Located in the upper Florida Keys, Key Largo is a consensus designated area of in Monroe County, Florida. It is known for its warm climate, beautiful beaches, and for being one of the top diving destinations in the world. Although many people head to this area to take advantage of these features, these are not the only things to do when you visit Key Largo. If this is your destination of choice, you will find activities and attractions to suit all tastes and there is something for people of all ages. As a guide to help you decide what to include in your itinerary, the following are the 20 best things to do in Key Largo for first-timers.
20. Eat Seafood at Marker 88
Florida has enjoyed a huge surge in its culinary scene in recent years, and it is particularly well known for its seafood dishes. You do not necessarily need to head for a fine dining restaurant to enjoy an exquisite meal that uses locally sourced seafood. Marker 8 is a casual seafood restaurant in a beachfront location, and it is this location that makes dining at Market 88 a standout experience. People head to this venue not only for the food but also to sit with a drink and watch the sunset. In the evenings, there is live music at this restaurant, which is another reason to visit.
19. Feed the Tarpons at the Dock and Grab a Drink
If you head to the docks, you will see lots of people congregating by the water. This is because a popular activity is feeding the tarpons that live under the pier. You can buy food for the tarpons from a shop on the docks so that you can get acquainted with marine life. After feeding the tarpons, stroll over to Robbie’s to sit with a refreshing glass of beer or a cocktail.
18. Visit the History of Diving Museum
According to Divergent Travelers, one of the best things to do in Key Largo is to go to the History of Diving Museum. They say that it is a good attraction to visit even if you do not enjoy diving yourself. It takes you right back to the beginning of when humans began exploring the oceans, and there are pieces of historic diving equipment on display. There are some interactive elements to make a visit more interesting, and you will learn about breathing underwater.
17. Go to Harry Harris Park and Beach
There are some stunning beaches in Key Largo, but you should make sure to include Harris Park and Beach in your itinerary. It is a fantastic beach to choose if you are traveling with children, as you can sit and relax while they play on the golden sands and paddle in the shallow waters. There are also some beautiful underwater sights from this beach, so it is a nice place to visit if you like snorkeling or scuba diving.
16. View the Art at the Gallery of Kona Kai
Art enthusiasts visiting Key Largo should go to the Gallery of Kona Kai. This gallery showcases the work of local artists. There is also an exhibition of art by artists from around the world. An unusual feature of this gallery is that they encourage visitors to take a nap amongst the art. Therefore, you may see some people snoozing during your visit.
15. Dive to See the Spiegel Grove Wreck
Key Largo is famous as a diving destination, and there are some fantastic dives to enjoy during a visit. One of the most famous and arguably one of the best is the dive to the Spiegel Grove Wreck. This diving site is the length of two football fields, and it is one of the most interesting wrecks for keen divers to explore. Not only is the wreck fascinating, but it is also home to a multitude of fish and marine life that you can observe during your dive.
14. Enjoy the Floridian Cuisine
Make the most of the fantastic Floridian cuisine during your visit to Key Largo by dining in as many restaurants as you can during your stay. There are some excellent venues that showcase the beautiful produce of this state in the dishes on the menu. According to Time Out, some of the best restaurants to visit include Snook’s Bayside Restaurant, Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, and Alabama Jack’s.
13. See the Art at The Gallery of Wildlife Art by David Wirth
Although the art scene is not that big in Key Largo, there are still a few places where art enthusiasts can get their fix of art. One such venue is The Gallery of Wildlife Art by David Wirth. Originally from Hawaii, David Wirth is a wildlife artist and a keen hunter and fisherman. His work includes sculpture, carvings, and furniture. You can see all these at his gallery and shop in Key Largo.
12. Go Fishing
For both locals and tourists alike, one of the most popular activities in Key Largo is fishing. The stunning coastal location and the amazing climate are the perfect conditions for enjoying a spot of fishing. If you have not brought your own fishing gear along with you, there are plenty of places where you can hire the equipment and bait you need. There are also fishing charters if you want to have a go at deep-sea fishing. These trips take you far out into the ocean where the waters are deeper and your chances of a big catch are greater.
11. Enjoy a Boat Trip
There are multiple different ways of enjoying a boat ride in Key Largo as different companies offer varied boat-based experiences. Just some examples include canal cruises, Everglades tours, trips on a glass-bottom boat, and sunset cruises. Each of these offers a unique experience that will allow you to appreciate the different features of this part of the world.
10. Spend a Night at Jules Undersea Lodge
There are some outstanding hotels in Key Largo, with accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets. However, if you want an unusual experience, then spend a night at the Jules Underwater Lodge. In the past, this was an underwater laboratory. It has now been transformed into an underwater guest lodge where people can have a unique experience sleeping underwater with marine life. The lodge also has an above water restaurant and hotel, and they offer a variety of underwater experience packages. Even if you do not venture out of the lodge into the water, you can still connect with the underwater world via the huge round windows that allow visitors to watch the marine life in their natural habitat.
9. Have a Go at New Watersports
An important aspect of the lifestyle of those who live in Key Largo is enjoying watersports. This is also something that visitors to the area enjoy. There are plenty of new activities that you can try while you are in this area. Just some of the watersports you can try include paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, jet pack water flights, parasailing, jet-skiing, and much more. There are multiple operators along the coastline offering a variety of fun watersports for you to try.
8. Try Coastal Kayaking
If you have never tried coastal kayaking before, a trip to Key Largo is the time to give it a go. It is an activity that is suitable for people of all abilities, as it isn’t particularly challenging. This is also a fantastic opportunity to take to the water and enjoy the coastal views from a different perspective. Furthermore, it is likely that you will see a diverse range of wildlife along the way. An alternative is to give mangrove kayaking a go, which will allow you to explore a different environment in your kayak. There are plenty of companies offering kayaking tours with a guide.
7. Walk the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
To fully appreciate the beauty of the area and the wonderful climate, it is important to get out and about during your trip. One outdoor activity that you can enjoy without exerting yourself too much is to walk the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. You can’t walk the whole trail in a day, as it stretches over 76 miles. However, you should try to complete at least one section of the trail during your visit. Most of the trail is paved, so it is not challenging and it is accessible for everyone.
6. Go to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center
Nature-lovers should include a trip to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center in their trip. This center rescues injured birds and rehabilitates them before releasing them back into the wild. A visit to the center is an educational experience, so it is a fantastic place to take children along if you want them to learn more about nature. Another point to note is that admission to this center is free, so it is a good place to visit if you are in Key Largo on a limited budget. However, the center relies on donations to rescue and rehabilitate the birds, so making a small donation is a nice gesture.
5. Swim with the Dolphins at Dolphin Cove
You will find the area known as Dolphin Cove at the northernmost point of Key Largo. Official, the lagoon is called Dolphins Plus Bayside, and visitors can go there to spend time with the dolphins. You can watch from the water's edge and then interact with the friendly dolphins as they swim over to meet you. If you want to get even closer to them, you can also go swimming. However, it is important to note that they are wild and not trained dolphins.
4. Explore Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
You should really spend as much time as possible exploring the outdoors when you are in Key Largo, and one of the most stunning places to do this is at the Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. One of the highlights of a visit is seeing the trees, as this state park is home to the United State’s largest area of West Indian tropical hardwood hammocks. There are several pretty trails to walk, and you will learn about the unique ecosystem of the park along the way.
3. Spend a day at Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Founded in 1980, the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge was founded in 1980. Its aim is to preserve and protect the American crocodile habitat. Visitors can learn about this species and why their habitat is ailing. There is also a Butterfly Garden to explore during your visit.
2. Learn About Fossils and Quarrying at the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
The land at this state park was formed with fossilized coral and limestone. It became the property of the Florida East Coast Railroad in the early 1900s, and they used the land’s stone to build the Overseas Railway. Later, the land was used to source KeyStone. Now, visitors can go and look for ancient coral as they explore the quarry, and you can learn more about the history of Florida.
1. Swim or Dive at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
According to Vacation Idea, the best thing to do in Key Largo for first-timers is to go swimming or diving at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It became the first underwater state park in the United States when it was established in 1963 to protect and preserve the nation’s only living coral reef. There are coral reefs, seagrass beds, wrecks, mangrove swamps, and plenty more interesting features to explore. You can snorkel, scuba, or dive, if you want to thoroughly explore this state park, or you can enjoy some aspects of the area from the comfort of a boat.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn