Monkey Island: Florida’s Unusual Tourist Attraction

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Aside from lots of sun and sandy beaches, Florida has earned a reputation for its numerous unusual tourist attractions. One of Florida’s most unusual tourist attractions is Monkey Island. It’s a tiny island that’s been driving people bananas for years.

If you’re planning a trip to the Sunshine State, you may already have it on your list of things to see and do. However, is it worth it?

Today, we’ll look at one of Florida’s most unusual tourist attractions, Monkey Island.

Enough monkeying around; let’s get started!

About Monkey Island in Florida

Monkey Island is a tiny manmade island in the middle of Florida’s Homosassa River. Monkeys are the only inhabitants of the island. However, over the last 70 years, the island has become a popular spot for tourists and nature enthusiasts to observe the wildlife.

However, the monkeys aren’t native to the tiny island or the Sunshine State. They were brought in during the 1960s as a part of a research study for the polio vaccine. 

However, a handful of the monkeys caused trouble and were kicked out of the nearby Weeki Wachee Springs facility where they lived. They’ve adapted to island life and are doing remarkably well on the island.

Where in Florida Is Monkey Island?

If you want to visit Monkey Island, you’ll need to take a trip to Homosassa, Fla. This town has a population of less than 2,000, which doesn’t include the monkeys living on the tiny island. It sits approximately an hour north of Tampa Bay on the Gulf Coast. 

Guests to Homosassa Riverside Resort can easily catch a glimpse of the island. If you’re looking for a place to stay, it’s not a bad option. Add it to your travel plans if you’ll visit Central Florida’s gulf coast!

Who Created Monkey Island?

Monkey Island Florida is an artificial island that came to be by mistake. Many boaters in the river would bottom out on a large rock pile that the high tides submerged.

Then a local developer, G.A. “Furgy” Furgason, instructed a dragline operator to put some dirt around the rocks. He wanted to make them more visible to improve safety for boaters.

Either Furgason’s instructions weren’t clear, or the dragline operator was a little overzealous because the operator used enough dirt to create an entire island. Then Furgason added a small lighthouse to the new land to give it some character.

Furgy primarily focused on his Homosassa Springs attraction, which became Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. 

The attraction included a group of monkeys inherited from Dr. John N. Hamlet’s polio research. However, some of these monkeys caused too much trouble for Furgy, and he wanted to send them to their own Alcatraz Island.

How Many Monkeys Are on Monkey Island in Florida?

The island’s original inhabitants comprised three spider monkeys and two squirrel monkeys. Tiny and Tim, the two squirrel monkeys, passed away in 2003 and 2005 of old age.

Ralph and Sassy were a couple and had a daughter named Ebony, making up the family of spider monkeys. They’re part of the original group placed on the island by Furgy. 

In 2006, the Homosassa Resort adopted Eve and Emily, who found a new home on the island.

Today, the remaining three spider monkeys include Ralph, Ebony, and Emily. 

Can You Go on Monkey Island?

Unfortunately, Monkey Island in Florida is off-limits to visitors. The only individuals able to legally step foot on the island are members of Historic Monkey Island, the non-profit group that maintains the island. Visitors can paddle to it for a better view but must stay off the island.

Visitors should not feed or harass the monkeys. Cameras keep an eye on them and any other activities. If you approach the island, please do so respectfully and give them space.

How to See the Monkeys on Monkey Island

The best spot to catch a glimpse of the primates on Monkey Island is from The Monkey Bar and Grill. It’s next door to the Homosassa Riverside Resort and has a great island view. Additionally, it has a short dock nearby that allows visitors to observe the residents of Monkey Island a little better.

Other Unusual Tourist Attractions in Florida

While an island full of monkeys might seem unusual, it’s not Florida’s only odd tourist attraction. We’ve found a handful of other interesting adventures you might want to consider. Let’s take a look!

Skunk Ape Research Headquarters

Located in the heart of the Everglades, the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Florida is certainly a unique tourist attraction similar to Monkey Island. 

The research headquarters focuses on researching and studying a legendary Florida swamp creature, the Skunk Ape.

Those claiming to have spotted the Skunk Ape describe the creature as large, hairy, and walking on two legs. Many believe it’s relatives with Bigfoot, another legendary beast. However, with no DNA evidence to compare, it’s anyone’s guess.

Dave Shealey has run the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters for over 40 years. Visitors can walk through the museum’s exhibits to learn about the Skunk Ape and other local wildlife.

Is it even a tourist attraction if it doesn’t have a gift shop? Luckily, you’ll have the chance to visit their shop to grab your Skunk Ape swag and various souvenirs before you leave. 

You can even sign up for a swamp buggy ride through Big Cypress National Preserve.

Solomon’s Castle

Solomon’s Castle is a royal experience in the small town of Ona, Fla., approximately 60 miles southeast of Tampa. The castle was built using recycled materials, including aluminum plates, car parts, and street signs. While construction began in 1972, this massive project took several decades to complete.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the property and enjoy the eclectic artwork, paintings, and stained glass windows. Take time to appreciate the uniqueness of each handcrafted sculpture around the property.

You get free parking and admission, but tours and packages range from $6 to $38. However, Solomon’s Castle operates on a cash or checks-only policy. So make sure you bring cash with you if you plan to visit.

Keep in Mind: Did you know Colorado Has Castles? And you can even visit them!

Coral Castle

The Coral Castle is in Homestead, Fla., approximately 30 miles south of Miami. The castle resulted from Edward Leedskalnin carving more than 1,100 tons of coral rock from 1923 to 1951. While no one understands the process he used to create it, the work he left behind is nothing short of astonishing.

Visitors can see his sculptures, chairs, and a functioning telescope he crafted. The mystery around its creation is part of the appeal for many visitors. Some believe Leedskalnin knew ancient engineering practices and possibly even anti-gravity technology.

If you want to experience this unique attraction, ticket prices cost $8 for kids, $18 for those 13 and up, and kids under six are free. The museum is typically open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.

Robert the Doll at Fort East Martello Museum

One of the creepiest Florida tourist attractions is in Key West, Fla. One look at Robert the Doll at Fort East Martello Museum, and you’ll understand. This unusual tourist attraction has a rather dark and unsettling past, and many believe it carries a curse.

The doll was originally the property of a boy, Robert Eugene Otto, in the early 1900s. Local legends indicate that he received the doll from a Bahamian servant experienced in voodoo. The Otto household began to experience sketchy events while the doll was in their house.

Strange events haunted the doll and its owners as it was passed down through Eugene’s family over the years. Many reported strange occurrences and unexplainable events. 

You’ll need to visit Fort East Martello Museum to catch a glimpse of Robert. However, we want to warn you to ask his permission before you take his picture, or you could find yourself cursed.

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Admission ranges from $7.50 to $15.50. Children under six and active military and their immediate family get in free.

In addition to visiting with Robert the Doll, visitors can experience a Civil War-era fort and learn about the wrecking and cigar manufacturing industries.

Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp

Cassadaga is a historic town that is the self-proclaimed “Psychics Capital of the World.” The town sits approximately 30 miles north of Orlando in Cassadaga, Fla. Much of the action in the town revolves around spirits and the afterlife.

The camp started in 1894 to establish a community based on their spiritual beliefs. However, you’ll find churches, healing centers, and educational institutions today. You can tour the property and visit several historic buildings and sites on the camp’s grounds.

If you want to take it further, you can attend classes and workshops for demonstrations, healing sessions, and psychic readings. You can also take part in seances and ghost tours to connect with spirits while exploring this spiritual town.

Keep in Mind: Another ghost town you need to add to your itinerary is Rhyolite Ghost Town!

Florida Doesn’t Monkey Around with Tourist Attractions

Florida is a state that doesn’t monkey around with tourist attractions. Whether you enjoy wildlife, history, art, or the supernatural, Florida offers a little something for everyone. If you’re tired of doing the same old tourist attractions, consider trying one of these unusual attractions.

You may learn something new, feel the presence of a ghost, or eat delicious food while watching an island full of monkeys in Florida.

Did any of these unusual tourist attractions spark your interest?

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