Don’t judge Key Largo by the view from the highway.
The jumble of commercial storefronts is far from charming, but it comes with the territory Key Largo occupies as centerpiece destination for the world’s third largest living coral reef, 25 miles of which lie inside Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
There is awesome beauty and a wealth of things to do in Key Largo off the highway, where the land meets the water, and especially under the water.
To help you navigate Key Largo, we prepared this Things to do in Key Largo Visitors Guide.
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Dive and snorkel trips
All life in Key Largo revolves around watersports, particularly diving and snorkeling the coral reefs in Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and there are dozens of outfits that will take you out to enjoy the experience.
Read more: 11 Best Snorkeling Sites in Key Largo
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (MM 103, oceanside) Snorkeling, diving, glass-bottom tour boat, beaches, boat ramps, campground, hiking and kayak trails.
Read more about Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Things to do in Key Largo: Kayaking
The islands on the bay side of Key Largo offer a range of paddling experiences in shallow waters that extend to Key Largo from Everglades National Park, and some near-shore kayak trails on the ocean side offer a taste of what can be found in deeper waters.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (MM 103, oceanside) Kayak launch, trails, rentals, tours. 305-451-6322.
Public Boat Ramp: Sunset Park, 20 Sunset Road.
Public Boat Ramp: Harris Park Boat Ramp (MM 92.6) Follow the signs.
Public Boat Ramp: Bottle Key Launch. (MM 92) Public boat launch, bayside. Turn right onto Jo-Jean Way.
Read more: 11 great kayak outings in the Florida Keys
Parks and beaches in Key Largo
Beaches that offer swimming on Key Largo are few and far between, although many resort hotels have built man-made beaches for their guests. Here are a few public parks and beaches you can enjoy without spending big bucks,
Rowell’s Waterfront Park. (MM 104.5) Former marina now an 8-acre park on Florida Bay. Swim and snorkel from the seawall, which has ladders. Includes a fenced dog park for Fido.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, (MM 102.8 oceanside) Snorkeling, diving, glass-bottom tour boat, beaches, boat ramps, campground, hiking and kayak trails.
Read more about John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Friendship Park (MM 101.3) Oceanside. The was the center of the 1880s community of Newport.
Harry Harris Beach and Park (MM 92.6, oceanside). Pet-friendly park with nicely groomed beach, picnic tables, picnic shelters, boat ramp and a playground. Free admission weekdays. Monroe County residents free anytime. Non-residents: $5/person on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. $30 to launch a boat. Incidentally, the early community of “Planter” was here.
Read more: Our favorite beaches in the Florida Keys
Need a free place to stop for picnic? Behind the Key Largo government center (MM 102 bayside) there’s a waterfront park with covered picnic tables. Boaters moored offshore come and go here via dinghy or kayak.
Things to do in Key Largo: Points of interest
Most of Key Largo’s points of interest are underwater, accessible by boat or on sponsored tours by dive shops. Here are a few land-based points of interest.
MM 106.5 — Turn left for Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammocks Botanical State Park
MM 105.6 — Railroad depot and Key Largo town center from 1910 to 1940. The depot was in the highway median. The community was bayside.
A Keys Classic Caribbean Club in Key Largo. (MM 104 Bayside) Its exterior was used in the Humphrey Bogart classic “Key Largo,” which inspired the community to change its name. This dive bar is plastered with movie memorabilia. Tripadvisor reviews.
Read more about tracking Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo.
MM 103.5 — The 1920s Key Largo Rock Castle, end of Oceana Drive, ocean side.
MM 103.4 — Marvin Adams Waterway Bridge (The Cut), a canal that connects Atlantic to Florida Bay
The African Queen, (MM 99.7) the 100-year-old steamboat from the 1951 Humphrey Bogart-Katherine Hepburn film, is moored next to the Holiday Inn Oceanside. You can take a 90-minute cruise or a two-hour dinner trip. Tripadvisor reviews
MM 98.0 — Landings of Largo, Bayside; Moose Lodge, Oceanside; Everglades Park Ranger
MM 95 to 100 — The early community of Rock Harbor. A small railroad depot was also here. The name of the post office was Rock Harbor until the 1948 when Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall film Key Largo inspired residents to cash in on that success. In 1952, the post office was renamed Key Largo.
MM 95.2 — Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary building. Tripadvisor reviews
Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, (MM 93.6) Bayside. Boardwalk through a mangrove forest at volunteer-run wildlife-rehab facility with an informal backyard feel. The center is free, though you may want to make a donation. Open sunrise to sunset. Great stop for kids. Tripadvisor reviews
Things to do in Key Largo: Restaurants and bars
Key Largo hosts a number of legendary eateries, many on waterfronts with outdoor dining and tiki bars, and there are a few land-locked that may be worthy of your attention. Sunset dining is certainly a popular pastime, but sometimes you want to just grab a bite. We list both.
Read more: Alabama Jack’s: Classic start to a Keys trip
MM 103.9 — Senor Frijoles, Mexican food; Sundowners, outdoor seating and view of Blackwater Sound; Cactus Jack’s Sports Pub. Cluster of popular restaurants on Bay Side. Tripadvisor reviews: Senor Frijoles | Sundowners
Bob’s Longtime Favorite: Hobo’s Cafe. (MM 101.7) Good food at moderate prices. I’ve patronized Hobo’s since it was a little railroad car on the bay side. Now a modern eatery on the Oceanside. Tripadvisor reviews
Read more about: Tiki bars you’ll love in the Florida Keys
MM 100 — East at Laguna Avenue
Another Favorite Skippers Dockside, Laguna Ave. to 528 Caribbean Drive. Large dockside tiki bar and outdoor dining area. Read more in our best tiki bar guide. You may see the African Queen steam past. Tripadvisor reviews
MM 99.4 — Key Largo Traffic Light — Port Largo
Go east at THE traffic light where U.S. 1 splits to southbound and northbound lanes, an immediate right onto Homestead Avenue, then a quick left on Ocean Bay Drive
Unique. American Legion Post 333, 2 Seagate Blvd. Key Largo. Large, shady outdoor seating with entertainment. Drinks and food. Strings of lights strung through the trees. Open to the public and on my bucket list. I’ve passed here many times but never stopped.
Hidden Gem Key Largo Fisheries Backyard Cafe,1313 Ocean Bay Drive. Old Florida wholesale and retail fish market with a cafe out back overlooking the docks. The fish come off the boats right here, so you know you have the freshest fish on the island. Tripadvisor reviews
Immediately South of THE traffic light on U.S. 1…
Read more: Tiki bars you’ll love in the Florida Keys
Places to stay in Key Largo
Everything from cabins and mom-and-pop motels to luxury resorts are available on Key Largo for the snorkeling hordes. All links go to descriptions of the properties. Some links go to Hotels.com, where you’ll get a description and can reserve a room directly.
Gilbert’s Resort MM 107.9
Hampton Inn Key Largo Manatee Bay (MM 102.4)
Dolphin Point Villas – Key Largo MM 101.9.
Largo Resort (MM 101.7)
Marina Del Mar Resort and Marina – Key Largo. (MM 100.0)
Love the pool! Holiday Inn Key Largo. (MM 99.7) Book your excursion on the African Queen or the Key Largo Princess glass-bottom boat in the hotel’s gift shop. Check out the waterfall and tiki bar at the hotel swimming pool.
Bayside Inn Key Largo. (MM 99)
Sunset Cove Beach Resort. (MM 99).
Dream Bay Resort, 4 Woodward Way. (MM 99.2) Private gated resort and marina offering cottage and luxury house rentals with dockage. (305) 393-0634.
Kona Kai Resort, Gallery & Botanic Gardens. (MM 97.8)
Mariner’s Resort Villas and Marina. (MM 97.5) 1- 4 bedroom luxury villas, tennis courts, swimming pools, waterside restaurant & Tiki Bar. (305) 853-5000
Coconut Bay Resort Key Largo MM 97.7.
Drift Hotel, Key Largo. MM 95
Ocean Pointe Suites at Key Largo MM 93. 500 Burton Drive.
Places to camp in Key Largo
RV camping is popular in the Florida Keys, and a handful of campgrounds offer tent sites. The prices are a bit higher than you’ll find on the mainland, but hey! You’re in the Florida Keys!
Read more: Best tent camping in the Florida Keys
RV Services on Key Largo
Holiday RV and Marine, (MM 100) Full service repair, parts and sales. 10099 Overseas Highway. 305-451-4555. TripAdvisor reviews
Larry’s RV Service. (MM 95.2) Mobile service that will go to your campground, 95231 Overseas Hwy. 630-460-7676 TripAdvisor reviews
Groceries on Key Largo
Winn Dixie Supermarket, 105300 Overseas Hwy., (MM 105.3) Bayside. Recently renovated and clean. We found the staff friendly and the store had a good product selection. Shopping plaza partially hidden by trees. 7 am-10 pm. (305) 451-0328
Betty’s Health Foods, 103200 Overseas Hwy. (MM 103.2 ) Open 10 am-6 pm, Monday-Friday; 10 am-2 pm, Saturday; Closed Sunday
Francis Fruit Stand, 102800 Overseas Hwy. (MM 102.8) Fresh fruits and vegetables. Open 7 am-7 pm daily.
Publix Supermarket in the Tradewinds Plaza shopping center, 101437 Overseas Hwy. Oceanside. (MM 101.4) Typical Publix product selection. Clean and friendly staff. Shopping center is partially hidden by a wall of trees. 6 am-10 pm. (305) 451-0808
Key Largo Fisheries,1313 Ocean Bay Drive. (MM 99.4) Old Florida wholesale and retail fish market with piles of fresh stone crabs and Florida lobster (in season), shrimp, snapper, mahi and more. Display cases offer conch salad, smoked fish dip, lobster chowder and bisque.
Convenience stores include Tom Thumb and Circle K.
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Snorkeling, kayaking and other tours
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Bob Rountree is a beach bum, angler and camper who has explored Florida for decades. No adventure is complete without a scenic paddle trail or unpaved road to nowhere. Bob co-founded FloridaRambler.com with fellow journalist Bonnie Gross 12 years ago.