7 Ways to Enjoy Key West’s Historic Old Seven Mile Bridge
For visitors to the Southernmost state, Key West is often the destination. And there’s no shortage of opportunities to take in a Florida Keys sunset, especially from the balcony of your own private cottage. Sunset Key Cottages is a truly unique getaway located just off the coast of Key West, where the views are unparalleled.
But as anyone who’s traveled the Overseas Highway knows, getting to your resort is half the fun. The entire route from Florida City to Mile Marker 0 is packed with adventures, and one of them – a longtime favorite – has recently reopened for business after a five-year, $44 million renovation project. The Old Seven Mile Bridge is the chance to experience nearly 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and all the history that comes with it. Here are seven ways to get the most of your day trip up U.S. 1.
1. Take a Trip Back in Time
While the Seven Mile Bridge is a busy highway, the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge has been closed to motor traffic since the 1980s and preserved as a historic landmark. It’s been around since the turn of the 20th century and was originally part of Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway.
To say that it’s a sight to behold is an understatement – the structure was once nicknamed “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” To get a true picture of the impact the bridge had on the early economy of the Florida Keys, take the guided tram tour of Pigeon Key, a 5-acre island that the 400 workers who built the bridge once called home.
2. Go for a Long, Slow Walk
Today, “Old Seven” serves as a 2.2-mile link between Pigeon Key and Marathon. Close (and yet so far) from the main highway to Key West, the park is a great way to take in the beauty of the Keys at an amble. Take as many photos as you can, soak in the tropical South Florida sun, stop and take breaks if you feel like it – you’re truly on island time when the only other traffic is fellow pedestrians, cyclists and the occasional tram.
3. Bring Your Bike, and Bowser
The long, flat “linear park” that is the Old Seven Mile Bridge is perfect for a bike ride with both your human and furry family members. Bicyclists abound, as well as four-legged friends, making it a true hub for all kinds of non-motorized sightseeing. Separate, dedicated lanes for bicyclists and walkers ensure that there’s room for everyone to traverse safely.
4. Look for Signs of Tropical Life
Peer over the edge of the bridge into the crystal-clear waters below (we recommend polarized sunglasses) and you never know what you might see. Creatures from dolphins to sting rays to sharks have been spotted, as well as endangered Florida sea turtles and a wide variety of tropical fish. In the sky, look for pelicans, ibis, osprey, frigate birds, seagulls and maybe even the long, elegant legs of a crane as they soar effortlessly overhead.
5. Count the Shades of Blue
Standing on Old Seven is a fully immersive experience, with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. What can feel like a thousand different blues blend effortlessly together, from the lightest turquoise to the darkest navys. It’s an experience that will invigorate your senses and calm your soul. Breathe in the warm salt air and take it all in for a memory that will last a lifetime.
6. Pack a Picnic
You’ll find several picnic tables at the base of the bridge, and you can choose a spot that’s out in the sun or under some shade. It’s the chance to enjoy lunch with a side of tremendous bay views while the warm breezes blow. (Side note: There aren’t any restrooms available nearby, so be sure to plan accordingly!)
7. Say Hello to Fred the Tree
Although it’s not part of the bridge that’s open to pedestrian traffic, Fred the Tree is an iconic resident of the Old Seven Mile Bridge. A wayward Australian Pine that’s located east of Pigeon Key and visible from the Overseas Highway as you drive by, Fred has been growing out of the old roadbed for years and is a symbol of survival to the residents of the keys – especially after surviving Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Bonus: Parking Pro Tip
The 35 parking spaces at the foot of the bridge are often full, even on weekdays. Look for additional street parking on the other side of U.S. 1, just past the Sunset Grille and Raw Bar (try the conch fritters for a true Florida Keys experience). From there, take the scenic walkway under the highway to the base of the Old Seven Mile Bridge.