The Lower Keys

Big Pine Key

Big Pine in particular is one of the largest and most interesting Islands in the Keys. It has a population just over 5000 and as of Sept 2007-there were homes starting at $240,000. As you get closer to the water or buy a home on a canal, the prices rise accordingly. But there are quite a few different developments, mostly of single family houses, and some are pricier than others.

Water depth affects prices, and some areas have about 15 inches and some have 3-4 feet. Obviously this means you can have a certain kind of boat in some areas that won’t work in other areas. It depends what you’re looking for. The shallower areas have more direct and private access to a lot of the wilder and more pristine parts of the Island and adjacent backcountry. They may also (but not reliably) be less expensive.

Until now, on the drive down the Keys from Miami, the housing areas were arrayed on either side of the road, gulfside/bayside or oceanside. Here it’s different. The 2-lane, 45 mph Overseas Highway (what a misnomer!) runs across the southern edge of Big Pine, through the restaurant and business area; most of the residential areas are situated several minutes drive to the north. To some buyers that slow drive (30-35 mph speed limits, for the deer) is a price deterrent the farther north you go; to others the isolation means extra value.

Big Pine may be “remote,” caught as it is between the commercial centers of Marathon and Key West, but Big Pine does have it’s own major grocery store, post office and restaurants. It has some medical facilities, police and fire protection, and other basics of a “town It certainly has some interesting and unique retail shops, but in general it doesn’t have a lot of socalled unnecessary shopping. In fact the residents of the other Keys mentioned above generally will go to either Marathon or Key West for both basic needs and discretionary shopping. There is one big exception to that, on Saturday mornings, when it seems like everybody in the Lower Keys comes to the Big Pine Flea Market.

Nor does Big Pine have its own school system. Monroe County’s elementary and middle schools for the Lower Keys are on Sugarloaf; for high school kids are bused to Key West.

That’s this isolation feel like? Not bad, actually.