What is it about Key Largo?

That's simple. Key Largo is all about the water.

A boat at Sunset at Key Largo

What This Island Has to Offer
This narrow strip of land nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay offers no majestic mountains, no grand waterfalls, and no scenic valleys.

What it does offer are beautiful turquoise and deep blue ocean waters filled with teeming coral reefs that have earned this 33-mile-long island the title of “Diving Capital of the World.”

They're Here Because of the Water
Everything on land here is to support activities on the water—scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, swimming, and boating.

The hotels, resorts, campgrounds, restaurants, marinas, and stores all are here to lodge, feed, and supply visitors and locals alike who are here for one reason or the other--directly or indirectly--because of the water.

First Adventures in Key Largo
I first came to this island over 40 years ago with the express purpose of poking my head under its clear, sub-tropical waters.

With mask, snorkel, fins, and a new single-hose regulator packed into the back of a 1964 Ford Falcon, I headed south along US 1 with dreams of grand underwater adventures.

And I was NOT disappointed. Great visibility. Lots of coral and fish. I even got “chased” by a huge green moray. Actually, we were probably just going in the same direction, but I didn't know that. What an exciting trip.

Blue Tang on a Key Largo coral reef 
Blue Tang on a Coral Reef

Oh, I guess I should introduce myself. My name is Reid Tillery, and I'm a native Floridian who has called this sandy old peninsula home for most of my life. It is my great joy to share the best parts of my home state--in this case, Key Largo--with you.

As you may have guessed, I’m a big fan of Key Largo. After all, it has the best water clarity and diving in all of the Florida Keys. That’s because of the way the Gulf Stream flows, and where this island is situated.

Key Largo Sunsets
To help orient you to life here at latitude 25 North, you should know that one of the day’s big concerns in the Florida Keys is deciding where you’re going to watch the sun go down. I mean, sunsets are a big deal around here.

At day’s end, people gather here and there to watch a half hour or so of nature’s great light show. Even after the solar fire ball sinks beneath the western horizon, the show goes on with an ever-changing array of light and colors that can truly be described as awesome.

Key Largo Sunset
Sunsets here are truly awesome

Watching a beautiful sunset seems the perfect and fitting end to a day of SCUBA diving, snorkeling, fishing, shopping, or just lying around a being lazy.

Sub-Tropical Splendor
According to the guys who draw lines on maps, Key Largo is just above the Tropic of Cancer, so it’s plainly sub-tropical. But its coconut palms, bougainvillea, briny breezes, and balmy nights give it a delightful ambience that is about as close to tropical as you can get without actually being tropical.

Bougainvillea and coconut palms adorn Key Largo.
Bougainvillea and Coconut Palms adorn Key Largo

Many Happy Returns
Since that first visit, I’ve come back to Key Largo on various occasions, mostly for the diving and snorkeling. Lately, however, my wife and I have visited here to get away, kick back, and explore this narrow little island from north to south--all 33 miles of it.

What we learn, I’ll share with you in hopes that it’ll make your time here as enjoyable as possible.

  • First, we’ll go over what there is to do on--and under--the water. Key Largo has world class SCUBA and snorkeling. You may want to take your own boat or catch a dive or snorkel boat out to one of the beautiful coral reefs for which this island is famous. If fishing is your thing, you can use your own boat, rent a boat, or hire a captain. Ever wanted to swim with a dolphin? You can even do that here, too.

  • Then, I’ll give you the lowdown on where to stay. Whether you like fancy hotels, cheap hotels, RVing or just basic tent camping, you'll find it here. 

  • Of course, you'll want to know where to eat on the island. Like many who come here, you'll probably enjoy some Florida lobster and genuine key lime pie . Maybe you'll catch on to Cuban cuisine and dine on black beans and rice with fried bananas, topped off with a "tacita" of super strong Cuban coffee.

  • We’ll also review some interesting stuff about the island's history and culture. Naturally, we'll talk about that great old Key Largo movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. “We had it all, just like Bogie and Bacall,” sings Bertie Higgins.  Then, we'll check out the African Queen--another great Bogey movie--and her connection to Key Largo. And who can think of the Florida Keys without Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville " running around in their head?  Buffet has made an entire career by capturing in music the essence of being down and out in the lower latitudes.  

  • Oh, and did you know, that the Florida Keys actually seceded from the Union and formed the Conch Republic. It was a big joke, mostly, but Keys folks dance to a different drummer, and the Conch Republic is alive and well in people’s hearts here. 

  • Finally, I'll tell you about some cool stuff to do near Key Largo—like visit the Florida Everglades, Bahia Honda State Park, and other activities. 
Navigating US 1
Before we go further, here's a tip to help you navigate along US 1 in the Florida Keys. The start of US 1 in the Keys is considered to be in Key West.

From there, the road is marked every mile by a Mile Marker (MM)--a green Florida Department of Transportation sign. MM 0 starts at the Key West post office. MM 106.5 is north on Key Largo where US 1 and County Road 905 intersect. Other than MMs, locations are designated as Bayside or Oceanside.

Address numbers relate to the location's MM. Locations ending in an even number are Bayside, and those ending in odd numbers are Oceanside.

Got it? Great. Now, let's go explore Key Largo.

Let your explorations begin with this virtual "tour"...

Welcome to Key Largo

A View of John Pennekamp Beach

Christ of the Abyss

SCUBA diver on a Key Largo Reef

Sign warning we play Jimmy Buffet music

A quaint Key Largo cottage

Copyright© 2010 Collingwood Publications, LLC.