Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Tel: (305) 451-1202
Named for the late John D. Pennekamp, a Miami newspaper editor, this state park is situated on the Atlantic Ocean side of Key Largo. The Park extends 5 km (3 miles) into the ocean and is approximately 40 km (25 miles) long. Pennekamp and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary cover approximately 460 sq km (178 sq miles) of coral reefs, sea grass beds, and mangrove swamps. Forests of living coral, sponges, shrimp, crabs, lobsters, turtles and nearly 600 species of fish are found here. Just as with Biscayne National Park, this largely underwater Park is best seen by boat.
In places the coral reef is near the surface, providing excellent opportunities for snorkeling. However you should be aware that the reef can be reached only by boat – you cannot see the reef by snorkeling from shore. Motorboats, canoes, kayaks, snorkeling and scuba equipment can be rented. Glass-bottomed boat tours take visitors on the five-mile trip to the reef three times a day. For boat tour information and reservations call (305) 451-6300. For information about the Park call (305) 451-1202.
You should be aware that Pennekamp receives more than a million visitors a year and can get quite crowded especially on weekends and major holidays.
Most people come to swim, snorkel and fish, but you can also see some interesting birds in winter, including Caspian Terns, Common Terns, Bonaparte’s Gulls and Scissor-tailed flycatchers. Breeding birds include White-crowned Pigeons, Gray Kingbirds, and Black-whiskered vireos. You can pick up a copy of the Park’s bird list at the excellent visitor center, which also has a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and theater showing nature videos.
More information on their web site
Pennekamp State Park web site
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