Key Largo is an island in the upper Florida Keys archipelago and is the largest section of the Keys, at 33 miles (53 km) long. It is also the northernmost of the Florida Keys in Monroe County, and the northernmost of the Keys connected by U.S. Highway 1 (the Overseas Highway). Known on many early Spanish charts as Cayo de Dose Leguas (Key of Twelve Leagues), or simply as Cayo Largo.
Visited by Bernard Romans in 1774. Key Largo was uninhabited at that time: “Cayo Largo affords no living creature, except raccoon’s and insects, especially those troublesome ones, mosquito’s and scorpions.” During the American Civil War the first modern settlements were seen in the Tavernier area. The settlement was known as Lowesport, after the Lowe family, and later changed to Planter. The first post office was called Rock Harbor but the name was changed in 1952 after the film “Key Largo” starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall became a hit.
Key Largo is connected to the mainland in Miami Dade County by two routes, U.S. Highway 1 and Card Sound Road. Key Largo has laid claim to being the Dive Capital of the World and the first of the Florida Keys. The 510 foot USS Spiegel Grove forms part of the world’s second largest artificial reef. It is a popular tourist destination because the living coral reef a few miles offshore attracts thousands of scuba divers and sport fishermen.
Fishing, snorkeling, diving and glass bottom boating in clear blue waters are just a few of the things you can experience. Swim with a dolphin, visit the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary or just kick back and relax with a drink in hand as you watch some of the most awe-inspiring sunsets.
Some places to dive in Key Largo Florida:
- Spiegel Grove – A Thomaston-class dock landing ship of the United States Navy. She was named for Spiegel Grove, the home and estate in Fremont, Ohio, of Rutherford B. Hayes, the 19th President of the United States. Intentionally sunk in May 2002 to create an artificial reef. Excellent diving spot.
- Molasses Reef – A coral reef located within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Molasses Reef is a popular scuba diving and snorkeling location with numerous dive sites marked by mooring buoys. One notable site is at buoy #7 and is referred to as the Winch Hole, Windlass Wreck, or The Winch. Here lies the large mechanical winch from the Slobadana, a 170 foot wooden hulled schooner that sank in 1887.
- USCG Duane – The cutter Duane was named for William John Duane, who served as the third Secretary of the Treasury to serve under President Andrew Jackson. Duane is now a historic shipwreck. The cutter was deliberately sunk on November 27, 1987 to create an artificial reef. It is located a mile south of Molasses Reef.
Some things to do in Key Largo Florida:
- John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – Includes approximately 70 nautical square miles of Atlantic Ocean waters. It was the first underwater park in the United States. In 2004 the park had more than a million visitors, making it the most popular park in the Florida State Parks system.
- Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center (Tavernier) – A not for profit conservation organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of native and migratory wild birds. Best time to visit is in the afternoon when they feed the pelicans.
- African Queen Canal Cruise – Built in Lytham, England in 1912, made famous in the 1951 movie The African Queen, starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn. Restored in December 2011, in time for her 100 year celebration. The African Queen offers a 1-2 Hour cruises of the Port Largo Canals.
- Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park – Located in the center of Key Largo in the Florida Keys, on County Road 905. The park’s name honors Dagny Johnson, a local environmentalist activist. This park contains one of the largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock in the United States. The park is home to 84 protected species of plants and animals, including wild cotton, mahogany mistletoe and the American crocodile.
Stay overnight at Jules’ Undersea Lodge. Located in the lagoon at Key Largo Undersea Park, Jules’ Undersea Lodge is the world’s only underwater hotel. In addition to overnight stays individuals can get Open Water certified here, or just dive around in the lagoon.
Snorkeling the Grecian Rocks or Christ of the Deep, you will find a large assortment of things to do in Key Largo. Like Kayaking, Canoeing, Parasailing, Paragliding, Shark Diving, swimming with Dolphins, Stand-Up Paddle boarding, boat tours or just an Eco tour, you will not run out of things to do in Key Largo.