Pigeon Key: Island at the Seven Mile Bridge has dazzling scenery & history

Pigeon Key, Island in Monroe County, Florida – Courtesy: Melissa P., Florida Insider

Florida Keys residents and visitors are again walking, running, cycling, rollerblading, and watching sunrises and sunsets along a piece of the famous Old Seven Mile Bridge that parallels the Florida Keys Overseas Highway in the Middle Keys.

Rehabilitation construction on the popular 2.2-mile (3.5-km) span of the Old Seven Mile bridge began in late 2017. Originally scheduled as a four-year $41 million project, October of 2022 would mark the end of the estimated project timeline from when bridgework actually began.

Dubbed “Old Seven,” the bridge reopened on Jan. 12, 2022, to pedestrians. The bridge was reopened about 110 years after it made its initial debut as the focal point of railroad tycoon Henry Flagler’s Florida Keys Overseas Railroad, which established the first connection between the Keys and mainland Florida.

The 2.2-mile span acts as the entryway to historic Pigeon Key, a small island tucked beneath the “Old Seven” that formerly housed 400 workers who were building the railroad. It is a unique place full of beauty and history.

The historic Seven Mile Bridge, which is preserved on the National Register of Historic Places, can be marveled today while touring Pigeon Key. The island is operated by the Pigeon Key Foundation & Marine Science Center. Visitors must pay $15 (children 6–12 pay $12; those under five pay $5). Until the tram starts running over the recently restored bridge, visitors are transported from Marathon to the island by speed boat, which is a quick and enjoyable voyage. As we did below, you can also travel to the island on foot or by bicycle.

Travel back in time to the Henry Flagler era to discover how Pigeon Key has changed over the past century. The guided tour usually takes about an hour or so and leaves you with plenty of time to explore the intriguing island on your own. Visitors may also tour the island on their own.

A tour guide leads you inside many of Pigeon Key’s 11 historic buildings as you travel across the 5-acre island. The workers who constructed the Seven Mile Bridge from 1908 to 1912 for Henry Flagler, a partner of John D. Rockefeller, lived at Pigeon Key. Today, 85 percent of the island runs on solar power.

Commissary at Pigeon Key, 1912 – Courtesy: Melissa P., Florida Insider

The unique history of Pigeon Key and the Seven Mile Bridge is beautifully conveyed through the displays and artifacts there. The 1935 Labor Day hurricane, which claimed 400 lives, including 250 World War I veterans who were washed away from work camps, is mentioned in the narrative. The hurricane wrecked the railroad line, and Flagler subsequently sold the bridge to the U.S. government. The original railroad’s foundation was used to build a bridge specifically for vehicles. The guard rails on the sides of the bridge were created from the railroad tracks left behind with the hurricane-damaged railroad.

Florida Insider visited the historic island and wandered among the picturesque palm trees and 100-year-old cottages. Check out our trip across the Seven Mile Bridge to Pigeon Key below!

Seven Mile Bridge (Old on the left. New on the right.) – Courtesy: Melissa P., Florida Insider
Paint Foreman’s House at Pigeon Key, 1912 – Courtesy: Melissa P., Florida Insider
Fun for all ages at Pigeon Key – Courtesy: Melissa P., Florida Insider

Tours of Pigeon Key

  • At 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 2:00 p.m., ferries depart from Pigeon Key for tours. The 2-mile boat voyage to and from the island includes tours, which take around two hours. Go to the tourist center at 2010 Overseas Highway in Marathon, which is Mile Marker 47.5 bayside between Faro Blanco Resort and the Marriott Hotel, to visit Pigeon Key this way.
  • You can reserve your tour either online or by calling 305-743-5999 if you choose to bike or walk to Pigeon Key. Tours start at the yellow picnic tables on the south side of the Bridge Tender’s building (seek out the umbrellas). The tour times are at 10 a.m., noon, and 2 p.m. Please arrive 10 minutes early.
  • Tickets can be purchased by reserving your spot over the phone or on the same day in person.

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