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Welcome to Bahia Honda State Park

Henry Flagler's railroad to Key West turned the remote island of Bahia Honda Key into a tropical destination. Today, the island is home to one of Florida's southernmost state parks, known for beautiful beaches, magnificent sunsets, and excellent snorkeling. Visitors can picnic on the beach and take a swim, or simply relax and enjoy the balmy sea breezes that caress the shores year-round. Anglers can fish from shore or bring a boat and launch at the boat ramp. The park's concession rents kayaks and snorkeling gear and offers boat trips to the reef for snorkeling excursions. Bahia Honda is an excellent place to see wading birds and shorebirds. The nature center can introduce nature lovers to the island's unique plants and animals. Full-facility campsites and vacation cabins are available. Located 12 miles south of Marathon.

Hours of Operation

Florida state parks are open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.

Driving Directions


Bahia Honda is located 12 mile south of Marathon on US1.

History


Traveling the Florida Keys offers a chance to see one of the most extraordinary engineering feats of the early 20th Century: Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway, once called "the Eighth Wonder of the World."

Life throughout the Keys changed forever in 1912, when trains first began traveling along the 128 miles of track between Miami and Key West. It took thousands of men and eight years to complete the famous "railroad that went to sea."

Flagler, one of the wealthiest men in the world, made his fortune as a partner with John D. Rockefeller and Samuel Adams in Standard Oil. After retiring from the company at age 50, he set his sights on Florida. He purchased his first railroad in St. Augustine in the 1880s. He kept building hotels and pushing the rails south until he reached Miami in 1896. But Flagler wasn't satisfied.

In 1905, at the age of 75, Flagler became convinced that Key West's deep port would be the best place to accept trade from the new Panama Canal. Despite what many called "Flagler’s Folly," the industrial giant began the project that would consume the rest of his life: the Key West Extension of his Florida East Coast Railway.

The hurricanes of 1906, 1909 and 1910 hindered construction. Workers often quit, unable to take the heat, the relentless mosquitoes and the isolation. By 1908, the track had reached Marathon, but stalled there for the next four years so preparations could be made for building the 7-Mile Bridge.

The bridges were the biggest challenge, with Bahia Honda Bridge proving hardest of all. The bridge had to stretch 5,055 feet across fast moving waters 35 feet in depth. The arched steel truss spans were considered monsters for their day. The concrete pilings were made using a newly invented German cement that could be hardened in salt water. One piling near the center of the bridge required an entire shipload of sand, gravel, and cement, only to be displaced by the hurricane of 1910.

Finally, on January 22, 1912, the first train, carrying a frail but triumphant Henry Flagler, arrived in Key West. The residents rejoiced!

The 83-year-old Flagler built another hotel at the end of the line, known today as the Wyndham Casa Marina. Guests can still see the 'roundhouse' area where trains were turned around for the trip back north.

At Bahia Honda, trains made regular stops. Travelers enjoyed the beaches much as they do today. When crossing the channel, passengers were warned to keep their heads and hands inside the cars to avoid hitting the bridge trusses.

But Flagler's dream ended abruptly on Labor Day, September 2, 1935. A hurricane swept through the Keys with 200 MPH winds. The town of Islamorada was hit with a storm wave 17 feet tall, hundreds of people lost their lives. In total, 40 miles of track was destroyed but the bridges had survived. The Great Depression made the cost of rebuilding impractical.

The state bought the rail line and eventually constructed what is today U.S. Highway #1. Flagler never knew the fate of his creation. He died on May 20, 1913, just 16 months after he rode that first train into Key West.