One of Florida’s most breathtaking sights and an engineering marvel is the Seven Mile Bridge. This bridge spans from the mainland all the way to Key West, the southernmost point in the continental United States. This article covers the history of the bridge’s construction and to things, you can do around it. It will help you see why some people have called Seven Mile Bridge the 8th Wonder of the World!
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are an archipelago of coral islands in a chain off the southern coast of Florida. They are the southernmost part of the continental United States. About 77,000 people live on them. The largest town is Key West, at the end of the chain, with about 26,400 people. Interestingly, Key West is actually equally distant from Miami and Cuba: approximately 90 miles from each.
A total of 42 bridges connect all the Florida Keys. These connectors make it possible to drive all the way to Key West. The shortest of them is Harris Gap Bridge, which is only 37 feet long. The longest of them, which is also the longest bridge in Florida, is the Seven Mile Bridge, measuring 35,716 feet. Technically it is only 6.76 miles long. But “Seven Mile Bridge” sounds better than “Six Point Seven Six Mile Bridge,” right?
Seven Mile Bridge
Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight’s Key in the town of Marathon in the Middle Keys with Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. The original bridge was built in 1900 by oil tycoon Henry Flagler. He built it for a rail line, at a cost of $30 million. In today’s dollars that would be the equivalent of over $1 billion. On Pigeon Key, the original bunkhouses for the bridge workers are still standing. You can take a ferry to the island for a guided tour. After all the expense and effort, the bridge was only used until 1935. At this point, it was damaged by a hurricane and sold to the United States government.
Federal authorities converted it into an automobile bridge that was only 22 feet wide and had one lane going in each direction with no shoulder. In case of an accident, traffic could back up for miles as nervous drivers sat in their cars, surrounded by ocean with no way to move. In 1982 a new bridge was built parallel to the first one and the original Old Seven Mile Bridge as it was now known has been used for pedestrians and bicycles ever since. How do ships get past the bridge? It was built with an arc near the center that provides 65 feet of clearance for tall boats.
Where is the Longest Bridge in Florida Located on a Map?
The Seven Mile Bridge begins on the very west end of the city of Marathon, Florida. Marathon is located in the Middle Keys — with the lower Keys accessible by way of the bridge. It takes about 10 minutes to drive across the bridge but travelers should drive slowly enough to enjoy some of the most spectacular ocean views in the world
How to Get to Seven Mile Bridge
You can see the Seven Mile Bridge yourself by taking U.S. Route 1 on the Overseas Highway, a 113-mile highway across the Florida Keys to Key West. If everything comes together perfectly, the drive from Miami to Key West would take four hours, but you’ll want to allow much more time than that, both to stop and enjoy towns along the way and because of driving conditions. The speed limit ranges from 30-55 mph on different parts of the highway and bridge system, but traffic often moves slower because of tourists unfamiliar with the area or distracted by the scenery. When an accident occurs, traffic can back up for miles. Traffic is worse on weekends, holidays, and during peak vacation season.
Things To Do in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are an ideal vacation spot, with average temperatures ranging from 65 to 89 degrees F. Here are some of the natural and man-made attractions you can enjoy in the area:
Fishing in the Florida Keys
The first and most obvious attraction of the Florida Keys is fishing! You’ll find plenty of opportunities to fish from shore, from piers, or on fishing charters. A few of the many species that are plentiful in the Keys are redfish, trout, pompano, snook, tarpon, bonefish, snappers, groupers, mackerel, cobia, mahi mahi, tuna, and billfish. You’ll need an appropriate license from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Swimming in the Florida Keys
The Keys have some nice beaches that have the advantage of usually having low, gentle waves, unlike the more turbulent surf of the Atlantic coast. The water in some of these locations might feel safer for parents of smaller children. It’s a trade-off, though, because some beaches in the Keys are more rocky and may have sharp pieces of coral, so bring along water shoes just in case. June through August is peak season. Some good beaches to check out include Anne’s Beach, Calusa Beach, Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach, Curry Hammock State Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Harry Harris Park, John Pennekamp State Park, Logger Head Beach, Sandspur Beach, Smathers Beach, Sombrero Beach, and Zachary Taylor State Park Beach.
PADDLE! The Florida Keys
PADDLE! The Florida Keys offers the unique experience of touring mangrove forests in Key Largo by kayak or stand-up paddleboard. Their eco tours give you the chance to see manatees, turtles, stingrays, and sharks. Training is provided and you have the option of hiring a knowledgeable and experienced guide or taking a self-guided tour. This has been consistently voted one of the best eco-tour experiences in the Keys.
Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory
Blond Giraffe produces award-winning key lime pie, which is a regional specialty. Their factory in Key Largo sells key lime pie slices, pie on a stick, pie-flavored cookies, candies, and rum cakes. 92220 Overseas Hwy, Tavernier
The Turtle Hospital
The Turtle Hospital is a non-profit organization in Marathon that is dedicated to rescuing endangered Green, Loggerhead, Leatherback, Hawksbill, and Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles. You can reserve a tour to learn more about turtles and their care, as well as feed them yourself. You might even be fortunate enough to be in town when they release turtles back to the ocean at Sombrero Beach. 2396 Overseas Hwy, Marathon
Bahia Honda State Park
Just beyond the famous Seven Mile Bridge, Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key has picturesque palm-lined beaches, a historic bridge, and a 500-acre protected wildlife sanctuary. You can see the rare yellow satinwood and the endangered lily thorn, migrating herons and the endangered, white-crowned pigeon, and many different types of butterflies in the Wings and Waves Butterfly Garden. It’s also a great place to go stargazing at night. 36850 Overseas Hwy, Big Pine Key
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the first undersea park in the United States. It includes 70 square miles of Atlantic seabed just off Key Largo. You can experience it with a glass-bottom boat tour or by scuba diving or snorkeling. You’ll be amazed by 55 types of colorful corals and 500 species of fish. 102601 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo
Rain Barrel Village
Rain Barrel Village is an open-air shopping complex in Islamorada with specialty shops, art galleries, and charming boutiques. You’ll find plenty of local arts and crafts that will make unique souvenirs for your visit. The village also has tropical gardens and a 30-ft. tall lobster sculpture named “Betsy.” 86700 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada
Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada gives you the opportunity to hand-feed gigantic Atlantic tarpon from the docks. These massive fish can grow up to eight feet long and 280 pounds. 77522 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada
If you’ve never taken the drive to Key West, it’s sure to be an amazing experience for you and your family. Now pack some sunscreen and hit the road!
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