John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Diann and I had enjoyed Coconut Grove in south Miami.  And, we wanted to remain in Florida for a tad longer.  But, we didn’t really want to add the extra 3 or 4 days necessary to visit Key West- because once there we would have to return.  So, we decided to go off shore to Key Largo- a one day drip.  We knew of the John Pennekamp State Park and that it has a mooring field.  Kayaking would be part of our list of things to do.  And we might go snorkeling as well.

Our trip there was via Stiltsville at Key Biscayne. Too cool!  As you pass thru the Biscayne Channel to get to offshore water, you get to see all the houses seen in the Miami Vice series.  Party houses-  on stilts.

Once at Key Largo, you enter a very narrow channel to transition to a creek which in turn opens to Largo Sound.  No-one is allowed to anchor in the sound,  You must rent a mooring from the park’s concession operator.  And, you can’t remain past 14 days- even in bad weather.  We were told that we’d have go to Rodriguez Key and anchor  if we passed day 14 and planned to remain in the area.  Logistically, one needs to be mindful of this issue. (We left on day 10 because of concerns of changing sea conditions.)

The dinghy ride, to the marina, is pleasant,  The staff is friendly.  But I will toss in a however.  The concession dock master wasn’t up to speed on where the bath room showers were.  Nor was there a printed park map (showing said bath houses) at the marina / snorkel equipment sales building.  He said to walk toward the tall palm tree and the showers were near by.

Walk up the entry / exit paving to the park office.  Meet a park ranger.  And you’ll  get a map.  Plus they will accept and hold your mail.  Our CPA prepared tax return awaited us when we arrived.

The showers are located within the campground, not near the dinghy dock.  For directions-

Pass through the marina building; turn left on the parking lot; and keep going until you can turn right to pass around a pair of traffic gates; keep going to find a laundry / bath house on your left.  The facility is spacious and was always clean.  (My assumption is that park “hosts” keep up the restrooms in exchange for free RV parking.)

On our walk to discover the bath house we passed an (artesian perhaps) well.  Kids will particularly find this interesting.

Grocery shopping is a 45 minute walk to Publix.  There’s a building supply along that walk.  Three restaurants are also on the east side of HWY 1.   We tried the Fish House.

Traffic on Hwy 1 is heavy and not broken by a close traffic light.  As a result, crossing for visiting other businesses requires a good eye for when to run like crazy.  I thought of the game, Frogger, as Diann and I crossed to visit a dive shop.

The weather wasn’t cooperating when I decided that a snorkel trip might fit our schedule.  Diann isn’t a strong swimmer- so she really didn’t have a desire to go.  So, I bought us tickets for the glass bottom catamaran.  That boat was a value.  We got to observe the fish from a perfect spot.

As to the colors of the reef and number of fish seen-  Hanauma Bay at O’ahu it isn’t.  The extent of my snorkeling isn’t large, so I have no other point of reference.

Exploring by dinghy can be a fun Key Largo excursion.  We passed thru the canal which connects the sound to the bay.  Taking a right, we visited the Caribbean Club bar.  From there it was a 2 mile, or so, run to Gilbert’s Resort.  My suggestion is to first stop in at the Caribbean Club for $6 Bloody Marys; and then run on to Gilbert’s for beverages, food, and early afternoon live music.  Travel back to the Caribbean Club for a couple of beverages and more live music.  If you time it right, you’ll pass back through the canal and arrive on board your boat at sunset.

Lyft prices were at least double what we experienced in Coconut Grove.  A 2 mile trip to the post office (to mail our return to the IRS)  was $10 + tip.   Had the Lyft pricing been more to our budget, we’d have probably visited a number of restaurants south of Largo Sound.  If you have bikes on your boat, you’ll find the wide sidewalks to be valuable.







The story / blog of  senior citizens, Alex and Diann, on board Yacht A Fun, their Gemini catamaran sailboat.  They are traveling the ICW and east coast with insights to the extended cruising life.  John Pennekamp Coral Reef State park

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