We set out past tarpon that seemed as long as our rented kayaks, leaving behind the flocks of tourists and pelicans at Robbie's Marina in Islamorada.
We were told Indian Key Historic State Park was a half-mile offshore, but it seemed farther away in space and certainly in time. It was a trip back to when the Florida Keys were populated with Seminole Indians, pirates and salvage operators.
The island was settled in 1831 when Jacob Housman started a salvage operation, a big business in the Keys, where shipwrecks were common on the reefs. The community had homes, a store, hotel and warehouse, laid out in a grid around a town square. But the Seminole Indians raided in 1840, destroying the community during the Second Seminole War.
The kayak trip from Robbie's to Indian Key is across a grass flat of mostly low water. Although close to shore, it can be a challenging 30-minute trip depending on wind and heat.
What remains today are the stone foundations. But the island provides heavenly solitude from the often busy Keys. There are paths to hike, history to learn, a tower to climb and a good area to snorkel on the far side of the island. From there, the view is only of open water and the Alligator Reef Lighthouse, which is an ambitious 5-mile kayak trip for people hardier than I.
If you go:
The Kayak Shack
MM 77, 77522 Overseas Highway, Islamorada
More great outdoors
Jonathan Dickinson State Park: Located just south of Stuart, this state park features 13 natural communities and a variety of water activities and ranger-guided tours.
16450 S.E. Federal Highway, Hobe Sound
Shark Valley: Tucked within Everglades National Park, Shark Valley offers guided tram tours, walking paths and bicycle rentals to explore the Florida Everglades.
36000 SW 8th St., Miami