and a shopping plaza just off US1 on Key Deer Boulevard. All basic services, including a full grocery store and pharmacy are available. A limited clothing selection can be found at Beall's Outlet. A unique sandal and gift boutique, Bare Sole Sandals, is located on US1 that features "Keysey" decor and a large sandal selection. Out of the Blue Gift Shop also on US1 features works from local artists.

Eat

At the Winn-Dixie shopping plaza is a decent sit-down Chinese restaurant. The No-Name pub on the NE side of the island has excellent pizza and sandwiches. Parrotdise restaurant at mile marker 28 features seafood and a waterfront view. There are no dedicated fast-food restaurants on the island. The Wharf restaurant at mile marker 25 offers casual seafood dining and The Square Grouper restaurant at mile marker 23 offers gourmet dining.

Drink

The No-Name pub on Watson Blvd. is somewhat famous, and there are several low-key taverns along US1. Rob's Island Grill provides a sports bar atmosphere. Just a few miles down in Ramrod Key you will find Boondocks and the Looe Key Tiki Bar.

Sleep

Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge has camping -- $50+ a night (a bargain for the keys), with a few gravelly tent sites and numerous RV sites (most seasonal residents fully set-up and decorated). The facilities are pretty good, with large restrooms/shower rooms and a well-stocked camp store. They also have a large/deep boat launch ramp. Key Deer occasionally wander through the grounds at night.

B&Bs include the Key Deer Inn and the Barnacle. Parmers Resort and the Dolphin Marina Cottages are also in the vicinity (Little Torch Key).

Go next

Big Pine is located roughly half-way between Vaca Key (Marathon) and Key West, so it can be easily visited while in-transit. Those who choose to camp here can reach Key West in about 40 minutes. There are some more "touristy" bars and restaurants a little further down the Overseas Highway on Ramrod Key.

Routes through Big Pine Key

Miami Marathon  N  S  Key West END


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