An historical note: Knights Key was the temporary terminus for Flagler's Overseas Railroad while the rest of the roadbed was being built onward to Key West. Steamers sailed regularly from there to Havana and back.
Boats bound for the Gulf Coast needing more water than offered by the Channel 5 route can turn at Vaca Key, Moser Channel, and take a compass course north to Cape Sable or northeast to intersect with the marked route. There is deep water all the way (eight feet is deep here!).
The famous Seven Mile Bridge begins at the west end of Knights Key. For convenient reference, we’ll place it at Mile 1197, which is where Moser Channel passes under the 65-foot-high bridge. The old draw span is gone, but the rest of the bridge was left to serve as a fishing pier.
Pigeon Key, about two and a half miles from the Marathon end of the old roadway, has considerable significance in Keys' history. It was the home base for workers building Flagler's railroad to Key West which roadbed became the basis for the original Overseas Highway. Many of the old structures have been preserved and now house the Pigeon Key Museum which is open to the public and has a collection of Keys' memorabilia. You can contact the Visitor Center and the Pigeon Key Foundation at 305-289-0025. The gift shop phone is 305-743-5999; the interesting web site — with history — is www.pigeonkey.net.
Those going on to Key West have the option of continuing a bit farther down the inside or of heading out under Seven Mile Bridge and taking the Hawk Channel route down the ocean side. This is the last large boat crossover from bay to ocean. Weather and wind direction usually help make the choice.
A mile or so beyond the east end of the bridge lies Bahia Honda Key, where there is a beautiful state park and without doubt the best beach in the Keys. Bahia Honda also has a marina with fuel, convenience items, gift shop and more and reservations are recommended.
Unless you have strong local knowledge of the passages among the Lower Keys, this is where you must go to the outside of the Keys; from here on, there is no more “inside route” to Key West. For cruising boats, there are really only two ways to go on: via Hawk Channel (inside the reef) or via the ocean — outside the reef. We heartily recommend Hawk Channel. It's wide, fairly deep, well marked, reasonably protected in most prevailing winds, and you don't have to worry about bucking the Gulf Stream as you may out in the ocean.
At Mile 1215 on the ocean side is Newfound Harbor, the best and maybe the only decent harbor on the ocean side between Marathon and Key West. At the entrance to Newfound Harbor is Little Munson Key. Due in part to its greater resemblance to Pacific atolls than to many of the other Keys, it was used as the setting for the filming of the movie PT-109, the story of John F. Kennedy in the Pacific during World War II. More recently it has been the site of the Little Palm Island Resort & Spa, an elegant upscale resort that has added new meaning to the phrase “getting away from it all.” It can only be reached by boat or seaplane. It offers a lush, secluded tropical setting and posh “Island Colonial” accommodations and extraordinarily fine dining. And as you might guess, the minimum dockage is not what you'd call "inexpensive," so if the cruising budget is tight you may want to check the cost in advance. We're told that sometimes folks anchor out and dinghy in for dinner or their "incredible" Sunday brunch!
Newfound Harbor is formed by the Newfound Harbor Keys, the southern extension of Big Pine Key, which is the site of the National Key Deer Refuge. The park’s namesake is the smallest of all American deer — no bigger than a good-sized dog — and the most endangered, from highway traffic and the development that threatens their limited and ever-shrinking habitat.
From Mile 1220 to 1235 on the ocean side, the keys from Cudjoe to Boca Chica offer anchorages with varying degrees of shallowness and protection, none of which can be particularly recommended. There is some great diving in this area, however, particularly around Looe Key. The 210-foot freighterAdolphus Busch Sr. lies in about 100 feet of water, sunk to form an artificial reef about five miles south of Summerland Key. Four surface mooring buoys mark the site, which is about halfway between Looe Key and American Shoal. It's too deep for snorkelers, but super for SCUBA! (Continue...)
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