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John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Key Largo, Florida


Contact Information
P.O. Box 487
Key Largo, 33037
(305) 451-1202 / Reservation: 1-800-326-3521

The following numbers are provided for information concerning various activities.

Glass bottom boat, Snorkeling, Sailing/ Snorkeling tours:
305-451-6300

Scuba tours and instruction:
305-451-6322

Boat rentals:
305-451-6325

General park information:
305-451-1202

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Beach Area
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Boat Ramp Area
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Campsite Area
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Parking Spaces
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Picnic Area
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Visitor Center
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Other Area
   

The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, cover approximately 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is approximately 25 miles in length.

These areas were established to protect and preserve a portion of the only living coral reef in the continental United States.

The park is named for the late John D. Pennekamp, a Miami newspaper editor, whose efforts contributed to the establishment of Everglades National Park and the preservation of what would become John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Hours of Operation

Florida state parks are open from 8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year.

Driving Directions
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is located on US highway 1 at mile marker 102.5, north of Key Largo in the Florida Keys.

Vacation Rental link to Florida Keys

Hotel link to Key Largo Florida USA:

The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, cover approximately 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is approximately 25 miles in length.

These areas were established to protect and preserve a portion of the only living coral reef in the continental United States.

The park is named for the late John D. Pennekamp, a Miami newspaper editor, whose efforts contributed to the establishment of Everglades National Park and the preservation of what would become John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Coral reefs are living underwater communities which provide food, shelter and breeding areas for many marine plants and animals. These reefs occur only in shallow oceans having clear, warm waters. It has been estimated that Florida's coral reefs have taken 5,000 to 7,000 years to develop. Corals are made up of tiny animals called polyps. Stony corals, such as star and brain coral, secrete a limestone skeleton around their bodies. These skeletons remain after death and provide the foundation for new polyp growth. The building process of stony corals makes up the massive framework of the reef. Octocorals, such as sea fans and sea plumes, don't form hard skeletons. Instead, they are flexible and sway gracefully in the ocean current feeding on plankton. Like the tropical rain forest, the coral reef community is extremely diverse. Living among the corals are sponges, shrimps, crabs, turtles, lobsters and nearly 600 species of fish. Touching or standing on corals may kill them and is therefore prohibited.

Park Activities

Beaches
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park has two manmade beaches, each with its own distinct personality. Cannon beach is the parks primary snorkeling beach, where you will find the remnants of an early Spanish shipwreck approximately 100 feet offshore. Far beach, with it’s palm trees is a relaxing place to swim, or just sit and enjoy the sun. Any swimming or snorkeling done outside of the designated swimming areas is prohibited, unless a diver down flag is properly displayed.

Boat Ramp
The park has a very good deep water boat ramp, the ramp is located at the marina. The ramp can handle most boats up to the 36 foot range.

Boat Tours
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park has four different types of boat tours to ensure that all park visitors have the best opportunity possible to experience the park's coral reef system.

Glass bottom boat tours: These 2 ½-hour tours allow for 1 ½ hours of water time to view the parks living coral reef and its many inhabitants up close and personal. These trips depart from the parks docks three times a day, 365 days a year, weather permitting.

Sailing/ Snorkeling tours; Our Sailing/Snorkeling tours depart daily aboard a 38-foot catamaran. These four-hour tours provide 1.5 hours of snorkeling at one locatyion on the coral reef. Tours depart daily at 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Rental equipment is available. The park also has a dive shop which is a PADI Resort Facility, offering a full range of courses from Open Water through Instructor. Our specialty courses introduce you to diving and our coral reef in one day with the Resort Course.

Scuba diving tours: These four-hour tours allow divers two dives at a different location.

Boating
Boaters should always use caution in shallow reef areas and when approaching any area where there are diver down flags displayed, swimmers, or moored boats. Always obtain a navigation chart before departing for open water. Combustible engines are not permitted in or near shore areas of the park where the water is less than four feet deep. For those boaters that do not have a boat, the park concession maintains a boat rental where boats may be rented for four hour and eight hour intervals.

Boat slips and moorings are available at the marina for overnight rental. Slips are located in the marina and include water and electric hookups with bathroom and shower facilities nearby. Mooring buoys are located in Largo Sound with dingy dockage at the marina. both include full use of park facilities, trash disposal, and pump-out. Reservations are recommended. For more information you may contact the marina at 305-451-6322 or on VHF channel 16.

Campfire Circle
From mid November to early April the Park Rangers hold a Friday night camp fire circle where various programs on the local environment, wildlife, activities, or local history are given in an informal atmosphere.

Canoeing
You can explore the parks 2 ½ miles of marked mangrove wilderness trails. The mangroves, and the crystal clear waters which surround them provide habitat for a wide variety of birds and marine life.

Concessions
Maintains a lunch counter and snack bar. Gifts and snorkeling equipment for the beach area may also be obtained at the concession.


Fishing
Fishing is permitted in designated areas in accordance with Florida State Law . Saltwater fishing licenses are required for out of state visitors. Spearfishing, possession of spearfishing equipment, and collection of tropical fish [by any method] is prohibited inside the park.

Full Facility Camping
Our campgrounds offer 47 full-facility camping sites for both tents and RV campers. Restrooms, with hot showers, are available as are laundry facilities. Reservations are recommended well in advance. Campers can register at the park entrance. Pets are not allowed in the campground.

Nature Trails
The park maintains two nature trails each in a uniquely different environment. The Wild Tamarind Trail winds through the parks beautiful tropical hardwood hammocks, allowing visitors to view many of the areas native hardwood species. The Mangrove Trail winds peacefully through the mangroves and over the mangrove estuaries allowing visitors to view this unique environment up close and personal.

Nature walks for organized groups need to be requested in advance, if possible to ensure that a Park Ranger is on duty for the walk.

Picnicking
Designated areas for picnicking are located throughout the park. Barbecue grills are provided, no ground fires are permitted. The park has 12 pavilions for use on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations for the pavilions are accepted. The 11 small pavilions, with two picnic tables each, rent for $30.00 per day, plus tax. The large pavilion has eight tables and rents for $50.00 per day, plus tax. None of the pavilions are equipped with electric or water. Whether on land or the water, please do not litter.

Scuba Diving
To fully enjoy the diving possibilities of the park, boat trips to the reef are recommended. A new diver or a diver that needs a refresher, finds the waters of cannon beach a great place to hone their skills.

Snorkeling
In addition to the parks snorkeling tours, there are areas in the park designated for snorkeling . These areas are in a tropical lagoon and offer a look at the various sea grass communities in the park. In these areas there are some natural ledges that do hold some interesting marine life, there are also some artifacts from on early Spanish shipwreck approximately 100 feet offshore.

Swimming
Swimming is a popular activity at both cannon beach and far beach. the swimming areas being located in a tropical lagoon offers a good place for the younger swimmers to get a chance to enjoy the water.

Visitor Center
The highlight of the parks visitor center is its 30,000 gallon saltwater aquarium, the staff conducts a fish feeding for park visitors at 11:00 A.M. daily. There are also Six additional 100-200 gallon aquariums which offer the visitor different looks at the parks marine inhabitants. The visitors center also features natural history exhibits, which interpret the parks unique marine environment. The park has a theater where visitors may view nature videos relating to the park and its surrounding area. The hours of operation are 8:00 A.M.- 5:00 P.M., daily.

Youth Camping
The youth camping area is available for organized youth groups only. The site has a fire circle, benches and picnic tables. There is no electricity at the site. Restrooms and hot showers are available. The youth camping area will accommodate up to 24 people. There must be at least one (1) adult chaperone per ten (10) youths, and no more than one (1) adult chaperone to three (3) youths. Chaperones must be at least 21 years of age. Reservations for the youth camp can be made 11 months in advance by calling the park at (305) 451-1202. A representative of the group must check in before 5:00 pm on the day of arrival. All park rules and regulations apply to this campsite.