Fifty years ago, developers dreamed of turning a collection of isolated islands in the middle of Biscayne Bay into a resort destination. This year, the dream of Islandia quietly died. The Miami-Dade County Commission stripped Islandia’s status as a city. In essence, they voted Islandia out of existence.
The city of Islandia is on Elliot Key. It was never populated by more than a hundred people. Now the only people who live in Islandia are park rangers.
It’s a familiar South Florida story–developers seeking to make money in a tropical paradise versus environmentalists who want to preserve a tropical paradise. The first mayor, Luther Brooks, imagined a fancy resort town like Miami Beach. He wanted to build a causeway out to Islandia because it was not accessible from the Overseas Highway. He and the other developers were foiled in their plans, but they still managed to leave their mark on the island, which is now part of Biscayne National Park.
We sent Under the Sun producer Sammy Mack to visit Islandia one last time before it disappeared into the Bay. She told the story using three things: a book by a gentleman explorer, a vacuum cleaner and a stack of heavy bureaucratic paperwork.
Listen to the story.