Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Florida Keys & Everglades
By Rick Ferren
[Fig. 7(2)] Sugarloaf Key got its name from sugarloaf pineapples, which were grown there in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In 1929, a real estate developer named Richter Clyde Perky envisioned a luxury resort, complete with a first-class hotel, restaurants, and a gambling casino on Sugarloaf Key. Unfortunately for him, Sugarloaf Key was well established as a breeding ground for voracious hordes of mosquitoes.
Perky took a page from Dr. Charles Campbell, a health official in San Antonio, Texas, who advanced the theory that bats, which feed eagerly on mosquitoes, were the answer to his dilemma. He built a 35-foot-high, cypress-shingled Bat Tower, and filled it with odorous bat guano, which, theoretically, would attract the bats, which would devour the mosquitoes.
Alas, the bats didn't buy it. A colony installed in the tower apparently didn't care for the accommodations or the odor, and promptly flew away with Perky's investment money. The mosquitoes swarmed unabated and eventually the devastated Perky went bankrupt and died. (Some people have suggested the mosquitos ate the bats.)
Looking for all the world like a bladeless windmill awaiting Don Quixote, the tower still stands behind the Sugarloaf Lodge, next to the island's small airport. While you're at the airport, check out Fantasy Dan's Airplane Rides, which offers half-hour flight-seeing tours of the Lower Keys.
MM 17 Bayside, Sugarloaf Key. Well-run, old Keys-style resort complex has comfortable guest rooms and efficiencies with kitchen facilities, ocean views, a freshwater swimming pool, tennis courts, and a good restaurant and bar. Pets accepted. Happily, modern mosquito eradication methods have largely accomplished what the Bat Tower couldn't, but insect repellent should be part of your gear. Inexpensive to moderate. Phone (305) 745-3211 or (800) 553-6097 Fax (305) 745-3389.
Sugarloaf Key Resort Koa Kampground
MM 20, Sugarloaf Key. Campsites on 14 acres, with marina, boat, and canoe rentals, swimming pool, grocery store, pool, beach, laundry, restaurant, and hot tub. Inexpensive. Phone (305) 745-3549 or (800) 562-7731. Web site www.thefloridakeys.com/koasugarloaf
MM 20, at the Bow Channel Bridge, Sugarloaf Key. If you've gotten up the nerve to venture into Mangrove Mama's, it's probably because a local touted you on to it. Like a hole-in-the-wall on a Caribbean island roadside, Mama's boasts a spare, open-air decor, a concrete floor, brick fireplace (for those chilly Keys winter nights), mismatched furniture and utensils, an eccentric, eclectic clientele, and pretty good versions of Keys favorite foods. Baked stuffed shrimp, grilled local fish, and exemplary Key lime pie are big favorites. There's live music on weekends. Moderate. Phone (305) 745-3030.