John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. State/Provincial Park in Florida, United States

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

State/Provincial Park in Florida, United States

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Photo © Michael Brashier

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John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

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Coral Reefs - John
	Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Coral Reefs - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Photo by Urban Sea Star
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first recognized, underwater park in the United States and includes an estimated 70 nautical square miles of Atlantic Ocean waters. With the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, there are more than 178 nautical square miles of protected reefs and mangrove swamps. In the heart of the Florida Keys (Wikipedia
	Article), the park is situated in Key Largo, at Mile Marker 102.5. The park attracts visitors year-round for snorkeling, scuba diving, and relaxing on the beach. It is open daily from 8:00AM until sunset and is $ 8.00 USD per vehicle for up to eight people.

History

In the early 1930s, the state of Florida developed a national park for the Everglades, located at the south of mainland Florida. Opposition from local landowners and city county commissioners halted the plan until 1947, when Everglades National Park was established. Unfortunately, the park did not protect any of the reef systems along the coast of Southern Florida. It was not until John D. Pennekamp and Dr. Gilbert L. Voss teamed up to designate the reefs as a permanent preserve. In 1963, the park finally opened to the public and was named after the man who strived so hard to protect the valued marine life, John Pennekamp. In 1972, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Spirit of Pennekamp's
	glass floor - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Spirit of Pennekamp's glass floor - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Photo by unknown

Activities



Snorkeling

The most popular activity at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is snorkeling, which is available by tours or on your own. Tours are $ 30 USD per adult or $ 25 USD for children and last two and a half hours. Equipment rental is also available for snorkeling on your own. Extended tours and private charters are also available with a personal guide. The reef lies between three and eight miles off the coast of the beach, so unless you have your own boat, guests will need to hop on one of the daily snorkeling tours.

Scuba Diving

For those who are scuba-certified, the Gold Palm facility offers two-tank dives at two locations daily with equipment available for rent. Scuba tours are $ 55 USD per person plus $ 29 USD for full gear rental. Those who are not scuba-certified can still catch a glimpse of the deep sea with scuba instructions or a full PADI Open Water Certification for $ 485 USD .

Christ of the Abyss

Christ of the Abyss -
	John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Christ of the Abyss - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Photo by unknown
One of the most famous sights to see at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the Christ of the Abyss (Wikipedia Article), an 8.5 foot status of Jesus Christ with outstretched arms resting under 8 meter of water. Across the ocean in the Mediterranean Sea is an identical statue of II Cristo Degli Abissi, submerged in 1954. Each statue faces each other, with thousands of miles of ocean water separating them.

Spirit of Pennekamp Boatride

For those that want to stay dry, guests can take a ride on the Spirit of Pennekamp, the park’s glass-bottom boat. The high-speed catamaran can carry up to 130 passengers and is 20 meter in length. Tours are $ 24 USD for adults or $ 17 USD for children. Children ages 3 and under are free! The tour lasts approximately two and a half hours and allows for spectacular views through the bottom of the boat into the clear blue waters below. Keep an eye out for an abundance of fish, sea turtles, and keep your eyes open for a shark sighting!

Boat Rentals

Additionally, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park offers boat rentals for you and the family to enjoy a day on the open water. The center console Open Fisherman feature Bimini tops and all the required safety equipment for an enjoyable day on the water. Rentals start at $ 185 USD for four hours. For visitors with their own boats, a boat ramp is open for public use for $ 10 USD at the marina as well as overnight dock rental.

Mangroves

One of the best ways to see the mangroves in the Florida Keys is by paddleboarding or kayaking through the various trails, teeming with wildlife. With 80 kilometers of mangrove wilderness trails, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the perfect place to enjoy some mild exercise in the beautiful Florida sunshine. Canoes, Kayaks, and Paddle Boards are all available for rent by the hour or for the full day. Rentals start at $ 12 USD per hour.

Visitor Center

Before you hop in the water for the day, you may want to visit the Environmental Education and Visitor Center where visitors will learn about the important coral reef ecosystem and how visitors can continue to protect the reefs.

How To Get There

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is easy to locate, since there is only one road in and out of the Florida Keys. From the North, take US1, the overseas highway, south to Key Largo. The entrance to the park will be on the left at Mile Marker 102.5.

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Author: laurenriegner. Last updated: Dec 11, 2014

Pictures of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Molasses Reef - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Molasses Reef - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Photo by Matt Kieffer

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Photo by Michael Brashier

Bleached plate corals and Sea Fans on Molasses Reef, Key Largo - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Bleached plate corals and Sea Fans on Molasses Reef, Key Largo - John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Photo by Matt Kieffer

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