The first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. While the mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks in the park's upland areas offer visitors a unique experience, it is the coral reefs and their associated marine life that bring most visitors to the park. Many enjoy the view of the reef from a glass-bottom boat tour, but visitors can get a closer look by scuba diving or snorkeling. Canoeing and kayaking through the park's waters are popular activities; fishing is permitted in designated areas. Visitors can enjoy walking on short trails, picnicking, or swimming at the beach. The Visitor Center has a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and nature videos are shown in its theater. Full-facility and Youth/Group campsites are available. Beach wheelchairs are available without cost. Florida's state parks are committed to providing equal access to all facilities and programs. Should you need assistance to enable your participation, please contact the park directly.
Went camping here for a few days. The campsite is clean, pet-friendly, and close to cool outdoor activity location. Going to the beach at night is a must, it's about 3-minutes away on bike, and perfect for star gazing. It's a real treat for Miami folks who are doomed thanks to our light pollution. There's a park about a mile north from the John Pennekamp entrance that has hiking and biking trails. If you steer off path, there's an abandoned hotel and home covered in vines, it's pretty cool.
Fabulous place for kayaking and canoeing. Years ago, the trail extended to the open water - now it's closed off and you stay in the mangroves ~ not sure why/what happened, but it's a smooth sail.
A lot of colorful fish, turtles - even managed to have a shark swim under our canoe and slightly bump the canoe - it wasnt' interested in us, and we stayed calm. It was a small/baby shark (3 ft maybe) and the thought that mama wasn't too far away gave us the chills! Peaceful, serene - we went in March when the weather was already hot but not unbearable. Worth the entrance fee and price of canoe rentals!
If you are in the area and are looking for something to do...Do NOT pass up the opportunity to kayak the mangrove swamps at John Pennekamp! My wife and I spent four hour exploring on our own. For $18 they give you a kayak and a map and say "Have Fun!" TOTALLY worth the time and money. Looking forward to doing this again!
Agnabel T. on John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Par...
Absolutely beautiful. Here you have the Nature and Wild Tamarind Trails which are short and easy. You see some interesting trees and bushes but make sure you put bug spray, they mosquito almost eat me alive, lol. Then you have the Mangrove Trail, also easy and short board walk. Unfortunately part of it was under repair. After this trails, we got into a Kayak and did the kayak trail, very pretty and relaxing. We got to see a group of Manatees and lots of birds. There are shower and BBQ all around the park, as well as restrooms. You can also spent the day at the beach and snorkel or you can catch a glass bottom boat tour. I mean there is so much you can do here for very little money.
Costs around $11 to enter for the day. They have a great aquarium and visitor center. Scenic boat rides are available for a fee. There is a beach where you can swim out about 50 yards and snorkel some old Spanish wreckage, but visibility can be fickle as tides change and sediment enters the cove. Water is warm enough year round and barracudas, parrot fish, etc can be seen relatively easily. The mangrove boardwalks are nice but in need of repair and relatively short. Without a doubt the best way to take advantage of this park is in a kayak. Hop in and explore the mangroves from the water. They can be rented cheaply on site. Crowds on weekends can be very large.
Francisco S. on Pennkamp Nature Trails
The park maintains three nature trails in two uniquely different environments. The Mangrove Trail is a loop trail on a boardwalk that allows visitors to peacefully view the mangroves and estuaries they thrive in. An observation tower also allows a larger view of this very important ecosystem. Another loop trail, the Wild Tamarind Trail, winds through the park's beautiful tropical hardwood hammock, allowing visitors to view many of the area's native hardwood species. The Grove Trail also winds through the hardwood hammock, but terminates at the Grove. This cultural resource has been replanted with tropical fruit trees, as originally planted by early pioneers in Key Largo. One must return back to one's start at the Visitor Center parking lot. If arrangements are made in advance, a Ranger-led nature walk on one of these trails for organized groups may be possible. In addition, The park has 2.5 miles of marked mangrove wilderness trails to explore. The mangroves, and crystal clear waters that surround them, provide habitat for a wide variety of birds and marine life. The park concession rents canoes and one or two-person kayaks at the ticket counter. For personally-owned kayaks or canoes, there is a launch on the main road over the bridge. Well worth spending the day doing the nature trails, kayaking, and other water activities. GO EARLY!