Key Largo and Pennenkamp Coral Reef Day 5

Photos of our day are here. Day4 (56) Our first night at the Lime Tree wasn’t exactly restful, with a very noisy air conditioner blasting on and off repeatedly. With night temperatures in the mid 70’s, and high humidity, it takes a bit to adjust. We woke up happy about the day to come with plans to travel back north to Key Largo to see the famous coral reef.

The skies were a bit murky and overcast, but the temperatures were still comfortable. Driving along the highway is interesting, with different kinds of establishments than what we are used to seeing out west. Many dive shops, seafood eateries, kitschy souvenir stores, resorts, gardens, then miles of nothing but low key trees and then suddenly water on both sides.

Key Largo has a completely different feel than Key West, in my opinion, not nearly as charming, but still somewhat tacky. We laughed about all the pastel colors everywhere that fit right in here in this island environment that would have been horrid in our green and brown northwest. We also laughed about how boring the northwest “earth tones” would look in the keys!

We arrived at Pennenkamp State Park by 10:30, in time to sign up for the noon glass bottom boat tour. The wind was up and the water looked a bit rough, so we both decided that a boat tour was better for us than bobbing around out on the reef with our snorkels. After we saw just what was under the surface out there, we were really glad we had decided to boat instead of snorkel!

Day5 (12)The boat was shiny clean and white and the staff was knowledgeable. It was well worth the $24. per person that we paid to see the reef. After my queasy experience on the return from the Dry Tortugas, I was a bit nervous about the “choppy” seas, with 4 foot waves that the captain warned us about. At the concession, I bought some wrist bands, with a knob that applies pressure to a meridian that prevents sea sickness. In spite of the waves, and even with the descent to the viewing deck, I managed to get through the 2.5 hour trip without getting sick! Although I did go up on the top deck and watch the horizon intently for part of the time.

Day5 (28) The reef was beautiful, and we were treated to a great view of two nurse sharks, a very large grouper, and many colorful fish and corals. Did I mention how glad I was to have glass between me and all the “stuff” down there? My son, a certified diving instructor, would be ashamed of me, but I do love gentle beach snorkeling, where I can swim away from whatever big scary things are down there!

The ride back was not as rough, and the skies were not as cloudy as earlier in the day. I really enjoyed George, a young man who has lived in the Keys his entire life, with a family going back in Key history for 7 generations. He told us stories about the birds and a bit of history of the islands while we motored along. I now will finally remember that the egrets have black legs and the herons have orange legs. George showed us one old heron, however, with partially gray legs, caused by long years of standing in the water creating water marks.

Day5 (21)After our return, we checked out the rest of the park, including the swimming and snorkeling beaches, and the RV campground. The beaches were great, but the campground was nothing to write home about. The sites were narrow and rather ugly, although some of the larger ones did have cement pads. The campground was nestled into the low mangrove trees, without much shade or anything to make the place look pretty. We didn’t check the price, but probably wouldn’t plan a stay there for our MoHo in the future.

Day5 (35) We originally planned to stop for dinner at Robbies of Islamorada for supper. The writeup in the Florida Keys brochure made it sound like a great place, with shopping, food of all sorts, beaches, and accessibility to boats and entertainment. The reality was far less interesting, with only one tacky looking restaurant and a few closed up shelters for cheap stuff. We decided to backtrack to a place recommended earlier to us by the Lime Tree staff. Our dinner at the Lazy Daze restaurant right on the ocean side of the water Day5was worth the effort. Here we participated in the Keys major sport of eating with great success. I had crab stuffed shrimp with Key Lime butter and red rice, and of course, Key Lime pie for dessert. The fact that I took home half my meal for the next day was just another benefit. It was probably our spendiest meal so far, but the view, food, and service made it all worth while.

Home to a quiet evening catching up on the news, and enjoying the cooling breezes of the evening. We saw the full moon rising through our east facing windows while the sun set outside the west facing windows of our room. Perfect.

Author: kyotesue

Soil scientist/mapper working for 35 years in the wild lands of the West. I am now retired, enjoying my freedom to travel, to hike without a shovel and a pack, to knit and quilt and play, to play with photography and write stories about all of it.

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