One of my favorite places I have ever traveled is the Florida Keys. The combination of blue waters, swaying palm trees, and rich history satisfied my wanderlust and I hope you get to visit there one day. While I was there in July 2016, I got to see a few of the state parks that call the Keys home. Here is a list of all ten and the various activities you can do in them.
This park is located in Key Largo just north of where Hwy. 1 comes onto the key. The biggest draw to this park would the miles of hiking trails including six miles of trails that are accessible with a backcountry permit. If I had gone to Florida during a cooler time of year, I would have loved hiking in this park! There are also a whopping 84 protected species of plants and animals in the park. If you are looking for an experience with nature, definitely go to Dagny Johnson.
This next park is located in Key Largo just south of Dagny Johnson. It’s the first undersea park in the United States, so it has excellent diving and snorkeling opportunities. It even has a glass-bottom boat that goes out to the coral reef and kayak and canoe rentals. In the upland part of the park, there are three beaches, camping, a boat ramp, and a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium in the visitor’s center. There are even replicas from a 1715 Spanish shipwreck in one of the swimming areas. I only got to be in this park a short time, but I absolutely loved the beach and would have gone on the glass-bottom boat if there had been more time.
This small park is located in Islamorada and is the site where Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad mined limestone. The railroad stretched all the way from the mainland to Key West until it was destroyed in the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. A lot of the keys’ history centers around this railroad and this state park is an excellent place to learn more about it. You can view the walls where they used to mine, see old mining equipment, and walk any of the five self-guided trails. I didn’t have time to go here while I was in the Keys, but it’s on my list for the next time I go.
This state park is on its own island south of Islamorada. To get there you need your own boat or a boat tour out of Islamorada. Indian Key is one of the few places that has nearshore areas for diving or snorkeling the coral reef. It’s also the historic site of people who made their business salvaging cargo from shipwrecks in the area. The would be a neat place to go to get away from the high traffic of Hwy. 1.
I definitely checked the spelling on this one several times. Lignumvitae Key is north of Indian Key on the other side of Hwy. 1. Again, this park is on its own island and the only way to get here is your own boat or a boat tour out of Islamorada. On the island, there is a house built by a Miami chemist in 1919. It’s a wonderful way to get a feel for the Keys in the early 20th century and get away from the busyness of the rest of the islands.
After growing up in Wisconsin, the idea of a state park that is entirely underwater is strange to me. Located 1.25 nautical miles south of Indian Key, this park contains the remains of the shipwreck of the San Pedro, a Spanish ship that sunk in 1733. This is the perfect park for people who enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving.
This park is located on part of Long Key, named so by Henry Flagler because it comes right before the longest bridge he had made up to that point. It’s also the location of a fishing resort destroyed in the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. There is a lot going on in this park including swimming, kayaking, and oceanfront camping. I walked along one of thier nature trails called the Golden Orb Trail. It’s about a mile long and goes through four different habitats. It was a wonderful way to see the island and get great ocean views along it.
This park is located in Marathon and includes several different keys. There is a beach, camping, and kayaking and they also host the Florida Keys Birding and Wildlife Festival each year. I had lunch there and enjoyed the picnic area that was right on the beach. I still regret not renting a kayak and exploring lagoons in the park. There’s always next time.
This park takes up nearly the entire island of Bahia Honda, which is located right after Seven-mile Bridge, the longest bridge on the Keys. I had the chance to stay at this park and absolutely loved it. It has 80 campsites spread throughout the park, 6 cabins, two swimming beaches and a boat ramp. It also has access to a small part of the Overseas Railroad where you can walk to see an awesome view of the island and ocean. There are also opportunities to rent snorkeling equipment and kayaks. This park really has it all when it comes to the Florida Keys and I would suggest making this park a must-see.
We are at our tenth and final state park. This park is located on Key West and is the southernmost park in Florida. It has a beach and hiking, but probably the coolest thing is the fort. It was completed in 1866 and was important in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. I really wanted to see this, but I got there after tours had closed. There are a lot of things to see on Key West, so make sure to prioritize based on the time they close. This park also boasts the best view of the sunset on Key West.
The Florida Keys are a wonderful vacation destination, especially for people who love the outdoors. If you ever visit, make sure to visit some of the state parks that encompass the natural beauty of the area. Which park sounds the most interesting to you? If you’ve been, which is your favorite?