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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Bahia Honda State Park Location, Hours, and Fees
36850 Overseas Highway
Big Pine Key, FL 33043
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.
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.
More Photos from Bahia Honda Key
Other Florida Happier Places
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.
Share your favorite image on Pinterest:
Photos by Luci Westphal.