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Lower Keys

Community Lower Keys

The Lower Keys is not just a great place to visit, it’s also a wonderful are in which to own a home whether it’s your primary residence or vacation/investment property. Encompassing Big Pine Key, Summerland Key, Cudjoe Key, Sugarloaf Keys, Saddlebunch Keys and Big Coppitt Key you will find charming neighborhoods and a variety of amenities.

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The Lower Keys is not just a great place to visit, it’s also a wonderful are in which to own a home whether it’s your primary residence or vacation/investment property. Encompassing Big Pine Key, Summerland Key, Cudjoe Key, Sugarloaf Keys, Saddlebunch Keys and Big Coppitt Key you will find charming neighborhoods and a variety of amenities.

Big Pine Key is part of the National Key Deer Refuge where you can see the very cute and protected Key Deer. Another point of interest is “The Blue Hole,” which is an abandoned rock quarry that was used for nearby road fills and Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad. Want to go where the locals go? Look no further than the No Name Pub and leave your mark on their walls.

Summerland Key is the next island as you head towards Key West. Summerland has a private airstrip as well as a large number of waterfront homes. It is home to the Florida National High Adventure Sea Base and The Mote Marine Laboratory which is an educational and research organization focused on Coral Reef restoration and saving our endangered coral reef system.

Cudjoe Key is home to “Fat Albert,” a tethered Air Force Blimp that has flown over the Lower Keys for over 30 years. The Cudjoe Key Air Force Station was activated in 1959 to track missiles traveling through the Eglin Gulf Test Range.

The Sugarloaf Keys have fewer homes and a lot of waterfront to explore. It’s also home to Skydive Key West if you are the adventurous type. The Sammy Creek Landing rest stop/picnic area on Lower Sugarloaf Key has restored native vegetation which attracts numerous butterflies. Paddlers exploring nearby coastal habitats will find abundant bird life in marshes, mangroves and exposed mudflats.

The Saddlebunch Keys are not populated and are just before Big Coppitt Key on the way to Key West.

Big Coppitt and Geiger Key are home to the Geiger Key Marina and Smokehouse where you can enjoy great food at a casual waterfront setting.

Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce

Homes for sale in the Lower Florida Keys

cozy house

With Caribbean-like tropical weather, gorgeous sunsets, world-class fishing, and abundant natural wonders, the 113-mile stretch of the Florida Keys is undoubtedly a paradise made for home seekers dreaming of island living. For those who love isolated escapes, the lesser-explored offerings of Lower Keys take the cake.

Known for its uncrowded beaches and undisturbed wilderness, as well as the urban pleasures of its most popular island, Key West, the Lower Keys offer everyone the best of both worlds. If you’re planning to set up a home in the Keys, consider looking at homes for sale in the Lower Florida Keys.

ALL THE THINGS THAT MAKE LOWER KEYS, FL SPECIAL

Lower Florida Keys beach view

Past the family-oriented urban hub of Marathon in the Middle Keys, one finds the nearly three dozen breathtaking islands of the Lower Keys, Florida, sprawled gloriously across a 35-mile strip. The most notable ones with extraordinary properties for sale include:

  • Bahia Honda Key
  • Big Pine Key
  • Little Torch Key
  • Middle Torch Key
  • Big Torch Key
  • Key West
  • Stock Island
  • Ramrod Key
  • Summerland Key
  • Cudjoe Key
  • Sugarloaf Key
  • The Saddlebunch Keys

Separated from the Middle Keys by the Seven-Mile Bridge, these interwoven cays begin at MM40 at Sunshine Key, approximately five miles south of Pigeon Key. The tiny Little Duck Key and Missouri Key lie just before Sunshine Key and are also considered part of the Lower Keys.

Stock Island at MM5 is the last of the Lower Keys. From here, it’s only a short and scenic 4.2-mile drive via the Overseas Highway to the cosmopolitan dining and shopping destinations of Downtown Key West, one of the most beloved islands in the Florida Keys and the official seat of Monroe County. Key West lies only 93 miles from Cuba and is the southernmost point of the continental United States.

For home buyers looking to leverage the advantages of being remote enough to experience a tranquil tropical environment but near enough to access modern amenities and conveniences, it makes plenty of sense to search for homes for sale in the Lower Florida Keys.

Brief history of the Lower Keys

Also called the “Natural Keys,” the Lower Keys are vestiges of massive tracts of coral reefs dating to more than 100,000 years. As sea levels fell, the cays were exposed, turning to fossils that became the bedrock for some of the most beautiful houses for sale in Lower Keys, FL.

In the 1500s, when Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon embarked on an expedition to Florida, he sighted the Keys and collectively nicknamed them “Los Martires” (The Martyrs), owing to their shape. Back then, the Keys were inhabited by Native Americans, dominated by the Calusa Indians who predominantly occupied Southwest Florida and, to a lesser extent, the Tequesta tribe who occupied more of the northern part of the Everglades. Pirates were also known to dwell in the area.

The Spanish settlers arrived in the 1800s, taking over the land and referring to the keys as “cayo” – Spanish for “small island”.

Who might your neighbors be in the Lower Keys?

2022 Census figures reveal that residents aged 18 to 64 make up the bulk of the population in the area, accounting for more than half of the Lower Keys’ total population of approximately 12,000+ residents. Like expats who came here in search of sun, sea, and sand, many of them were attracted to the laid-back Cuban charm and value-for-money real estate in the Lower Keys, Florida.

These same reasons make the Lower Keys appealing to young families planning to raise kids in an affordable, tight-knit community. They praise the area for its variety of schools, unique natural beauty, quiet and safe neighborhoods, and accessibility to modern amenities, minus the hustle and bustle of tourist-popular spots.

What the Lower Keys are known for

Of Florida’s four major areas, the Lower Keys remains the most untouched. With fewer developments and houses for sale in Lower Keys, FL, biodiversity flourished. Supporting it are a couple of refuges, a state park, a marine sanctuary, and various offshore islands. These include a national wildlife refuge in Sugarloaf Key, home to the Great White Heron; and the vast expanses of mangroves at the Saddlebunch Keys located north of Key West.

Avid nature lovers usually drive out to Big Pine Key, home to the endangered tiny key deer, and several world-class dive-worthy shipwrecks.

Divers also swear by the splendor of Looe Key Reef which, on top of shipwrecks, offers a unique reef system teeming with fossilized corals and marine mammals.

If simply wading in crystalline waters is your cup of tea, Bahia Honda State Park is a must. Choose from three stunning beaches and reward yourself with an unforgettable sunset.

OVERVIEW OF THE LOWER KEYS, FL REAL ESTATE MARKET

Lower Florida Keys ocean shore

The forecast for the Lower Keys, Florida real estate market is promising throughout 2024. Prices are expected to increase throughout the year with the rise of dining establishments, newly established resorts, and vacation homes. Along with the limited availability of real estate properties and recent road developments, all these infrastructures lead to greater buyer interest in the area and increasing property values. Moreover, the opportunity of owning prime waterfront real estate is possible here. If you are considering purchasing a home as your private enclave or as an investment, know that the Lower Florida Keys presents the most enticing options for your real estate goals.

Common property types in the Lower Keys

Whether it’s a two-bedroom home or a luxury waterfront property, there is always one in Lower Keys to suit your needs and preferences. Below are some of the most prominent property types in the area.

  • Single-family homes. These standalone residences offer couples and young families sufficient space to work and play. They also serve as great options for vacation homes and rentals. Prices begin at a little over $1,100,000, including those of homes by the beachfront.
  • Luxury homes. An embodiment of the fine life, these upscale properties merge style, comfort, privacy, and fine amenities. These include large pools, private docks, tech-assisted home provisions, and a private beach. Prices of houses for sale in the Lower Keys, FL cost upwards of $8,000,000, though new listings also include some for half the price.
  • Townhouses. Perfect for retirees and investors, these multi-level residences often feature beautiful courtyards, private entrances, multiple bedrooms, and plenty of space – all useful for receiving guests or when offering vacation rentals.
  • Waterfront homes. These splendid properties offer homeowners direct access to the beach for a swim and other water activities like kayaking, not to mention breathtaking nature views any time of the day.

For a better grasp of the current housing stock, you may start by browsing available homes for sale in the Lower Florida Keys.

Notable neighborhoods to live in

While all islands in the Lower Keys might make you want to pack your bags and move, a few of them are off-limits to residential developments. When browsing any property for sale in Lower Keys, Florida, it helps to refer to these best places for living or investing in the region.

  • Big Pine. A protected habitat, residential units here are surrounded by natural wonders, including shipwrecks and native wilderness. Plus, with groceries, restaurants, clinics, marinas, a public school, and lovely townspeople, one would be hard-pressed to skip an opportunity to own a home in Big Pine.
  • Ramrod Key. This quiet residential area serves as a jump-off point for dives in Looe Key Reef which is less than 10 minutes away. Some local facilities include a convenience store, a hotel-resto-bar, a marina, and a veterinary hospital.
  • Little Torch Key. One of three Torch Keys, a residence in this torchwood-fringed island puts you within a stone’s throw of world-class fishing, turquoise seas, spectacular wetlands, and the luxurious, adults-only Little Palm Island Resort.
  • Summerland Key. This boating destination is known for its small-town feel, wide canals, and boat charters. Right within the town are various restaurants, a school, a bank, a postal office, a miniature golf, and a private airstrip.
  • Cudjoe Key. Popular with retirees, Cudjoe Key is a peaceful residential community suited to those who prefer a quiet home life. A variety of houses, restaurants, and a private charter are available.
  • Sugarloaf Key. Great for young families, Sugarloaf Key features commercial facilities, a church, campgrounds, and a wildlife refuge in the upper reaches. Lower Sugarloaf Key, where most houses are situated, hosts an airport, a fire station, a restaurant, and a 50-foot bat tower.
  • Saddlebunch Keys. With this chain of islets being only a 30-minute drive away from Key West, a home here places you within easy reach of diverse retail shops, dine-and-wine hotspots, serene beaches, and several points of interest, including mangroves and lagoons.

LIFE IN THE LOWER KEYS, FL

Sunset view in Lower Florida Keys

Learn how to navigate life in the Lower Keys, what to expect climate-wise, and the best places to eat, play, and experience island life.

Accessibility

Getting around the Lower Keys is pretty straightforward with the US-1 Overseas Highway stretching from Key Largo to Key West. It effectively connects all the Keys, taking a total of only two hours from the northernmost to the southernmost point.

Leapfrog from key to key via 42 bridges in mere minutes via private vehicle. It is a popular and scenic way of exploring the keys, although most of the residents use their own boats to get from one island to another. To reach Key West from the mainland or Marco Island, travelers usually opt for water travel via the Key West Express catamaran.

Otherwise, one may board a Key West Transit Bus that runs from Key West to Marathon or the 301 Dade-Monroe Express Bus navigating the Marathon-Miami route. Greyhound and Go Bus also service the Miami-Key West route.

Another alternative is a van shuttle from Miami to Key West. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, rent a bike and cycle to any destination via the well-marked Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.

Those from other states or outside the country usually fly to Key West International Airport. Chartered flights may also be arranged via several private airstrips.

Climate

The Lower Keys’ proximity to the Caribbean region means the climate is more tropical marine in nature: hotter, sunnier, and ideal for basking on the beach. As such, oceanfront properties, including vacation rentals, remain among the most popular homes for sale in Lower Florida Keys, particularly among those who want a slice of the region without having to fly out.

Schools

Though most of the schools are located in the most popular and most populated island in the Lower Keys, Key West, two public schools in the Lower Keys stand out for their quality education:

  • Sugarloaf School. Located in Summerland Key, Sugarloaf serves PK-8. It consists of a sizable population of minority students and 40 full-time teachers.
  • Big Pine Academy. Located along the Overseas Highway, this charter school sits on a protected habitat; hence, wildlife conservation is an integral part of the curriculum. It serves PK3 to the 5th grade and is a consistent A-rated school by the Florida Department of Education.

Shopping and dining

While much of the action happens in Key West, several places in the Lower Keys have their respective retail hubs, including Summerland, Cudjoe, Saddlebunch, Little Torch, and Big Pine.

  • Big Pine Key Flea Market. Every weekend, from 8 AM to 2 PM, part of the Overseas Highway becomes abuzz with crowds shopping for new and vintage goods from this 40-year-old lifestyle mecca. You’ll find everything here from artisanal food and Boho chic pieces to artworks, fishing tackles, and handmade toiletries.
  • No Name Pub. Another Big Pine Key favorite, this beer-and-seafood shack began as a bait and tackle shop in 1931 before becoming the beachfront hole in the wall that it is today. Often included in tourist bucket lists, No Name Pub is where locals and travelers wind down and enjoy good conversations while chugging ice-cold beer and munching on pizza and smoked fish dips.

Outdoor recreation

With its wilderness largely intact and unspoiled, exploring the Lower Keys feels magical and worlds away from reality. Check out these amazing outdoor spots.

  • Bahia Honda State Park. Voted one of America’s Best Beaches, this palm-fringed state park offers a couple of award-winning beaches and campsites, plus excellent fishing, snorkeling, and boating opportunities. The water is warm and the wide-open spaces are perfect for small kids to run and play in. Take one of the numerous hiking trails, including one that leads to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge and gives a panoramic view of the island and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Mangroves and sandy lagoons. Mostly uninhabited, Saddlebunch Key boasts hectares of mangroves and sandy lagoons that are frequented by birds. Biking trails lead to jaw-dropping points where stunning sunsets await.
  • Perky Bat Tower. Originally erected in 1929 to house Cuban bats that proved effective in warding off mosquitoes, the 50-foot historic tall structure is one of Sugarloaf Key’s most photographed icons and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Fishing in Little Torch Key. Said to be President Harry S. Truman’s favorite fishing destination, Little Torch Key is perfect for deep-sea fishing, with yields like snappers, giant Goliath groupers, and barracudas.
  • Looe Key Reef. Part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, this unique marine habitat features a diverse reef ecosystem stretching 5.3 square nautical miles. It houses ancient fossilized and live corals; pelagic organisms; large marine vertebrates like rays, turtles, and whale sharks; and shipwrecks.
  • Wreck diving. Big Pine Key also houses several shipwrecks, including the 210-foot Adolphus Busch Sr., a former freighter purchased and sunk by the diving community to create an artificial reef and enhance marine biodiversity.
  • National Key Deer Refuge. Discover the last remaining herd of key deer in this wildlife sanctuary or take a walk in the woods. Also located here is the Blue Hole, a former rock quarry that now serves as home to endemic flora and fauna.
  • Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. Watch the Great White Heron take flight as you kayak in Marvin Key or while admiring them from Big Pine Key.

Other attractions and arts and culture events

The Lower Keys host other notable attractions and yearly events that locals and tourists may want to participate in

Stock Island’s artistry. The island is home to multi-disciplinary artists like sculptors, painters, and those whose mediums are wood, mosaic, and fabrics. Watch them create their masterpieces or commission one for a household centerpiece.

Connections Project. Every year, the Florida Keys Council of the Arts collects hundreds of tiny canvases by Keys artists to create one gigantic mosaic. The mural is paraded across the Keys to encourage community participation.

Underwater Music Festival. Held every May to heighten coral preservation awareness, this unique 25-year-old Big Pine Key event gathers divers and snorkelers at the Looe Key Reef. Musician divers play instruments while ocean-themed songs are streamed via underwater speakers. The playlist is broadcast on local radio, too.

FIND THE PERFECT LOWER KEYS, FL HOME WITH ALINA DAVIS

If you are considering settling in the Lower Keys, a knowledgeable Realtor is your best bet to help you in assessing what best suits your needs. Let Florida Keys expert Realtor Alina Davis be your guide in this exciting journey to your next new home or investment.

As a Keys resident for 40 years with a 14-year background in the Keys’ real estate market, Alina’s insider knowledge and wide network of industry colleagues and affiliates are the keys to helping you find the best homes for sale in Lower Keys, Florida, minus the hassle and delays. You may begin by calling Alina at 305.393.0541 or emailing her   here.

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