The virgin tropical hardwood hammock that thrives on this island was once common on most of Florida's Upper Keys; most of these forests have been lost to development on other islands.
In 1919, William J. Matheson, a wealthy Miami chemist, bought this tiny island and built a caretaker's home with a windmill for electricity and a cistern for rainwater. Today, his hideaway is the visitor center for this island forest.
Tour boat service to the island is available through several local charters. Ranger-guided tours of the island are available December through April, Friday through Sunday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. In order to protect the fragile natural resources of the island, trail access is restricted to guided tours.
Visitors can rent powerboats and kayaks from several local marinas. Knowledge of the channels is critical because of the surrounding shallow grass flats. Kayaks and canoes can float across most flats offering spectacular opportunities to see a variety of wildlife from dolphins and manatees to sharks and rays.
Visitors may access the island by canoe or kayak.
Anglers can fish for a variety of species from Bonefish on the flats, to Tarpon in the channels. Snapper, Spanish Mackerel and Snook are also found in the area. Caribbean Spiny Lobster and Stone Crab are also found in the waters surrounding the park and can be harvested when in season. All fishing within the park must conform to regulations concerning size, number, method of capture and season.
A Florida saltwater fishing license, with special stamps for Lobster and Snook, may be required. Fishing may be done around the island, but not within 100 feet of the nearest dock.
Some local charters run Eco-tours that involve brief stops at the island and snorkeling in the area around the island and out on the reef. Remember, all snorkeling requires a 'Diver-Down' flag. All snorkeling must be conducted 100 feet from the nearest dock.
A variety of shore, wading and migratory birds may be viewed on the island.
The Matheson House, built in 1919, serves as the park's Visitor Center and offers a glimpse of how island people lived during a 'simpler' time when most of their needs were met by the land and sea around them. The Visitor Center is open Friday through Sunday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Monday, Jun 5, 2023 at 9:00 a.m. Mountain Time
Monday, Jun 5, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. Mountain Time
Monday, Jun 5, 2023 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern Time
JOIN FOR JUST $16 A YEAR