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.
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.
Aerial View of Key Largo
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
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 you'll be able to do as you vacation in the Florida Keys.
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.
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.
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.
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.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 roseate spoonbill, 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.
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, you'll have your share of Florida Keys fish to catch and plenty of fun doing it.
Colorful Roseate Spoonbill With Chick in Nest
www.en.wikipedia.org, Photo Credit ladydragonflycc
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.
In Key Largo FL there are two different facilities that focus on working with, studying and training dolphin. They are:
101900 Overseas Highway
Key Largo, FL 33037
31 Corinne Pl
Key Largo, FL 33037
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
Key Largo FL 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?"
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 who'll take you diving the moment you're ready to jump in.
Queen Angelfish are One of the More Beautiful Tropical Fish
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. In Key Largo 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.
When you're scuba diving Florida Keys, you'll also want to visit several other notable dive sites.
The famous 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.
John Pennekamp Beach
State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory
Other water related activities can be found during a visit to popular John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Boat rentals, glass bottom boat tours, and of course Florida Keys snorkeling and diving charters are available at the Park.
You can enjoy a picnic, or fish from any of the designated areas. Swimming in the warm ocean water is also a favorite pastime. Check out Cannon Beach, where just a short 100 feet offshore, you'll spot remnants of an old Spanish shipwreck.
You also don't want to pass up a chance to see more of the Key Largo area from a different perspective. 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.
Key Largo Lodging and Restaurants
Food is a big part of anyone's Florida Keys vacation, and no one can pass up a chance to try a piece of world famous key lime pie.
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. They also have a good selection of some awesome sweet-tart candy that's hard to avoid.
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, Calypso's Seafood Grill is a bit off the beaten path, but is well worth the trip.
They provide great meals, in a fun, relaxed atmosphere right on the ocean. You can dine on the patio or inside, and the prices are moderate for a good meal. They don't take credit cards however, so make sure you're carrying some cash.
If you want tasty authentic food, with a different, flavorful twist - this is a pretty good place to go. Just so you know and aren't disappointed, they're closed Tuesdays, so plan accordingly. They're located at the Ocean Bay Marina, MM 99.5, 1 Seagate Blvd. 305-451-0600.
If you're staying in the area for a few nights before heading south to Marathon Key, and then Key West, you have a broad selection of accommodations to get the best Key Largo deals on lodging.