The Florida Keys: A Place to Escape; Key Largo Edition
FL. Keys Overview
The Florida Keys are at the southernmost point of the continental USA. This means that the climate is “Tropical!” The weather is beautiful all year round, and the views of the shimmering seas are stunning. Summer time can be a little hot, but the winters are magical. There are other keys along the coast of Florida too, like Cedar Key and Key Biscayne near the panhandle and Miami, respectively. Those keys are technically not part of the “Florida Keys” everyone knows and loves. This piece is going to anchor on Key Largo, the northernmost key, so you get a full understanding of what it has to offer.
The Keys are a place to escape since it is so different than most places in the USA and the world. Sure, there are many archipelagos in the world, but very few in such tropical weather that are actually developed and connected by a single highway. The series of islands with very little land has only one major road (U.S. 1 A.K.A. Overseas HWY). Most of the action of the Keys takes place on water in the Florida Straits or the Gulf of Mexico.
Sand beaches are rare in the Florida Keys unless they are manmade… mainly at a resort or hotel. Public beaches in Key Largo don’t really exist. A lot of the activities people do in the Keys are done by boat. Boat activities consist of fishing, booze cruises, snorkeling, eco-tours, spearfishing, freediving, and scuba diving. Paddle boarding and kayaking are very fun to try as well. You can fish and swim from land, but you have more opportunity by boat.
If you don’t own a boat, you can easily rent a boat or jet ski. If you don’t have any of the equipment for fishing or diving there are several places in the Keys to rent. If you want to make an investment, there are many places to purchase all the above in Key Largo. One of the best places to buy dive equipment in Key Largo is Scuba Quest Outlet. It is one of the best ma-n’-pa dive shops out there, with incredible service and great pricing. Also, it is conveniently located on your way into Key Largo, so it is a great first stop to get your gear; plus, the employees love to share their knowledge about the “Diving Capital of the World” as Key Largo likes to call itself.
If you are new to any of the Key’s activities mentioned above; they are not so simple to do. Unless you plan on chilling with a drink in your hand all day, which is totally acceptable in the Keys, I would recommend to go on a fishing charter, take dive classes, and/or eco-tours. This will guide you to a better understanding of Keys life, Keys fun, and discovery of these leisure activities.
Key Largo is the first of the Florida Keys, it is the longest Key, and it has many attractions. One of the best lures is called, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It is the first protected reef in the USA! Here you can rent kayaks to power boats, and they have the best eco-tours. Since it is the first protected reef the sea life has been able to flourish to create one of the best snorkeling trips you can go on in the USA, and possibly the world. There are many local dive shops that can take you on snorkeling and scuba trips. When traveling to the Keys it is important to appreciate the sea life; it’s what drives the Key’s economy, but more importantly it is awe-inspiring.
Sea life in Key Largo and across the globe is in danger from many things including pollution and overfishing our seas. Please keep in mind, especially in the Key’s, the amount of plastic waste and other garbage you may produce. In general, reduce your single use plastic consumption. If you do go fishing make sure to follow the rules and regulations of the FWC guidelines. This way we can continue to enjoy these creature’s beauty and as a healthy and enjoyable food source.
The food in Key Largo is also delicious. You can pretty much get fresh fish anywhere you go. If you’re coming from the NE part of the USA don’t get a pizza because you will most likely be let down; just do what the locals do. The seafood here is so fresh! You can get your fish prepared in many different ways. Fried fish is an all time favorite, the Conch Fritters are exceptional in Key Largo, but a classic way to eat a fillet of fish is the Matecumbe Style. Matecumbe is the name of one of the lower Florida Keys. To prepare as a fish style you bake a filet of fish with olive oil, shallots, lemon, tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, and cappers… it’s lovely. One of the most well-known places to get this dish in Key Largo is at The Fish House.
The best place to purchase fresh fish and other Keys inspired seafood is the Key Largo Fisheries. They have a sweet “Backyard” dining area if you want to grab a quick casual meal. The Fish market located inside has fresh fish, and really well priced. At this fish market you can even get Sashimi grade Tuna.
Not everything is about fish, you can get some specialty Key Largo Chocolates on this island as well as ice cream, cake, and pies… like the famous Key Lime Pie! Key Lime Pie is a must have desert whenever you’re at any of the Keys.
Key Largo, being the biggest of the FL. Keys, is not that big of a place. You can drive the length in about 20 minutes, depending on traffic of course, so the places to stay are few. There are a handful of hotels, motels, and RV resorts. One of the best places to stay is the Key Largo Bay Marriott Beach Resort. First off, you will pay Marriott prices, but when it comes to hospitality they do mostly everything right. The concierge can help you with any of the rental and tour accommodations that happen right on site. The spa there is wonderful to help you sink into a more relaxing Key’s getaway. Many home sharing places are available too, like VRBO and AirBNB, that can accommodate small and large groups of people. If you are bringing or renting a boat; many of these homes have boat slips too.
The Keys are Simple, but they are brilliant. Seas sparkle in the moonlight, daylight, and even the schools of fish sparkle when diving with them. While you’re in the Keys you will see awesome animals and picturesque views. Driving through the Keys may seem hokey, but once you see the attractiveness of the sun and water you will see how rich the Keys really are. Go to Key Largo and Fish your Face off!
If you read this far, here are some Pro Tips for you…
Pro Tip 1: Driving in the Keys can be bumper-to-bumper traffic. I would recommend to travel to and from the Keys on a weekday and avoid all holidays if you can. I know this is tough to do in most cases, but just be aware there’s only one major road from the beginning to the end of the FL. Keys.
Pro Tip 2: You will be in the sun a ton, so make sure to protect yourself. Beach NeedZ has all the gear you need to protect you and your family. All products are organic and eco-friendly, so it is safe for you and mother ocean. The goods can be shipped to any hotel or residence in the USA… including the Keys.
Pro Tip 3: Here's a great Playlist for Key Largo on Spotify. Attention: Explicit Language on Some Songs.
Pro Tip 4: Key Largo is not a place to go clubbing. Not much of a night life scene. Don’t get me wrong there are some really fun bars, like the Catch, this local spot has great food and drink!
Pro Tip 5: Good local fish: Hog Fish, Grouper, and Mahi Mahi (pelagic).
Pro Tip 6: I have only been to one scuba tour outside John Pennekamp, so here is a list of the top ten dive spots in Key Largo.