John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

#1 in Best Things To Do in Key Largo
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Key Info

102601 Overseas Hwy

Price & Hours

$4-$8 per car; $2 per pedestrian
8 a.m.-sunset daily

Details

Beaches, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 4.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

Named after John D. Pennekamp, a former newspaper editor for the Miami Herald and noted Everglades conservationist, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was developed in 1963 as the United States' first park under the sea. The state park is 25 miles long and 3 miles wide, and it is home to many aquatic plant and animal species, in addition to mangroves and various types of birds.

Visitors can enjoy the park in a number of ways. Water enthusiasts can admire colorful coral reef and the popular Christ of the Deep underwater statue on snorkeling and scuba diving tours, while those who would rather stay dry can sign up for a glass-bottom boat tour. There are also 47 campsites and designated spots for swimming, fishing and picnicking.

Recent travelers loved the reasonable prices, knowledgeable tour staff and snorkeling experience, but some warned that the beaches may be covered in foul-smelling seaweed depending on the current conditions.

The park is open every day from 8 a.m. to sunset, while the visitor center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee is $8 per car (carrying two to eight people), $4 for cars with one person or $2 per pedestrian. Additional fees apply for snorkeling and scuba tours, glass-bottom boat excursions and kayak and paddleboard rentals. You'll find the park in Key Largo off of the Overseas Highway. Visit the park's website for more information. 

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#2 Everglades National Park

Spanning 1.5 million acres of wetland across South Florida, Everglades National Park is a worthwhile daytrip for outdoor enthusiasts visiting Key Largo. There are multiple entrances into the park scattered throughout the Sunshine State; the closest to Key Largo is the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center in Homestead, which is about a 37-mile drive north.

Upon arriving at Everglades National Park (ideally in your own car, as there is no public transportation and car services have trouble navigating the area), visitors will find the largest subtropical wilderness in America. Manatees, crocodiles, alligators, Florida panthers and other wildlife all call the park home, as do a variety of plant species and diverse ecosystems. Outdoor activities abound for visitors of all ages, including biking and hiking trails, bird-watching, kayaking, camping, fishing and many ranger-led tours and programs. Past visitors were especially fond of the nearly mile-long Anhinga Trail and the tram tour through Shark Valley, and many others were floored by how easy it was to spot alligators and other wildlife throughout the park.

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