John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Coral reefs and coral beach

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One of the secrets of the Florida Keys: the beaches are made of parrotfish poop. Seriously. These tropical fish feed on the coral reefs, and their excreta contains coral sand that washes up on the otherwise rocky shores of the Keys.

The reef is why John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park exists. Six miles offshore, Molasses Reef is the most accessible living coral reef in the United States, easily visited on a dive or snorkeling tour or by glass-bottomed boat.

The beaches, however, are right here. By the visitor center, a pretty stretch of white sand offers an easy wade into tropical waters, with a snorkeling trail a key feature of this breezy cove. A second beach near the Mangrove Trail is popular with anglers.

Botanical enthusiasts have several land-side habitats to explore. The Mangrove Trail boardwalk immerses you in a mangrove forest along a tidal creek. Near the front entrance road, the Wild Tamarind Trail leads into a dark and shady tropical hardwood hammock dense with white ironwood, torchwood, crabwood, and the more common mastic and gumbo-limbo. The Grove Trail snakes through the tropical hardwood hammock to a former citrus grove.

Beach wheelchairs available upon request

At A Glance

MM 102.5 Overseas Highway
Key Largo 33037
$4.50 driver, $8.50 carload, $2.50 pedestrians/bicyclists
8 AM to sunset

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