Gen Information
Pet Friendly Hotels
Bed and Breakfasts
Vacation Rentals  


Real Estate

Agents and


Flats Fishing

Light Tackle Fishing
Party Boat Fishing
Scuba Diving
Dolphin Tours
Kayaking and
Eco Tours

Sailing and
Sunset Cruises

Camping and
RV Parks

Dry Tortugas Trips
Tours offered
around Key West

Rentals for
Jet Ski and


Electric Car

Nice Tips to Do
Art Galleries
Art and Crafts


Area Parks
Adult Entertainment


by Clyde Powell





Key West Parks John Pennekamp State park

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park       

P.O. Box 487
Key Largo, Florida 33037

Visit their Website

Key West Parks, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

The first undersea park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, cover approximately 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is approximately 25 miles in length.

These areas were established to protect and preserve a portion of the only living coral reef in the continental United States.

The park is named for the late John D. Pennekamp, a Miami newspaper editor, whose efforts contributed to the establishment of Everglades National Park and the preservation of what would become John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Geography John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The park contains a wide variety of tropical vegetation, shore birds and marine life. And while the mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks offer visitors a unique and interesting experience, it is the coral formations and associated marine life that most park visitors come to enjoy. The coral reefs at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park are among the most beautiful and diverse of all living communities.

Ranger Programs
Throughout the year, programs are offered to park visitors on a wide range of natural and cultural history subjects. Guided nature walks along the park's Mangrove and Wild Tamarind trails are offered seasonally or upon request by organized groups. Nature videos may be viewed in the Visitor Center theater. Ask a Park Ranger for current program schedules or check at the Ranger Station.


Comprised of over 200 separate islands and islets, the Florida Keys have the only living coral reef formations to be found in the continental United States. Dr. Gilbert Voss first became aware of the extent of damage occurring to the reef structure during his studies of the marine species in the Keys.

In 1957 a biological conference concerned with the preservation of the natural resources of South Florida was held in Everglades National Park. At this meeting, Dr. Gilbert Voss of the Marine Institute of Miami, described the extent of damage which was occurring to the reef structure that he had noted during his studies in the Keys.

The tourist trade was taking its toll on the coral structures as souvenirs for visitors. Seashells, corals, sponges, sea horses, and marine life were being hammered, chiseled, and even dynamited to provide knickknacks to the tourists. The coral reefs that took thousands of years in the formation, were quickly being decimated by thoughtless vendors. Dr. Voss then suggested that no more profitable scientific project could be undertaken than the protection of this area. Without some restrictions on the exploitation of the reefs, commercial interests would easily extinct the only hard coral reef formation in North America.

Dr. Voss successfully recruited conservationists to support his contentions that the reef should be protected, but his most powerful ally would eventually become an assistant editor for the Miami Herald, John D. Pennekamp.

Pennekamp had played a major role in the establishment of Everglades National Park as legislative chairman of the State Commission appointed to bring it about; he was the first chairman of the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials; he was a member of a civilian team of consultants which surveyed the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Department of the Interior in 1954, and held numerous state, local, and national conservation awards.

When the two men joined forces they were able to utilize the research of Dr. Voss and the journalistic effort of John Pennekamp to organize a coalition of conservationists that would undertake the project of protecting the valuable marine resources. The road ahead was not an easy one, but the efforts of Dr. Voss and Mr. Pennekamp were sufficient enough to get the Florida Board of Parks and Historic Memorials to designate a 75 square mile section of offshore Florida as a permanent preserve. For three years the advocates of the preserve struggled to win approval for the park, and successfully resisted all opposition from commercial interests that wished to leave the reefs open for pillage.

In the spring of 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed the area as Key Largo Coral Reef Preserve. By the time the dedication ceremonies were held on December 10, 1960, Governor Leroy Collins made a slight change and named America’s first underwater park as John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Governor Collins named the park after John D. Pennekamp in appreciation of the continuous editorial support that had been given by Pennekamp in the Miami Herald.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park   John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

There are two nice beaches the one above is Cannon Beach.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Reservations are recommended and may be made
by calling Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521
Reservations will not be accepted more than 11
months in advance of the check-in-date.

Electric, water, grill, and picnic table are included in the flat rate of 31.49 (including tax).Up to eight people per site/nite.
No pets allowed for overnight camping. Discount for Florida residents over 65, or Florida resident 100% disabled. Must have valid Florida Drivers license.

Main Concession

Glass Bottom Boat Tours

Departure Times
9:15am      12:15pm      3:00pm
$20.00 - Adults       $12.00 - Kids under 12
2 1/2 Hours

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State ParkSnorkeling Tours

Departure Times
9:00am       12:00 noon       3:00pm
$26.95 - Adults          $21.95 - Kids under 18
$2.00 - Mask     $2.00 - Fins    $2.00 - Souvenir Snorkel
2 1/2 Hour Tours      1 1/2 Hours Water Time


Sailing and Snorkeling
38 ft. Catamaran

Departure Times
9:00am     1:30pm
$32.95 - Adults         $27.95 Kids under 18
$2.00 - Mask     $2.00 - Fins    $2.00 - Souvenir Snorkel
4 Hour Tours         1 1/2 Hours Water Time


Snorkeling Equipment for the beach areas

Mask    $3.00 Fins     $4.00
Half-Suit   $6.00 Full-Suit    $11.00
Souvenir Snorkel    $3.00 Safety Vest  $5.00
Corrective Mask    $5.00 Dive Flags    $4.00

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Paddle Explore Tours  
8:00am  -  3:45pm

Canoes / Single Kayaks      $10.00 / Hour
  Double Kayaks                    $15.00 / Hour

Deposits are required for all rentals
Prices subject to change without notice.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How far are we from Key West?
The park is 102.5 miles from Key West. It is about a two hour drive south on US 1 to Key West.

Are pets allowed in the campground?
Pets are not currently allowed into this campground.

What size of motor homes can be accommodated in the campground?
The campground has a limited number of sites that can handle a motor home up to 40 feet, reservation are recommended.

Are reservations required for camping?
Reservations are highly recommended, during the busy season and many weekends our campground sells out. We do maintain a few sites on a first come, first serve basis.

Are there restaurants and stores close by?
Yes, there are several very good places to eat within a couple of miles of the park. Key Largo is like most other small cities; we have a couple of grocery stores and department stores.

Since the park is locked at night can I get out at night?
Yes, all camper are provided with a simple means of entering and exiting the park at night.

Do the bathrooms in the campground have hot water?
Yes, the bathrooms have hot water, showers and electricity.

What is provided with each campsite?
Each campsite has water, electricity if requested, a grill, and a picnic table.

Do the campsites have sewer hook-ups?
We do have a dump station, however we do not have hook ups at the campsites.


Click on this for larger picture about (128KB)

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

If you are driving to Key West either from home or after
flying into Miami this is a must side trip.
Clyde's Key West Parks

Prices are subject to change   Give Mike a call for the current pricing