Liza Guanch is majoring in Psychology and working towards her bachelor’s degree at Florida International University in the Honors College. Her career goal is to study forensic psychology and hopefully, turn that into a career with the FBI. In her free time, Liza enjoys spending time in nature and experiencing the world around her.
The city of Key Biscayne is an island town. It is approximately four miles long and two miles wide with over two miles of beachfront property along with two major parks, Crandon Park and Bill Baggs State Park (1). The highest point of elevation in all Key Biscayne is 5ft. One might believe they are in Key Biscayne once they cross the Rickenbacker Causeway bridge, however, this is not so. The first island that is introduced to those entering through this bridge is Virginia Key, a separate barrier island. Key Biscayne is in between Crandon Park and Bill Baggs State Park with the Atlantic Ocean on the East and the Pacific Ocean on the West (2). It is also crucial to understand that Key Biscayne is NOT geographically tied to the Florida Keys, despite the name, it is a separate island that formed naturally. To be more specific on the formation of Key Biscayne, it was created from eroded sand that traveled from the Appalachian Mountains through rivers. Its foundation is made up of weak sandstone, with no real solid bedrock. Post-2000 BC is approximately the time when Key Biscayne may have surfaced as an island due to the sea level rise stopping around this time, at least this is what some geologists say (2).
The urban landscape consists of the general cityscape with buildings, residences, and businesses. As previously mentioned, Key Biscayne is connected to Florida by the Rickenbacker Causeway, which is a short drive away from residents providing an easy flow of transportation on and off the island, assuming you have a mode of transportation that can cross this bridge. With the thriving businesses, efficient road systems, and inland Key Biscayne being filled with infrastructure, the urban lifestyle is found here. However, Key Biscayne started out as nothing but nature with mangrove habitats, greenery, and several beaches; it now contains a vast amount of greenery, with several protected natural areas, but it is more so beaches amongst the city.
As previously mentioned, it is assumed that the island appeared around or after 2000 BC once the sea level stopped rising. The first inhabitants of the island were the Tequestas, a native tribe to Florida. The Tequestas were one of the first inhabitants of South Florida along with the Calusa tribe. These Tequestas were hunter-gatherers, so this island proved beneficial for their needs, as they would hunt for fish and other marine life from all sides since it was surrounded by water. The Rickenbacker Causeway was not present during the time of the Tequesta, so the only means of transportation would be by boat, or in their case, dugout canoes. The Tequesta were not only found on the island of Key Biscayne, but they did use this area extensively, it seems.
The more time passed, the more things changed. In 1513, Ponce de Leon traveled to and discovered this island. He named it “Santa Maria” and left quickly, which was good for the Tequestas, to show off his findings to the King of Spain. This was not the end of the Tequesta tribe, but it was the beginning of their end. Some 50 years later, a man had to stop at this island because of nasty sea weather due to a hurricane, Pedro Menendez de Avila. At first, the Tequestas created a type of relationship with this man who had been on a mission to establish a settlement in St. Augustine and murder French protestants that were nearby, but he was a Catholic Spaniard in a time where other religions were not accepted. He attempted to convert the Tequestas to Catholicism and divert them away from their culture and beliefs, so a mission of the Jesuit priests was formed and eventually, failed because their conversion methods usually involved a lot more violence than necessary. This was the end of the Tequestas, as we know it. They were pushed down to Cuba if they survived the foreigner’s fight, and there is no trace of them after that.
Centuries passed and many shipwrecks occurred. Some of these shipwrecks were filled with treasures that have yet to be found. One of these wrecks led a sailor to give the island the name “Vizcaya” which means “Biscayne”. Key Biscayne was once owned by the British in the 1700s, but colonists seemingly did not thrive in the natural landscape of the island, so it was given back to the Spaniards who had held on to it for several centuries. However, in the early 1800’s, the United States had claimed Florida, including Key Biscayne, and the American history of this island begins.
In 1825, the Cape Florida Lighthouse was built to guide ships in the night to safety and to bring more people into the new town of Key Biscayne. For a while, the main residents of Key Biscayne were farmers, each owning their fair share of land and using it mostly for exotic fruits that were able to thrive in the unique South Florida climate (all above-(3)). A prominent plantation that lasted up until World War II was the Matheson family coconut plantation which now makes up most of Crandon Park. After World War II, the island was getting more tourism but was not greatly developed until the completion of the Rickenbacker Causeway in 1947. In 1950, houses were being built in the villages of Key Biscayne that would sell for less than $10,000 which is far from the millions these same houses go for in present times. The first and only bank at the time was the Key Biscayne Bank & Trust (1964) which was owned by Charles Rebozo, a friend of Richard Nixon. In 1969, Richard Nixon found his “Florida White House” in Key Biscayne that was mainly used for visits to Charles Rebozo and as a vacation to the warm climate. This house is not still standing today because the new owners bulldozed it in 2004. Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, but it did more good than bad, as there were many invasive plant species that the hurricane wiped out (all above after (3)- (4)). The years that followed were filled with more and more urban development which is still occurring to this day. Key Biscayne is continuously expanding its city, which can be an economic success but can pose a threat to the natural life surrounding it
Interview with Brian Hernandez, LOCAL FISHERMAN
Q: “How long have you been fishing?”
A: “About 8, maybe 9 years”
Q: “Why is Key Biscayne the spot to fish at?”
A: “In my experience, I have found that Key Biscayne has some of the best spots to fish just because of the marine life found all around. You also have two oceans to choose from, so that adds to the diversity in marine life.”
Q: “What is your favorite spot in Key Biscayne?”
A: “Honestly, the best spot is Crandon Park, not even to fish, but just to relax. There is so much to do and most of it is outside, so how can you not love it?”
Q: “Do you see yourself living here full time as you get older?”
A: “I don’t know if I would live here full time because of how expensive it is, but maybe if I land a career that pays well enough, I would consider retiring here.”
According to the 2019 US Census, the population estimate is 12,846 which is only a few hundred more from the population estimate in April 2010, which was 12,344, but the population census in 2020 is estimated at 14,809 showing a sharp increase. The primary races in Key Biscayne are Caucasian (96.6%) and Hispanic (69.4%). There are more teenagers found in Key Biscayne than young children with teenagers under 18 making up 28% of the Key Biscayne population and adults over 65 following behind with 16.8%. Over 50% of the population in Key Biscayne is female. The mean household income is $151, 310 with 4.9% of the population being in poverty (US CENSUS (5)).
1- Bill Baggs State Park
Bill Baggs State Park is, as in the name, a state park. However, it is so much more than that with the stunning views of the ocean and it is home to the 1825 Cape Florida Lighthouse. The hours are 8AM to sundown with an $8 fee per vehicle charged upon entrance. There is little opportunity for boredom as there is an experience for everyone with bicycling, swimming, rollerblading, fishing, and hiking being some. There are tours offered of the Cape Florida Lighthouse, but it can also be self-guided which provides an immersion into the past and upon reaching the top, a breathtaking image of the sea. Pets are allowed, so the whole family can take part in the fun. There is also a restaurant in the park, so if you forget to bring food to the beach, there is no need to worry (all above- (8)).
2- Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center
Located in Crandon Park and established in 1985 by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, this nature center is an environmental facility crafted for the study and preservation of Florida’s wildlife and nature. It is free to enter with hours from 9AM to 3PM, but there is a parking fee for nonmembers of the nature center which is $7. There is an art gallery and museum exhibits with tons of marine and historical information. It is also an entry point to Bear Cut Preserve (all above- (7)).
3- Crandon Park
Crandon Park is located on the northern side of Key Biscayne. It is one of the most famous areas because of the countless amenities and the beautiful beaches. There is a fee of $5 on the weekdays and $7 on the weekends for parking, but it seems like a decent price to pay for a full day’s worth of fun. The beach is two miles long and there is a sandbar, that Crandon is famous for, protecting the visitors from harsh waves and tides. Among the many things to do, there are jet ski, parasailing, and kiteboarding rentals available for purchase at the water sports concession stand located at the beach. Visitors can also rent out cabanas for a luxurious and relaxing beach day getaway. If the beach isn’t your style, there is plenty more to do with Crandon Park’s tennis and golf course, marina, and the Bear Cut Preserve. There are 26 tennis courts and lessons are available to those who may want. The golf course is 18-holes and is immersed in the Florida landscape. The marina is a good spot for the fishermen and snorkelers as there are many fishing spots and artificial reefs near this area; the marina is also a wonderful spot for the sea-lovers who wanted to go out on a boat, maybe even a dive boat. Bear Cut Preserve is an environmental study area, perfect for nature lovers who might not want to get their feet wet (all above- (6)).
Key Biscayne is covered in greenery and there are tons of parks and places to enjoy nature to choose from. Some of them include:
1- Village Green Park
The village green park is located at 400 Crandon Blvd. It is a beautiful and family-friendly park that is suitable for picnics, exercise, or any playful endeavors. If you are thinking of taking the family out for a picnic and some frisbee-throwing, the village green park is an ideal location.
2- Paradise Park
Paradise Park is located within Crandon Park and provides access to the beach, views of nature, and picnic areas. There are many wildlife that find their homes in Crandon Park, but the most frequent appearances are made by raccoons who love the attention of the park’s visitors.
3- Calusa Park
Calusa Park may have gotten its name from the Calusa tribe which was one of the first inhabitants of South Florida, the Miamians before Miami if you will, and is yet another place filled with gorgeous scenery and serves as the perfect location to breathe fresh air and relax. It does contain an abandoned shack, which distracts viewers from the nature around them out of intrigue. This shack is one of Miami Dade County’s oldest historical landmarks. It was created in 1917 for the Matheson Coconut Plantation and was originally located in Grand Bay. This shack served as a barrack for workers and held many duties from a living space, to a church, to a school, and even a hurricane shelter. It then became known as, “The Calusa Playhouse” and held several musicals and plays becoming a hot spot for entertainment for over 40 years, until Hurricane Andrew struck and building codes were updated that the shack could not keep up with, so it was deemed unsafe and locked up (all above- (9)).
There are several modes of transportation on the island, but the most popular include those that reduce pollution such as bicycling or walking. Four miles is not a terribly far distance, so these methods prove to be extremely effective for those who don’t enjoy driving or simply enjoy the outside and exercise. Another typical transportation method seen in Key Biscayne is cars and golf carts. Cars are seen more than golf carts, as they can be used for longer distances such as going on and off the island, but golf carts prove to be useful for the locals who need to do some quick errands, but they may not be within a decent walking distance. Boats are also typically seen in the waters of Key Biscayne and can serve as a mode of transportation to those who plan on taking trips through the ocean around Key Biscayne and Miami and stopping at marinas along the way. If you are a fan of public transportation, there is the Metrobus and the “Freebee on the Key” which is a free ride service that travels to different locations in Key Biscayne and is perfect for travelers and locals; it cannot operate past 25MPH, which makes for the perfect scenic and budget-friendly tour of the Key. I have also seen that air travel by helicopter is available, but I am not sure it is extremely used and there may not be many spaces to land safely.
While there are many places to eat and enjoy the local grub of Key Biscayne, these are some fan-favorites.
This is a local bakery that has been around for approximately 20 years, owned by Maria Louisa. It serves baked goods from Peruvian and international cultures. It is known for the pionono which is a roll of sponge cake filled with dulce de leche and the chocolate volcano which is a moist chocolate pound cake topped with chocolate ganache. This bakery is the perfect stop for visitors with a sweet tooth who want to tour the world’s flavors without all the intense travel (all above- (10)).
2- Donut Gallery
This is a family-owned restaurant, established in 1972, that serves delicious breakfast. It is known for what is called, “The Ted’s Special”, which is an English muffin that is topped with bacon, egg, cheese, ham, and tomato open-faced. With many breakfast food combinations and fresh beverages to choose from, it is one of the best spots to eat the most important meal of the day (all above- (11))
3- KeBo Restaurant
A newer restaurant to the Key Biscayne scene, KeBo is a Spanish Mediterranean-style restaurant that was founded in 2014. It quickly became a Miami foodie hot spot and is the place to get authentic Spanish food. It was voted best Spanish restaurant in the Miami New Times in 2017 which is a huge achievement being that they originated from a deli restaurant that only had 4 tables. Their kitchen staff is made up of three HAND-PICKED chefs to ensure the best quality. It has gone from a quick deli shop to an upscale restaurant in a matter of 7 years and is sure to only keep improving (all above- (12)).
There are too many businesses to count as it is a city filled with locals and tourists, but some of the local spots are:
1- Toy Town
Toy Town is a local toy store that has been in Key Biscayne for over 20 years. It has been rated as one of “Miami’s Top Toy Stores” and has received a feature on the front cover of “Business Monday”. Aside from being a locally owned business, it is unlike any other toy store around because it does not only sell toys, but they also offer gift wrapping for FREE and the customer service is beyond compare; they even throw huge parties for their customers throughout the year with a fan-favorite being their Christmas Party that contains a guest appearance from Santa Claus, himself. The store also gives back to the community by donating to local schools, churches, sports teams, and charities. If you want to get a toy for your child or if you are in the mood to relive your own childhood, this is the spot to go (all above- (13)).
2- The Golden Hog
The Golden Hog started out as a small neighborhood farmer’s market that ensured the best quality in all their products. This is not the average farmer’s market, as it sells gourmet food items from artisan cheeses to handmade pastas all with fair prices to increase sales and keep that local business atmosphere. They cater, deliver, create gourmet baskets for any occasion, and will attempt to source any item that cannot be found in their market. If you are unable to go to the Golden Hog in person, much of what they sell can be purchased online. This seems like the ideal place for those who favor luxury food or those who want to enjoy gourmet dishes from time to time (all above- (14)).
3- The Island Shop
The island shop is marketed as a gift shop, but it can be a shop that serves all with their range of items. They sell items from home decorations to baby clothing, to fragrances, and so much more. They have been serving the community for over 30 years and emphasize that each of their items is picked so that any customer that they have does not leave empty-handed. The shop also offers in-house printing for any personalization needs. If there was ever a gift shop to recommend, this would be the one (all above- (15)).
It is safe to say that Key Biscayne may be one of my favorite cities in Miami. I may not live there, but I do go there often to enjoy the beautiful scenery found within their parks and beaches. It is a city that balances urban life and natural life which is not something often seen. It has many businesses and companies, but it never loses that small-town feel, and hopefully never will. It cares about its community, and it cares about preserving the environment. From every restaurant to every local store to every park, Key Biscayne (or Key Biscayne Village) has something unique to offer.
“Key Biscayne Map.” Google My Maps, Google, https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?msa=0&mid=1neFiVwrCrEz2wKKTVtbeiqzXFHg&ll=25.692408177609845%2C-80.16480602814266&z=16.
(1) “Key Biscayne.” The Beacon Council, 26 Apr. 2018, https://www.beaconcouncil.com/why-miami-dade/cities/key-biscayne/.
(2) “Key Biscayne.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 10 July 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_Biscayne.
(3) “History of Key Biscayne: From Tequesta to Coconuts to Presidents.” Florida Back Roads Travel, https://www.florida-backroads-travel.com/history-of-key-biscayne-florida.html.
(4) “Key Biscayne, Florida: From Coconuts to Richard Nixon.” Florida Back Roads Travel, https://www.florida-backroads-travel.com/key-biscayne-florida.html.
(5) U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: United States. https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045219.
(6) Services, Miami-Dade County Online. “Crandon Park.” Untitled Document, https://www.miamidade.gov/parks/crandon.asp.
(7) “Exhibits.” Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center, https://biscaynenaturecenter.org/exhibits/.
(8) “Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.” Florida State Parks, https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/bill-baggs-cape-florida-state-park.
(9) Ricardo de la Blanca / Special to Islander News. “Did You Know… Kb History: The Calusa Park ‘Shack.” IslanderNews.com | Locally Owned & Operated, 21 May 2021, https://www.islandernews.com/news/did-you-know-kb-history-the-calusa-park-shack/article_ffbaeffe-f97b-11e9-a4c4-47d46d032c84.html.
(10) “Welcome to Piononos.” Piononos, https://piononosinc.com/.
(11) Donut Gallery Diner. “Home of the World Famous Ted’s Special.” Donut Gallery Diner, https://donutgallerydiner.com/menu.
(12) “Kebo Restaurant.” Key Biscayne, Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, https://www.restaurantkeybiscayne.com/about-us.php.
(13) “Toy Town: Local Toy Store: Key Biscayne, FL.” Toytown, https://www.toytownonline.com/.
(14) “About Us – the Golden Hog Visit Best Marketing Place.” The Golden Hog, https://thegoldenhog.com/about-us/.
(15) “The Island Shop: About.” The Island Shop, https://theislandshop.com/pages/about.