Welcome to the ultimate guide to Cudjoe Key, Florida, the hidden gem waiting to be discovered. Nestled in the beautiful Florida Keys, Cudjoe Key offers a breathtaking escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Whether you’re seeking a tranquil getaway or an adventure-filled vacation, this small island paradise has something for everyone.
Surrounded by crystal-clear waters, Cudjoe Key boasts unparalleled natural beauty. Explore the vibrant coral reefs while snorkeling or diving, or soak up the sun on the pristine beaches. With its prime location, the island is a dream destination for fishing enthusiasts, with ample opportunities to catch world class prized gamefish.
In addition to its natural splendor, Cudjoe Key offers a charming and laid-back atmosphere. Stroll through quaint streets lined with colorful cottages and enjoy fresh seafood at local waterfront restaurants. Embrace the island lifestyle as you unwind and connect with nature.
Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or a solo adventure, Cudjoe Key Florida is the perfect destination. Discover this Florida Keys hidden gem and let this ultimate guide be your key to unlocking unforgettable memories in Cudjoe Key.
The History and Culture of Cudjoe Key Florida
Cudjoe Key has a rich history and vibrant culture that adds to its allure. Originally inhabited by the Calusa Native Americans, the island later became home to settlers and pioneers. Today, remnants of the past can be explored through historical landmarks and museums.
Cudjoe Key’s history, like many of the Florida Keys, blends indigenous life, exploration, piracy, and modern tourism. Here’s a deeper dive into its past:
- Native Americans: Evidence suggests that Calusa tribes inhabited the island for centuries before European arrival, living off the abundant marine life and leaving behind shell mounds.
- Spanish Exploration: Juan Ponce de León likely sighted the island in 1513 but didn’t land. Spanish explorers and missionaries may have interacted with Calusa inhabitants in the 16th and 17th centuries.
18th & 19th Centuries:
- Early Names and Inhabitants: The island’s name has origins debated, possibly linked to the Joewood tree or an escaped enslaved person named Cudjoe.
- Salvaging and Wrecking: Throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, the island served as a base for salvagers and “wreckers,” recovering goods from shipwrecks in the treacherous waters around the Keys.
- Development and Agriculture: During the mid-19th century, coconut plantations established by Bahamian immigrants became the island’s primary economic activity.
- Civil War: Due to its strategic location, Cudjoe Key saw some Union troop presence during the Civil War.
- Decline of Agriculture: Coconut blight and hurricanes led to the decline of coconut plantations in the early 20th century.
- World War II: The U.S. Navy built an airfield on the
island, used as a training facility and auxiliary landing strip.
- Tourism Takes Over: After the war, the island transitioned towards tourism, becoming a popular destination for fishing and relaxation.
- Cudjoe Key Air Force Station: Activated in 1959, the station tracked missiles and later became a detached installation of Homestead Air Reserve Base.
- Residential & Tourist Destination: Cudjoe Key has a small, permanent population and welcomes tourists seeking a quieter island experience compared to other Keys.
- Historical Sites: Traces of the island’s past remain, including abandoned coconut plantations and historical markers. For a complete historical outlook of the lower Keys, we recommend you make the short day trip from Cudjoe Key to Key West and visit the Museum of History located there.
Beyond the Timeline:
- Cultural & Literary References: Cudjoe Key features in the James A. Michener novel “Chesapeake” and is mentioned in Robert Stone’s “Dog Soldiers.”
- Environmental Challenges: Like other Keys, Cudjoe Key faces threats like rising sea levels and hurricanes, demanding careful environmental management.
The culture of Cudjoe Key is a unique blend of influences from the Caribbean, Florida, and the Keys. The island has a laid-back and welcoming atmosphere, where locals and visitors alike embrace the island lifestyle. Experience the vibrant arts scene by visiting local galleries or attending live performances. Don’t miss the opportunity to interact with the friendly locals and learn about their traditions and customs.
Cudjoe Key’s history and culture are an integral part of its identity, adding depth and character to this hidden gem in the Florida Keys.
Top Attractions and Things To Do in Cudjoe Key
Cudjoe Key, located in the Lower Florida Keys, offers a laid-back atmosphere and plenty of outdoor adventures for visitors to enjoy. Here are some top attractions and things to do in Cudjoe Key, Florida:
Boating and Fishing: Explore the surrounding waters of the Florida Keys by renting a boat or joining a guided fishing charter. Cudjoe Bay and nearby channels are known for their excellent fishing opportunities, including tarpon, bonefish, and permit.
Diving and Snorkeling: Discover the vibrant marine life and colorful coral reefs of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Popular dive sites like Looe Key Reef and American Shoal attract divers and snorkelers from around the world.
Kayaking and Paddleboarding: Rent a kayak or paddleboard to explore the calm waters of Cudjoe Bay and surrounding mangrove islands. Paddle through mangrove tunnels, shallow flats, and secluded coves while enjoying the natural beauty of the area.
Bahia Honda State Park: Located a short drive (15 Miles) from Cudjoe Key, Bahia Honda State Park is home to stunning beaches, nature trails, and historic bridges. Spend the day swimming, snorkeling, picnicking, or hiking along the park’s scenic trails. This is our family’s favorite state park in the Florida Keys.
Nature Watching: Explore the diverse ecosystems of the Lower Florida Keys by observing native wildlife in their natural habitats. Keep an eye out for wading birds, dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles that inhabit the surrounding waters and mangrove forests.
Cudjoe Gardens Marina: Visit the Cudjoe Gardens Marina to admire the boats, enjoy waterfront dining, or book a fishing excursion with experienced guides. The marina also offers boat rentals, kayak tours, and sunset cruises for visitors to enjoy.
Must Visit – the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge – The Key Deer Refuge is a must-visit for anyone who travels the Keys. This special breed of deer, only found in the Florida Keys, are about the size of a large dog. They are fun to observe and a treasure of the islands. Explore the refuge’s trails and keep an eye out for these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. Don’t forget your camera, as spotting a Key deer is a truly special experience. Another nearby refuge is the Great White Heron Nation Refuge. Another great place to visit.
Cudjoe Key to Key West Day Trip: Take a scenic drive along the Overseas Highway to Key West, located just 20 miles southwest of Cudjoe Key. Explore historic landmarks, visit museums, dine at our favorite Key West restaurants, and experience the vibrant culture of Key West.
Dolphin Research Center: Head north to Grassy Key to visit the Dolphin Research Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to dolphin conservation and education. Take a guided tour, participate in interactive programs, and learn about the fascinating lives of dolphins and sea lions.
Relaxation: Unwind and soak up the sun on the sandy shores of Cudjoe Key. Whether you prefer lounging on the beach, watching the sunset, or simply enjoying the peaceful surroundings, Cudjoe Key offers plenty of opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation.
These are just a few of the top attractions and things to do in Cudjoe Key. Whether you’re exploring nature reserves, visiting historical sites, or simply relaxing on the beach, there’s no shortage of activities to keep you entertained.
Outdoor Activities in Cudjoe Key
Cudjoe Key is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities to satisfy your sense of adventure. From water sports to hiking trails, there’s something for everyone to enjoy in the great outdoors.
One of the most popular water activities in Cudjoe Key is snorkeling and diving. Explore the vibrant coral reefs that surround the island and discover a world teeming with colorful marine life. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced diver, there are options for all skill levels. Dive into the crystal-clear waters and immerse yourself in an underwater wonderland.
Fishing is another favorite pastime in Cudjoe Key, thanks to its prime location in the Florida Keys. Charter a boat and set off on a fishing expedition to catch prized gamefish such as tarpon, bonefish, and permit. The experienced guides will take you to the best spots and provide valuable insights into the local fishing scene. Cast your line and reel in a memorable catch as you enjoy the beauty of the surrounding waters.
Here is a guide to all the activities in Cudjoe Key. Remember to book your excursions and accommodations well in advance.
For those who prefer to stay on land, Cudjoe Key offers scenic hiking and biking trails. Explore the backcountry and immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including the native Key deer that roam freely. Whether you’re a nature lover or a fitness enthusiast, the outdoor activities in Cudjoe Key are sure to leave you captivated.
The possibilities for outdoor adventures are endless in Cudjoe Key. Whether you’re exploring the waters, hiking through nature reserves, or simply enjoying the island’s stunning landscapes, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to connect with the great outdoors.
Dining – The Best Restaurants in Cudjoe Key Florida
Cudjoe Key is not only a haven for natural beauty but also a culinary delight. From fresh seafood to international cuisine, the island offers a range of dining options to satisfy every palate.
Defining the “best” restaurants in Cudjoe Key is subjective and depends on personal preferences like cuisine, budget, and desired atmosphere. However, here are a couple of our favorites and some highly-rated and popular options with diverse offerings to help you choose:
Upscale with Stunning Views:
- Broil: Small steakhouse known for its wood-fired grilled meats, fresh seafood, and garden-to-table dishes. Features a beautiful patio with sunset views.
Casual & Family-Friendly:
- Bent Prop Bar & Grill – Our local favorite. The Bent Prop is an eclectic waterfront restaurant that offers indoor and outdoor dining, while overlooking a scenic harbor and local marina. The Bent Prop offers a welcoming environment, encouraging all to eat, drink and have a memorable time with friends and family.
- My New Joint: Lively bar & grill serving innovative small plates and mains in a sunny, contemporary setup. True oyster bar above Square Grouper.Family-friendly with diverse options.
- The Square Grouper Bar and Grill: Bright and easygoing spot specializing in American mains and seafood, like fish tacos and burgers. Popular for its relaxed atmosphere and outdoor seating.
- My Morning Joint: Casual spot. Support Your Local Caffeine Dealer! Made-to-order breakfast & lunch. Farm-to-table coffee. MM 22.8, Cudjoe Key! Come chill!
- Moritas Cuban Café – Cuban food. Very good Cuban sandwiches. Their traditional Cuban has a mild chorizo and delicious sauce. Friendly staff and quick service.
- Consider the timing! Popular restaurants may have wait times, especially during peak season and weekends. Make reservations if possible.
- Explore reviews and menus online to get a better sense of each restaurant’s offerings and atmosphere.
- Factor in your budget as prices can vary significantly between fine dining and casual spots.
- Don’t hesitate to ask locals for their recommendations – they often have hidden gems in mind!
Ultimately, the best restaurant for you depends on your specific preferences and priorities. I hope this information helps you discover the perfect dining experience in Cudjoe Key!
Cudjoe Key Florida Hotels and Accommodations
Cudjoe Key offers a variety of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. Here is a list of places to go for hotels, resorts and accommodations near Cudjoe Key.
For a list of hotels near Cudjoe Key, you can check rates here.
For cottages, waterfront homes and other options from VRBO, you can see their listings for and rates here.
Whether you’re looking for a pampering resort or a cozy cottage, there’s a place for you to rest and rejuvenate on or near this hidden gem island.
If you prefer a more intimate and laid-back experience, consider renting a cottage or vacation home. These cozy accommodations offer all the comforts of home, with the added bonus of stunning ocean views and easy access to the island’s attractions. Wake up to the sound of the waves, sip your morning coffee on the porch, and embrace the island lifestyle.
Both Summerland Key to the west and Sugarloaf Key to the east also have options that are within a couple minutes of Cudjoe Key.
No matter where you choose to stay, Cudjoe Key offers a range of accommodation options that will ensure a comfortable and memorable stay.
An aerial view of Cudjoe Key is below.
Tips for Visiting Cudjoe Key
Before you embark on your journey to Cudjoe Key, here are a few tips to make the most of your visit:
- Weather: The Florida Keys have a tropical climate, so be prepared for warm temperatures and occasional rain showers. Pack lightweight and breathable clothing, as well as sunscreen and insect repellent.
- Wildlife: Cudjoe Key is home to a variety of wildlife, including the endangered Key deer. Respect their natural habitat and observe them from a safe distance. Do not feed or disturb the wildlife.
- Water Activities: If you plan on snorkeling or diving, remember to bring your own equipment or rent it from a reputable dive shop. Follow the guidelines provided by your guide or instructor to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here is a list of activities and water sports to consider on Cudjoe Key.
- Local Customs: Embrace the laid-back island lifestyle and respect the local customs and traditions. Be friendly and courteous to the locals, and remember to leave no trace when exploring the natural areas.
- Transportation: The best way to get around Cudjoe Key is by car. Rent a vehicle should you be flying into Key West, the nearest international airport, or consider hiring a taxi or rideshare service for convenience. Public transportation options are limited.
By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your visit to Cudjoe Key and create lasting memories.
Directions to Cudjoe Key Florida
How to get to Cudjoe Key is easy. The nearest airport is Key West International Airport, located approximately 20 miles away. From the airport, you can rent a car or hire a taxi to reach Cudjoe Key.
If you prefer to drive, Cudjoe Key is located along the scenic Overseas Highway (U.S. Route 1). The drive from Miami takes approximately three hours, depending on traffic conditions. Enjoy the breathtaking views as you cross the iconic Seven Mile Bridge and make your way to this hidden gem.
Whether you choose to fly or drive, the journey to Cudjoe Key is part of the adventure. Sit back, relax, and get ready to discover the beauty that awaits.
How Far is Cudjoe Key to Key West
Cudjoe Key is 20 miles from Key West. If you want to know the exact mileage differences between locations in the Florida Keys, follow the mile markers along the road.
Little green and white signs mark each mile of Route 1 which is the main road from Key Largo to Key West. Here is a list of Florida Keys mile markers and the major attractions mile by mile.
Cudjoe Key runs approximately from MM 23 to MM21. MM0 is on Whitehead Street in the heart of Key West. Therefore you are looking at about 20 miles depending on your exact location.
Cudjoe Key to Key West is a fun drive. There are plenty of places to stop, restaurants along the way, and places to get gas before getting into Key West.
Final Thoughts – Cudjoe Key Florida, The Ultimate Guide
Cudjoe Key, Florida, is a over shadowed gem that offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and laid-back charm. From its beaches to its vibrant marine life, the island has something to captivate every visitor.
With its location just a few minutes from Key West, Cudjoe Key Florida gets overlooked by many travelers through the Florida Keys.
Explore the rich history and vibrant culture, indulge in delicious seafood, and immerse yourself in the island’s natural wonders. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure, Cudjoe Key has it all.
Discover this forgotten gem that is Cudjoe Key and unlock unforgettable memories. From the untouched beaches to the thriving marine life, this small island paradise is waiting to be explored. Plan your visit, pack your bags, and get ready for an unforgettable experience in Cudjoe Key Florida, the ultimate Keys getaway.