mattk1979

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Founded as a Florida State Park in 1960, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo was also the first-ever undersea park in America, preserving 70 square nautical miles of the most accessible living coral reef in the United States. For divers, it’s a shrine to the natural beauty of Molasses Reef, six miles offshore, with park-sanctioned outfitters providing not just dive trips but snorkeling expeditions and even a glass-bottomed boat for landlubbers who don’t want to dip their feet in the sea. Sponges, sea fans, and tropical fish abound atop the natural walls of coral. Onshore, the park offers a large nature center with a ...

Founded as a Florida State Park in 1960, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo was also the first-ever undersea park in America, preserving 70 square nautical miles of the most accessible living coral reef in the United States. For divers, it’s a shrine to the natural beauty of Molasses Reef, six miles offshore, with park-sanctioned outfitters providing not just dive trips but snorkeling expeditions and even a glass-bottomed boat for landlubbers who don’t want to dip their feet in the sea. Sponges, sea fans, and tropical fish abound atop the natural walls of coral. Onshore, the park offers a large nature center with a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium showcasing the denizens of the reef. Nature trails lead through the mangrove forest and a dense tropical forest with Caribbean trees near the northernmost extent of their range. A small beach allows children a place to play, with a unique snorkeling trail leading through the shallows. There’s plenty of room for water play, with sailboat anchorage, a boat launch, kayaking trails through the mangroves, and spots for fishing along the shore.

Sandra Friend
About the Expert

Sandra Friend has written 12 books about Florida, including the Explorer's Guide (Countryman Press) series to Florida.

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