Key Biscayne, Florida is an island off the coast of Miami. It is reached by the Rickenbacker Causeway that originates in the Brickell Avenue area of Miami. It is well signed from both I-95 and US-1.
As you drive across the causeway you will first see the Rusty Pelican restaurant on your left and then Miami Seaquarium on your right.
These two businesses, along with a charter high school, the old Miami Marine Stadium, and a marina are all located on Virginia Key.
This key is located between mainland Miami and Key Biscayne. As you drive across the causeway you will have a wonderful view on your left of the downtown Miami skyline.
Virginia Key and Key Biscayne are separated from the South Beach area of Miami Beach by Government Cut. Government Cut is the main ship channel from the Atlantic Ocean into the Port of Miami.
As you leave Virginia Key, you will cross a bridge that spans Bear Cut. Bear Cut is for smaller vessels traveling in and out of Biscayne Bay.
A bit further down the road you will see the large Crandon Park ocean front beach and parking area.
Your next stop is the Village of Key Biscayne.
Key Biscayne was the center of civilization for the Tequesta, a small tribe of sea-savvy Indians who fished the crystal waters of the Florida Keys.
Because Key Biscayne is only about five feet above sea level, the Tequesta raised their villages on palm pilings, much like the summer homes that today line Florida's coasts.
Long before sea turtles were endangered, the Tequesta hunted them for their meat and harvested their eggs for valuable protein.
In 1513, Ponce de Leon "discovered" the island and presented it to the King of Spain as Santa Maria. The Tequesta were fortunate in that Ponce only had time to restock provisions before leaving.
The toll on the Rickenbacker Causeway from Miami to Key Biscayne is $2.25 per two axle cars or trucks, but a lot more for big vehicles with three axles or more.
The trip from the mainland along the causeway lined with palms and beaches along Biscayne Bay is a beautiful and calming transition from the bustle of Miami to the quiet paradise of Key Biscayne.
After World War Two, Key Biscayne was still largely undeveloped.
While the city saw growth from tourism and land speculators, it was still an island isolated from Miami on the mainland.
It took the completion of the Rickenbacker Causeway from Miami to Biscayne in 1947 to really bring major residential development.
The Mackle Brothers began developing their Villages of Key Biscayne in 1950, and typical houses sold for less than $10,000.
These homes were concrete block houses of about 1200 square feet with three bedrooms, one bathroom and a small screened-in porch.
These original homes were primarily sold to retirees and young families headed by World War II veterans who purchased them with GI Bill financing with a $ 500 down payment.
Many of these same homes, known locally as "Mackles", are worth much more than one million dollars today. They are becoming scarcer by the day.
Affluent people - many from South America - buy the old homes and tear them down to build McMansions with room for large families and live-in maids.
The only bank on the Key in the early days was owned by Charles "Bebe" Rebozo, who later became famous as a friend of Richard Nixon. His Key Biscayne Bank & Trust was founded in 1964.
Bebe was of Cuban descent, but regularly attended Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church, sometimes accompanied in later years by Richard Nixon.
Bebe instituted a tradition in his bank of always having fresh popcorn in an old fashioned popping machine in the lobby. The wonderful aroma teased your nose the moment you walked in the door.
When I lived on the Key in the mid 1990's, the SunTrust bank was in the old location and carried on the Bebe popcorn tradition.
In 1969, Key Biscayne Florida saw major presidential development as well when Richard Nixon purchased his winter retreat there, the "Florida White House".
The President of the United States wanted to be close to his old buddy, Bebe.
His visits to the Key became celebrity events, and the citizens got used to the Secret Service spending a lot of time before the presidential visits making sure everything was secure.
The ranch-style compound, bulldozed in 2004 by new owners, was Nixon's fortress of solitude during his administration and even after he was forced to resign due to the Watergate scandal.
Key Biscayne suffered some damage when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992, but luckily Bill Baggs State Park took the brunt of the storm's fury.
The hurricane turned out to be a blessing in disguise as all the invasive species, such as Australian pines, in the park were wiped out by the heavy winds and rain.
The Park Service restored the area with all native plants, and today Bill Baggs Park is a rare glimpse of what old Florida's wilderness might have looked like when the Tequesta thrived here.
Perhaps the current economic storm will be the next blessing in disguise for the Key's natural beauty as it might slow down development.
The beaches in Key Biscayne are gorgeous soft white sand, and the best of these is at Crandon Park on the north side of the Key.
Key Biscayne is traditionally mentioned in any list of the top safest cities in Florida.
All of this tremendous beauty and security comes with a price. Realtor.com says the median listing price for a Key Biscayne home in 2021 is $1,495,000.
Most of the residences are McMansions or ocean front condominiums. I lived there from 1992 to 1996 and sold my one bedroom condominium for $82,000.
Needless to say, home prices have gone up in those past 25 years.
Sir Pizza. 712 Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne FL 33149. 305-361-5701. Usual Key Biscayne prices, but very good pizza nevertheless. Very popular with Key natives and still one of my favorites.
Donut Gallery Diner. 83 Harbor Drive, Key Biscayne FL 33149. 305-361-9985. Iconic 50 year old restaurant for great lunches and breakfasts. Very popular with locals.
Silver Sands Beach Resort,
301 Ocean Dr, Key Biscayne Florida 33149. 305-361-5441. Good Location. The great beaches of Bill Baggs State Park are a stone's throw away.
Lots of European tourists love this hotel, so you'll be amongst interesting company. A bargain for Key Biscayne (expect about $170 a night during the tourist season).
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park,
1200 South Crandon Blvd, Key Biscayne Florida 33149. 305-361-5811.
Named after Miami newspaper editor Bill Baggs, this state park is part of an extensive system of barrier islands. Also contains historic Cape Florida Lighthouse which you can ascend for one of the most exhilarating views in Florida, as well as the accompanying lighthouse keeper museum. You can also have lunch in the park at the Lighthouse Cafe.
1 Rickenbacker Causeway, Key Biscayne Florida 33149. 786-713-8006.
Windsurfing, kayaking, you can learn how to do it all here. The staff are very helpful and experienced.