There are lots of things to do in Key Largo, and most of them are in the water. In the actual town of Key Largo, you won’t find much on land that’s worth stopping for. There are convenience stores, tourist trap restaurants you should probably avoid, dive shops, and more mundane stores like Home Depot and gas stations. Things to do in Key Largo means John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park! It’s about the water and the resorts that were built for visitors to enjoy the water.
Key Largo was once a series of small islands, but during railroad construction in the early twentieth century, fill was dumped between the islets and the result was one long continual land mass. We now call this Key Largo, from mile marker 100 down to the town of Tavernier, around Mile Marker 93.
Key Largo Hammocks State Botanical Site
There is just one of the things to do in Key Largo that’s on land, that might interest some nature-oriented vacationers That’s Kay Largo Hammocks State Botanical Site. It’s located half a mile down County Road 905, towards Ocean Reef as you leave Key Largo going north and east. It’s the road to Card Sound Bridge, which is an alternate route for those driving back to the mainland. The entrance to the park is hard to miss: it’s a giant creme-colored gate with a tile roof. It’s grand. Believe it or not, there are two-thousand acres behind that gate, containing a precious, rare, continuous stand of subtropical West Indian Hardwood Hammock. It’s one of the largest in the United States, actually. If you’re a nature lover and your looking for things to do in Key Largo, it’s a worthwhile place to visit. This is because it shows you how the Keys used to be: full of trees and jungly plants. Funny it’s located in one of the most heavily developed strip-like areas of the Keys, Key Largo. Key Largo Hammocks State Botanical Site almost didn’t exist, was almost torn down, denuded. A resort village to be called Port Bougainvillea was slated to occupy the land, and some model homes were actually built. They are still there, in ruins, in an off-limits section of the park. Of course, it’s a popular spot for teenagers of Key Largo and their spray paint. The ruins are spooky and strange, and you can actually see them if you kayak in the canal they made, which is accessible just outside of Garden Cove Marina’s canal, just north. There are sometimes sharks in there, and the whole kayak experience down the canal to the ruins is a gem of a trip.
Driving west out of Key Largo, the next spot you’ll hit will be Tavernier, around Mile Marker 93. Here’s where we find another item on our list of things to do in Key Largo. About half a mile into Tavernier, on the bayside, look for homemade wooden signs signalling the approaching Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center. The entrance is wooded and hidden by leaves until you are right on top of it, hence the wooden signs. The last sign is in the shape of a heron, and it’s great because it’s old Keys, meaning it was there before big money and big condo and resort development hit the islands. The Center is run by volunteers and funded by donations and they take care of wild birds that have been injured, orphaned, or who are ill. They release the birds back into nature once they’ve been rehabilitated. As you walk the wooden boardwalk through a maze of cages, birdhouses, and pens, you’ll see pelican after pelican that’s been somehow injured in one way or another. Lots of the pelicans were injured by mono filament line from fishing. They get tangled in the stuff. You’ll also see cormorants and herons, too. There are some owls, and even a pen of orphaned racoons, although last time we were there the raccoon cage was empty. If you find an injured bird you can call the Center. This is many visitors’ favorite things to do in Key Largo.
Harry Harris County Park
Harry Harris State Park is a quiet oasis from the hustle bustle of the Overseas Highway and all its tourist-luring businesses on the main drag in Key Largo. At mile marker 92.5 just before you hit Tavernier, turn left onto Burton Drive and head for the ocean. There’s a beach and lots of picnic tables and playground. All this makes Harry Harris County Park an ideal spot to spend a casual afternoon enjoying the warm weather and the Atlantic Ocean, should you get tired of the actually being on or in the water. You can’t bring your pets, though, but it is a beautiful, low-key spot, which is hard to find on land in Key Largo area.