Drivers trekking to the Florida Keys often miss it until they see the For Sale sign.
“Island for Sale” reads the vertical post with the listing price of $17 million.
The sign sits outside the gated entrance to Terra’s Key, the private island at Mile Marker 79.9 in Islamorada.
The gate leads to a thin road that is a quarter of a mile long and surrounded on both sides by the blue-green waters of the Atlantic, home to the island residence at 79775 Overseas Highway on Upper Matecumbe Key.
The compound has a blue-and-white, single-family home with five bedrooms and four bathrooms. There is a pool, cabana, a tennis court, boat slip and helicopter pad. In all, the island is 15.84 acres.
“It’s an amazing property,” said Patti Stanley, a Coldwell Banker Schmitt broker associate who represents the owner James Terra, who listed the property over the summer. This is the first time it has gone on the market in about 27 years. “When you drive by it, it’s intriguing. It’s one of those fantasies. It’s there, but you never get to go there.”
Boaters and tourists visiting nearby resorts can see the towering palm trees that ring the property, which has views of the mangroves, ocean and the nearby Alligator Reef Lighthouse.
“When you are standing on the island, all you see are palm trees, water and the sky,” Stanley said.
Like the rest of the Florida Keys, the island has a rich history.
In the early 1800s, it was used for farming by the residents of nearby Indian Key, said Brad Bertelli, curator at the Keys History & Discovery Center in Islamorada. One of the farmers was Lemuel Otis, who would later become Monroe County’s first sheriff in 1829.
During the Seminole War of 1838, a naval depot was established on the island called Fort Paulding for soldiers and wounded military.
Over time, the island has also been known as Boys Key, Tea Table and Umbrella Cay.
“It was called Umbrella Cay because there was a large tree at the end of it that was shaped like an umbrella,” Bertelli said.
In the 1950s, a road was built to connect the island to the highway. Built in 1971, the property was previously owned by Sir Bernard Ashley, widower of the English designer Laura Ashley, according to The Miami Herald.
Terra then bought the property for $3.1 million. In more recent years, the property has been used as a second home for him and as a vacation rental, with rates as much as $30,000 a month, Stanley said.
Denizens occasionally see its owner land a helicopter there when he visits with his family.
“They just don’t have the time to spend that they should in a home like that,” Stanley said.