Take The Biscayne Bay Water Highway To Get To Stiltsville

Stiltsville Biscayne Bay Florida

Stiltsville History

Have you ever heard of “Crawfish Eddie Walker”?

Have you ever heard of “Stiltsville” in Biscayne Bay in Florida?

Well, without Crawfish Eddie there might not be a Stiltsville! Back in the 1930’s Crawfish Eddie built the first piece of real estate..a shack on stilts out in the bay. While the bay is a large body of water, at low tide there are many sand flats, so after he completed his, others followed until 1960 there were 27 buildings sticking up out of the water a mile off shore. There is some debate about when Stiltsville actually started, as stated above most old time Floridians say 1930’s was the beginning of the stilt homes but a couple of people say it really started in the 1920’s and that would put the stilt homes right in the timeline line of prohibition and rum running along with being far away from the “law”.

Tales of people visiting Miami and Miami Beach making their way out to two popular “Social Clubs” called the Quarterdeck Club and the Bikini Club which was a grounded yacht that offered free drinks to women if they were clad in “Bikini’s”. Stories of gambling, illegal alcohol and many parties brought police raids and arrests. Today only 7 structures remain. Crawfish Eddies blew away in a hurricane, a fire ate away at the Quarterdeck and the Bikini Club was finally shut down by the vice squad. They were built there by a shady group of individuals that needed a place to do business away from the eyes of the authorities, namely the police.

After 1965, no new permits were issued for new buildings, in 1976 the state did renew leases but with an expiration date of 1999. If the owners wanted their structures they would have to move them, or the state would take them. The remaining structures are now part of the National Park Service. There was hope that there would be a public access plan for park education facilities, community gatherings and perhaps an artist in-residence program…that all seems to be in limbo.

Two Teenage Herons Doing A Stareoff Florida
Stiltsville Bird Coconut Grove Florida
Leaving Marina Florida
Leaving Marina Coconut Grove Florida

The Start

Our long time good friends bought a sail boat last year and they have been asking us to join them on a little sailing adventure. The timing last year didn’t work out, along with the fact that they kept their boat on the West Coast of Florida. But they sailed the boat back to the East Coast of Florida and moored off Coconut Grove.  So, a couple of weeks ago another friend joined us and we headed down to Biscayne Bay for our first boat adventure.  Straight out from the dock is Stiltville, our long awaited destination,  so we gathered up our provisions and got the boat ready to sail.

Leaving the dock and feeling the motion of the boat brought back island memories.  Nothing is more relaxing than having the sun on your back and the wind in your hair, sea spray keeping you cool and a cold one in your hand.  After sailing along the shoreline, peeking into some beautiful homes and backyards we changed course and headed out to the Cape Florida Lighthouse for a swim and lunch.  Nearby was a sandbar filled up with an array of sailboats, yachts and jet skis, loud music exploding from hundreds of speakers…everyone enjoying the day

A little history on the Cape Florida Lighthouse 

The Cape Florida Light is located at the south end of Key Biscayne and built in 1825.

65′ tall, 5 feet thick at the base, 2 feet at the top. After a hurricane damaged it in 1835, the Lighthouse keepers found that the original builder scrimped on construction supplies and the walls were hollow. I’m sure the builder was already out of town by then! It was rebuilt and in 1836 a band of Seminole’s attacked the lighthouse. Two lighthouse keepers reached the lighthouse and locked themselves inside and a furious fight took place. One keeper died…the other was rescued a day later by a navy ship that had heard an explosion from the lighthouse. In 1913 James Deering of International Harvester heir and owner of Villa Vizcaya bought the property the lighthouse sat upon. Even tho the land was reserved for the lighthouse and military purposes, Congress recognized Deering owned the land. Deering restored the lighthouse and it survived the 1926 Miami hurricane and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It is now owned and managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

It was also the site where hundreds of slaves and Black Seminoles fled to the Bahamas and is listed as part of the National Underground Railroad network to Freedom Trail.

Time to now head off to circle around several of the Stiltsville homes still standing. The colors are pure “Miami”. Peachy, hot pink, blues, greens and bright yellows. The tide was going out so we could only get close to several of them. The are not close to each other, so making sure the tides are still high enough to navigate the waters are something to keep your eye on so you don’t run aground. You can actually rent out one of the properties for a special event. But it’s not cheap! From the structure rental, per person, cleaning/damage deposit, a House Engineer..1 or 2 depending on the size of your group and other  So..it can be done if you have enough $$$$.

We are now 4 miles offshore and its time to head back into shore and take a new memory home with us to share with family and friends. Florida is a great state to explore.

Stiltville Brandy Girl and Denise
Florida Stiltsville Light house
Stiltsville and light house Florida
 Brandy Girl anchored Bay of Biscayne Florida
Florida Stiltsville houses
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Milton Weiss
Born in cold country up north, I never was happy being cold. Finished college and left for warmer weather and landed in the Caribbean for many years. Met my wife there, had a happy life there and then moved to Palm Beach County, Florida, where we still have a happy life. Warm weather, the sun, and the ocean flow through my body. I hope to bring some of that energy to you.