Before the building of the Florida East Coast Railway, there were two separate islands here, known as the Umbrella Keys. Railway construction Involved filling between these two which then became known as Windley Key, after a settler. The railway station on Windley Key was known as Quarry.
Formed of Key Largo limestone, fossilised coral, this Key sold to the Florida East Coast Railroad, used the stone to build Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad in the early 1900s. When the railroad had been constructed, the quarry saw continued used until the 1960s and produced beautiful decorative stone pieces and building stone called Keystone.
Today, visitors can walk along eight-foot-high quarry walls to see cross sections of the ancient coral and learn about the quarry and its operation, an important part of Florida’s 20th-century history. Samples of the quarry machinery have been preserved at the park.
Historical names include Umbrella Keys, Vermont Key, Windley’s Island, Windy Key and Wright. On a chart in 1919, Mark Key appears on the bayside of Windley Key, the adjacent flat, having been filled in, eliminated Mark Key as it has become one with Windley Key.
Since 1946, Windley Key is home to Theater of the Sea, a popular tourist attraction, Fossil Reef Geological State Park and the ever popular Holiday Isle resort are also on the Key.
Visitors will find five, relatively short, self-guided trails on the Key to enjoy the natural attributes of this island. Picnic tables are available to the public. The Visitor Center, located at Mile Marker 84.9 on Windley Key near Islamorada is open Friday through Sunday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., features educational exhibits about the history of this site.