Key Largo is the northernmost of the Florida Keys archipelago and has approximately 33 miles of beautiful places to visit, and things to see and do. Known as the “Diving Capital of the World,” because of its living barrier reef, it is excellent for scuba diving and snorkeling. It is also well known for its locations for sports fishing. It is also renowned for its dolphin therapy programs, through Dolphins Plus and the non-profit, Island Dolphin Care. The actor Humphrey Bogart has a strong influence shown here as the 1947 movie “Key Largo” was filmed here with several shots filmed at Caribbean Club. Also, in his film, “The African Queen,” the famous hundred-year-old steamboat is on display for dinner and canal cruises.
This article in this series on the Florida Keys will go over the best thing to do in Key Largo. There is, of course, the aforementioned, “African Queen” dinner and canal cruises, but the rest of the article will go over many other things to do.
Diving Capital of the World
The Spiegel Grove shipwreck is located six miles offshore in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This shipwreck has formed the United States only living coral barrier reef from a 510 feet US Navy ship intentionally scuttled in 2002 to form the reef. This has resulted in forming a large coral barrier reef that is a haven for all sorts of fish and underwater plants that are a major attraction for divers and snorkelers alike.
Key Largo is also well-known as a fishing location. You can hire a charter boat or fishing guide to take you to any one of the many offshore locations or backcountry. Bonefish are found in Atlantic shallows and tarpon in Florida Bay.
Fantasy Fest partygoers continue their frivolities or relax at Key Largo, by carrying on before, during, and after the festival at Key West. Also, for those who are tired of the winter blues over the New Year, many come south to Key Largo for the “ball drop” festivities held here in the warmer, sunnier climes. Many of the islands hold their own celebrations and/or fireworks to celebrate the New Year, but Key Largo has at the Bungalows Key Largo resort a multitude of planned celebrations, a New Year’s buffet, live music by Patrick and the Las Vegas Band, fireworks at midnight and champagne.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
This 70-nautical square mile park is the first underseas waterpark in the US. Mangroves and tropical hammocks can be seen as upland. Mainly people come to see the coral barrier reef. This attracts many scuba divers and snorkelers to the area. The area is also viewable by way of a glass bottom boat. Many people enjoy canoeing or kayaking, or even fishing in the allowed areas. You can picnic, swim on the beach, or hike on the nature trails here. Beach wheelchairs are available free of charge. There is a Visitor Center with a 30,000 saltwater aquarium and nature videos in a theater for you to view.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary covers 2,900 square nautical miles and was established as part of the National Marine Sanctuary System to manage and protect the natural resources in the area. It is administered by NOAA and jointly run by the State of Florida. From the coral reefs, the artificial reefs, plants, animals, the ocean and sea floor, and shipwrecks, there is a multitude of things to see and observe.
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
This area is the largest population of West Indian tropical hardwood hammocks, which was once doomed to be a condominium complex. There are 84 protected species of plants and animals that live here, such as wild cotton, American crocodile, and mahogany mistletoe. There are six miles of marked trails that have signs that explain the ecosystems seen, the flora, and the fauna. You can walk these trails by yourself, or be guided by a park ranger. Currently, there is a $2.50 fee for entry, which can be paid online or in the honor box.
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is actually located to the west of Key Largo but is accessible from there. It is home to the manatee, American crocodile, and black panther. Kayakers, birdwatchers, and other eco-tourists find plenty to do here. It is also a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected location under the Cartagena Treaty. There are education programs for youth and guided tours as well. Shark Valley Tram Tours offers fifteen-mile narrated tours into the “River of Grass.” You can also rent a bicycle to ride the trails. Florida Bay and Whitewater Bay Boat Tours are available daily, as well. On the Gulf Coast side, boat rentals are available, as well as the Ten Thousand Islands Boat Tour. This is a 90-minute excursion into Chokoloskee Bay, Indian Key Pass, and the mangrove islands of the park. Coopertown Boats, Everglades Safari Park, and Gator Park are the three licensed companies that provide airboat tours in the park. The Everglades Institute offers support to the National Park Ranger Program and provides interpretative and educational sightseeing, paddling, slogging, and boating programs. There are also permitted and ranger-led tours available.
Key Largo is the largest island of the Florida Keys and provides a multitude of attractions on land and water for the tourist to enjoy. The warm, moderate temperature provides a climate that makes vacationing pleasant most times of the year. Water sports are huge here in the “Diving Capital of the World,” and there are several above and below-water attractions for you to see. There are lots of natural preserves, with both state parks, a national park, and part of a national marine sanctuary, there is plenty to see and do for the nature enthusiast. From relaxing to partying over New Year’s, Key Largo can be the perfect vacation destination for you! Happy vacationing!
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