Every year, the Overseas Heritage Trail program increases the bikability of Monroe County. The extended bike trail covers about 70 percent of the Keys and every year, grows by just a bit.
One of the prettiest and safest parts of the trail goes from the Channel 5 Bridge at MM 71 to the Island Fish Co. at MM 53. The trail is separated from the highway at every point except the Duck Key Bridge and the eastern portion of Grassy Key, although there is a wide shoulder. The ride from MM 58 to MM 53 is particularly idyllic as the highway is hidden to cyclists by a thick stand of trees that mutes automobile noise while allowing glimpses of the gulf. (I’ve seen plenty of riders miss the turn off to the “hidden” trail. Keep eyes peeled near MM 58 and exit the highway at Guava Avenue to the trail located on the gulfside of the highway.)
The trail passes two state parks, but the best part is certainly the bridge at Long Key open only to pedestrians, anglers and cyclists. It’s about 2.5 miles long and a great place to spot turtles or tarpon, depending on the season, or just see what the bridge fishermen or catching.
After 17 miles, cyclists will be ready to rehydrate and refuel at The Island Fish Co. It’s an open-air, waterfront restaurant and bills itself as “what you came to the Keys for.” We recommend the dolphin pico de gallo (fish with black beans and salsa), stuffed shrimp (Key West Pinks with mango and crabmeat). On the more calorically sinful side, we like the coconut fried shrimp or (gasp!) Macho Nachos. Hey, an almost 20-mile bike ride means cyclists can afford a few extra calories.
MM 71, free parking
MM 53, $$
Editor Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes small and weird children (she has two); prefers target practice with a zombie rat poster; and looks best with saltwater dreads. Occasionally she tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.