Did you know that the Florida Keys are home to a spectacular tropical underwater playground just waiting to be explored? Pack your bathing suits and sunscreen and get ready for an aquatic experience in one of the most unique parks in the country—John Pennekamp State Park.
As the oldest and first underwater park in the United States, this marine sanctuary and visitor’s center lets you get up close and personal with some of the most stunning coral reefs, sea grass beds and marine life in North America.
Explore Pennekamp on a Glassbottom Boat Tour
Climb aboard a glass bottom catamaran for a two-and-a-half hour tour of 178 nautical miles of seabed aboard the Spirit of Pennekamp. This 65-foot vessel offers unique views of a shallow reef teeming with sea turtles, nurse sharks and a translucent rainbow of tropical fish, plus the remains of a shipwreck.
Captain Your Own Vessel
Experienced boaters can set their own open ocean course for some amazing fishing, scuba diving, or just an afternoon relaxing in the turquoise waters off the Florida coast. The park offers 21-foot center console boats for half- or full-day rentals.
Paddle Your Way to New Discoveries
Explore the park’s 50 miles of mangroves under your own power! Single and double kayaks are available for full or half-day rentals, and standard paddleboards and canoes can also be rented.
Dive On In
Water babies can choose to scuba or snorkel for a spectacular view of a marine environment found nowhere else in the country. The Park’s scuba diving tours have attracted divers from all over the world to explore reefs around Carysfort Reef Light, the oldest functioning lighthouse of its type in the U.S. Swim with blue tang, midnight parrotfish and yellowtail snapper or admire elkhorn coral at Molasses Reef. Be sure to visit the submerged “Christ of the Deep” bronze statue at Key Largo Dry Rocks reef!
Stay High and Dry
If you’d rather remain on dry land, pack some snacks for a leisurely picnic in the designated areas, then take a stroll along the park’s short walking trails. When you’re ready for a cool respite, head to the Environmental Education and Visitor’s Center to learn about the site’s 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and other natural history subjects. The park also features a theater so you can enjoy a bit of shade while watching a collection of nature videos.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is open daily from 8 am until sunset, and the concession building and visitor’s center is open from 8 am to 5 pm. Reservations for tours are recommended.
To learn more, visit pennekamppark.com or call 305.451.6300.
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