Getaway Guide: One Tank Trip To Key Largo

July 21, 2012 6:00 AM

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If a sagging economy and steep gas prices are keeping you from a European vacation or a trip to the Grand Canyon, don’t despair. Travel to Key Largo, just 60 miles and a world away. Enjoy warm ocean waters, exotic wildlife and unique restaurants for an experience guaranteed to knock you right out of that daily grind. Spend a day enjoying experiences that your friends up north can only dream of —and do it on only one tank of gas.

Getting There

To get there, take the Florida Turnpike south toward Key West. At Florida City, the Turnpike merges into U.S. 1, which is also called Federal Highway. Head south until you reach Key Largo. Other transportation options include Greyhound Lines, which has a bus route to Key Largo, and the Keys Shuttle, which operates from both the Miami and Fort Lauderdale International Airports. Because parking in Key Largo is challenging, you may want to consider alternative means of transportation such as taxis, bicycles and shuttles. All in all, expect to be on the road about an hour and a half.

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John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

102601 Overseas Highway
Mile Marker 102.5
Key Largo, FL 33037
(305) 451-6300

Price: $8 per car/$29.95 snorkeling per adult/$24.95 per child younger than 18/plus equipment rental

Bursting with vibrant colors and teeming with marine life, America’s only living barrier coral reef, which extends from Key Biscayne to the Dry Tortugas, is one of nature’s most awe-inspiring and unforgettable sights. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park offers boats that carry snorkelers to the reef as well as equipment rental and knowledgeable guides. Take the 9 a.m. boat if you can because a discount coupon, available on the Internet, will save you $3 on the morning trip. Other boats leave at noon and 3 p.m. If you don’t like snorkeling, take a short trip on one of the park’s glass bottom boats. Swimming beaches and camp sites are also available in this wheelchair-accessible park. Visitors to the park or to other parts of Key Largo should know that public transportation is limited and they will need to take a taxi if they don’t have a car or bicycle.

Caribbean Watersports & Enviro Tours
97000 S. Overseas Highway
Mile Marker 97, Bayside
Key Largo, FL 33037
(305) 852-4707

Price: $60 enviro tours per adult/$45 per child.

Located only five miles away from the state park, Caribbean Water Sports & Enviro Tours offers daily two-hour trips to Everglades National Park in small zodiac-style boats that allow you to get closer to the mangrove islands than you could in standard vessels. About 25 percent of the time, dolphins or manatees will swim close to the boat, giving you a chance to see these magnificent creatures at home in their own world. You may also spot bald eagles and great white herons. The crystal-clear water near the resort is perfect for even inexperienced snorkelers, and delightful little seahorses and starfish keep everyone entertained. During summer afternoons, snorkeling among mangrove stands gives visitors an opportunity to see sponges growing on tree roots. If you are more adventurous, you may want to rent jet skis or try parasailing. Call ahead for reservations.

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Dolphins Plus
31 Corinne Place
Mile Marker 101.9, Bayside
Key Largo, FL 33037
(866) 860-7946

Prices: $185 for 25 minutes in the water/$79.95 photo package

Swimming with dolphins, some of nature’s most intelligent and social animals, creates memories that will last a lifetime. At Dolphins Plus, dolphins are not housed in cramped, concrete tanks. Rather, the animals at this facility, which is devoted to the conservation of marine mammals, live in a seawater-filled canal adjoining the Atlantic ocean. Dolphin swims are by reservation only, so be sure to call ahead.

Related: Best Kayak Tours in South Florida

buzzards roost restaurant Getaway Guide: One Tank Trip To Key Largo

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The Buzzard’s Roost Restaurant
21 Garden Cove Drive
Mile Marker 106.5 Oceanside
Key Largo, FL 33037
(305) 453-3746

If you are hungry and eager to be out of the midday sun, enjoy waterfront dining at the Buzzard’s Roost Restaurant, located at the Garden Cove Marina. Specialties include lobster, surf and turf, and homemade desserts in addition to an extensive wine list and a full-service bar. Sunday brunch offers everything from standard American fare to eggs sardou. Also a bit of a tackle shop, this restaurant has everything you’ll need to hit the water after you scarf that delicious lunch.

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Photo Credit: Emily Michot/Miami Herald Staff

The African Queen
Holiday Inn Key Largo
99701 Overseas Highway
Mile Marker 100
Key Largo, FL 33037

Click here for rooms and rates

Movie buffs and Humphrey Bogart fans may be interested in seeing the boat featured in the African Queen. Located at the Holiday Inn docks, the vessel is currently being restored. While there are no guided tours, there is plenty of information about the boat and what happened to it after the famous film was made. Viewing the boat is free, but if you’re staying in town for the night, Holiday Inn offers an inexpensive option. The Floating Inn, Kona Kai Resort, Gallery and Botanic Gardens, and Diver’s Cove, however, offer more unique, intimate stays.

Related: Spiegel Grove Wreck Turns Ten

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Jessica Ramer is a certified math teacher who has taught at both the high school and community college level. She currently resides in Fort Lauderdale. Her work can be found at

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