Cruising to Key Largo

Key Largo's beautiful and bountiful waters and off-water attractions are a big draw for boaters cruising the Florida Keys.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was established to protect a portion of the only living coral reef in the continental United States. [superstock]/

As the jumping-off point from the Florida mainland to the Keys, Key Largo is a fabulous introduction to what lies farther down the Overseas Highway. Its clear blue waters, abundant marine life and great dining options make the island a welcoming port of call for all.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

The country’s first undersea park, covering a sprawling 70 nautical square miles within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, is a prime destination for all sorts of water fun. Paddle through the mangroves on a rented kayak, canoe or paddleboard. Chill out at Far Beach or Cannon Beach. Cast a line for mutton snapper and grouper. The park’s reef—part of the third-largest reef system in the world—is its top draw, with more than 80 species of coral and more than 260 species of tropical fish, including barracuda, parrotfish and damselfish. There are nearly 20 PADI dive facilities on Key Largo that offer trips to some of the park’s most popular sites, such as Molasses and North Dry Rocks. Non-divers can try a glass-bottom boat ride.

Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

Since 1991, this nonprofit has been dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of injured native and migratory birds. Its Mission Wild Bird Hospital has a small shop and visitor-education center. The Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary serves as a home for more than 60 non-releasable birds representing almost 30 species, from raptors to songbirds to shorebirds. Try to time your visit for the daily brown-pelican feedings.


At this restaurant, always start with dessert. Opened in 1982, this favorite local breakfast and lunch spot is famous for its enormous muffins. Key lime is the top seller among the 26 flavors, which range from bacon maple to German chocolate to guava cream cheese. The restaurant’s biscuits, omelets and eggs Benedict also earn frequent praise.

Check out more Island Icons: Saint-Martin and St. Maarten and Curaçao

Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill

Pick your vibe at this waterfront sports and tiki bar from legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson. Hang out inside to catch the big games of the day on the multitude of TVs. Or grab a table on the deck for Florida Bay and sunset views, and nightly live music. Menu selections include New York-style pizza, pub grub and seafood.

The Fish House Restaurant & Seafood Market

A fantastic seafood meal is a must while in the Keys. Since the 1980s, The Fish House has been a landmark dining destination in the Upper Keys for its fresh and delicious seafood, generous portions and swift service. Daily catches are offered in five preparations, including the Matecumbe style spotlighted by Food Network stars Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri. If you can’t make up your mind on an entree, opt for one of the combination platters.