A Key Largo Florida Vacation

So what can you do on a Key Largo Florida vacation?  Sure, it’s warm and sunny most of the year, but what’s here aside from beaches?  Stay tuned, because you might be surprised!  (Especially when it comes to the part about the beaches.)

Key Largo Coral ReefKey Largo Overview

This is the northernmost of the Keys, and is accessed directly from the mainland via the overseas highway (US 1).  You pretty much have to go through Key Largo to get to any of the other keys (assuming you are going by motor vehicle).

While there is a lot that you see on the Florida mainland here, it’s also a transition to what you’ll see as you go farther south and west in the islands.   Lots of fast food that you’d see on the mainland, but also some wonderful little places that serve up the specialties down here — seafood and key lime pie.

Outdoors Rules Here!

As with most of the rest of the Florida Keys, outdoors activities top the “things to do” list, and those activities center around water.  The usual suspects are present (diving, snorkeling, swimming, fishing, boating), but it’s the quality and quantity that make for a wonderful vacation in Key Largo.

But before I get to all the other activities, one thing that you won’t really find here are beaches.  You’d think that this being an island, it would be natural to find beaches — think again.  While there are some man-made beaches at the resorts, there is only one public beach — Harry Harris Park Beach.  This is also a man-made beach, and it’s at mile marker 92.5.

And why aren’t there more stretches of sand and sea?  Because the coral reef that is just offshore protects the islands from wave action.  And the wave action is what creates the beaches.

Christ of the Abyss Statue, Key LargoDiving and Snorkeling

If you are into swimming beneath the sea, Key Largo is a dive destination, featuring John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.  It’s home to one of the famous “Christ of the Abyss” statues (the other two being in the Italian Riviera and Grenada).

Pennekamp has everything from beginner’s snorkeling to wreck diving (Benwood wreck) to an area with underwater caves (French Reef).  You can even get a PADI open water diver certification here.

The same reefs that are great for divers also appeal to those who like to snorkel.  And since the Florida Keys as a whole host the only living coral reef in the continental US, there’s a fair amount of reef to explore.

There are lots of tours to the reefs, which can be booked both inside the park as well as with outside tour groups.

And what if you’d love to see what’s below the waves, yet don’t want to get wet?  Then the glass-bottom boat tour out of Pennekamp might be just what you are hoping for.

So that is diving and snorkeling — what else?

Florida Keys State Parks in Key Largo

You already know about Pennekamp from the previous section, but it does have more than just what’s below the waves.  There are several hiking trails that wander through the park, although neither are very long.

Camping is also a big draw to Pennekamp — there are only a few Florida State Parks open for camping in the Keys, and this is one of them,  Its very popular, so book a reservation well ahead of time.

There are also canoe and kayak rentals in the park, so you can explore the mangrove canals.

However, Pennekamp isn’t the only game in town!  There is also Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock.  This park is best known for hiking, biking and wildlife viewing.  But a word of warning, you may not want to venture into the trails during the summer months due to mosquitoes.  From October through March, however, there are ranger-led hikes.

Staying in Key Largo

There are quite a few places to stay on the island, ranging from resorts down through to some quaint motels.  There are a few things to consider when making your reservation, though.

First, seeing as the Florida Keys are islands and most things are more expensive here, that also goes for the hotel/motel rooms.

That being said, prices go up in the winter and early spring, and down in the summertime.  Why down in the summer?  Because it’s h-o-t and there is always the chance of tropical weather.  But early summer usually sees decent weather.

The last week in July is almost impossible to get a walk-in room without a reservation.  This is because it’s the time for Lobster Mini-Season.  Technically, the mini-season is the last consecutive Wednesday and  Thursday in July, a lot of people like to make a week of it.  So do yourself a favor and make a reservation well ahead of time!

(I’ll do a write up of some of the places to stay a bit later, and will put a link to it on this page — look for it.)

Your Key Largo Florida Vacation

If you’d still like other things to do here, you might want to try the ever-famous shopping (give the ol’ wallet a workout).  You can also see the African Queen — the boat from the movie by the same name.

Also, there’s a place called the World Parrot Mission that features (as you might guess) parrots.

As you can tell, outdoors is the way to go here in Key Largo.  It’s Florida, but with a taste of the tropics.

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