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more of the island and another building foundation
Indian Key Historic State Park
Closest available address
The island park is about a mile offshore from Lower Matecumbe Key.
Park is open 8:00am to dusk all year.
Best time to visit
Indian Key Historic State Park is an 11 acre island park located about a mile from Lower Matecumbe Key and US Route 1. The park is accessible either by private boat or through a concessionaire boat tour offered by Robbie’s Marina. This island had a thriving community in the early 1800s based on providing assistance and salvage services to ships and crews that struck nearby reefs. The park’s well-maintained paths provide access to various building foundations from that era, and there are also a variety of interpretive signs. In addition to the historical attractions, snorkeling and diving are also available.
Although the Florida Keys were occupied by the Calusa Indians for thousands of years, the Calusa populations were decimated by exploitation and diseases from European Settlers. The Keys than became mostly uninhabited, but frequent shipwrecks along the nearby reefs gave rise to a new industry called wrecking. Wreckers provided help to stranded crews and salvage services for goods in return for a percentage of the recovered cargo. This very lucrative business was primarily based in Key West. Jacob Housman moved to Key West to take part in this enterprise. However, following disagreements and disputes with other wreckers in Key West, he set up shop on Indian Key in 1831 to provide his own wrecker services. Business was good for a few years and Housman’s business thrived. Lawsuits from wreckers in Key West and the outbreak of the Second Seminole War in 1835 eventually ended his operations. In 1840 around 100 Indians attacked the Indian Key settlement and destroyed all but one of the buildings. Most of the inhabitants escaped, but the wrecking business never recovered. Housman later moved back to Key West. Indian Key then became uninhabited and eventually was purchased by Florida to serve as a state park.
Robbie’s offers a combined tour to both Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park on the weekends. The tour takes about 3 hours and costs $45. This option is probably the quickest and most cost effective means to see both parks unless you have your own boat. It was a winter visit and unusually cold and windy, so everyone was wearing long pants and jackets. Indian Key is dry and generally bug free year round, but Lignumvitae Key is another story, especially in warmer weather and in the woods. The tour of Indian Key was provided by a pleasant and laid-back young man from Robbie’s. He brought along a notebook with sketches of prior buildings and houses on the island and shared insights about the town’s history. He also pointed out some interesting plants and spotted a small snail which he discussed. The only downside to the tour was that he kept a fairly steady pace around the island, so there was inadequate time to read the various historical signs. There was enough time though to get a decent sense of the island’s history. Foundation stones and building outlines provided a reasonable perspective of the town’s layout as well. If you are into history, Indian Key can make a nice excursion. While not a must visit, it does provide good insight into the historical wrecker business. Getting out on the clear blue water around the Florida Keys was another plus.
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