Indian Key | Offshore Excursion
The smallest island of the Village of Islands, Indian Key Historic State Park is only accessible by boat and is for day-tripping only. Indian Key’s history is an interesting cautionary tale, one evident in the ruins of the small town left in the wake of the Indian Key Massacre of 1840.
Purchased by wrecker John Jacob Housman in 1825 after becoming disenfranchised with industry practices in Key West, Housman turned Indian Key into a wrecking center of the upper and middle Keys from 1831-1840. Relatively small at just 11 acres, Housman built a small town on the island, complete with town square, paved streets, cisterns, warehouses, wharves, 30 cottages and even a hotel—the Tropical Hotel, which James Audubon once stayed while on his epic Florida excursion in 1831-1832.
But in 1840, Housman made a fatal proposition with the U.S. government: to “catch or kill all the Indians of South Florida for two hundred dollars each.” On August 7, 1840, a large band of Indians paddled from mainland Florida, some 30 miles north and, perhaps prompted by rage behind the proposition to Congress, raided the island, razing the town in their wake.
Now, the foundations of much of the town remain a stark reminder of Florida’s tumultuous past and a popular escape for weary islanders and visitors who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Overseas Highway.
- Roughly a mile east-southeast of Robbie’s, the kayak paddle takes about 30 minutes, depending on conditions.
- Be sure to bring the snorkel gear: There are some great rock reefs off the southern edge of the island.
- Also, facilities on the island are nonexistent—bring refreshments and snacks.
A cistern at Indian Key Historic State Park.
Street signs marking where once paved avenues lined Indian Key.
Photos courtesy of Florida Park Service.