Friday, June 24, 2011

John Pennekamp State Park - Key Largo

I have been to Key Largo several times over the years and somehow never managed a visit to John Pennekamp State Park. Until last weekend that is. Snorkeling is not really my thing so it seems silly to go to a coral reef park. I've known so many people who have gone and enjoyed it, I finally decided to check it out for myself.

To get in the park is $8.00. I arrived early but not early enough to catch the first glass bottom boat tour. The weather when I arrived looked ominous and the boat captain was urging passengers to buy sea sick pills. Not a good sign. The next boat was not till noon. The best thing to do, it seemed, was to investigate the nature trails and see how the weather panned out.

I am not kidding when I say I walked 20 feet down the path of the first nature trail and I was covered in mosquitoes. Even as a long time Florida resident I have never seen bugs that thick. No problem. Just walked over to the car and soaked myself in OFF. Good thing I brought it with me but I noticed they had plenty at the concession stand later in the day. I actually had to spray the brim of my hat to keep them out of my eyes and ears. The mosquitoes followed inches away like paparazzi  following Lady GaGa but at least stopped biting. After about an hour the weather cleared and I decided to do what I came for. Kayaking.

Pennekamp has several snorkel and swimming beaches and hundreds of kayaks and canoes to rent but if you bring your own, there is a tiny little launch site over a wooden bridge at the end of the park. There is not much parking but there were only two other cars and a nice little sandy beach to launch from. There were plenty of people launching at the rental area and most looked like they have never kayaked before. I paddled right past them and into the mangroves.

The trails were very different from what I'm used to. They were wide, deep, crystal clear, and have quite a current as the tide heads either in or out. The fun part is the current runs through the mangroves and unlike a river, might pull you right into the trees. The paths are wide enough that you don't need any real skill but you do need to pay attention if you stop and try and take a picture. I spent about an hour in the mangroves and never saw another kayak until I was approaching the beginning of the trail. Looked like everyone else just wanted to bunch up on the beach.

To get the full enjoyment out of Pennekamp, you should really take the snorkel or glass bottom boat tours. Now that I've gotten my feet wet so to speak, I will look forward to doing that my next visit.


  1. AAARRRGGHHH!!! We've got mosquitoes downunder here in OZ too, but I'm happy to say I've never seen them that bad!! Commiserations and have a great weekend!

  2. I too have never been to John Pennekamp, but I will wait til after summer (not that it isn't always summer here) but you do get less mosquitos in the winter & them bugs love me. Obviously I do snorkel as I tried it in Alaska.

  3. That might be why I had the mangroves all to myself. I was still soaked in OFF when I went in. There were no bugs near the beach. I guess they don't like blazing sun.

  4. Great article I love this park! The mosquitoes were horrible when we visited as well :)