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Monroe County Government

Monroe County is the southernmost county in Florida and the United States. It is made up of the Florida Keys and portions of the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. These parks are mostly uninhabited mainland areas. Most known are the Florida Keys with its string of islands connected by U.S. Highway 1, which ends in Key West, 150 miles southwest of Miami.

In total area, Monroe County is comprised of 3,737 square miles1, mostly of water, 73%. The Florida Keys proper are an elongated, curved bow like chain of low lying islands over 220 miles in length. They extend from the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula to the Dry Tortugas and lie between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Key West is the largest of the islands in the chain with a natural deep water harbor. The keys are islands of rock and sandy beaches are not common. Just miles offshore on the Atlantic side of the keys is the only living coral reef in the continental United States. No point, in the keys, is more than four miles from water.

Because Monroe County only has one highway, accessibility to the county seat (Key West) is time consuming and difficult. Other county government offices are located in Marathon and Key Largo to handle basic public government functions. Monthly commission meetings are rotated between Key West, Marathon and Key Largo along with 3 budget hearings. The county commissioners strive to make themselves available to all county residents.


On his search for the “Fountain of Youth”, in 1513, Spanish Explorer Juan Ponce de Leon sailed along the Florida Keys after he first landed near St. Augustine. Before returning to Spain, he sailed around to Florida’s West Coast, then to Cuba and Puerto Rico. This was the beginning of other wandering Spanish and English explorers looking to colonize new lands and discover trading partners. The “Age of Exploration” helped create a trade route between Europe and Central and South America with a port stop in Cuba, which is 90 miles south of Key West. Ships that sailed the trade route could be met with disaster by hurricanes, reefs or later on pirates.

During the next 3 centuries, Spain and Britain claimed Florida as a territory and in 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States according to the terms of the Adams-Onis Treaty. A year later, a small naval depot was created in Key West to help rid the area of pirates.

On July 2, 1823, an act of the Territorial Legislature established Monroe County as the 6th county in the Florida territory. Monroe County was named after then President James Monroe, our 5th U.S. President, who served between 1817 and 1825. The county’s boundaries then were the southern portion of Florida. Over time, other counties were formed within the original Monroe County boundary including Dade, Broward, Collier, Lee, Henry and parts of Charlotte, Glades and Palm Beach.

  • Monroe County Government
  • Key West (305) 294-4641
  • Marathon (305) 743-0079
Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

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