Journey Through the Florida Keys- Key Largo
Now Entering- KEY LARGO
Mile Markers: 112- 91…sounds about right.
Welcome to Key Largo. You have arrived here either via the “18-mile” stretch (MMs 126-108) of the Overseas Highway (US-1) that brought you in from Florida City, or the scenic, back-roads route along Card Sound Road (MM 126.5 heading south, MM 106.5 heading north). If you came in on US-1, we recommend taking Card Sound Road when you go to leave- if you have a few minutes to spare. It takes a little longer (25 miles), but it’s worth the extra drive. You’ll see the Florida Keys of yesteryear as you navigate past old fishing shacks; spot birds and other wildlife in and around the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; and stop in for a bite and a cold beer at Alabama Jacks- a favorite watering hole of travelers for over 50 years. Just remember to bring $1.00 to pay the Card Sound Road toll on your way in, or out of the Keys.
As you journey into Key Largo on the 18-mile stretch you may spot a variety of birds and other wildlife. This area is bordered by the Everglades National Park, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and other waterways that are teaming with life. You may catch glimpse of a great blue heron, a roseate spoonbill, or any number of interesting critters such as the river otter and Everglades mink. You may also want to keep an eye out for alligators, or giant non-native Burmese pythons- which have recently begun to inhabit the area (scary stuff!). Continuing your drive you will venture over the recently revamped Jewfish Creek Bridge (MM 108), which offers an unobstructed view of Lake Surprise and opportunities to see large ospreys nesting high above the water (oceanside).
Please remember to ALWAYS be alert when travelling this stretch of road into Key Largo. While the scenery is indeed alluring, the drive can be dangerous. Wait for designated passing zones when trying to pass slower vehicles, and always pay close attention to oncoming traffic. Measures have been taken to make this section of road safer, but every year more travelers are killed here than anywhere else in the Florida Keys. So be patient, relax, and enjoy the fact that you’re only minutes away from paradise.
Now that you’re here, you may be interested to know that Key Largo is the first and largest island in the Florida Keys chain. It is believed to have been named by Spanish explorers who dubbed the land “Cayo Largo,” or “long rock shoal” after making note of the rocky shoreline on their journey to discover the fountain of youth. Over the years many ships have met their fate on the jagged barrier reef that lies just below Key Largo’s Atlantic waters. For that reason, Cayo Largo was once a notorious hangout for “wreckers” who preyed on the misfortune of passing vessels that weren’t equipped with today’s modern navigational luxuries. Wreckers would head out and “salvage” gold and treasure from sinking ships after they crashed into the sharp reef- sometimes even shining a signal light to “bait” the captains off course and into the reef, leading them to believe it was a lighthouse guiding them towards safe passage.
Today, Key Largo is known as the “Dive Capital of the World,” thanks to the phenomenal underwater diving and snorkeling opportunities provided by the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. And, because of the ships which now rest on the sea bottom, offering a sanctuary to a variety of aquatic tropical plants and animals. Key Largo is home to the world’s largest artificial reef, the USS Spiegel Grove, an “intentionally” sunken 510-foot Navy vessel; and John Pennekamp State Park (MM 102.5-O), where you’ll find the nation’s first underwater dive park.
In addition to attracting divers, Key Largo is a popular destination for anglers looking to target bonefish or permit on the flats; tarpon, snook and redfish in the backcountry; and sailfish, dolphin, snapper, grouper, and other hard fighting species offshore and at the reef. Eco-friendly tourists can kayak through parts of Everglades National Park; shoppers can get their fill at one of the many outlet stores located along US-1, and those craving a cold drink and a tasty meal, can indulge at one of a number of gourmet restaurants that serve waterfront cocktails and fresh seafood cuisine.
Below we have listed a few of our favorite attractions, restaurants and accommodations that “us locals” recommend to OUR FRIENDS. Remember, these are our unbiased opinions, not just a directory like you’ll find on other sites!
Our Favorite Things to Do in Key Largo:
- Fish for bonefish in the shallows, or head offshore to reel in the big game fish.
- Dive the USS Spiegel Grove- a 510-foot ship wreck which was sunk in 2002.
- Enjoy a day at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (MM 102.5-O) – Take a snorkel, SCUBA, or glass bottom boat trip; or, have a picnic lunch, take a refreshing swim, and explore the park wildlife as you walk along one of the many nature trails.
- Kayak through the backcountry and Everglades National Park.
- Visit Humphrey Bogart’s African Queen (MM 100-O).
- Swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove (MM 99-O).
- Spend an afternoon at Harry Harris Park (92.5- O) – there’s a swimming beach, fishing areas, and a public boat launch.
Where we Eat and Drink and Enjoy:
- Alabama Jacks (Card Sound Road)
- Rib Daddy’s Steak & Seafood (102.5- B)
- The Fish House Restaurant and Seafood Market (MM 102.4-O)
- Calypso’s Seafood Grill (MM 100- O, off US-1)
- Doc’s Diner (MM 99- B)
- Old Tavernier Restaurant (MM 90.3-O)
Where we “Sleep Off” the Margaritas and Key Lime Pie:
- Azul Del Mar (MM 104.3-B)
- Marriott Key Largo Bay Beach Resort (MM 103.8-B)
- John Pennekamp State Park (MM 102.5-O, camping)
- Rock Reef Resort (MM 97.8- B)
- Coconut Bay Resort (MM 97.7- B)
- Dove Creek Lodge (MM 94.5- O)
Other Key Largo Mile Markers include:
- MM 106-B Key Largo Chamber of Commerce
- MM 103.2-B Silent World Dive Center
- MM 99.8-B Key Largo Post Office
- MM 91.3-B Mariner’s Hospital
- MM 91.3-B Tavernier Cinema
- MM 91 Tavernier Creek Bridge (entering Islamorada)