With quartz sandy beaches and sparkling waters, it’s no surprise that the Florida Keys is home to many scenic parks. If you’re planning a visit and want to know where to get your fix of the great outdoors, check out our round-up of the most beautiful in town.
You don’t have to drive too far to reach the John Pennekamp Park, as it’s perched just along Key Largo. The country’s first underwater park has a variety of activities for visitors to try like kayaking, canoeing, hiking and of course, snorkeling. Visitors can opt for a scuba diving or snorkeling tour of the sea, which is home to colorful coral reefs and the bronze statue of Christ of the Abyss. Rentals for bikes, kayaks and canoes are available on site, as are designated picnic areas and barbecue grills. Swimming is possible at Canon Beach where visitors can even find remnants of a Spanish shipwreck 100 feet (30 metres) off shore.
A peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle from the city, Bahia Honda Park offers miles of white sandy beaches dotted with lazy palm trees and clear blue waters. Go for a stroll along the shore, or venture in the open waters by kayak. There’s plenty of bird-watching and marine life to spot like the bottle-nosed dolphin. The park is accessible via boat or via the Old Bahia Honda Bridge.
About 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West, the cluster of tiny islands that form the Dry Tortugas park is only accessible by boat or seaplane. Though less than 1% of the park is dry ground, there is enough earth to pitch a tent and enjoy the campgrounds. Swimming is a popular activity as is snorkeling and scuba diving. The park’s crystal-clear waters are teeming with coral and shipwrecks worth exploring.
Explore this Civil War-era fort from the 1800s for a unique insight into the area’s history. The historic fort was built to guard the harbor of Key West during the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I and World War II, as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Guided tours of the fort and the collection of seacoast guns are available daily. The park features two hiking trails – the Tropical Hammock Trail and the Fort View nature trail – with views of the fort from the outside. In addition, visitors may also fish, swim, kayak and picnic in the park.
Just off Islamorada, the Indian Key Historic Park is a tiny island with ruins. The 11-acre island was inhabited in the 1800s by Jacob Housman who purchased the land to salvage shipwrecks. The island is completely desolated aside from the stone foundations that still remain since then, making it an interesting spot to discover while on a trip to the Keys.
This spot is just a swim off Indian Key for those wishing to explore the waters of this undersea park. Snorkelers and scuba divers can explore the underwater treasures of the park to discover the 287-ton Dutch built ship called the San Pedro, which sank in a hurricane in 1733. The underwater site also has replicas of cannons, an anchor and an information plaque, and beautiful marine life to explore.
The 40-acre park on the south side of Key West is another popular spot for snorkeling and fishing. Visitors can access the park by boat, and dock at the marina, but foot and car traffic can arrive through South Beach, Dog Beach and Higgs Beach. There are also designated snorkeling areas marked by buoys where swimmers and snorkelers can swim down under to see snapper, crabs and other marine life living in the soft and hard coral and seagrasses.