While visiting The Keys, we took a day trip to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. Although you could stay there longer as they offer both RV and tent camping. The park is named for the late John D. Pennekamp, a Miami newspaper editor, whose efforts contributed to the establishments of Everglades National Park and the preservation of what would become John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
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We started our day with a visit to the Visitor’s Center to get the lay of the land. My husband was impressed with the Visitor’s Center which is a pretty hard thing to do. He spent his career as the manager of Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia so he knows a thing our two about visitor’s centers and exhibits.
We were surprised by the really nice and informative aquarium area.
Then we headed out for a hike on of the the trails. We didn’t see much wildlife (birds) while we were walking but we did see mangroves, plants, and lots of cool trees. I just love this tree bark.
Isn’t it cool?!
We worked up an appetite so we stopped to have our picnic lunch. They do have concession stands if you didn’t bring your own. They have areas with area with picnic tables and Pavilions.
While we were eating, the Ibis came over wanting hand-outs. And Gary fed them! Shhh…don’t tell anyone.
This is probably when I scolded him for feeding the wildlife. Look at that face – does he look guilty?
Apparently, a lot of people have despite the signs not to because they were so bold – even hopping on the table and walking over to check out our cooler.
Now that our bellies were full (and we weren’t attacked by the Ibis), we walked around the rest of the park.
We went to the beach. It was a little too cold for swimming but we have our photos on the beach.
They have cannons on the beach. Why? I do not know.
We saw you could go on a glass bottom boat tours ($24 for adults and $17 for kids 4-11). They have three times (9:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m.) for this 2 1/2 tour. We missed the 12:15 p.m. and probably wouldn’t be there by the 3:15 p.m. … so next time.
John Pennykamp offers a variety of activities:
Boating ~ You can rent paddle boards, canoes and kayaks.
Hiking ~ There are some nature walks along the Mangrove, Wild Tamarind and Grove trails. It has Canoe, motorboat and Kayak rentals also available. The trails were short but well maintained.
Scuba Diving ~ Explore the living coral reefs with their PADI 5-Star facility which offers two-location, two-tank dives twice daily, at 9:00am and 1:30pm. Equipment rental available.
Snorkeling ~ Pennekamp was one of the first undersea parks in the United States. You can snorkel off the beach in three different swimming areas. One area is called Cannon Beach and when the water is clear, you are able to see actual remnants of an early Spanish Shipwreck. Equipment rental available.
If snorkeling is not your thing, but you still would like to see the coral reef, you are in luck. John Pennekamp also has Glass Bottom Boat Tours available.
Swimming ~ Three areas are designated for swimming, including Canon Beach, which features remnants of an early Spanish shipwreck 100 feet offshore.
Here is a link to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, so you can check out all that they offer and find out their prices and time.