Daquon Stokes and his friends from Baltimore, Maryland, arrive at Pigeon Key after a long day of traveling. The 20 high school students are part of Pigeon Key’s regular education program, and summer camp is set to start soon. SARA MATTHIS/Keys Weekly

Stepping onto Pigeon Key is like taking a step back in time. The island’s structures survive as reminders of Henry Flagler’s incredible vision to link Miami to Key West with the construction of the Overseas Railway. Today the five-acre island exists as a world renowned marine science and research facility, historical landmark and tourist attraction. 

Guests arrive via the Pigeon Key ferry operating out of the Hyatt/Faro Blanco Resort. The $12 fare includes all-day admission to the island with three scheduled trips arriving and departing daily.  

“Our tour guides are experts when it comes to the island and Flagler’s railroad,” said Pigeon Key Foundation Executive Director Kelly McKinnon. “Once you step into one of the historic buildings, it’s easy to understand why the project was such an accomplishment.”

Currently the state of Florida, Monroe County and city of Marathon are fulfilling an agreement to restore the 2.2-mile section of bridge that connects Marathon to Pigeon Key. Once the rehab is complete the bridge will reopen to pedestrian and bicycle traffic. 

“We are regular visitors because you can take a cooler and snorkel equipment and spend the entire day exploring the coastline, swimming off the dock and relaxing in the shade of the bridge,” said local attorney Patrick Stevens.

The Pigeon Key Visitors Center is located at MM 48, in front of the Hyatt/Faro Blanco Resort. For more information, please visit www.pigeonkey.net or call 305-743-5999. 

Monroe County District Advisory Committees met countywide last week and approved funding for capital improvements in each of the five districts. The money comes from the bed tax levied on hotel rooms and vacation homes.

“We had many organizations come forward and we did the best we could to make something happen for everybody,” said Vicki Tashjian, chair for the Middle Keys DAC III, and candidate for Monroe County Commission.

The county was awarded the most at $800,000 for cottage repairs on Pigeon Key after Hurricane Irma barreled over the small island and nearly destroyed the former railroad worker camp. 

“The $800,000 will be used to lift the honeymoon cottage (built in the 1940s) and the commissary (1908) off the ground, reset on repaired foundations and make all necessary repairs to restore the buildings,” said Kelly McKinnon, executive director of the Pigeon Key Foundation. “All the work will be done to ensure historical accuracy, as they are both on the National Register of Historic Places.” 

— Katie Atkins contributed to this report.

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