Key Largo Florida Sets The Stage
For Your Florida Keys Vacation
Key Largo Florida is at the north end of the beautiful chain of islands that form this tropical paradise.
Exotic names like Angelfish Key, Plantation Key, Upper and Lower Matecumbe Key conjure up a variety of images.
Others like Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and the African Queen also come to mind.
This is the first and largest of some 1,700 islands forming the beautiful chain that comprises the Keys.
Some of these islands are connected by US 1, the Overseas Highway while others such as Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key are accessible only by boat.
If you're a history buff, both these small Keys have historic State Parks worthy of exploration. However, make sure you've brought mosquito repellant along. This is a definite must-have when touring many of these water surrounded islands.
When you're leaving Homestead and Florida City you're traveling south on Highway 1 or as this stretch of road is called - The South Dixie Highway. At this point there aren't many wide open expanses.
The road is often lined with vegetation and to your right, murky Everglade water channels
that lead out to some terrific Key Largo back country fishing.
Enjoy Spectacular Views From The Jewfish Creek Bridge
But be prepared for a real thrill! As you ascend the Jewfish Creek Bridge that leads to the first of the islands, you'll have your first breathtaking glimpse of what lies ahead. You'll be treated to an all encompassing view of the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the first pearl in this beautiful necklace of islands.
The view is almost as spectacular as if you were seeing it from the air.
But first, before you start heading further south on your Florida Keys vacation - take time to explore the region. There's so many things to do Key Largo is worth every moment you can spare.
This Florida Keys calendar of events
gives you a breakdown month by month of the many different fun things to do in Key Largo.
It also provides information for the other regions, so you won't miss any of the different Florida Keys events you'd be interested in while you vacation in the Keys.
You'll also quickly discover that the Key Largo things to do aren't limited to just water. There's numerous activities to do on land that include hiking, biking
and yes even shopping.
Shopping in the Florida Keys is always limited but you'll find that there are a number of smaller strip malls that also include a few of the larger national chains.
There's also a variety of locally owned shops that provide a good mix of items the area is famous for.
Key lime pie is one of the first things that springs to anyone's mind when they thing of the Florida Keys. It's hard to imagine a vacation to the Keys without taking the time to experience a slice of key lime heaven.
One of our favorite places is Key Lime Products at 95200 Overseas Hwy, MM 95.231, 305-853-0378. They have the best key lime everything - including pie, lotions and soap. If you happen to have a sweet tooth, they also have a good selection of sweet-tart candy that's hard to avoid!
Key Lime Products Store
Between these different shopping venues you're able to keep well stocked, purchase anything you may have forgotten, or find that special gift for someone back home.
You'll also find that the area has a number of attractions and parks you can visit.
If you're looking for a quiet place to unwind, read a book, take in the fresh air, have a picnic, romp with Fido or the kids, the Key Largo Community Park is a great place to spend at least part of a day.
The park also has a playground, baseball, basketball, volleyball and handball courts plus a skate park.
Located at 500 St Croix Pl you can contact the YMCA at 305-453-3422 for additional information. They can also provide you with the forms required if you're wanting to use any of the pavilions for a larger planned activity such as a Florida Keys wedding
or birthday party.
Welcome Sign at Park |
Game Courts In Background
Another park found at the far north end of town is the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge.
This Florida wildlife sanctuary is closed to the public, but the adjacent Butterfly Garden is open and has no entrance fee.
Not far from the Wildlife Refuge you'll come to the Dagny Johsnon Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
which is a popular botanist as well as Florida hiking destination.
You'll also find one of the most popular Florida Keys attractions close by.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
is a premier destination for both water and land activities. Here you can take advantage of boat rentals,
and glass bottom boat tours. You can even coordinate a snorkel or dive trip with any of the Florida Keys snorkeling and diving charters available at the Park.
At John Pennekamp State Park other activities include picnicking, or fishing from any of the designated areas. Swimming in the warm ocean water is also a favorite pastime and at Cannon Beach, a popular tanning and Florida Keys snorkeling spot, you'll find the remnants of an old Spanish shipwreck just a short 100 feet offshore.
John Pennekamp Beach
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Your Key Largo vacation should also include a chance to see the area from a more nostalgic perspective. Plan to take a cruise on the beautiful refurbished movie icon
The African Queen.
A number of trips are provided daily, and on Friday and Saturday evenings, dinner cruises are also available.
The Florida Keys is also a major ecotourism destination and you'll find on your Key Largo vacation that there are a vast variety of eco tour activities
you can participate in.
is also fast becoming an addition to many vacations in the Keys. The ability to have fun, learn something new, and help make a difference with a number of worthwhile conservation programs is hard to resist.
Also to help you know what to pack for your vacation to the Florida Keys, or even while you're on vacation in Key Largo, take time to monitor and get up to date
Key Largo weather
Florida Keys Discounts And Cheap Deals
You'll want to save as much money as you can on the things you're going to want to see and do. Vacations are a blast but they also cost money - sometimes more than we expected.
Florida Keys lodging is obviously one of the biggest expenses and you'll want to check for the best deals you can. If you have the flexibility and can play around with your Florida Keys vacation dates, you can often get better rates on airfare and accommodations.
This link will take you to the main Key Largo lodging page for the Upper Keys area. You can see the different types of accommodation options including motels, hotels, resorts.
Simply click on the type of Key Largo accommodation you prefer, and then you can see detailed information on the different lodging facilities.
If you click on the name of any accommodation that interests you, then you'll see further detail and can quickly check various dates to find the cheapest rates.
You can also take advantage of Florida Keys discounts offered through the Days Inn. They have a
"Stay 3 Nights at the Days Inn and save 20% special"
you'll want to check into. Call to reserve and take advantage of the hotel savings, and find out what restrictions may apply.
Southwest Airlines is now
flying to Key West airport
but they also service the rest of Florida. If you're flying in and then driving down to Key Largo and Marathon, you'll land in Fort Lauderdale. This City is about half an hour north of Miami.
Known for their affordability, Southwest Airlines is a good choice you'll want to investigate. With them now servicing Key West, your options are much better in terms of how you can plan your Florida Keys vacation.
You can land north in Fort Lauderdale, explore that region and then travel south in your Florida car rental, discovering the islands as you go.
You can now also land south in Key West Florida, spend time there, then drive your Florida car rental north and explore the Keys up to the top of the islands.
You will now also have the option of not having to retrace your steps unless you choose to do so. You can select a different departure point and make better use out of your vacation time by exploring ALL
the fun Florida Keys things to do, without having to backtrack.
Cheap O Air is another company that is know for it's cheap deals on airfare, hotels, car rentals and all inclusive vacation packages. They can often save you up to 65% on all flights
and they have other travel discounts you can check into.
If you decide to head south to Key West FL, Trusted Tours, a large national company I'm very excited about, has big savings on all the popular tours, charters, and museums you'll want to explore on your Key West vacation. They even bundle Key West tours into packages for greater Key West discounts.
Just some of the fun things you can save money on with this company include dolphin watch and snorkel trips, the ferry ride to the Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson, fishing and diving charters, discounts to museums such as Ernest Hemingway's House, the Truman Little White House, trolley tours, sunset cruises, and so much more.
Exploring Tavernier Florida
As you drive the Upper Keys, you'll come to small towns bearing unusual names such as Tavernier and Islamorada. To really enjoy your vacation in Florida Keys, stop - take a deep breath - and adopt the laid back attitude Conch Republic natives instinctively have.
Take time to explore these great communities. There's no need to rush since the distances are relatively small. In fact, Tavernier Florida is often the preferred destination for those visiting the Upper Keys.
Welcome To Tavernier, FL
Tavernier blends into Key Largo FL and Islamorada. As such, it's near the major amenities of the two much larger centers, but slightly set apart to offer more quiet.
It's proximity to the other two communities means that anyone staying in Tavenier can easily enjoy fishing
Key Largo, or the spectacular sport fishing Islamorada
is famous for.
You'll find that there are quaint inns and tempting restaurants, plus fishing and scuba diving charters to service your many Florida Keys vacation needs.
When you get to Tavernier one of the places that is often sought out, is pet friendly Harry Harris Park. This is an especially nice family oriented park that has a man made beach.
Harry Harris Park Is Pet Friendly |
Harry Harris Is A Fun Family Park
If you're traveling with Fido or Fidette, it's nice to know they can come with you, as long as they stay on leash. What makes Harry Harris Park
stand out however, are the really good public boat ramps.
Tavernier is also home to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center. The Center's phone number is 305-852-4486, and they're located at mile marker (MM) 93.6.
Self guided tours along with great photography opportunities of
pelican, osprey and other native birds are possible. This non-profit center is dedicated to helping wounded birds found in the wild. If you like birds, and nature, this is definitely a worthwhile stop to make, even if just for a few hours.
Colorful Roseate Spoonbill With Chick in Nest
www.en.wikipedia.org, Photo Credit ladydragonflycc
Fishing Key Largo
Just as Key Largo Florida is the Diving Capital of the World, Islamorada is the Sportfishing Capital. Whether you're a serious angler or just enjoy occasionally casting out a line, you'll find on your vacation Islamorada
has a lot to offer.
However it's not just Islamorada that has great fishing. Even though Key Largo is synonymous with scuba diving Florida Keys, the fishing here is quite spectacular.
Whether you're Key Largo back country fishing
or out on the Key Largo Hump fishing,
you'll have your share of Florida Keys saltwater fish to catch and plenty of fun doing it.
Kayak fishing in the backcountry is also a lot of fun, especially when targeting snook in the mangrove roots that ring the edges of the islands.
In fact, snook fishing
in the Everglades and Florida Bay is more productive than it is further south even in Marathon Key.
Snook Hide Out In Mangrove Roots
Swimming With Dolphins
Swimming with dolphins is an overwhelming favorite among anyone on a vacation in the Florida Keys. The ability to interact and get up close with these amazing and incredibly smart creatures is well worth the money it costs.
However, you will want to qualify what you will get for the money you spend, to make sure your expectations match what is actually allowed on your dolphin encounters.
Obviously protecting these mammals is of utmost importance. Even though this may be your first time to swim with dolphins, it's not their first time to swim with humans. As such, they need to be given respect and appropriate space.
There are two different facilities that focus on working with, studying and training dolphin. They are:
101900 Overseas Highway
31 Corinne Pl
For a fee, children and adults are able to interact with dolphins on a variety of levels. You can choose to be an instructor for the day, or you can opt to swim with dolphins.
Swimming With Dolphins if Fun But So is Having Them Swim in Your Wake
www.en.wikipedia.org, Photo mediaarchive.ksc.nasa.gov
If you choose to swim with dolphins, you are provided with several choices for dolphin encounters. A very popular option is to select the structured dolphin encounter. This is where under the supervision of an instructor, you're allowed to touch the dolphins, even hold their dorsal fin and swim with them.
Another interesting dolphin encounter option is the non-structured interaction. This is strictly "hands off", but it allows you to snorkel freely with the dolphins in their more natural habitat. This recreates a very good simulation of what swimming with dolphins in the wild would be like.
Scuba Diving Key Largo
This part of the Upper Keys is the first stop in your tropical all inclusive Florida Keys vacation. The air is fresh. It's full of adventure. The big question is, "What do you want to do first?"
One of the easiest answers comes from the hilarious romantic comedy, "Along Came Polly".
Borrowing one of Hank Azaria's famous lines
and "mimicking" his character's accent:
"Are you for scoooba?" is a good question indeed.
Even though Mr. Azaria wasn't talking about diving in Key Largo, this is still an appropriate question to ask yourself. After all, this is the Diving Capital of the World!
You're perfectly positioned at the top of this beautiful chain of islands, where some of the best coral reefs and popular wreck diving sites are located.
Of course, like the rest of the Florida Keys, Key Largo is all about being laid back, and casual. Pretty much anything goes, so don't be afraid to let loose and try something new while you're here.
If you've never been scuba diving Florida Keys or snorkeling - now's the time to test the waters for real. You can take lessons and go out with your scuba diving instructor on an exploratory dive. If you've got some experience, there are scores of Florida Keys scuba charters
in the area who'll take you diving the moment you're ready to jump in.
Queen Angelfish are One of the More Beautiful Tropical Fish
Lessons for all skill levels are also available for an additional fee. Florida Keys diving and snorkeling are conducted at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the Key Largo Marine Sanctuary. Sea Dwellers Dive Center can be reached at 1-800-451-3640 and are located at 99850 Overseas Hwy.
Another Florida Keys scuba charters company you may want to contact is Captain Slate's Atlantis Dive Center. A full service instruction facility operational for 32 years, they're close-in to the major dive spots. Captain Slate's is located at 51 Garden Cove Drive, and their phone number is 1-800-331-3483.
Don't forget to bring your underwater camera too. Cameras like this one are perfect for diving and snorkeling because they're hands free. Now you can enjoy touching the different textures of the structures you'll encounter as you're Key Largo diving the clear, multi-hued water.
You'll find that a good underwater camera is indispensable as an endless stream of underwater photographic opportunities present themselves. The many caves, ledges and crannies of the offshore reefs are filled with hundreds of species of tropical and game fish. You'll also find that the numerous species of brightly colored living coral,
and other marine life are hard to resist capturing.
Once you've dried off, you can also take a topside look at these underwater jewels from a ride in a glass bottom boat. Captain Slate's is one of the companies operating glass bottom boat tours in the Florida Keys.
You'll also find that your underwater camera will be even handier when scuba diving Key Largo wrecks. Having your hands free to move aside entanglements and other obstructions can be critical. After all, you're in Key Largo, can you really pass up the opportunity to poke around an underwater shipwreck? Perhaps you'll find some great treasure. It can happen.
However, if you do discover an artifact - don't disturb it. It's illegal to remove or disturb any discovered artifact or treasure. Permits are required to do so, and they're only granted in rare instances when a special recovery has been planned.
If you do find something while scuba diving Key Largo, make a note of it's location. Mark the longitude and latitude, then notify the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary authorities. Here they can be reached at 305-853-0877, and in Key West at 305-809-4700.
When you're Florida wreck diving, you'll certainly encounter a wide array of fish - both large and small. Watch for them as they dart around and through the cavities and broken hulls of these massive ship graves.
The exciting news is that the Florida Keys has the most accessible wreck dive sites in the world. The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary has identified 9 Florida wrecks to be of special interest.
On the Shipwreck Trail Florida Keys wreck dives are often due to natural disasters. The 1733 Spanish treasure ship, San Pedro
grounded during a hurricane carrying a wealth of gold and silver.
However, there are a number of other wrecks, like the USCG Duane,
and the USCG Bibb
that were sunk as part of the artificial reef project. These artificial reefs not only provide great scuba diving opportunity on the Shipwreck Trail Florida Keys, they add to, and promote a healthy underwater ecosystem.
Christ of the Abyss, Key Largo Dry Rocks
One of the Popular Florida Keys Dive Sites
When you're scuba diving Florida Keys, you'll also want to visit several other notable dive sites.
Christ of the Abyss,
also called Christ of the Deep, is the third casting of the statue and is located underwater at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Placed in 1965, the bronze statue stands 8.5 feet tall, and is submerged in 25 feet of water.
If you're a real scuba diving aficionado and are planning a Florida Keys wedding,
you may want a wedding Florida Keys style. Underwater of course! You may have to queue up however. This famous statue and Florida Keys diving site is also a very popular wedding location.
Another popular Key Largo diving site is the USS Speigel Grove.
This massive, 510 foot, artificial reef is the newest diving attraction in the area.
Named for the estate home of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th U.S. President, the decommissioned and sunk navy boat is also one of the largest artificial reefs created. As such, it has become a home for a huge array of fish, ranging from large goliath grouper to delicate, tropical fish.
The Spiegel Grove also changed it's underwater position after Hurricane Dennis blew through in 2005. It moved from it's starboard side to a totally upright position. As amazing as this dive site is, it also harbors danger. 6 people have died trying to explore it's watery depths.
Scuba diving the Spiegel Grove requires a higher level of diving skill. Diving credentials must be provided for examination. For safety reasons, it is recommended that dives in any opening below 90 feet not be allowed.
Key Largo Lodging And Restaurants
You'll also find that there are some great Key Largo restaurants
where you can get a true taste of the region. One place in particular, Snooks not only has a good menu, they have a beautiful outdoor Grand Tiki Bar with live music that offers a spectacular view of Buttonwood Sound and the setting sun.
If you're staying in the area for a few nights before heading south to Marathon Key,
and then Key West, FL
you have a broad selection of accommodations to get the best Key Largo deals on lodging.
One Key Largo resort you may want to check out is
Ocean Pointe Suites,
situated on 60 private acres in Tavernier. What's particularly nice about the 1 or 2 bedroom suites is that they're fully equipped with a private kitchen, and dining area.
They also have a marina and a boat ramp capable of handling up to a 28' boat. The Ocean Pointe Suites overlook either the mangroves, or the Atlantic Ocean. The suites on the Atlantic side also have private balconies.
Another extremely popular Key Largo accommodation choice is the Hampton Inn
at MM 102, 102400 Overseas Highway.
They feature a boat dock, private beach, fitness room, and heated pool. All the rooms are equipped with refrigerators, microwaves and mini-bars so you're also somewhat contained.
A Key Largo Vacation Is A Trip To Paradise
You also receive a free hot breakfast every morning of your stay at the Hampton Inn Key Largo. This Key Largo hotel does not have an in-house restaurant but there's a wide array of close by restaurants in Key Largo you can check out.
The Hampton Inn also allows smaller pets under 30 pounds. If you're traveling with your 'best friend' you don't have to worry about shopping around for another hotel.
Most important is that the rooms are clean, and the staff is friendly. Reports run rampant about other locations where vacations are spoiled by grumpy staff or dirty rooms.
Plus if you're an RV'er or a camper, you'll find that there are several good
Florida Keys campgrounds
you'll want to consider while in the Key Largo area.
No matter where you go or where you'll stay in Key Largo Florida, you'll find that you're surrounded by a natural and peaceful beauty that's hard to find elsewhere.
Molten Sun Kisses Key Largo Goodnight
Courtesy of Geza Paul Frey Jr.
Each evening you'll be treated to a spectacular farewell. The molten sun dips it's head to kiss the mesmerizing shades of the water goodnight, bathing all in a glorious, fiery light.
On your Florida Keys vacation, you'll quickly discover that Key Largo FL will give you a chance to experience island life at it's best. With so much to see and do - above and below water - it's hard to imagine being any place else. When planning a vacation Key Largo is a true tropical, American Caribbean paradise worth the visit.