More than one hundred years ago, Pigeon Key was the base camp for the construction of the Seven Mile Bridge to connect Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway between Marathon to Duck Key. More than 540 concrete piers were needed to span the longest stretch of open water along the railway connecting the Florida mainland to Key West. The tiny coral island would house as many as 400 workers during the nearly 4 years of construction starting on 1908.
Today the island showcases a few of the original structures used as the base camp and later for bridge maintenance. The museum, dedicated to the builders of the “Railroad that Went To Sea,” displays maps, historic photos, models and a wonderful picture postcard collection of the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad. It also offers a glimpse of what life was like for the railway workers and for those stayed on and maintained the railroad until 1935, when a hurricane wiped out a major portion of the track in the Islamorada area.
It is reached by an intact section of the original bridge off of Knights Key at the western end of Marathon, which now serves as a biking, hiking and fishing pier.
For a more complete overview of the history, see: History of Pigeon Key. Or visit the island: Pigeon Key tour information.
Crane Point Museum & Nature Center
This wonderful 63 acre property, dedicated to the preservation of the Florida Keys natural habitat and animals, combines nature trails, a natural history museum, historic homes and a wild bird rescue center.
The museum showcases the natural and cultural history of the middle Florida Keys area, including Calusa Indians, Spanish explorers and Caribbean pirates, as well as the “more recent” Bahamian settlers of the late 1800s. There are also exhibits of the offshore coral reefs, tree snails, sea turtles, shells, Key deer and local tropical fish.
In addition to the museum of natural history, there are a couple of historic buildings here, including the Adderley House, the oldest house in the Keys outside Key West and the Cracker House. There is a trolley for those who don’t care to walk and guides for those who want more information.
For more information, please visit www.cranepoint.com
Dolphin Research Center
Dolphin Research Center was founded as a nonprofit corporation in 1984 by Jayne Shannon-Rodriguez and Armando “Mandy” Rodriguez. Their goal was to ensure the dolphins had a home here for life, and in doing so to establish a unique education and research facility.
The bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions presently living here provide a range of personalities and backgrounds. Over half of our family was born at the Center, while the other members have either come from other facilities or were rescued, rehabilitated and deemed unreleasable back into the wild by the Government and now have a forever home at Dolphin Research Center.
For more information, please visit www.dolphins.org
The Turtle Hospital
The Turtle Hospital opened its doors 1986 with four main goals: 1) rehab injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat, 2) educate the public through outreach programs and visit local schools, 3) conduct and assist with research aiding to sea turtles (in conjunction with state universities), and 4) work toward environmental legislation making the beaches and water safe and clean for sea turtles.
The Turtle Hospital (Hidden Harbor Marine Environmental Project, Inc.) is a 501(c)(3) charitable corporation. The Hidden Harbor Motel provides the space and buildings needed to house and care for the sea turtles. The Turtle Hospital offers Guided Educational Experiences to the public daily 7 days a week. Please call 305-743-2552 for further information and reservations.
The Turtle Hospital contains up-to-date equipment needed to perform a variety of surgeries on different species and sizes of sea turtles. More than half of this equipment has been donated by local hospitals and doctors, and some equipment has been donated by environmentally- friendly organizations and individuals.
For more information, please visit www.turtlehospital.org