Lorena Bravo is a junior at the Honors College at Florida International University double majoring in Psychology and Interdisciplinary Studies, as well as minoring in Biology while following a pre-med track. She hopes to graduate in the Fall of 2020 and then apply for medical school to become a pediatrician. Although not born in Miami, she has lived in the city nearly all of her life and hopes to learn more about her hometown via this research project.
Key Biscayne is a city island in Miami-Dade County, Florida, United States. It is located south of the famous Miami Beach and is connected to Miami via a road known as the Rickenbacker Causeway. Although being an island, it is actually quite populated and surrounded by two parks: Crandon Park being north and the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park being south of it.
As can be seen from the map above, the island is elongated from the North to South direction. It is only about 5 miles long with a width of about 2 miles. And the Atlantic Ocean rests on one side and Biscayne Bay on the other, with the island having only an elevation of less than 5 feet above sea level; a risk that everyday proves to be fatal for the village of Key Biscayne in the near future (“Key Biscayne”).
It is believed that the island first formed at around 2000 BCE once the sea level stopped increasing and the sand was eventually eroded towards the coast. The Tequestas are the first believed civilization to inhabit the island based on previous artifacts found on the land. The well-known Juan Ponce de Leon actually traveled this island back in the early 1500’s, as well as other Spanish Europeans. As European colonization continued and America was born, Florida became a U.S. territory and with that, more and more civilization started drifting south.
In fact, many Seminoles and runaway slaves during the 1800’s would reach Key Biscayne to get on a boat and escape to the Bahamas. In other words, Key Biscayne was one step closer towards obtaining a safe haven for these individuals. During this time the iconic Cape Florida lighthouse was also built on the most southern point of the island, serving as a source of light in many more ways than one. Unfortunately, this lighthouse was burnt years later, along with the plants and any other progress for habituation that had been made by the lighthouse keeper and his family. Furthermore, the island continued to see tragedy with the establishment of a military fort for the efforts to drive off the Seminoles, as well as other wars that occurred later on like the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.
Things picked back up again with coconut plantations and other tropical fruits being planted on the island. The Key Biscayne property was passed from hand to hand, and eventually Matheson and Deering had temporary ownership in the 1900’s, and both individuals had great ideas and plans for the future of Key Biscayne like real estate and tropical resorts but a lot of these plans did not come to be realized. Instead the northern part of the island was donated to be used as a park, which came to be known as Crandon Park. And the plans for the Causeway came to be about, as well as the establishment of homes in the 1950’s. Also within a few years, a Post Office was situated and a Community Church and Elementary School opened for the public. The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park became official nearly a decade later after much turmoil between Dade County, Florida State and other individuals involved. The lighthouse was functioning again in the later 1970’s as well. A hotel known as the Key Biscayne Hotel and Villas was built and it was very well known, even President Richard Nixon stayed there.
Due to the island’s elevation, it is always bound to be hit hard by any incoming storm or hurricane. This was seen after Hurricane Andrew in the 1990’s, a natural event that actually resulted in a good outcome due to the fact that the natural wildlife of the land was able to be restored after the hurricane. Key Biscayne was officially incorporated as one of the cities of Miami-Dade County in the year of 1991.
Based on the 2010 census, the total population in Key Biscayne was 12,344; a 17.5% increase in individuals from 2000 to 2010. About 96.2% of the population was Caucasian, with 36.5% being Non-Hispanic Caucasian. Nonetheless, 61.6% of the population identified as Hispanic. And about 69.6% of the population said that a language other than English was spoken at home between 2014-2018.
Based on the 2000 census, nearly 30% of the population was between ages 25 and 44, 15% of the population was 65 years or older, and about 24% of the population was under the age of 18. Also, according to the U.S. Census website, the median household income for 2018 was about $133, 958. Over 98% of individuals over 25 years of age were high school graduates and over 73% of individuals over 25 years of age had a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The population per square mile was reported to be 10,068.5 as of 2010 (“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Key Biscayne Village, Florida”).
Interview with Lilian Martinez (a Key Biscayne resident)
Q: Hello Lilian, thank you for agreeing to answer a couple of questions. How long have you lived in Key Biscayne?
A: I have lived in Key Biscayne with my family for almost ten years now.
Q: What is your favorite part about living in Key Biscayne?
A: My favorite part has got to be that I am so close to the beach. I love being able to randomly decide to go one day and be there in just a few minutes.
Q: What is your least favorite part about living here?
A: My least favorite part is when there are a lot of tourists, which is really the norm nowadays. But basically I’ve seen a lot of incidents where these tourists don’t respect our beaches and our community overall. Not to mention the traffic!
Q: What activity would you recommend one do when visiting?
A: Rent out a bicycle and use it to ride along the streets in the Village and go the beach if you can. You have no idea how much you’re missing out on when you’re in the car!
The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
The Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is open from 8 A.M. to sundown every day of the year. There is an $8 per vehicle fee for entrance into the park or $2 fee if entering the park via a bicycle. The park has a path that is about 1.5 miles long where bicyclers can ride, and bicycle rentals are available. Other activities that can be experienced include boat camping, fishing, hiking, paddling and of course, swimming (“Experiences & Amenities.”)
However, my most favorite activity would be the tour of the lighthouse. The tours are offered Thursday through Monday at 10 A.M. and 1 P.M., and only individuals over 42 inches tall are able to climb the stairs all the way to the top of the lighthouse. Once on top, the view is magnificent and definitely worth the long climb via the spiral staircases. And afterwards you can cool down by taking a swim in the refreshing waters of the Atlantic Ocean!
Furthermore, the park has several accessible amenities for its visitors like wheelchairs, picnic pavilions and benches, grills, etc.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center is part of Crandon Park, which is in the north area of Key Biscayne. It is a non-profit facility that focuses on studying our land’s natural resources to educate the community and encourage the protection of those natural resources. The facility includes an exhibition, audio/visual presentation and lab classrooms. And of course, the outside classroom (mother nature’s gift) which is taken care of by the staff and open to visitors as well.
Fortunately, the facility focuses on educating the community, most importantly our future young citizens. The center hosts multiple fieldtrips from local schools throughout the year and the students can do several activities in the center that they can learn from and gain unique experiences. For instance, they can do a “Seagrass Adventure”, which involves the students using a net to catch the creatures of the seagrass to observe them and then release them back into their homes. In fact, I was one of those students not too long ago when my elementary school took a fieldtrip to the center. The facility also has other informational events like “Science Saturday” and “Hammock Hiking”.
Crandon Park, as mentioned before, is located in the north area of Key Biscayne. It includes many recreational opportunities for everyone including golf and tennis facilities, as well as beaches and a marina. Located in the park is the “Bear Cut Preserve”, which gives its visitors an opportunity to observe the wilderness that is home to S. Florida. In addition, the beach is almost two miles long and has a sandbar that makes it safer for swimmers.
Activities offered include kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, windsurfacing, etc. Many programs are also offered by the Parks and Recreation Department such as “EcoAdventures”, which involves a seat turtle awareness program and biking and hiking.
Undoubtedly, Key Biscayne is filled with unique parks that are open to not only the local community but also other visitors that come to this tiny island just to see the parks. There are various ecosystems throughout the parks and beaches: including dunes, mangroves, coastal hammocks, and seagrass beds.
The city has 5 public parks: Village Green, Lake Park, East Enid Linear Park, Beach Park and Calusa Park. Village Green includes a jogging course, an interactive splash fountain and many other amenities. Lake Park is smaller but has a lake and pavilion. East Enid Linear Park connects to Beach Park via a walkway. Calusa Park is located at the end of Crandon Park and is the biggest out of these 5. It has multiple tennis courts that are open to the public, it also has a recreational building and playing fields for the Village community.
In addition, is the state park as mentioned before, the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. As well as the County park known as Crandon Park, which was also described before in the landmarks section.
Key Biscayne has a free ride service that not many cities have today. It is known as “Freebee on the Key” and it was first initiated in the year 2016. It is used via the “Freebee” app which is available on both Apple and Android devices. From Sunday-Thursday it is available for use from 8 A.M.-8. P.M. and from Friday-Saturday it is available from 8 A.M.- 10 P.M., and the services are available basically every 20-30 minutes. There is also a loop route that the service follows and below is the map with the details of the route, as well as the web browser for tracking.
The Metrobus route according to the city of Key Biscayne website is as follows: “Bus #102 (Route B)….Government Center Metrorail Station, Downtown (Miami) Bus Terminal, Main Library, Historical Museum of South Florida, Miami Art Museum, Brickell Metrorail Station, Brickell Business District, Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami Seaquarium, Crandon Park, City of Key Biscayne, Cape Florida State Park.”
Besides using a car to move around the city, walking and bicycling are two other forms of transportation for the locals that are most used. As can be inferred, Key Biscayne is very aware of the effects that cars and other sources of pollution can have on our environment, which is why the city has taken many green initiatives and pushed for its usage amongst the community.
La Despensa is a Spanish restaurant that serves both homemade and gourmet food, that can also be ordered for to go. Their main dish is Paella, which promises an authentic taste from Spain. The restaurant also offers catering in the form of tapas and wine. The menu features several tapas options and two Spanish desserts amongst other foods to choose from. The restaurant is located on Crandon Boulevard, so it is right at the center of the city and surrounded by several other restaurants.
Artisan Kitchen & Bar
The Artisan Kitchen & Bar offers its customers a casual and comfortable place to enjoy food with friends. Its owners are Venezuelans, and the restaurant is also located on Crandon Blvd. and occasionally offers live music. On the menu one can see the Venezuelan influences, from the tequenos to the arepas and to the empanadas. The desserts similarly range from tres leches, caramel flan and caramel bread pudding; all very popular Hispanic desserts.
Clasica Victoria is a family business owned by Argentinian Victoria Galindez. It is a bakery and restaurant that serves breakfast and lunch, amongst other food and drink items. The business also includes weekly family meal plans and delivery is included for the locals of course. Victoria has a mouth-watering cake collection with varying flavors, as well as other types of desserts.
Bear Cut Fitness
Bear Cut Fitness is a unique gym located in Key Biscayne, specifically on Crandon Blvd. The gym says to be unique due to their small personalized classes and focus on bettering the health of its community. Not only are adult group classes offered but classes for kids and teens are also offered. In other words, this business seems to strive for the health of all members of the Key Biscayne community.
UltraBikeX is a bike shop that also offers repair services for the Key Biscayne community. Since bicycling is so common in this city, this business must be very essential for not only the locals but anyone that visits and wants to explore the city via a bike and is looking to rent them.
The Golden Hog
The Golden Hog is like a “neighborhood food market” and it has been offering its services to the Key Biscayne community since 1995. The market has several healthy choices to choose from, as well as not so healthy choices. It is open Monday-Sunday every day starting at 8 A.M. and closing at 9 P.M. except Sunday’s when it closes at 7 P.M.
Although I do not live in Key Biscayne, it is one of my favorite cities to visit within Miami-Dade County. Key Biscayne is undeniably so different from the other cities surrounding it. I love that the city has so many parks and beaches, and perhaps that is one of the reasons for why so much emphasis is placed by this community on protecting nature and its environment. As can be inferred from the research described above, the city is relatively not too big; hence why they’re also called Key Biscayne Village. There are business chains and lots of tourists visit every day, and yet there are so many authentic and small businesses that bring the community together at the same time. Key Biscayne has certainly come a long way compared to how it first started with the Tequesta tribe and then European colonizers.
“Artisan Kitchen & Bar.” Restaurant in Key Biscayne, artisan-kitchen-bar.business.site/.
Blank, Joan G. Key Biscayne: A History of Miami’s Tropical Island and the Cape Florida Lighthouse. Pineapple Press, 1996.
“Clasica Victoria: Cafe & Patisserie.” Clasicavictoria, www.clasicavictoria.com/.
“DAILY MENU – The Golden Hog Best Market Place.” The Golden Hog, thegoldenhogmarket.com/daily-specials/.
“Experiences & Amenities.” Florida State Parks, http://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/bill-baggs-cape-florida-state-park/experiences-amenities-0.
“History of the Island of Key Biscayne.” History of the Island of Key Biscayne – Village of Key Biscayne, keybiscayne.fl.gov/index.php?submenu=_island_history&src=gendocs&ref=IslandHistory&category=About
“Key Biscayne, Florida.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 8 Apr. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_Biscayne,_Florida
“Key Biscayne.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Feb. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_Biscayne
“La Despensa.” La Despensa, http://www.ladespensakb.com/.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, Crandon Park, Key Biscayne Florida – Field Trips, www.biscaynenaturecenter.org/field_trips/field_trips.html.
“Miami: Key Biscayne: Florida.” Bear Cut Fitness, 30 Dec. 2019, bearcutfitness.com/.
Services, Miami-Dade County Online. “Crandon Park.” Miami, www.miamidade.gov/parks/crandon.asp.
“Ultrabikex.net.” Ultrabikexnet, ultrabikex.net/.
“U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Key Biscayne Village, Florida.” Census Bureau QuickFacts, www.census.gov/quickfacts/keybiscaynevillageflorida