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Florida Keys Highlight: Bahia Honda State Park (Florida)

Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys, Calusa Beach, Gulf of Mexico, Bahia Honda Bridge and marina

Bahia Honda State Park is more than your average Florida Keys Nature Getaway. Besides the beaches, flowers, snorkeling and fishing, the undeniable attraction is a 100-year-old abandoned railway bridge and the unique vantage point it offers.

Bahia Honda Overview

The 524-acre Bahia Honda State Parks takes up most of Bahia Honda Key, the island in-between Big Pine Key and Marathon (or between smaller Spanish Harbor Key and Ohio Key to be precise) – on the west end of the famous Seven Mile Bridge. From this enchanting Florida State Park, it’s about another 50-minute drive to Key West, at the end of the chain of Florida Keys. Unless there’s a big traffic jam! Then you might as well park your car and stretch out in the gin-clear water.

School of fish swimming around woman with Happier Place burlap hat in skinny clear water of Loggerhead Beach on Bahia Honda Key in Florida
School of fish swimming around Judith (wearing a Happier Place burlap trucker hat) in the crystal-clear water of Loggerhead Beach.

Bahia Honda is also ideal if you’ve already been to “the Southernmost Point of the USA” and want a break from the Key West Party and dive into nature – or just snorkel around. You could also make Bahia Honda your main destination and stay at the campground or in one of the cabins.

We escaped to the soothingly invigorating park twice during our recent stay in Key West. So we definitely recommend a visit if you make it down to the lower keys. We’ll also be sharing more Florida Keys recommendations soon, as we put together more blog posts.

Taking in the vast blue views on the Atlantic Ocean side of Bahia Honda State Park - and leaving behind the noise and party of Key West
Taking in the vast blue views on the Atlantic Ocean side of Bahia Honda State Park (and leaving behind the sounds, colors, people, and party of Key West – and also the work).

Things to See and Do at Bahia Honda State Park

The first thing that draws your attention to Bahia Honda Park is the old Bahia Honda Bridge – now abandoned and wonderfully photogenic. Originally, the bridge was constructed across the Bahia Honda Channel as part of the East Coast Railway built by Florida mogul Henry Flagler between 1905 and 1912. In 1938 a road was built on top of the railway bridge, which adds to its visual allure. Since 1972, the old bridge has been closed and all car and bike traffic goes across the new Overseas Highway bridge. Unfortunately, there is no more train travel to Key West.

The 100-year old abandoned Bahia Honda Railway and Car Bridge for trains below and cars above, Florida Keys, Happier Place, urbex, rurex
The 100-year old Bahia Honda Railway Bridge – with the added 1930s top for cars in the foreground and the New Bahia Honda Bridge connecting to the island to Spanish Harbor Key and West Summerland Key.

Fortunately, you can still walk up to the bridge and even a little bit onto the road at the top – providing a unique vantage point for photography and just enjoying stunning views of the park, the gulf, the ocean and the endless blue sky (as seen in the photo at the top of the post).

Rurex, urbex, Florida Keys, abanonded railroad bridge, Bahia Honda Bridge built for East Coast Railway
Something for those passionate for rurex / urbex (rural / urban exploring) and abandoned remnants of human culture: the Old Bahia Honda Bridge of the East Coast Railway that used to connect the Florida Keys to the mainland 100 years ago.

Yet, there is so much more to photograph and see, like rare plants, lots of fish, shore birds… and if you’re lucky you even capture the endangered Miami Blue Butterfly, which has been reintroduced to the park recently.

Blooming white Alligator Lily, a spider lily variety found in Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys
Blooming white Alligator Lily, a Spider Lily variety.

To learn more about the nature and wildlife of the area, check out the Sand and Sea Nature Center.

Another aspect that makes Bahia Honda State Park outstanding, it has sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and also the Atlantic Ocean side. Both sides! Which other public park can boast that? Sadly, parts of the park are still closed after damage from Hurricane Irma. As of this writing, only Calusa Beach (gulf-side) and Loggerhead Beach (ocean-side) are open. But those beaches give you plenty of access for relaxing, sun-bathing, and staring into the blue.

Picture yourself sitting on the beach with your feet in the shallow clear water and gazing out into the distance where the blue sky meets the sea, Florida Keys, Loggerhead Beach
Picture yourself sitting on the beach with your feet in the shallow clear water and gazing out into the distance where the blue sky meets the sea… There may just be a lady in a bathing suit in your view.

The name Bahia Honda derives from Spanish, meaning deep bay, and relates to one of the deepest channels in the Florida Keys. Because the extremely clear water goes from shallow to deep rather quickly, it’s excellent for snorkeling, scuba-diving and sight-fishing.

Man fishing from the seawall of Old Bahia Honda Bridge with Overseas Highway in background, clear blue water, Florida State Park, Florida Keys, HappierPlace
Man fishing from the seawall of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge with the newer Overseas Highway Bridge in the background and the clear blue water in-between.

Fly-fishing and spin-casting are popular from shore and from the water. The fact that there are a lot of cool fish helps with all of that water fun!

For more nerding out about fish, check out this impressive Florida Fish Species Identification Gallery.

Yellow-striped Sergeant Major fish, a species of damselfish and another kind of fish swimming around Florida Keys
Yellow-striped Sergeant Major fish (a variation of Damselfish) and another kind of fish (who can name it) swimming around Bahia Honda Key.

Snorkels, masks, and ocean kayaks can be rented at the concession building in the park. That’s also where you can grab some food and drinks, find outdoor showers and changing rooms, and watch ibis wait for you to drop some food.

Picnic table in the shade or rent a kayak to explore the sea? Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys offers both and much more.
Picnic table in the shade or rent a kayak to explore the sea? Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys offers both and much more.

With the stunningly beautiful and clear water and all the fish, boating is super popular all over the Florida Keys. To accommodate boating fun, Bahia Honda features a 19-slip marina and two boat ramps.

If you want to go beyond snorkeling around the fish and plant life growing underwater right off the beach, then you can go on one of the boat rides to Looe Key Marine Sanctuary, where you can snorkel for 90 minutes along the coral reef. Book a spot on a Bahia Honda to Looe Key Snorkling Tour online now or call 305-872-3210.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t go on a snorkeling tour to the living reefs on this trip. Next time! Next time, we’ll also bring an underwater camera. At least this time, we already bought snorkels… because snorkeling is awesome!

Perspective: person snorkeling just off Loggerhead Beach at the bottom left, and all the clear water to be explored beyond. But beware of the current! Bahia Honda Key State Park, Florida Keys, HappierPlace
Perspective: person snorkeling just off Loggerhead Beach at the bottom left, and all the clear water to be explored beyond. But beware of the current!

Bahia Honda State Park Location, Hours, and Fees

36850 Overseas Highway
Big Pine Key, FL 33043
305-872-2353
www.floridastateparks.org/BahiaHonda

While the address is listed as Big Pine Key the park is geographically on Bahia Honda Key. The easiest way to find anything along Overseas Highway US 1 is by mile marker (MM). Mile Marker 0 is in Key West; Mile Marker 100 can be found on Key Largo; and the entrance to Bahia Honda State Park is ocean-side between Mile Markers 36 and 37.

The park is open 365 days a year from 8 am until sunset. Of course, if you’re staying in a cabin or on the campground then you can sit and gaze at the stars all night. Find out more and make a reservation via Reserve America.

The regular entrance fee for day-use is $8 per vehicle. If you have an annual Florida States Park Pass, they may charge you an extra 50 cents Florida Keys fee. Or maybe we were just ripped off. Seems possible in context with our other uncool state parks experience the other day. The woman at the Homosassa Springs State Park put our annual family pass in Scott’s name even though Luci was paying for it and engaging with her. This means the pass could only be used by Scott and whomever HE brings along. When asked why she did that, she explained that the man is the head of the household. It’s the year 2020 in America.

Beach wrack line on Calusa Beach, Old Bahia Honda Bridge, Florida Keys, Happier Place
The plant matter left behind by the water along the beach is called beach wrack, or the wrack line. Most people may think it’s unattractive. But it’s an important part of natural beach life because it provides food and habitat for insects and birds and functions as an incubator for other plants.

Nearby Attractions

On neighboring islands Big Pine Key and No Name Key, you get the best chance to see a Key Deer. The smallest North American deer is an endangered species that lives in the wild only in the Florida Keys. The National Key Deer Refuge stretches over several keys, but doesn’t have one designated places to guarantee viewing. So we saw one deer on the side of the highway on Big Pine Key as we passed through initially on our way to Key West – but didn’t see a single one while slowly driving up and down all the roads of the two keys on another day.

For geographic reference, from Bahia Honda it’s about 35 miles or a 50-minute drive (regular traffic) to Key West to the south-west – and about 65 miles or a 90-minute drive north-east to Key Largo, the first of the Florida Keys off the mainland.

Tree standing in salt water that is not the Wanaka Tree, but a leafless tree in the Florida Keys.
So it’s not the Wanaka Tree of New Zealand, but just a leafless tree standing in the saltwater of the Florida Keys. Still interesting?

More Photos from Bahia Honda Key

Wild Poinsettia or Painted Leaf, wildflower with red and green leaves found in Florida, including Florida Keys
Wild Poinsettia or Painted Leaf is a wildflower with red and green leaves.
Pink blossom of the beach bean or seaside jack-bean (canavalia rosea) growing along the Florida Keys beach
Pink blossom of the beach bean or seaside jack-bean (canavalia rosea) growing along the Florida Keys beach.
Green trees, blue-green water and blue sky of the Florida Keys. A Happier Place
The green trees, blue-green water and blue sky of the Florida Keys: definitely a Happier Place!
Tree wrapped around bolder on Bahia Honda Key. Happier Place. Florida.
Tree wrapped around bolder on Bahia Honda Key.
Boat approaching the tiny island that belongs to Bahia Honda State Park, The Keys, Florida
Boat approaching the tiny island that belongs to Bahia Honda State Park.
Old Bahia Honda Railway Bridge is over 100 years old and connected Bahia Honda Key to Spanish Harbor Key for the East Coast Railway, Florida, urbex, rurex, abandoned, HappierPlace
Old Bahia Honda Railway Bridge is over 100 years old and connected Bahia Honda Key to Spanish Harbor Key for the East Coast Railway.
Old Bahia Honda Bridge on the left, new Overseas Highway Bridge on the right, skinny water of Calusa Beach and deepest water of Bahia Honda Channel in-between, Florida Keys
Old Bahia Honda Bridge on the left, new Overseas Highway Bridge on the right, skinny water of Calusa Beach and one of the deepest channels of the Florida Keys in-between: the Bahia Honda Channel

Other Florida Happier Places

Anastasia State Park on Anastasia Island (Florida) + VIDEO

Meet Mermaids and Paddle A Crystal Clear River: Weeki Wachee Springs and River (Florida)

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park (Key West, Florida)

Let’s Inspire Each Other!

Have you been to the Florida Keys? Tell us about your experience. Which places would you recommend? Or how about other beaches or abandoned railway bridges? Anything else? Feel free to share links to your photos and blog posts. Seriously, let’s inspire each other to: Take a break. Go outside. Have fun.

Please leave a reply in the comment section below.


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Bahia Honda State Park, Florida Keys, Must-See, beach bench in the shade of tree, picnic table
The 100-year old abandoned Bahia Honda Bridge, Florida Keys Highlight, Bahia Honda State Park, Happier Place, Florida, USA, clear blue and green water, near Key West

Photos by Luci Westphal.

Florida Keys Highlight: Bahia Honda State Park (Florida)

9 thoughts on “Florida Keys Highlight: Bahia Honda State Park (Florida)

  1. First time hearing to Bahia-Honda Park. It looks so serene and beautiful. It would be a delight to visit such a place.

  2. Wow!!! this looks so peaceful and relaxing. such a beautiful bridge and it is so great to admire those clear waters. Love it.

  3. Bahia Honda State Park in the Florida Keys looks beautiful! I would love to take my family there on vacation.

  4. Those are really nice pictures, I love how clear the water is! Is this a busy and crowded area like the other Florida beaches? It doesn’t seem to be from what I saw from your pics. I would love to visit this place someday.

  5. I love all of your fab piccys. This looks like an amazing place for a break away x

  6. It looks so beautiful there! The waters are so clear! I love the pretty flowers too. Nice place to visit and the best thing of all – it is not crowded! Perfect!

  7. I have never been to the Florida Keys but they look gorgeous! I love how clear the water is and that bridge looks amazing!

  8. Wow! That water is absolutely beautiful. I love when state parks are part of the beach because you can also see different types of wildlife.

  9. Such a relaxing area. Definitely a far cry from bustling Miami. Love the bridge and its photogenic qualities and it’s just a shame that train travel is no more in the area.

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