Key Largo, the northernmost (and longest) island in the Florida Keys, stretches from mile marker 107 on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway south to mile marker 91. It’s renowned as the Dive Capital of the World — and it first became famous when the 1948 movie “Key Largo,” featuring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, hit the silver screen.
The Keys’ underwater wonders are particularly spectacular along the coral reef tract near Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park — America’s first undersea preserve. (Photo by Frazier Nivens, Florida Keys News Bureau)
The island is also known for the Spiegel Grove, one of the largest ships ever intentionally sunk to become an artificial reef, lying approximately 6 miles offshore in the protected waters of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
What are some “don’t miss” stops when you’re visiting Key Largo?
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The United States’ first undersea park, Pennekamp covers 70 nautical miles and can be found at mile marker 102.5. It’s famed for glass-bottom boat and snorkel tours of Florida’s Coral Reef and dive tours to the Christ of the Deep statue. Other attractions include paddleboarding, saltwater fishing, marked trails through mangrove wilderness and tropical hammocks, beach swimming and camping.
Caribbean Club Bar. This lively waterfront spot, known as the Upper Keys’ oldest bar, is popular for cocktails, live music and sunset watching. Opened in 1938, it stands at mile marker 104 — and exterior location shots for Bogie’s classic “Key Largo” were filmed on-site.
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. This 2,683-acre park has one of the United States’ largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock. It’s home to 84 protected animal and plant species including the Key Largo woodrat and American crocodile, and features over six miles of trails. Access it through the main entrance near mile marker 106.
Keys Chocolates produces amazing treats like chocolate-covered caramels with a hint of sea salt.
Keys Chocolates & Ice Cream. The only Keys-based chocolatier — founded in Key Largo and located at mile marker 100.4 — features 36 flavors of ice cream, most hand-crafted; Key lime pies made on-site, Key lime pie bars and specialties such as subtropical sampler boxes, truffles and pretzels drenched in Key lime white chocolate. It’s impossible to pass up!
The African Queen. The steamboat, listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, starred in John Huston’s 1951 film “The African Queen” with Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn. Today the fully restored vessel travels Key Largo’s Port Largo Canal on scenic 1.5-hour cruises. Daily cruises depart from Marina Del Mar at mile marker 100.
Coral Restoration Foundation. At the foundation’s Exploration Center, visitors can get up close and personal with Florida Keys coral reefs and — through the foundation’s educational efforts — participate in reef restoration. CRF manages the world’s largest coral nurseries, raising critically endangered coral species and returning them to Florida’s Coral Reef. Ocean lovers of all ages can join the CRF team to help bring these reefs back to life. The facility stands at 5 Seagate Blvd. near mile marker 99.6.
Keys’ Meads. The Keys’ only mead distillery has a 2,500-square-foot Key Largo location offering tours, a tasting room and retail space selling made-in-the-Keys mead (an alcoholic beverage crafted from fermented honey) and spirits distilled from mead. Local meads are made from Florida Keys honey, water and yeast. The meadery is open daily at mile marker 99.4.
An employee from the Coral Restoration Foundation works underwater in the organization’s coral nursery. (Photo by Tim Grollimund, Florida Keys News Bureau)
(Original) Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. Key Largo’s longest-running restaurant, known for its Key lime pie and straight-off-the-boat fish, is an iconic roadside café at mile marker 99.3 whose walls are festooned with donated car license plates. Jeff McFarland founded it in 1976, naming it for his mother and her recipes. Sisters Angela and Paula Wittke have owned and operated it since the late 1980s, with the motto “Eat Well, Laugh Often and Live Long.” A newer version called Mrs. Mac’s II is located at mile marker 99.
Reef Environmental Education Foundation. This international marine conservation organization’s mission is to protect biodiversity and ocean life by inspiring the public through citizen science, education and scientific partnerships with hands-on programs. Visit the worthy organization’s interpretive center at mile marker 98.3.
Florida Keys Wild Bird Center. Known for its Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary, this nonprofit conservation center is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured and displaced native wild birds. The facility, located at mile marker 93.6 in Tavernier, also houses or finds a shelter for birds that can’t be released. There’s an intriguing education center and gift shop as well.
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