Bahia Honda State Park is nestled on a small strip of land in the Florida Keys right off of Route 1, 37 miles north of Key West. It’s $5 per person or $8 per car, but it’s worth the price of admission even if you just park and walk around a bit. The park features 2.5 miles of pristine, white beaches, which are rare in the keys. It’s a very popular spot for snorkeling and fishing. The old Florida East Coast Railway used to run through the key. It was destroyed by the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. The rail disaster is a great story, as chronicled in Category 5: The 1935 Labor Day Hurricane.
In the midst of the Great Depression, a furious storm struck the Florida Keys with devastating force. With winds estimated at over 225 miles per hour, it was the first recorded Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in the United States. Striking at a time before storms were named, the catastrophic tropical cyclone became known as the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane, and its aftermath was felt all the way to Washington, D.C. In the hardest hit area of the Florida Keys, three out of every five residents were killed, while hundreds of World War I veterans sent there by the federal government perished.
The foundations of the rail line were used for the Overseas Highway, which eventually became Route 1. In time, that bridge was replaced and access has been cut off from the land. The old trusses are rusting away and will eventually collapse into the sea. You can actually walk on part of the old bridge in the park, which offers a panoramic view of the key. There’s also a short hike through gardens that include a butterfly sanctuary, although I never actually saw a butterfly.
It always amazes me how few people utilize state parks at the beach. They’re super cheap, clean, and rarely crowded. The beaches were filled with Europeans, leading me to wonder if a day or two here is part of a “Tour of Florida” travel package. My only regret is that I didn’t have the time nor the tools to snorkel. Don’t make my mistake. Pick up a snorkel and mask package and toss it in your trunk while you’re traveling through the area.