Of all of the Florida State Parks in the Keys, Long Key has the
best campsites: they sit right on the shoreline overlooking the Atlantic
Ocean. Hiking and nature trails introduce you to the many habitats on
the island, including the transition zone, a weird scrub-like habitat
with a forest floor of chaky white sand embedded with coral splinters.
Paddle around the island to find your own secret shores, snorkel the shallows, and soak in the
sun in this Florida paradise.
The island has a long and storied history. In 1827, Indian Key postmaster Charles Howe purchased Long Key. As part of their botanical business, Howe and Dr. Henry Perrine planted mulberry to start a silk industry. After Perrine’s death, Howe sold the island to speculators for a coconut plantation, and by 1884 there were more than 17,000 coconut palms on the island. When Henry Flagler’s railroad came to Long Key in 1906, Flagler bought it to make it a destination resort, and as the Long Key Fishing Club, it attracted the rich and famous from around the world. Ernest Hemingway fished here, and Zane Grey considered it his second home. But the hurricane of 1935, which destroyed the Overseas Railroad and killed thousands throughout the Keys, wiped the island clean.
Since 1969, Long Key State Park has been open for the public to enjoy oceanside camping under the coconut palms and a walk along the Golden Orb Trail for the full spectrum of Keys habitats.
Starting out in a mangrove forest, the walk leads you along the coastal berm and rises up into the transition zone, a scrub-like habitat with a forest floor of chaky white sand embedded with coral splinters. Bay cedar and seven-year apple thrive in this salt-rich environment, as does endemic Cape Sable throughwort. Trail’s end is in a tropical hardwood hammock, where you can compare the leaves and bark of similar-looking but deadly different pigeonplum and poisonwood.