This south Florida Keys state park has been home to vacationing visitors for centuries. From the Native Americans to the Spanish explorers to the British colonists to the turn of the century New Yorkers to today’s RV enthusiasts-John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park has been amazing people for as long as people have been coming to the park.
In 1960, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was created in completely submerged lands off of the coast of south Florida. It was designed to protect the 70 square nautical miles of amazing coral reefs and surrounding waterways that lie submerged off of the coast of the Florida Keys. By 1963, offshore land was purchased and the park was expanded, as it continues to today. In 1976, Dennis the Menace, funny-papers cartoon character, visited the park with his parents and rode the glass bottom boat “Discovery”.
Today, the park has expanded to beaches, reefs, glass bottom boat tours, camping, concession and a huge visitor’s center. Boat rental, snorkeling tours and a 30,000 gallon saltwater fish tank, make the visitor center the place to be for all the fun to begin.
Since there is so much to do you’ll want to spend the night at this no-snow winter retreat on Key Largo. Unfortunately until March 30, 2011 you won’t be able to camp until they complete the new campground. Since its John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Parks 50th anniversary, an all new campground, fish tank, visitor center and restroom area will be getting a complete overhaul. It’s going to be hard to improve on an already good campground; it will be interesting to see how it turns out.
But just because you can’t spend the night at the park, doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of lodging nearby. Hotels, beach resorts and private campgrounds line the highway around the park.
The boat tours remain open and this one of the best parts of this awesome no-snow winter vacation. Four different types of boat tours allow visitors to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to experience the real Florida. Experienced divers can embark from the park on a four hour, two location dive trip on the reef. For those wishing to learn scuba, a day course certifies seasoned snorkelers for a scuba dive at the end of the day.
If you’re not experienced; don’t worry. You can still do a guided snorkel over the reef that is just for beginners. They even have a wheelchair friendly dive boat so everyone can get a turn to view the reef.
But for those who don’t want to get their feet wet can hop aboard the glass-bottom boats for the ultimate in dry viewing. Visit the official John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park website here for more details on reservations, pricing and directions to the boat.