Key Largo is the longest island in the Florida Keys archipelago. As one of the best places to visit in Florida, it has that idyllic allure – with palm trees, tiki bars, and coral reefs that will widen even the most experienced diver’s eyes. Key Largo attractions are mostly related to marine life and the underwater world. However, there are also plenty of historical and cultural things to do in Key Largo. The Florida island is a hotspot for local artists and is passionate about preserving its history.
Top Things to Do in Key Largo, Florida
1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first underwater park in the US. The state park covers 70 square miles with beautiful coral reefs and marine life galore. One fantastic thing about Key Largo is how hard it works alongside the other Florida Keys to preserve its underwater habitat. While visitors can enjoy John Pennekamp State Park, there are regulations and restrictions on activities like fishing. The state park is a beautiful ode to Key Largo residents’ close relationship with the ocean.
We recommend a glass bottom boat tour, snorkeling tour, or scuba diving experience to enjoy John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to the fullest. We’ll cover these activities separately as the state park is such an icon and attraction in its own right. But keep them in mind as clever ways to get the most out of this attraction. There’s also the Mangrove Nature Trail, where you can admire the state park from an overwater boardwalk – best for those less confident swimmers.
If you are into snorkeling then this is the best tour to take in Key Largo. You get to visit 2 different reef systems and it includes basically everything. We highly recommend it.
2. Scuba Diving
Considering Key Largo’s nickname of the ‘scuba diving capital of the world’, seeing this activity in our guide is hardly surprising. One of the best things we did in Key Largo was to get under the water and check out the marine life. We saw sea turtles, manatees, and sharks and were surprised to learn that Key Largo also has the world’s largest artificial living coral reef – the USS Spiegel Grove wreck. Spiegel Grove is a massive ship sunk in 2002 and is the world’s 3rd largest intentionally sunk boat.
Aside from the USS Spiegel Grove wreck, scuba diving tours visit Canon Patch Reef and John Pennekamp Coral Reed to experience more of the underwater world and sea life. Key Largo even has an underwater statue of Jesus Christ. Key Largo is the place to appreciate the best of the state’s underwater habitats.
3. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
Speaking of underwater worlds, a fun fact about Florida is that its home to the only coral barrier reef in the US. Florida Reef, which is in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary is a massive reserve that is home to a ton of mangroves, shipwrecks, and coral reefs. The famed Molasses Reef also lies within the sanctuary’s boundaries. The sanctuary is one of the best Key Largo attractions if you fancy a day trip by boat.
You don’t need to scuba dive to enjoy the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Just grab your fins and snorkel because you can literally see everything from the surface. We recommend jumping on one of the many snorkeling tours running from the Florida Keys mainland. You can spot everything from tiny sea urchins to giant lobsters, and you may even catch a glimpse of a dolphin or two.
4. Harry Harris Beach and Park
Harry Harris Park is a beautiful sheltered beach. The park is a 10-minutes south of Key Largo by car, and it is the perfect day trip for a peaceful beach day. If you feel like a challenge, you can also bike to Harry Harris Park – it is a 45-minute bike ride. With white sand and palm trees, it is that postcard version of Key Largo. But Harry Harris Park isn’t just somewhere to snap pictures for social media; its shallow waters are family-friendly and ideal for the less confident swimmer. Locals and handfuls of tourists congregate at the beach to swim, eat, and socialize.
Harry Harris Park has picnic areas, public barbeques, and sports facilities. Grab some ingredients and head down to cook up a storm. Tavernier is much less busy than Key Largo. Visiting Harry Harris Park is easily one of the best things to do in Key Largo. It’s superb for just relaxing and enjoying a beach day. And who doesn’t need a chilled day from time to time?
5. African Queen Canal Cruise
One of the most fun things to do in Key Largo is to cruise down the Port Largo canals. The Florida Keys are undoubtedly best experienced from the water. And what is more relaxing than sailing down the Port Largo canals to sightsee the beautiful region?
The most popular cruise company has a boat that has become a celebrity. African Queen Canal Cruise uses a restored steamboat from 1912 featured in the film ‘The African Queen’. This company offers different cruise types, including dinner cruises to the Pilot House Marina. African Queen Canal Cruise operates from the Marina del Mar. Daily cruises run at 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm, 4 pm, and 6 pm. You can always request a private dinner or lunch cruise if you have at least four people.
6. History of Diving Museum
What would the dive capital of the world be without a museum to commemorate its history? The History of Diving Museum is one of the weirdest and most wonderful things to do in Key Largo. The attraction is entirely dedicated to the history behind diving – showcasing everything from relics and ancient equipment. The helmet collection is the most impressive. It almost appears like some nod to space travel and offers a much-needed perspective on scuba diving as a form of historical exploration.
Entrance prices are relatively modest, at $15 for adults as of 2023. Children, veterans, and current military get to enter for free. On a rainy day, you should make the History of Diving Museum top of your to-do list. There are just a few high-quality indoor activities in Key Largo, so keep this one in mind.
7. Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is one of the most famous national parks in the US and a designated world heritage site. Spanning a staggering 1.5 million acres of wetlands, the Everglades are most famous for their mangroves and resident crocodiles. If you are lucky, you can also spot leatherback sea turtles, dolphins, Florida panthers, and manatees. Everglades National Park is run by the animal kingdom – which is impossible not to love.
In Everglades National Park, you can hike the Anhinga Trail, take a boat or kayak ride, or even join a ranger-led tour. And in terms of reaching the Everglades from Key Largo, it is a total breeze by car. It is just a 45-minute drive along the scenic overwater highway and alongside the Southern Glades Wildlife and Environmental Area.
8. Key Largo Art Gallery
Key Largo Art Gallery is an absolute must for art enthusiasts. It offers a platform for local artists and a channel of culture that balances out the island’s focus on ocean-related activities. The artwork comes from a collection of around 30 local artists and has plenty of range. You can browse the pieces on display. And if you are feeling frivolous, you can head to the ‘for sale’ section to treat yourself to some artwork. A beautiful sketch or painting is a lovely souvenir from Key Largo.
While there is no official tour, Key Largo Art Gallery staff are rumored to be very knowledgeable. You should find them happy to answer your questions and give a brilliant insight into some of the artwork.
9. Coral Restoration Foundation Exploration Center
Coral Restoration Foundation Exploration Center is run by a few locals ambitious about ocean conservation. The not-for-profit restores coral reefs and educates on the importance of the ocean. Its passionate volunteers carefully monitor coral reefs’ health and aid growth where necessary. You can visit the center to learn more through exhibits and educational lectures. It is one of the most meaningful things to do in Key Largo.
If you have a bit longer in Key Largo, consider volunteering with the Coral Restoration Foundation Exploration Center. You can help partake in dive programs and carry out scientific outreach activities. The work is hugely rewarding and essential for the survival of Key Largo’s reefs.
10. Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center
Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center is Key Largo’s nearest animal hospital. Located just a 10-minute drive away on the neighboring island of Tavernier, it is an easy half-day activity from Key Largo. And while the wild bird hospital is too busy with wildlife emergencies to cater to visitors, the adjoining sanctuary and rehabilitation center welcomes guests year-round.
Sadly, some birds never recover enough to be released. These are kept in natural enclosures, and it falls to volunteers to guarantee their daily enrichment. Other birds in the sanctuary and rehabilitation center are waiting to be fit for release. The spacious surroundings, full of greenery, are the perfect place for birds to recover before returning to the more challenging wilderness. Visitors stroll along a huge boardwalk and can participate in daily activities like pelican feeding.
11. Florida Keys Brewing Company
Florida Keys Brewing Company is a brilliant microbrewery located in Islamorada. The microbrewery is just a 25-minute drive away – or 45 minutes by bus if you plan on drinking. Florida Keys Brewing Company has a beer garden, funky multi-colored decor, and brewery merch, and it is dog friendly. Honestly, what more could you ask for? It is a far cry from the stiff-lipped breweries and distilleries you find worldwide. Florida Keys Brewing Company is wholeheartedly fun, and visiting is one of the best things to do in Key Largo.
Visitors, get ready to sample a huge range of craft beers on tap. There is tons to try, from light and fruity IPAs to heavy dark ales. Florida Keys Brewing Company’s bartenders are always down to guide you through the options with their expertise. It’s a fun day out, especially for those interested in brewing craft beer.
12. Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is a beautiful 2,421-acre park. The trails encompass over 80 protected plants and animals – from wild cotton to crocodiles. The park is hiking and biking-friendly, so choose your mode of exploration. Most of the trails are paved, with only a few rougher paths with exposed tree roots and the odd stumble-sized rock.
Located in the center of Key Largo, the park is easy to squeeze into your itinerary. It is named after Dagny Johnson, a poignant environmental activist in the Florida Keys region. Visiting is a beautiful morning activity. Try to get there early so you beat the midday sun. And bring some binoculars for the best chances of wildlife sightings.
Key Largo is far from just somewhere to fish; it’s a fisherman’s dream. Deep sea fishing is equally popular on Key Largo; you can catch some monstrous-looking fish. Tarpon, sailfish, sea trout, and mahi mahi are all fair game.
To enjoy fishing in Key Largo, head to a designated fishing spot along the shore. Certain areas exist in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Long Sound. Alternatively, you can splash out on a deep-sea fishing tour. If you want deep-sea fishing, stick to the offshore season – November to March.
14. Glass Bottom Boat Tours
A glass-bottom boat tour is one of the most fun things to do in Key Largo. The bottom of the boat is entirely transparent, meaning passengers get a front-row seat to the tropical fish and other beautiful marine life. Even better, you see all the animals in their natural habitats – a much more ethical encounter than an aquarium offers. Glass bottom boat tours are lovely ways to experience the underwater world without swimming. As such, elderly visitors, children, and non-swimmers will lap up this activity in Key Largo.
These tours are all over Florida Bay, including from Marina del Mar, but this is the one we recommend. It is usually only an hour or two’s long experience. Allow around half a day for a glass boat experience, including all the embarking and disembarking.
15. Have A Drink At Cruisin’ Tikis
Cruisin’ Tikis is the coolest thing ever. This is a bar that you’ll remember. The tiki bar is a tiny boat with a working bar in the center and seating on the outside. You float along the water – partying, snapping photos, and admiring the scenery with a drink in hand. Forget paying extortionate money to listen to live music on a private beach; Cruisin’ Tikis has an intimate and more exclusive atmosphere. Just six passengers are allowed on Key Largo’s most special vessel.
Combine sightseeing and happy hour by booking an experience at this tiki bar. Bar cruises last between an hour and two hours. And for an even more memorable experience, reserve the bar for sunset.
16. Feed Tarpon
Remember that Finding Nemo quote, “Fish are friends, not food”? The Tarpon Feeding Deck in Key West allows you to channel the same sentiment in real life. Here, locals and visitors flock to feed the local tarpon. Tarpons know the score, and groups of up to 200 can hover around the deck at a time. These fish are giant and sometimes reach 150 lbs – making feeding tarpon one of the most exciting things to do in Key Largo.
You can feed tarpon most bait types. Buy the bait when you reach Key West since it is a 2-hour and 20-minute drive south from Key Largo. If you plan to drive the length of the Florida Keys, plan to feed the tarpon at the end. The feeding deck is right at the end of the keys, but luckily it is a worthy road trip with plenty of things to do en route.
17. Keys History and Discovery Center
Keys History and Discovery Center is located a 30-minute drive away from Key Largo on the island of Islamorada. So, what exactly makes it one of the best things to do in Key Largo? Easy. The history and local information it provides wholly justify a day trip. The center whisks visitors through exhibits on everything from hurricanes to indigenous culture and an aquarium. If you want to visit Key Largo and understand the island, Keys History and Discovery Center is your best activity option.
The center uses classic exhibits and artifacts. It also features a movie theater where documentaries are played on a schedule. Some discovery centers can be so basic or bland that they make history off-putting. There is no chance of this with Keys History and Discovery Center. The place is alive with its history and a fantastic day out – whether visiting as a family, or a single traveler.
18. Beach Hop
When in Rome, like they say. And when on Key Largo, beach hopping is a must. There are tons of beautiful beaches in Key Largo. Some of the best include Cannon Beach, Far Beach, and Harris Beach and Park (which we mentioned earlier). Key Largo’s expanse of white sand makes up some of the island’s most magnificent natural wonders. Pack a beach towel and plenty of water and hit one of the beaches for a day of sunshine, sunbathing, and swimming.
Cannon Beach is located inside John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Far Beach is near mile marker 120, and Harris Beach and State Park are in Tavernier. Harris Beach is the most family-friendly, with plenty of sports facilities.
19. Dolphin Watching Tour
Dolphin watching is one of the dreamiest experiences in Key Largo. You always remember your first dolphin. And spotting wild dolphins is one of the most therapeutic and memorable experiences of a lifetime. The waters around Key Largo are teeming with wild dolphins. Our advice is to avoid all the dolphin encounters that involve keeping dolphins in captivity and head out to the wild. Instead, head out on an ethical boat ride.
Dolphin-watching tours embark from all over the Florida Keys. Most excursions depart from Islamorada or Key West. It is worth traveling the extra distance since Key Largo has a lot of unethical dolphin shows that use animals kept in captivity. Plus, seeing a pod of wildlife dolphins is so much more exciting as it has the element of suspense.
20. Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Rather than running a zoo-like refuge, Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge runs solely for the benefit of the animals. This operations model means that the refuge is closed to the public. Instead, it runs day and night to provide natural habitats for crocodiles and other native animals. The refuge is a massive private, protected land where animals are guaranteed peace.
However, visitors can visit the adjoining Community Butterfly Garden. The specimen of butterflies is stunning, and it is one of the most fun things to do on the Florida Keys if you want a relaxing activity. You can walk amongst the colorful butterflies and flowers, lapping the natural beauty. If you have extra time, you could also volunteer at the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This is an excellent way to experience the habitats not open to the public, and you could do anything from python patrol to habitat restoration.
Parasailing is one of the most popular water sports, and it’s easy to see why. You are released off the back of a speeding boat, rising until BAM. You reach the rope’s end and are suspended hundreds of feet above the ocean. The panoramic views you get are unmatched. If you thought Key Largo was beautiful before, wait until you see it from the sky.
Parasailing is one of the best ways to get a vantage point of Key Largo and the Florida Keys. It is also the perfect adrenaline rush for an adventure seeker.
22. Cycle the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
Before leaving Key Largo, you must check out the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. This beast of a hiking or biking trail is 106 miles in length. It was once an overseas railroad, but in January 2022, the trail was transformed into a route for walkers and cyclists. Using the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, you can explore all the islands on two wheels without a car. Is it a challenge? Yes. Is it worth it? Definitely.
If you want a scenic cycle ride but aren’t up for 106 miles, consider splitting the route into little sections. You could complete the whole trail in a week or spend an hour or two cycling your section of choice. It has the potential to be recreational or practical as well. Take your pick.
23. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park is a beautiful natural attraction on the neighboring island of Islamorada. Just a 20-minute drive away, the limestone quarry offers cross-sectional views of fossilized coral. Key Largo may be the diving capital of the world. But the history Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park encapsulates in its rocks is unrivaled in ocean history.
Walking around Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, you have information boards describing scenes around you along the way. This thoughtful touch means that you can take independent tours if you wish. The hiking trails are easy to follow, with lots of essential details. Otherwise, you can book one of the ranger-led tours for some extra direction.
Things To Do in Key Largo: FAQs
Now that we’ve covered the best things to do in Key Largo, let’s look at some essential FAQs. Here are all the details you need before you visit Key Largo.
How To Get To Key Largo
The easiest way to reach Key Largo is by plane and then a rental car. You fly directly into Miami International Airport and then pick up a rental car from the airport. It is an hour’s drive from the airport across the beautiful Overseas Highway. This route is quick and easy. Plus, you get the freedom to stop wherever you want along the way – why not make the most of the drive?
Otherwise, you can catch a shuttle bus to Key Largo. Shuttles run from significant departure places like Miami and the international airport. You could also road trip to Key Largo, depending on where you depart. Key Largo is well combined with other Florida attractions like national parks, barrier islands, and cities like Orlando and Tampa. This option best suits those with lots of time and is a real adventure for those up for the challenge.
Getting Around Key Largo
Getting around Key Largo requires a car. You can use shuttles and taxis, but that can get expensive and you will miss out on a lot. We recommend renting a car either at the airport or booking it beforehand.
If you are still deciding whether to hire a car or spend money on shuttles and taxis, consider getting a bike rental. This option is best suited to people who are in shape but worth a try if you have the stamina.
The Best Time To Visit Key Largo
The best time to visit Key Largo is March. March is full of festivities, including St Patrick’s Day and Conch Republic Independence Celebration. The weather is warm but not exhaustingly hot, and it is dry, so perfect for beach hopping. In this area of Florida, December to April is the dry season.
For those on a budget, you could visit in June, October, or November. These are within the hurricane season, so be mindful of weather warnings. However, these are the cheapest and hottest months to visit Key Largo. It is something to consider if you are pinching pennies and can arrange the trip responsibly.
Fun Things to Do in Key Largo Florida
By now, you’ll feel inspired and full of ideas for things to do in Key Largo. The ‘diving capital of the world’ is packed with things, too, from spotting crocodiles to snorkeling with manatees. Key Largo’s attractions and activities are incredibly fascinating for travelers interested in marine life. It is ranked as an International Biosphere Reserve, formally recognizing its importance to the natural world.
If you are wondering where to stay in the Florida Keys, consider an underwater hotel called Jules Undersea Lodge. Guests scuba dive to their rooms daily, and Jules Undersea Lodge is the only underwater hotel in the US. If Jules Undersea Lodge sounds too restrictive, plenty of vacation rentals exist for a self-catered accommodation experience.
In terms of extra inspiration, there are plenty of day trips that you can take to other islands in the Florida Keys. One of the main reasons Key Largo is one of the best places to stay in the Florida Keys is that it is ideally located to explore other places in the Keys. There are so many things to do in Islamorada and things to do in Key West. Enjoy Key Largo’s best attractions (and all its surrounding day trips), and have a wonderful trip.