Florida Keys Parks, Refuges and Sanctuaries
The Florida Keys sits within a National Marine Sanctuary and is home to some of the world's most amazing parks. Here is a list of all the main parks, refuges an sanctuaries in the Florida Keys.
Everglades National Park encompasses the freshwater wetlands at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula and the shallow waters of Florida Bay. Visitors enjoy a view of Everglades National Park on the west side of the Florida Keys Scenic Highway (US highway1) in the vicinity of mile marker 110. Here, where freshwater from the Everglades wetlands mixes with the marine waters of the Florida Keys, mangrove forests line shorelines and form islands. Guided boat tours into Florida Bay are available through the park concessionaire or from private operators in the Upper Keys. For more information call the park headquarters at 305-242-7700 or visit http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is 70 square nautical miles of coral reefs, mangrove islands and shallow waters. The park’s land base is located at mile-maker 102.5 on the ocean side of the Florida Keys Scenic Highway. Glass-bottom boat/dive/snorkel tours are available from and from the Park’s concessionaire and local operators in Key Largo. For more information, call the park office at 305-451-1202 or visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Pennekamp.
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock State Park includes the largest contiguous tract of West Indian Mahogany tropical hardwood hammock in the U.S. and offers approximately 6 miles of trails to explore. The tropical hardwood hammock is critical habitat for the Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly, the Key Largo woodrat, and other protected animals and plants. Some park trails are paved, making them accessible to bicyclers and wheelchairs. To reach the park’s entrance, travel north on County Road 905, one-half mile beyond the intersection of CR905 and the scenic highway (US 1) at mm 106.5. For more information, call the park office at 305-451-1202 or visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Key-Largo-Hammock. (Entrance fee required.)
Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge protects approximately 6700 acres of tropical hardwood hammock, mangrove forest, salt marsh and shallow open waters in North Key Largo. Refuge habitats support several threatened and endangered species, including the American crocodile, Key Largo woodrat, and the Schaus' swallowtail butterfly. Although the refuge is closed to the public, a public visitor station with a butterfly garden is located at its headquarters on County Road 905, 1.8 miles north of the intersection of the scenic highway at mm 106.5 and CR 905. For more information, visit http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/crocodilelake/.
Key Largo to Dry Tortugas
Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary protects 2900 square nautical miles of marine waters surrounding the Florida Keys island chain. Designated by Congress and administered by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and is jointly managed with the State of Florida. The sanctuary protects an extensive coral reef ecosystem and a variety of historic shipwrecks and other archaeological resources. Views of sanctuary waters can be seen from bridges and overlooks throughout the entire length of the Florida Keys Scenic Highway from Manatee Bay at mile marker 108 to mile marker 1 in Key West. The sanctuary’s main office and the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center are located at the Dr. Nancy Foster Florida Keys Environmental Complex in Key West. For more information, visit floridakeys.noaa.gov or call 305-809-4700.
Indian Key Causeway
Indian Key Historic State Park is an island state park that can be seen from the scenic highway on the ocean side at mm 78.5. In the early to mid-1800s, this historic island was home to a thriving community of people involved in “wrecking” or salvaging shipwrecks aground on nearby coral reefs. Although now part of Monroe County, in 1836, Indian Key was the county seat for Dade County (now called Miami-Dade). Visitors can access the park during the day using kayaks and small boats; rentals and tours are available through local marinas. For more information, visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Indian-Key.
Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park is an island park that preserves rare tropical hardwood hammock habitat and a historic Keys homestead that serves as the park’s visitor center. The historic homestead offers a glimpse of life in the Keys in the 1920s. Lignumvitae Key, named for a rare tropical tree, is visible from the scenic highway on the bayside (west) at mm 78.5. The island is accessible only by boat and ranger led tours are available daily. Reservations can be made by calling 305-664-9814. Boat/kayak rentals and tours are available at nearby marinas. For more information, visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Lignumvitae-Key.
Long Key State Park protects five natural plant communities found in the middle Keys, including mangrove swamps, tropical hardwood hammock and shallow nearshore waters. Visitors can explore these habitats by kayaking off the beach or by hiking on park trails and boardwalks. Campsites and picnic facilities are also available. The park’s main entrance is located on the ocean side of the scenic highway at mm 67.5. For more information, visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Long-Key.
Curry Hammock State Park protects a mosaic of mangrove swamps, seagrass beds, shoreline and tropical hardwood hammock. During the fall and spring, hawks, warblers and other birds are known to use the habitats of the park on their long migration journeys. The beach is a favorite of wading birds all year round. Curry Hammock State Park can be accessed directly from the scenic highway at mm 56.2. Visitor activities include kayaking, beach combing, swimming, camping, birdwatching and hiking. For more information, visithttps://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Curry-Hammock
Bahia Honda Key
Bahia Honda State Park has several sandy beaches to enjoy and is known for its crystal blue waters and magnificent sunsets. Accessible directly from the scenic highway on the ocean side at mm 36.8, this state park offers picnicking, snorkeling trips, kayaking, camping, swimming and fishing. Visitors can hike to the historic Flagler Railroad Bridge and explore the exhibits in the Sand and Sea Nature Center. For more information, visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Bahia-Honda or call (305) 872-2353.
Big Pine Key
National Key Deer Refuge was established to protect and preserve the endangered Key deer, and other wildlife species in the Florida Keys. Key deer, the smallest subspecies of the white-tailed deer, are only found in the vicinity of Big Pine Key and 22 surrounding Lower Keys islands. Refuge lands include about 9,200 acres of pine rockland forests, tropical hardwood hammocks, wetlands and mangrove forests. The visitor center is located on Big Pine Key. For more information, visit http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/. (Remember, feeding key deer is unhealthy for the deer and prohibited by refuge regulations).
Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge consists of about 200,000 acres of open waters and islands on the Gulfside or “backcountry” of the Keys from Marathon to Key West. Some of the larger islands contain hardwood hammock and pine rockland habitat. The refuge, which is primarily accessible through small boat, was set aside in 1938 as a haven for great white herons, migratory birds and other wildlife. Islands and other areas in the refuge may have access restrictions to protect nesting sea turtles and birds. Information is provided at the Key Deer Refuge visitor center located on Big Pine Key. http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/greatwhiteheron/
Key West National Wildlife Refuge encompasses more than 200,000 acres of shallow waters with 2,000 acres of low-lying mangrove islands. Refuge waters and islands are accessible only by boat and some areas have access restrictions to protect sensitive sea turtle nesting and bird feeding, resting and nesting habitats. The refuge is administered by the National Key Deer Refuge, which has its headquarters and a visitor center on Big Pine Key. For more information, call 305-872-0774 or visit http://www.fws.gov/nationalkeydeer/keywest/.
Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center features 6,000 square feet of interactive and dynamic exhibits describing the plants and animals of the Florida Keys, including both land and marine life. Visitors can explore a replica of the Aquarius Underwater Laboratory, view a nature film about the Keys and observe live corals in Mote Marine Laboratory’s aquarium exhibit. The Eco-Discovery Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 4pm and is located at the end of Southard Street in the Key West Truman Annex, across the street from Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. The on-site gift shop features fun and unique items with net proceeds returned to the Center to support educational programs. The Center is sponsored and operated by NOAA’s Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the National Wildlife Refuges of the Florida Keys, Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks and the South Florida Water Management District.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is Florida’s southernmost state park and is home to Fort Zachary Taylor, a US military fort built in the mid-1800s. Visitors can take a self-guided or ranger-guided tour to learn about the fort’s history and role from the Civil War through the Cuban missile crisis. They can also snorkel and swim from the park’s beautiful beach. The park entrance is located on the Truman Annex property at the end of Southard Street in Key West. For more information, visit https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Fort-Taylor or call 305 292-6713.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Located in the Gulf of Mexico about 70 miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park includes a cluster of seven islands and surrounding shallow corals reefs, sandy shoals and seagrass beds. Fort Jefferson, a civil war brick fort, and the park’s visitor center are located on Garden Key. The 100-square mile park is accessible only by boat or sea plane through concession operators. For more information call the park’s headquarters on the mainland at 305-242-7700 or visit http://www.nps.gov/drto/index.htm. The park is featured in the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center (in Key West).