Boca Chita Key

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Looking out towards the entrance to Boca Chita
Boca Chita is a favorite place of mine to visit that is unlike any other that  I have visited in the past. The island has a certain serenity and charm that makes it so unique and enjoyable to come back week after week with guests.

Inside the Harbor at Boca Chita
Boca Chita Key, located about 12 miles south of Cape Florida Light house, is a popular destination for local campers, cruisers, and day visitors. It is about 32 acres and has various hiking trails, structures to tour, picnic tables, grills, and areas to set up tents. On weekends Boca Chita can become very noisy and hectic. It is often so crowded that boats are rafted 3 vessels deep to each other lining the small harbor - it's almost impossible to find a dock space for the dinghy. My favorite time to tour the island/spend the night is during the week when we are either the only ones on the island or share it with a couple of other cruisers.

View from a mangrove trail at Boca Chita
Palm trees along one of the many paths

Boca Chita makes for a great destination during one of our week long charters. It not only offers us a perfect docking scenario where we can play around doing "touch-and-go's" as part of our ASA teachings but as a place to stretch your legs after being on the boat for a few hours. It has a little of something to appeal to everyone whether its enjoying it's wildlife of birds, hermit crabs, and lizzards, hiking along its mangrove trails, or just sitting under a palm tree taking in its peaceful surroundings.

Sunset at Boca Chita
This island captures my attention not just for its beauty, but also for its unique history. It is best known for one of its owners: Mark Honeywell (an electronic industrialist from the early 1900s) who built most of the structures that are found on the island today. He owned the island from 1937 - 1945 and bought the island from Carl Fisher (a Miami Beach pioneer and automotive giant.) The island was intended as Mark Honeywell and his wife Olive's summer resort. During the few years they owned it Mark built many structures for his wife, including a small house, chapel, arched bridge, light house, pavilion, barn / garage, and even named their boat "The Olivette" after her.

The "Olivette"
The Honeywells used their island to host many lavish parties. Mark was president of a group of wealthy investors and industrialists club, and would host their annual party throughout the island with many games, tents, and even the ocassional elephant, "Rosie," who was owned by their friend Carl Fisher. After only a few years of owning the island, Olive Honeywell, passed away, Mr Honeywell remarried, and sold the island to soon after. Within a few years it then turned into the National park which we now visit.

--There are a few interesting rumors concerning Mr. Honeywell's wives' deaths. Wife 1: Mr. Honeywell got into a fight with his wife, Olive, at the top of the lighthouse and pushed her off,  and a few months later she died from her injuries. Wife 2:  Mr. Honeywell passed away in his 90s and a few years later the thermostat in wife #2  (Eugenia's) home (made by Mr. Honeywell's company) malfuncioned, killing her and burning the house to the ground. Although neither story has been proven to be true, it still makes for an interesting twist for the island! ;)

My favorite view on the island.

Today there are quite a few of Honeywell's structures still standing. The original wooden summer home burnt down in the 1960s and in 1992 a Hurricane destroyed much of the island. Some of the structures left include its light house, cannons that were salvaged from various wrecks in Biscayne Bay, a pavilion that was once used to host parties, and many cistern buildings.  Each building is made from coral stone and has an "old world" style island charm to it.
Boca Chita Lighthouse
The lighthouse at Boca Chita stands 65' tall and was said to be built so Honeywell's boat captain would have a landmark to use as a navigational bearing through the shallow shoals surrounding the island. When the lighthouse was first finished, it was lit, but not for very long. As Honeywell was building his lighthouse he forgot to register it with the lighthouse registry and since it was not chartered, it was considered a navigational hazard to navigation and was extinguished. To this day the lighthouse is still unlit.

Boca Chita is one of my favorite places to visit. Beautiful sunsets at night and a great way to spend your mornings with a cup of coffee!

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