Imagine this. You’ve just flown into Miami and you’re driving down US 1. The music’s up, the windows are down, the Florida breeze is flowing through your car and you’re surrounded by mangroves and palms. Just an hour’s drive from Miami and you’ll find yourself in Key Largo, the first Key, and best Key, in our opinion (but we might be a bit biased).
Have you ever stopped to think about why they’re even called ‘The Keys’? The story goes way back to the days of the Taino Indians of Cuba and Hispanola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic). They used the word ‘cayo’ to refer to a small island, and just like when you hang around your friends for years and start to pick up on their phrases and mannerisms, the Spanish began to adapt the word from the Taino tribe. Over the years, it morphed into ‘key,’ with the word first appearing on English maps made right before the Revolutionary War.
But what about the ‘largo’ part? In 1639, when Dutch cartographer Johannes Vingloons was creating a map of the area, he labeled the island “Caio dos 12 Ligues,” which roughly translates to “Key of 12 Leagues”. Let’s now fast-forward about 95 years to when the Spanish were creating a new map to find sunken treasure off Florida’s coast. The land mass was subsequently labeled “Cayo Largo.” Can you see where this is going? A few maps later and the explorers arrived at good ‘ole Key Largo.
Speaking of arrivals, the first Key Largo citizens date back to 1870. The 200-person population continued to thrive and grow. As non-locals began to get word of this beautiful little island off the coast of Florida, a railway track was laid to occasionally transport sightseers. Daily train service from Miami to Marathon finally began in 1908 and included four stops: Tavernier, Rock Harbor, Key Largo and Jewfish Creek. Railway service continued until 1935.
In its earliest days of discovery, the island was home to pirates and exiles, but as the population developed thanks to the new railroad, it transformed Key Largo into a top provider of luxurious goods for the wealthy settlers in Key West. Nowadays, our beloved little island of Key Largo is home to more than 10,500 residents, as well as being a top vacation destination – becoming even more of one after the opening of this luxury resort we heard was going to be incredible 😉
*Feature image of Bahia Honda Key and Overseas Highway courtesy of Jack Says Relax, Flickr Creative Commons