When to visit
- Very Favourable
What to do
- Worth the detour
- Must see
Also known as Cayo Largo, this destination is extremely popular with divers, as its magnificent coral reefs offer exceptional diving opportunities.
If you prefer to stay above the water, you will be delighted to know that Key Largo's proximity to the Everglades makes it a premier destination for kayaking, offering beautiful natural scenery and calm clear waters for paddling on.
The "Highway that goes to Sea"...
The Overseas Highway is a unique route that connects the Keys to mainland Florida. The Upper Keys, which include Key Largo, are a very popular destination for weekend tourists from the Miami region. The road gets narrower as it continues south through the Middle Keys and then the Lower Keys, ending in the famous town of Key West.
Completed in 1938, the Overseas Highway is more than 180 kilometres long and has 42 bridges, including the famous Seven-Mile Bridge, which rises to a 20-metre-high arch and is almost 11 km long… a true architectural masterpiece!
With no traffic (which is rather rare!), it will take you almost 3 hours to drive from Homestead (south of Miami) to Key West. There are green and white mile markers along the side of the road all along the Overseas Highway. Mile Marker 0 is located at the southernmost point of Key West and the markers progress north until Mile Marker 127 in Florida City on the mainland. Street addresses along the Overseas Highway are based on mile markers. For example, the address 92220 Overseas Highway corresponds to Mile Marker 92.2.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Season: Open daily from 8 a.m. until sunset.
Visitor Center: Open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The centre features natural history exhibits on coral reef ecosystems, a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, and a theater where visitors can watch nature videos.
Entry fee: $8/vehicle/day, including occupants (up to 8 people).
This was the first undersea park in the United States, home to more than 40 types of coral and almost 600 species of fish! Open to the public for more than 50 years, the park was named for the late John D. Pennekamp, a Miami newspaper editor, whose efforts contributed to the preservation of this unique 70 square km area of coral reefs, tropical vegetation and marine life, and to the establishment of Everglades National Park.
The park is a true paradise for divers, even inexperienced ones. And there are many ways to enjoy the park without fins, mask and snorkel depending on your desires, needs and interests.
Here are the different options:
Guided snorkeling tours: maximum of 6 snorkelers per guide. Tours last 2½ hours including 1 hour to 1½ hours water time. Equipment rental is available.
Scuba diving tours for certified divers: two-location dives, with departures daily at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Maximum 6 divers per guide, variable duration. Equipment rental is available.
Glass-bottom boat tour aboard a high-speed catamaran: maximum capacity of 130 passengers, with departures at 9:15 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Tours last 2½ hours.
Kayak, canoe and paddleboard (SUP) rental to explore the park's 50 miles of natural mangrove wilderness trails.
Short walking trails, with picnic areas and beach access.
Reservations are strongly recommended for the snorkeling, diving and glass-bottom boat tours. Please note that children under the age of 15 can go snorkeling but must be accompanied by an adult.
Food and souvenirs can be purchased at the park's equipment rental centre.
Mile Marker 102.5, Overseas Highway, Key Largo / 305-676-3777
Islamorada and the Middle Keys
This area of the Keys is extremely popular with deep-sea sport fishing enthusiasts. Marathon is the administrative and cultural centre of the “Middle Keys”.
Theater of the Sea
This marine mammal park features lagoons and lush, tropical gardens that are home to fish, sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, alligators, sea lions, dolphins and birds. The park was founded in 1946 by the McKenney family, whose mission was to protect and care for animals. Over the years, many animals have been rescued, rehabilitated, and still live at Theatre of the Sea because they could not be returned to the wild. Each rescued animal serves an important role in educating the public about the many natural and human-imposed threats to their wild counterparts.
General admission provides access to dolphin, sea lion, and parrot shows, a bottomless boat ride, a lagoon-side beach, as well as a fish and reptile tour with tropical fish, sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, alligators, and crocodiles. If you wish, you can also book one of the many unique experiences below:
- Swim with the dolphin
- Meet the dolphin
- Wade with the dolphin
- Paint with the dolphins
- Meet the sea lion
- Swim with the sea lion
- Paint with the sea lion
- Swim with the rays
- Meet the sea turtles
- Swim with the sharks
- Meet the alligator
- Adventure cruise and snorkeling
- Sunset eco-cruise
The park also has a gift shop and a restaurant, Nicky's Grill. The park is open every day from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
84721 Overseas Highway, Islamorada / 305-664-2431
Dolphin Research Center
Although dolphin watching is possible all over Florida, this research site allows you to watch and interact with these incredible mammals in a way that doesn't disturb their living environment. Enjoy an ethical, responsible experience! You will also get to meet the family of California sea lions. You can talk with staff and volunteers to learn more about the centre's animals and their way of life. You will also be able to attend the daily show and cool off in the water games available for visitors of all ages.
General admission provides access to the site, but you can also swim with the dolphins for an additional fee. Ask at the park reception. Open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed on December 25, Memorial Day (4th Monday in May), Labor Day (1st Monday in September) and Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday in November).
5890 Overseas Highway, Grassy Key / 305-289-1121
Built in 1982, the Seven-Mile Bridge connects Knight Key (Middle Keys) to Little Duck Key (Lower Keys) and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding turquoise sea. Rising to a 20-metre-high arch and almost 11,000 metres long, it can be considered a masterpiece of engineering and architecture.
Mile Marker 47 to 40, Overseas Highway
Where to eat
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ Moderate
- $$$ Upscale
- $$$$ Fine dining
Key Largo & surrounding area
Hobo's Cafe ($$)
Established in 1991, Hobo's Cafe is an "authentic Keys eatery" and one of the most popular restaurants in Key Largo. It serves simple creative cuisine inspired by seasonal ingredients and the wide array of fresh seafood available from local markets and fishermen. The menu features burgers, sandwiches, salads, seafood and meat dishes: something for everyone! As an appetizer, be sure to try the ceviche, a house specialty, prepared with conch marinated in lime juice, onions, tomatoes and cilantro, served with tortilla chips. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
101691 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo / 305-451-5888
The Fish House ($$$)
Another Key Largo dining tradition, since 1982. The Fish House buys directly from local commercial fishermen, and fillets and smokes all fish on the premises. They even make a smoked fish dip, which you can taste at the restaurant or purchase in their market! The menu includes grouper, mahi-mahi, yellow snapper, stone crab and Florida lobster, seafood plates, pasta, soups and salads, meat options, and sandwiches (lunchtime only). Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
102401 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo / 305-451-4665
Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory ($)
The Blond Giraffe wants to make people happy, and they do it by making one of the best Key lime pies in the Keys! The pies are made fresh every day using top quality ingredients. For a decadent treat, try the frozen Key lime pie dipped in chocolate!!! Also offers other lime-flavoured items such as cookies, candy and cakes, as well as gifts, souvenirs and a full espresso bar. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
9222 Overseas Hwy, Tavernier / 305-922-2400
Twisted Shrimp ($$)
This local favourite serves fast, fresh, affordable fare with a short but interesting menu. As you may have guessed, shrimp is their specialty, and they serve it up in many ways: fried, blackened, Cajun, tacos, skewers, salad, and Po'Boy sandwich (a Louisiana specialty). You can even order fried shrimp by the pound or a bucket of fried chicken if you're with a group. Interesting options include Good Ole Jambalaya, crab cakes and jerk chicken. Open Wednesday-Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.
87745 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada / 305-453-6377
Lazy Days South ($$-$$$)
With its ideal oceanfront location and tables right on the beach, Lazy Days South has a real holiday vibe! The menu offers an array of options including fish and seafood, certified Angus beef, chicken, salads, pasta (including vegetarian options), and sandwiches. You can also try alligator if you're curious, or taste conch prepared in a variety of ways. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
7986, Overseas Hwy, Islamorada / 305-664-5256
Where to sleep ?
- Very Favourable