With no shortage of restaurants and world-class accommodations, Key Largo is the gateway to the Florida Keys. But let’s be honest: you’re not just there for the Key Lime Pie.
The Florida Keys, and Key Largo in particular, offer some of the most beautiful outdoor recreations in the country. From snorkeling shipwrecks to strolling through a hardwood forest, Key Largo has something for families of all abilities looking to get outside and experience the fresh salt air and natural beauty.
Here are our top highlights of Key Largo’s many natural wonders.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The self-proclaimed Dive Capital of the World, Key Largo’s crowning jewel is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The park is home to the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. Combined with the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, it makes up 178 nautical square miles of reefs, seagrass, and mangrove swamps.
Families can experience the reef in a variety of ways, including guided snorkeling trips, scuba diving tours, and glass-bottom boat excursions. You can also rent kayaks and paddleboards at the park, which you can use to explore 50 miles of natural mangrove wilderness. Don’t forget to stop by the park’s Environmental Education Visitor Center and Aquarium to learn more about the park’s coral reef ecosystem, the many nature trails, and the 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium.
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Part of Key Largo includes the offshore underwater paradise that is the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Head out six miles from Key Largo, and you can scuba the wreck of the USS Speigel Grove shipwreck. Intentionally scuttled in 2002, the former Navy landing ship has become a wildlife haven. It has now become its own ecosystem, covered in coral and home to thousands of fish and other marine life species.
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
Wander over six miles of nature trails through one of the largest West Indian tropical hardwood hammocks in the United States, discovering countless birds and other wildlife in the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. More than 80 species of protected plants and animals call it home, including wild cotton and the American crocodile.
One of our favorite features of this park is its accessibility, with paved trails making it easier to navigate with wheelchairs, strollers and bikes. Treat yourselves to an early morning symphony by hitting the Port Bougainville Trail near the main entrance, where you’ll be immersed in bird song and scuttling wildlife. Bring your camera and shoes that can get wet.
Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
The 106 miles of multi-use bicycle and pedestrian trails that connect the Florida Keys, the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, starts in Key Largo and continues all the way to Key West. The trail begins in Key Largo at mile-marker 106 and parallels Highway 1, taking advantage of more than 20 historic railroad bridges and offering unique views you can’t get by car.
Along the way, you can gain intimate access to tons of gorgeous natural resources, including the Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. You can bike, hike, rollerblade, boat, fish, swim, and snorkel along the way. There are even camping options for the truly adventure-seeking family.
Everglades National Park
Heading west from Key Largo, drive for about 40 minutes on Highway 1, and you’ll reach one of the three entrances to Everglades National Park. Unlike any other park in the world, its 1,500,000 acres make it the largest tropical wilderness in the United States and a place where animals and plant species abound. Here you’ll find American crocodiles, Florida panthers, countless birds, and more.
Keep in mind you’ll need a car to get to and around the Everglades; however, there are excursion trips by boat offered from Key Largo, such as the family-friendly ones offered by Captain Sterling’s Everglades & Ecology Tours.
Whether you want to kayak to your heart’s content or prefer to observe wildlife from a trail, head to Key Largo for a truly one-of-a-kind and one-with-nature experience.