Key Largo, famous in songs and movies, is the first in a string of over 1,500 islands that make up the approximately 137 square miles of the Florida Keys
. At 33 miles long, Key Largo is the largest of the Keys; in fact, it was named "Cayo Largo," meaning "Long Key" by the early Spanish explorers. Jewfish Creek drawbridge, at mile marker (MM) 107, is considered the start of Key Largo.
The warm, crystal clear water attracts those who enjoy sport fishing in the Florida Keys
, and the thousands of scuba divers and snorkelers who give Key Largo the moniker "Diving Capital of the World." Another draw for divers is the wreck of the Spiegel Grove, a 510-foot Navy ship intentionally scuttled in 2002 to create a new coral reef.
Only about an hour south of Miami, Key Largo gives the people of South Florida a place to come and relax away from the city, where the pace is a little slower. To the northwest is Everglades National Park
, a premier destination for kayakers and ecotourists. To the east is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
, the first underwater park in the United States and the site of the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States.
Key Largo is a great place to rent a boat for the day, for fishing or to see the coral reef from the top of the water. On a glass bottom boat tour, you're likely to see dolphins and other sea creatures. If you’re looking for a place to let the kids play safely in the water, head to the water park at Jacob's Aquatics Center
, with its mock-up of a Pirate Ship rising from the center of a shallow splash pool, right next to a pool for the older kids. As you’d imagine, there are many marinas in the area--some with restaurants, but all with gas and supplies for your next trip. Because of the sheer beauty of the Keys, many people choose to get married there on the beach, in a park, or in a garden. For more romance, take a sunset cruise. Some are dinner cruises and some just sail, but even those usually offer some sort of refreshments. There are many places to pick up shells, t-shirts, mugs and sunglasses--anything you need or want to remember your time in Key Largo.
Places to Eat in Key Largo
"Boats, Beaches, Bars, and Ballads" was a set of CD’s put out by the Keys' favorite son, Jimmy Buffett. I had to laugh. Bars and beaches--that pretty much sums up the Keys. Most anywhere you stop you can get a spectacular fresh fish dinner and a cool, refreshing tropical drink, and you can dance or just relax and enjoy a local band.
opened in 1989. Its Tiki bar, restaurant, and deck serve fresh local seafood prepared with Caribbean, Mexican, and Asian flavors. We’ve had the Conch Ceviche, and it's fabulous! Right on the Atlantic Ocean, with a deck overlooking the marina and the Dove Creek Lodge just steps away; it’s a great place to spend a few days. At night the lights in the water by the dock show off the tarpon that gather there, and get you in the mood to charter a fishing boat, conveniently located at the marina. The building itself has a great history. Its unique coral architecture has survived hurricanes, floods, and pillaging by pirates; there is also a rumor that the upstairs was once a house of ill repute. Come see and enjoy, it really is a great place. We’ve stayed there and loved it.View Website »
, open for lunch and dinner, has a Caribbean flair and is right on the water. Be sure to stroll to their dock at night and watch the fish, visible thanks to their underwater lights!View Website »
Just in front of the Bayside Grille is its sister restaurant, Café Largo
. The café, open for almost 20 years, serves--of course--local seafood, Angus steaks and Italian fare. It is only open for dinner, and has an extensive wine list and full liquor bar.View Website »
If you’re looking for a place to party and not leave, come to Coconuts
, right on the waterfront in Marina Del Mar. Enjoy a day of diving, fishing or just sightseeing here; head back to your room and wash up; have a dinner of fresh seafood or steak; and then party the night away dancing to live entertainment. Coconuts is THE perfect place to spend a day or week. (Located at MM 100)View Website »
Featured on the Food Network, the Key Largo Conch House Restaurant & Coffee Bar
has local seafood and vegetarian selections and, as you’d imagine, award-winning coffee. They also have Wi-Fi and are pet friendly, as a surprisingly large number of places in the Keys are. (Located at MM 100.2)View Website »
Snook’s Bayside Restaurant and Grand Tiki Bar
on the Florida Bay and Gulf of Mexico offers inside or bayside dining. Snook's has a daily happy hour and nightly entertainment, but is also known to host weddings up to 150 people. They are open for lunch of salads and sandwiches with an upscale dinner of fresh seafood and steak. (Located at MM 99.9)View Website »
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com