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Days of old: Exploring Stiltsville

by Vanquish Yachts 9 Dec 2020 12:06 PST
Exploring Stiltsville © Vanquish Yachts

Originally a neighbourhood of 27 homes on pilings in the middle of the water, the first shack was built in the 1930s by Eddie 'Crawfish' Walker and his fishermen friends who started an island kingdom offering bait, beer, chowder and - legal if located at least one mile offshore - gambling.

Al Capone was also rumoured to have a gambling operation here while other houses stored illegal liquor during prohibition. Stiltsville's Quarterdeck Club was named number one tourist destination in Miami in 1941 with LIFE magazine describing it as "a $100,000 play-palace equipped with bar, lounge, bridge deck, dining room and dock slips for yachts."

Stories that go with the flow

Today, Stiltsville has just seven structures left. Perched on sand flats, they're built on wood or reinforced concrete pilings around ten feet above the shallow turquoise water. There's no electricity, airco comes courtesy of the wind, and only two of the wooden houses can actually be visited with a permit from the Stiltsville Trust. If you do get the chance to step inside and enjoy the 360-degree views of water, you instantly sense the other-worldliness of the stories that go with the flow.

Gambling and drinking

Locals and tourists alike love taking a tour out from Key Biscayne's southern tip to these iconic structures, which have a legendary status as outposts of gambling and drinking. Now a national park and much loved by the community of caretakers who oversee the houses' survival against the elements, Stiltsville is an ideal antidote to Miami's big-city bustle.

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