About Key Largo
When you think of Key Largo, do you get a warm, nostalgic feeling?Could it be because you have memories of the Bogart and McCall movie of the same name, or the song by Bertie Higgins?
The Caribbean Club may look somewhat familiar because one or two of the exterior scenes for the movie Key Largo were filmed there, although most of it was shot on a Hollywood soundstage. The African Queen, a boat that was one of the stars in the movie of the same name can be found at Holiday Harbor Marina. Sometimes they take the boat on tour and sometimes the engine has problems. But, when it is there and in good working order, you can take a ride on it yourself. Also located at the same marina is the Thayer IV, a boat that appeared in “On Golden Pond”. The one out in the yard is actually the movie double. The real Thayer IV is in storage to protect it from the elements.
The Albury House, located at MM 91.7 Oceanside, is now a shop that sells antiques and collectibles. This house was built in 1913 with the idea that, in the event of a hurricane, it would float. And, float it did. During the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, the Albury House knocked the Key Largo train station on its side and, when the waters receded, settled right on top of it.
The Caribbean Shipwreck Museum and Research Institute is dedicated to the pursuit and romance of sunken treasure. Here you can find rare maritime artifacts all taken from the ocean floor. There is a special exhibit of items from the first slave ship wreck discovered in the Florida Straits, the Henrietta Marie.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was America’s first underwater state park. Learn about this delicate and diverse ecosystem by visiting the park’s Coral Reef Theater. If you don’t dive, you can always visit Pennekamp Beach where you will be close to food and shelter. Camping is pretty much like the other state parks in the Keys; both RVs and tents are welcome.
Several good dive sites are found off Key Largo, the most popular being Molasses Reef. Five miles offshore, this approximately seventeen-acre reef is varied in its depth, which makes it great for both divers and snorkelers. This is where the local glass bottomed boats make their appearance. The Statue of Christ of the Abyss, a replica of a statue located off Genoa, Italy, is located six miles east-northeast of Key Largo’s South Cut. The Elbow, found closest to the Gulf Stream, is close to the location of the City of Washington wreck. French Reef, just north of Molasses Reef, is noted for its caves filled with small fish. Grecian Rocks is great for snorkelers as the water is fairly shallow. Carysfort Light marked by a 112-foot lighthouse, is not as popular a location as it is furthest from shore. The Duane and Bibb were two Coast Guard Cutters sunk in 1987 to create an artificial reef. The current here is extremely strong, so only expert divers should go there. Key Largo Undersea Park’s Emerald Lagoon is very different from the reef in that a diver there will see different marine life than can be found at the reef. A shipwreck and various archeological sites make this the busiest dive site on days when rough seas make it difficult to enjoy the reef.
The Spiegel Grove is a large shipwreck approximately five miles offshore from Key Largo on the Atlantic side of the Keys. This retired Navy ship is one of the largest ships intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef. When the ship was first sunk it rested on its Starboard side and all efforts to right it failed. During the passage of Hurricane Dennis it was righted and sits upright on the bottom. She resides at a depth of 134 ft near Dixie Shoals in Key Largo. The depth at the highest point of the ship is 60-65 ft, depending on the tide level.
Swimming with Dolphins has become one of the most popular activities of visitors to the Keys. In the Key Largo area, there are two facilities that specialize in this pursuit. Dolphin’s Plus, Inc, offers an opportunity for participants to get up close and personal with dolphins and sealions. We offer the structured swim which allows participants to have one on one direct contact with the dolphins, whereas the natural swim allows the swimmers to snorkel freely with a group of dolphins. The sealion interactive program offers participants to get up and personal with a California Sealion doing hands on behaviors. Theatre of the Sea not only has dolphin swims but has a program called trainer-for-a-day, which will get you close to the dolphins without your having to get in the water with them. In addition, they have scheduled dive and snorkel trips in pursuit of contact with dolphins in the wild. Other than these two facilities, there are charter captains that take enthusiasts on cruises to do some dolphin watching.
For those who find enjoyment in flora and fauna, there are a few good choices. Harry Harris Park, which was once the settlement town of Planter, has a playground, restrooms, manmade lagoon and picnic facilities. The Everglades National Park, the only one of its kind in the world, is a 1.5-million acre ecosystem that goes west from the bay side of Key Largo. Although the Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center is primarily centered on providing emergency care for injured birds, it also allows visitors to get close to these same birds as well as the vegetation they thrive on. A self-guided tour through Key Largo Hammocks State Botanical Site gets you closer to the natural wonder of the Keys.
Tours above and below the sea abound. You can find airboat rides and safaris into the Everglades, kayaking tours into Florida Bay, sailing charters at sunset and glass bottomed boat tours to the reef. A Casino cruise, which anchors just beyond the legal limits, leaves the Holiday Inn Marina every day. A motor tour leaves Key Largo and goes all the way to Key West while touching down in a few choice areas along the way.
Fishing is good in Key Largo. Deep sea and backcountry guides abound. Both private charter and party boats are available.