A bicycle ride on this relic turns into a history lesson
One of the main attractions on the Overseas Highway, the main road linking the Florida Keys from Miami to Key West, is the Seven-Mile Bridge. Besides being a favorite with sunset gazers, bridge enthusiasts and marathon runners, it separates the Middle Keys from the Lower Keys. Standing parallel to the paved bridge are the remnants of what was considered an engineering feat back in 1908: the Seven-Mile Historic Bridge, affectionately known as “Old 7.” Exploring this relic of steel and concrete by bicycle is a fun way to learn some Florida Keys history. Constructed more than a century ago by Henry Flagler as part of his efforts to extend his Florida East Coast Railway to Key West, this 2.2 mile section of the original span is closed to car traffic and has been preserved for fishing, walking, jogging and bicycling. Blocks from the bridge, the Overseas Outfitters rents single-speed, gear and road bicycles perfect for traveling the old bridge.
From the shop pedal southwest on sidewalks alongside the highway to the bridge; its first section connects the tip of Knight’s Key with Pigeon Key, a spit of land a mile off shore used by Flagler as a workers camp and staging area for the next link. Stop and peer over the rusty I-beam rail into the glistening green waters below and you’ll spy the silhouette of a manta ray or the silver flash of a fish swimming by. Poles along the bridge serve as perches for osprey that surprisingly sit still long enough for you to sneak up and snap a picture. And, of course, the water view of the Florida Bay is breathtaking. At the end of the line nestled under the bridge is Pigeon Key. Its five acres are home to a railroad museum filled with artifacts and historic photographs that tell the story of the bridge’s construction.