Historic Pigeon Key
Visitors to Pigeon Key venture back in time to a tiny island that played a tremendous role in the Florida Keys of today.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this five-acre property served as a home base for railroad workers erecting and later operating the final installment of Henry M. Flagler's Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast (FEC) Railway: the Old Seven-Mile Bridge.
Flagler's railway made the Keys accessible from mainland Florida, and his Seven-Mile Bridge was considered an engineering feat. The bridge is, like Pigeon Key, listed on the National Historic Register. But with a more modern Seven-Mile Bridge serving motorists, Flagler's feat today is utilized as a fitness path and fishing pier.
Pigeon Key is nestled beneath this trestle at the edge of Marathon, and its modest wood frame structures have experienced a renaissance.
Largely colored in Flagler's trademark yellow, the cottages are a charge of the not-for-profit Pigeon Key Foundation, which manages the island and works to preserve its rich heritage.
Among the foundation's completed projects: Transforming one Pigeon Key structure into a railroad museum. Here, on view to the public, are historic artifacts from the FEC Railway, including concrete "bones" that served to test the strength of mixtures used in erecting the Old Seven-Mile Bridge. Photographs feature the trains of the railway, the making of the original bridge, the buildings of Pigeon Key, and the island's former inhabitants.
In 2013, the island converted from an electrical system to solar-powered energy, making the educational facility and visitor attraction energy efficient.
A 105- by 11-foot solar array was installed to satisfy nearly 95 percent of the island's electrical needs. For more than 100 years, electrical power on Pigeon Key was generated by steam or fossil fuels. A sense of environmental responsibility motivated the change and today, two banks of 24-cell batteries that each generate 48 volts store electricity to feed 240-volt inverters that power the tiny island.
A guesthouse for smaller groups looking for a tranquil setting in a newly-renovated historical building is available for a daily or overnight rental, a unique alternative for weddings, photo shoots, family reunions, church group retreats or corporate retreats. The island can house 70+ overnight.
Pigeon Key is reached either by foot or ferry service. The Pigeon Key Visitor Center and Gift Shop is located on Knight's Key, mile marker 47 oceanside. Admission to the island costs $11 per adult and $8.50 for students 14 and under (children 4 and under are admitted free). Proceeds benefit the Pigeon Key Foundation and its preservation and restoration efforts. For more information: (305) 289-0025.
Pigeon Key is reached either by bicycle or foot along the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge span (approximately a 2.2 mile trek) or by ferry service that departs from the Pigeon Key Visitor Center and Gift Shop located on Knight's Key, mile marker (MM) 47 oceanside.
Ferry service to the island departs daily at 10 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m. (last tour). Return ferry service departs Pigeon Key at 10:20 a.m., 12:20 p.m., 2:20 p.m., and 3:45 p.m.
Admission to the island's tour, with entry to the museum costs $12 per adult and $9 for students age 5-13 (children 4 and under are admitted free). Proceeds benefit the Pigeon Key Foundation and its preservation and restoration efforts.
Pigeon Key Foundation & Marine Science Center
P. O. Box 500130, Marathon, FL 33050
Gift Shop & Ferry Departure
Located at MM 47, 1 Knights Key Blvd.
Open daily, 9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Look for the red train car!