This park is closed due to extensive damage to the Florida Keys from Hurricane Irma.
One of Florida’s most well-known state parks, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is famed for its coral reefs, but not so well known for its trails. Two nature trails showcase the land-side habitats of the park, and of these, the Mangrove Trail is a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk that gets you right into the heart of a mangrove tunnel. It’s a delightful diversion that the entire family will enjoy while waiting for the next boat out to the reef.
Location: Key Largo
Length: 0.75 mile boardwalk
Fees: state park entrance fee
Bug Factor: moderate to extreme
Restroom: yes, near visitor center
Stop by the visitor’s center for a look at aquariums filled with fish native to the offshore coral reef habitat. As you’re walking around the park, keep alert for iguanas! They are not native, and are large enough to startle you when they scramble out of your way. Fortunately, they are herbivores. American crocodiles are native to this area, and they are not herbivores, so keep alert near bodies of water.
This park also offers the 1/4 mile Wild Tamarind Trail
MM 102.5 on US 1, Key Largo. Follow the park entrance road to the farthest parking area inside park, past the campground and mooring for sailboats. The trailhead is on the right.
Although it’s a short, easy walk, this trail is best visited in winter, as it gets inundated with mosquitoes the rest of the year. Feeling brave? Slather on the mosquito repellant and walk on. This is an interpretive boardwalk that engages you in the mangrove forest along a tidal creek. Halfway through the loop, the trail emerges out into the open along shorter mangroves, running parallel to the creek. A staircase leads up to an observation deck. Enjoy a refreshing walk through a gorgeous tangled jungle of white mangroves, thanks to the cool salt breezes off the Atlantic. The observation tower provides a great overview of the mangrove forest and a peek down the creek. The trail loops around to the left, away from the creek, to return to the parking area.