John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
We manage to score two nights at John Pennekamp. The State Parks in the Keys tend to get snapped up when the come available eleven months out. We are parked deep in the mangroves. The parks have amenities like great swim beaches, snorkel trips, kayaks, etc. If you are over 65 and a Floridian, camping is 1/2 price (about $16)...the RV parks are closer to $100 a night or more, so it's no mystery why the State Park campgrounds are hard to get into.
John Pennekamp even has a 30,000 gallon salt water aquarium. Off the swim beach some 130 feet is a Spanish Galleon shipwreck reproduction with rusted cannon and anchors.
We have dinner and drinks at a place in Key Largo called the Big Chill.
The sunset is just so-so, but the music and company are very fine..
The park operates a dive boat that goes out twice daily.
They rent kayaks and offer kayak tours.
The Christ of the Abyss is anchored in 25 feet of water in the park. It weighs about 600 pounds and is anchored to a nine ton concrete base. There are duplicate statues in Grenada and Italy. The original statue was placed in Italy near the spot where Dario Gonzatti, the first Italian to use SCUBA gear, died in 1947.
The Keys had spectacular coral formations in the early 1960s when we first came here to dive.. Unfortunately, most of the reefs have been loved to death by divers and snorkelers who trample and break the fragile Elkhorn and touch the other corals to introduce bacteria and disease .Often now you just see a gray coral boneyard like the one below which was once vibrant and beautiful..