Samantha Johnson: Key Biscayne 2022

Student Bio

Photo taken by Natalia Sanchez //CC by 4.o

Samantha Johnson is a Junior at Florida International University working towards a B.A. in Sustainability and the Environment with a minor in Marine Biology. She hopes to achieve not only one day a PHD but also a JD in Environmental Law and use these to make policies that will help the environment or to be involved in research that would promote this. In her free time, she loves to read and hang out with friends, but also loves to go to the beach and is extremely passionate about the environment.


Geography

Map of Key Biscayne from Goofle Maps

Key Biscayne spans 1.40 mi2 (3.63 km2) between Crandon Park and Bill Baggs State Park. It is located at 25.691145, -80.164840 (Apple Maps). It has a countless number of stores and restaurants, good for both the community who lives there and those who come to visit. Most of the area is homes, townhouses, and communities, but there are hotels by the beach along with nature areas and other necessities to live there.

The urban area is essentially the entire neighborhood. It is made up of townhouses, homes, and gated communities. There are countless shops and businesses in Key Biscayne as well. The majority of the businesses and restaurants were along the strip in the middle along Crandon Blvd, which allows for both sides of the Blvd to be used for houses and developments.

The natural landscape is obviously an important part to the nature of Key Biscayne. Not only is it in between two major parks (Bill Baggs State Park and Crandon Park), but it also has several smaller green areas within its borders (Village Green Park, Lake Park, East Enid Linear Park, and the Civic Center Park). You can see more green parts on the map, smaller parks, and places to walk around as well. My favorite part was how well they incorporated even more green while just driving and walking around. Throughout the neighborhoods there were large trees covering the streets and the yards were lined with so much green. Even driving down Crandon Blvd there were palm trees in the median along with other plants, and on the sidewalks where the shopping plazas were there was so much green as well.


History

Photo taken by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

Key Biscayne was first occupied by the Tequesta people until Ponce de Leon claimed it for the King of Spain in 1513. Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821, and shortly after Mary Ann Davis purchased the island and sold three acres to the U.S. Government to be used as a military reservation, where the Cape Florida Lighthouse would later be built and lit for the first time in 1825. (History of Key Biscayne, Florida)

The Davis family laid out the first town on Key Biscayne in 1839. As Key Biscayne began to prosper farmers began arriving from the north to set up plantations. A popular one that most people know is the coconut plantation by William John Matheson. Matheson died in 1930, but his three children each owned a part of the plantation. They donated the northern half to the public and the county in return built a causeway from the key to the mainland. In 1950, the middle half was purchased to build 289 homes for veterans. They also built the Key Biscayne Villas on the Beach, along with a shopping center and a school. The lower half of the island was purchased to make a state park (Bill Baggs) in 1966. (History of the Island of Key Biscayne)

The Village of Key Biscayne was incorporated in 1991.


Demographics

Key Biscayne is a suburb located in Miami-Dade County. It gives residents an urban feel with many restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. Most of the residents are the owners of their homes, not many people rent here. It is home to 12,915 people, with many of them being retirees (Niche).

Graph of Population Density of Key Biscayne from World Review

Whites make up the majority of the population in the area (96.63%), with the remainder being made up by “two or more races” (1.46%), other race (1.39%), Asian (0.29%), Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (0.18%), and Black or African American (0.05%) (World Population Review). Gender is split almost evenly with 52% of residents being female and 48% being male (Niche).

The average household income in Key Biscayne is $226,086. Rentals average at about $2,548 per month, and houses average at about $1.21 million (World Population Review). 70% of residents own their homes and 30% of residents rent. Most of the residents in Key Biscayne have either a master’s degree or higher (36%) or a bachelor’s degree (37%). There are few who have some college or an associate degree (17%) and 8% have a high school diploma (Niche).

Interview with Grace Mahuron:
A resident of Key Biscayne
Grace Mahuron with her service dog Hope.
Photo taken by Grace Mahuron // Used with permission

Q: Where are you from?

A: I have been living in South Florida my whole life, and just came to Key Biscayne with my parents a few years ago.

Q: What is your favorite part about living in Key Biscayne?

A: My favorite part about Key Biscayne is how close we are to the beaches. I love being outside and in nature, so being so close to the beaches is just wonderful. I also love being close to Village Green Park and the Dog Park and being able to take my dogs there to run around.

Q: Do you think you will stay here for a while, and would you recommend living here to someone else?

A: I don’t know if I will continue living here when I finish school and move out, even though I really enjoy living here. I personally don’t think I will be able to afford living here on my own, but if you can afford it and want to be close to these places, I would definitely recommend it.


Landmarks

1 – Key Biscayne Community Center

Photo taken by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

The Key Biscayne Community Center opened on October 30, 2004. It is located adjacent to Village Green Park and is a vital part of the community. It provides a wide variety of amenities including: basketball, indoor playground, dance/aerobic studios, a computer lab, a fitness center, and much more. It is open from 6AM to 10PM Monday through Friday, and 7AM to 3PM on Saturdays.

Address: 10 Village Green Way, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

2 – Key Biscayne Fire Department

Photo taken by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

The Key Biscayne Fire Department is led by Chief Eric Lang and is recognized as an all-hazards response agency. This means that personnel are required to respond to and handle responses to fire and medical emergencies, collapsed structures, hazardous materials, car accidents, and floods.

On September 10, 1998, the Key Biscayne Fire Department was awarded the “International Accredited Agency Status” by the Board of Directors for the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. It became the 10th department in the world and the 1st in Florida to receive this recognition.

Address: 560 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

3 – Cape Florida Lighthouse

Photo taken by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

The Cape Florida Lighthouse is located at the tip of Key Biscayne in Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park. It is the oldest standing structure in Miami-Dade and was first built in 1825. It has survived almost 200 years of erosion, hurricanes, wars with Seminole native Americans, and an explosion within it. It was damaged during the Second Seminole War and had to be rebuilt and refurbished. This was finished in 1846 and had another 30 feet added to it. (Florida State Parks)

Bill Baggs State Park hosts tours of the lighthouse five days a week with 2 tours a day, one at 10AM and the other at 1PM. they do not host tours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The lighthouse has 109 stairs that guests must be able to climb if they want to reach the top. (Cape Florida Light)

Address: Cape Florida Lighthouse, 1200 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149


Green

1 – Bill Baggs State Park

Photos taken and edited by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

Bill Baggs State Park is located at the tip of Key Biscayne and is just 15 minutes from the hustle and bustle that is Downtown Miami. It is home to the Cape Florida Lighthouse which was built in 1825, and has an immense amount of history surrounding it. It is the oldest structure in Miami-Dade County, and has almost 200 years of history within its walls.

Bill Baggs State Park has many activities other than visiting the lighthouse. They have several walking and biking trails that wind through the native vegetation. It has several picnic tables and food concessions as well. Fishermen are often found along the seawall alongside Biscayne Bay. There are also two onsite restaurants, the Lighthouse Café, and the Boaters Grill. They both serve Cuban food, sandwiches, and drinks. The park is open 365 days a year from 8:00AM until sundown. (Key Biscayne Chamber)

Address: 1200 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

2 – Crandon Park

Photo taken by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

Crandon Park was a donation made to Miami-Dade County in 1940 by the heirs of Commodore William John Matheson, who originally used the land as a coconut plantation. Their only condition was that the land would be used as a public park. In exchange for the land, Charles Crandon of the County Commission offered to have the County build a causeway that would connect Key Biscayne to the mainland. (Heritage)

Crandon Park offers visitors the chance to explore various ecosystems located on the Key including the dunes, mangroves, coastal hammocks, and seagrass beds, and to also observe wildlife including herons, ospreys, and butterflies along with plants that are not often found anywhere else. Crandon Park also contains the Bear Cut Preserve, which is a designated Environment Study Area, and shows what South Florida looked like in the past. Crandon Park also has a two-mile beach that is one of the most popular recreation destinations in all of Miami-Dade. (Facility Description)

Address: 6747 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

3 – Village Green Park

Photos taken and edited by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

Village Green Park encompasses 9.5 acres of land and is located in the heart of Key Biscayne. It contains several multi-use fields, a half-mile jogging course, a community bandstand, splash fountain, and a small pavilion. There is also a dog park on the north side.

Village Green has multiple multipurpose fields at the north and south sides of the parl. They have portable baseball and softball backstops, soccer goals, and football goals which are set up for different teams during the sports seasons. When they are not in use, there are often people out there playing and flying kites.

Village Green Park also has a playground which has areas for both toddlers and older children, a splash fountain, and a shade pavilion with benches. The toddler play area has a shade canopy above it, and the knee wall alongside Fernwood Road also provides protection to the children in the park as well.

Address: 450 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149


Transportation

Photos taken and edited by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

To get to Key Biscayne, you must drive, unless you live closer and are able to find another mode of transportation. Coming from FIU, you must drive, but depending on where you are going (Bill Baggs, Crandon Park, or just visiting the restaurants in the area) there is decent parking everywhere.

There are a few bus stops around the area as well, so if you can take the bus instead, that would be easier than trying to find parking in the area. While I was driving through the townhouses and the neighborhood, it was clear that most of the residents use golf carts to get around, which I thought was quite interesting.

Once you are there however, the easiest way to see everything is to just walk around. Although everything seems pretty spread out, I was able to see everything during my trip by just parking at my first destination and walking to find the rest. It is also pedestrian friendly and has crosswalks everywhere and signs to remind cars to watch for pedestrians and big flashy lights for when you are crossing the street.

It was quite daunting to drive through here at first and to figure out where I was going. I usually just drive through this little town to get to the beaches and to Bill Baggs, and never really thought about the dynamics of it before this project. I was also surprised because it reminded me a lot of a town back home where I live, with the number of townhouses that were around seeing lots of residents driving golf carts instead of regular cars. There was even golf cart specific parking! I suppose that if you were living here, it would make sense to just drive a golf cart around because everything you need is close together, unless you have to leave the village.


Food

1 – Artisan Kitchen and Bar

Photo taken by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

Artisan Kitchen strives to bring “honest, simple and healthy food” made from scratch every day to serve their guests using the “best ingredients available”. They serve Venezuelan Cuisine, and serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and desserts.

For breakfast they are known for: many different types of arepas or cachapas and also serve tequenos, croissants, and omelettes.

For lunch they are known for: different types of sandwiches, empanadas, croquettes, and salads.

For dinner they are known for: signature dinners such as grilled octopus, and huevos estrellados, and also have Venezuelan bites, Spanish bites, and bruschettas.

Address: 658 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

2 – Milanezza Kitchen Bar Market

Photo taken by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

Milanezza is an Argentinian restaurant in Key Biscayne. They are known for private dining and to host private parties. Their outdoor terrace and indoor dining area are ideal for hosting private events. They accept large party reservations and buyouts in advance. For parties they transform the main dining area into a dance floor with disco lights and a DJ. They offer small bites menus and Open Bar packages.

They are known for their fresh market items which include a variety of Argentina products, breads, chicken, cold cuts, cheeses, empanadas, seafood, fruits and vegetables, meats and sauces, and homemade pastas and sauces.

For their regular menu they are known for: tapas, empanadas, different appetizers, different types of homemade pastas, salads, burgers and sandwiches, and of course Milanezza.

Address: 700 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

3 – El Gran Inka

Photo taken by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

El Gran Inka is a Peruvian restaurant located in Key Biscayne. They have another location in Dolphin Mall as well. They have 12 restaurants open and operating throughout the U.S., Guatemala, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. They bring the “most typical Peruvian dishes through unique creation of dishes with a touch of gourmet”.  They provide a “gastronomic and cultural experience” which helps to maintain its unique atmosphere.

On their menu they are well-known for their ceviche bar with many different types of ceviche, but also serve tiraditos, sushi rolls, and other options from the oven and gill, and from the sea.

Address: 606 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149


Business

1 – The Island Shop

All photos taken and edited by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

The Island Shop in Key Biscayne has been open for more than 30 years. They have a wide range product selection with everything from home décor, table and bed linens, candles, baby clothes, jewelry, and much more. It is very popular for tourists and locals alike.

They believe that their product lines are made so that no customer that comes in will leave empty-handed. They say that there is something unique for everyone that you need to buy for. They are also known to personalize stationary, stickers, create wedding invitations, and much more. (The Island Shop)

They are open Monday-Saturday from 10AM to 6PM and are closed on Sundays.

Address: 654 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

2 – Tinky’s Gift Shop

All photos taken and edited by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

Tinky’s Gift Shop isn’t your typical tourist trap gift shop. It has gifts for everyone that you may need to buy for, and it is a great small business to buy from. The prices may be a bit more than what you would spend at a local store, but they have items that you won’t find otherwise outside of the Key.

Tinky’s Gift Shop is open from 10AM-6PM Monday-Saturday and are closed on Sundays.

Address: 608 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

3 – Velisa Salon

Photos taken and edited by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

Velisa Salon is a Beauty Salon in Key Biscayne. They provide beauty, cosmetic, and personal care. It is in the same plaza as Tinky’s Gifts, El Gran Inka, The Island Shop, and Artisan Kitchen and Bar. They provide many services including haircuts, dyes, highlights, styling, and manicures.

Velisa Salon is open from 9AM-7PM Tuesday through Saturday.        

Address: 606 Crandon Boulevard, Key Biscayne, FL 33149


Summary

Photo taken by Samantha Johnson // CC by 4.0

Overall, I think that Key Biscayne is a beautiful community. I love how everything goes together so well, and how close everything is to the beach as well as Bill Baggs and Crandon Park. I enjoyed walking through the neighborhood and finding out where everything was. It is a neighborhood that I had never really thought about since I normally only see it in passing as I am driving to Bill Baggs and back. I never had a reason to stop here before, and I was pleasantly surprised. They have a wide variety of restaurants and stores, and it was probably comical to see me walking around in awe at how much they had to offer. I also loved how they incorporated their green areas into the neighborhood. The placement of the trees and shrubs along Crandon Blvd and all the side streets just brings everything all together. Also, by having Village Green Park is right on Crandon Blvd so you see it as you are driving, it shows just how lively the neighborhood is, and I think that it was well done.

My only complaint is how close the houses are to each other on the East side as you are driving south on the island. I drove through here to see the neighborhood and to see how everything was laid out, and found it surprisingly hard, and my car isn’t even that large. However, I think part of the problem was because it was very busy by Key Biscayne Community Church, and it looked like they were holding a fundraiser of some sort. This made it challenging to drive through as there were cars parked everywhere, and I was surprised that they had houses right across the street from the church. I understand why most of the residents drive golfcarts on the island, it seems like it would make navigating through these areas much easier.


Citations


Author: SamanthaJ

I am a junior at Florida International University studying Sustainability and the Environment with a minor in Marine Biology. I love the beach and am passionate about the environment.

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