Is siesta time what you’ve been craving, or how about a breath-taking deep-sea excursion? If you’re heading to southern Florida, then the beautiful Florida Keys State Parks should be on your must-see list, regardless of whether you want to snooze or scuba dive. There’s something for everyone!
The Florida Keys are a chain of subtropical islands between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean about 125 miles west of Florida. And there’s so much to do in the Keys!
There are 11 State Parks (most only knew ten) located in the Florida Keys you can have tons of fun at. Each has its beauty and vast landscape. Getting some peace in any of these state parks is simple, but there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure, too.
Do you want to relax in the shade with a book? Or take a deep breath and experience an underwater theme park? With this comprehensive guide to the most incredible State Parks in the Florida Keys, you’ll be able to pack it all in.
Here are the 11 best State Parks in the Florida Keys that you definitely won’t want to miss.
11. Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
Location: Key Largo | Entry Cost: $2.50 per person | Vibe: Tropical, woodsy, secluded
On County Road 905, about half a mile north of Mile Marker 106 on U.S. Highway 1, you’ll find Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park.
It boasts one of the most oversized West Indian tropical hardwood hammocks in the United States. It contains almost 6 miles of shaded and typically paved pathways accessible to bikes and wheelchair users.
This 2,500 acres State Park is home to 84 endangered species, and a self-guided nature walk has signage with information on the park’s habitat and species.
A short paved walking/biking track leads to the main public area of the habitat, where you can see breeding populations of Black-whiskered Vireos, Mangrove Cuckoos, and White-crowned Pigeons. During spring and fall migration, you can witness 20+ species of wood-warblers.
Look for Ruddy Daggerwings and Zebra Longwings fluttering through the hammocks if you’re interested in butterfly watching. There are some seriously gorgeous species of butterflies at this state park!
After getting a free backcountry pass, you can access an extra 4 miles of paved routes and off-trail options (at the neighboring John D. Pennekamp State Park). Brown-crested Flycatcher, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Thick-billed Vireo, and Zenaida Dove are just a few of the rare species found here – you’ll see lots of wildlife if you choose to hike.
You will also find a picnic area and bathrooms on-site for additional convenience. We advise using insect protection and long sleeves and trousers since mosquitoes are prevalent here, especially during summer.
This is one of our favorite State Parks in the Florida Keys because it offers an exclusive up-close experience with nature but the hike isn’t too aggressive.
10. Bahia Honda State Park
Location: Big Pine Key | Entry Cost: $8 per vehicle | Vibe: Beachy, great for camping
Where else can you immerse yourself in nature while learning about the region’s rich history? Visitors to Bahia Honda State Park can participate in various activities. This award-winning beach, named by Spanish explorers centuries ago, is a draw for historical lovers and environmental enthusiasts alike as well as anyone who just wants to lay on the sand.
Sand and sea enthusiasts will delight at the 500-acre Bahia Honda State Park, which has powdery white beaches, crystal-clear seas, and awe-inspiring sunsets. You can have close-up views of vibrant coral and exotic fish when you snorkel or kayak here. To gain a bird’s eye perspective of the lake below, climb the century-old original trestle railroad construction.
There is also much history associated with the Bahia Honda Bridge because it was one of the most challenging to construct in the region. This bridge has had its fair share of difficulties, from dealing with uneven ground to being battered by big storms.
If you like, take a walk in the woods to see the local species and flowers. Alternatively, you can take the Overseas Highway to Big Pine Key, where you can dive and snorkel in some of the most excellent reefs in the Florida Keys.
To conclude the day, return to Bahia Honda and pull up a piece of the sand on the shore. Let yourself be lulled to sleep by one of South Florida’s most spectacular star-studded sky while you relax on the white-sand beaches.
No matter what time of year you visit, you’re guaranteed to have a good time with your family here. Bring sunscreen and sunglasses, and don’t forget your outerwear. You can choose between a cabin, an R.V. site with electricity and water, or a tent site at the park. Bahia Honda is a great place to relax and enjoy the warm weather all year round.
If you’re planning to visit any of the State Parks in the Florida Keys then I definitely recommend Bahia Honda. It’s just so beautiful and has the true “Keys” beachy vibe while offering a bunch of nature experiences.
9. Curry Hammock State Park
Location: Marathon | Entry Cost: $4.50 per person | Vibe: Undeveloped, lush forest
Are you in search of a unique experience? Curry Hammock State Park is a well-kept secret. This 1,000-acre park is the most significant uninhabited area between Big Pine Key and Key Largo set aside for preservation. Tourists seeking a genuinely “natural” experience in the Florida Keys love the park’s peaceful island environment and abundance of wildlife.
You can see mangrove tunnels, deep water lagoons, the open ocean, and grassland flats while hiking the nature route.
You can also explore vast Florida Keys mangrove wetlands, tropical hammocks, and seagrass beds, or get out on the water and try your hand at kayaking, paddleboarding, or even snorkeling. Set out a line and see what it takes.
Take flight like a kite if you want to take things a step further. Take to the water on a kite-powered board and enjoy the emerald green waters of Florida Bay. Kite-flying is also a great way to unwind at Curry Hammock, and is a tremendously popular pastime in this area.
The park also consists of a collection of islands in the Middle Keys, with public access to swimming, picnic tables, playground, grills, and showers on the ocean side of Little Crawl Key.
Each year, a 28-site campsite along the seashore is available from November 1 to May 31. A dump station and water and power connections are accessible to all campers at any campground’s 28 sites.
When planning a winter camping trip here, book early to avoid disappointment. It fills up quickly! This is definitely one of the more popular State Parks in the Florida Keys for campers who want to experience true untouched nature.
8. Indian Key Historic State Park
Location: Islamorada | Entry Cost: $2.50 per person | Vibe: Exclusive island living
Are you drawn to less-trodden paths? Indian Key Historic Park is at mile marker 78.5 off the coast of Islamorada. You can only reach this eight-acre island by boat, either hired or owned.
The Florida Keys shoreline, which has been the location of innumerable maritime tragedies throughout the years, gave rise to the profitable profession of cargo salvaging. In the early 1800s, Indian Key was crowned “Wrecker King” of the Florida Keys by Jacob Housman. However, the island’s prosperous civilization was destroyed by the catastrophic storm of 1935.
Indian Key, a fascinating ghost town, is defined with unsettling reminders of the community’s history. You’ll sense their presence as you traverse the streets and examine the remains of old structures. Learn about one of the most intriguing footnotes in Florida Keys history on a self-guided educational tour that culminates in an ascent to the observation tower.
Indulge in various water-based activities such as kayaking or swimming at this remote location. Fishing is also huge at this Florida Keys State Park.
Bonefish on the flats and Tarpon in the channels are just a few of the many species available to anglers. You can also catch Snook, Snapper, and Spanish Mackerel in the area.
Because of the nearby small grass flats, understanding the waterways is essential. Most flats can be traversed by kayaks or canoes, allowing visitors to witness a wide range of marine species, including dolphins, manatees, sharks, and rays. Robbie’s Marina and other nearby marinas hire out powerboats and kayaks to visitors.
You can snorkel at Indian Key, but all snorkeling must take place at least 100 feet away from the dock at all times. Remember that a diver down flag is a must for any snorkeling activities.
If you want to get that exclusive, private island vibe while still experience tropical nature, then this will be one of your favorite State Parks in the Florida Keys.
7. Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park
Location: Islamorada | Entry Cost: $2.50 per person | Vibe: Exclusive island living
Do you want to explore a remote island paradise? Take a stroll around Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, a little-known jewel on the 11-acre island of Islamorada, and let your hair down. An old-growth hardwood hammock forest in the Florida Keys makes this state park a shelter for endangered flora and protected birds.
You can only get to Lignumvitae Key by boat or kayak. Fortunately, you can lease rental boats and kayaks from local merchants. It is home to a magnificent wind-powered house and Native American cultural sites.
When Miami chemist William J. Matheson purchased the island in 1919, he erected a caretaker’s house with a windmill for power and a rainwater cistern. His secret lair is now the island forest’s tourist center.
There are no ranger-guided tours available at this time. You can use a self-guided tour booklet to understand more about the house and the many elements scattered around its lawn.
Visit a unique Dade County Pine house built in the late 1800s or join a ranger-led trek to see stunning coral formations. It is an excellent place for photography, therefore don’t forget your camera while hiking in this woodland. Learn how to paddle a kayak to explore seagrass beds and twisting mangrove waterways.
This really is one of the more remote State Parks in the Florida Keys and is totally worth a visit if you’re feeling adventurous. It’s also a great day trip to take from any of the resorts in Islamorada.
6. Long Key State Park
Location: Long Key | Entry Cost: $4.50 per person | Vibe: A bit of everything
Where do you go when you want to experience the best of both worlds? In the vicinity of mile marker 67.5, head to Long Key State Park.
Long Key, once a retreat for the wealthy and famous, is now a peaceful haven for nature lovers and anybody else looking to unwind on the coastline and take in the view of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s definitely one of the most relaxing State Parks in the Florida Keys and is a great place to vacation.
Take a trip aboard a glass-bottom boat to see the underwater world close. Or, take advantage of the crystal-clear water and short depths to go snorkeling and see what’s under the surface. Explore a series of lagoons in a kayak or canoe by yourself.
Get out on the water and try your hand at some of the most incredible fishing the Florida Keys has to offer. There’s so much wildlife here!
Observation tower views of one of the most beautiful Florida Keys State Parks await those who make an effort to reach there. Hike the 1.1-mile Golden Orb Nature Trail to see the park’s diverse array of plants and animals. There are many places to see animals, including the nests of uncommon birds, so bring your binoculars with you.
Do you want to remain a little longer? Camping in Long Key State Park is a great way to spend the night beneath the stars.
You’ll find 60 full-service campsites that face out over the Atlantic Ocean at the Park. In addition to the standard amenities like a picnic table and ground grill, every campground has access to running water and electricity.
There are three bathrooms in the middle of the park with hot showers. Up to eleven months in advance, you can reserve a room. Because these locations fill up rapidly, it’s essential to prepare ahead of time.
5. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Location: Key West | Entry Cost: $6 per vehicle | Vibe: Beachy and historical
Do you like to learn about the past while also taking in the natural beauty of a place? Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is a great place to spend some time outdoors. The park is located on the southern tip of Key West and has one of the most popular beaches in the area.
This is definitely one of the most popular State Parks in the Florida Keys, mainly because it’s located in Key West and has one of the best beaches on the island. But there’s a ton of history here, too.
Historic Fort Taylor dates from before the American Civil War and is home to the world’s most outstanding collection of Civil War armament. Aside from its historical importance, the park also serves as the southernmost State Park in the United States.
Fort Zachary Taylor’s red-brick passageways, past cannon and gun ports, bring history to life in a way that pictures and literature can’t capture. Visitors can learn about the fort’s crucial involvement in both the Civil and Spanish-American Wars through tour guides and interpretative panels on display. On the third weekend of every month, local re-enactors bring history to life by staging historical re-enactments.
The beach at Fort Zachary Taylor is often regarded as the loveliest region. It’s rocky, so you’ll need water shoes that are either useful or required, but it’s still one of the best beaches in Key West (an island that isn’t known for beaches).
On the other hand, the water is a beautiful Caribbean blue, blending Gulf and Atlantic water. There are some beaches in Key West where the water is murky and sluggish.
The rough bottom and rock formations off the coast of Fort Zachary Taylor attract various tropical species, making it an excellent location for beach snorkeling. Because snorkeling requires swimming into water that is too deep to stand in, life preservers are an absolute need for young snorkelers. And the water can get rough depending on the day, so you’ll want to research ahead of time.
There are picnic tables on the beach in the shade of Australian trees. Locals in the Keys pleaded to maintain this exotic tree species, and tourists are grateful for its benefits.
As one of the top State Parks in Key West, the fort is totally worth a visit.
4. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Location: Islamorada | Entry Cost: $2.50 per person | Vibe: Historical, scientific
Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about concerning coral? Do you have a thing for prehistoric artifacts? The Florida Keys, one of the world’s most fascinating coastal environments, is revealed in all its mystery at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park.
On Windley Key, just north of Islamorada, you’ll find this Florida Keys State Park at Mile Marker 84.9.
Quick tip: Poisonwood, a frequent Florida poisonous tree, may be found in the tropical forest, therefore stay on the paths that have been well designated.
After the railroad was finished, the quarry made the beautiful and unique ornamental stone known as Keystone for more than half a century. Historic quarry walls are now open to the public, allowing tourists a glimpse into Florida’s 20th-century past as they stroll along 8-foot-high walls to see cross-sections of the old coral. At the park, you can see examples of quarry equipment and can learn exactly how it is used.
Self-guided tours of the island’s five short trails are an excellent way for visitors to take in its natural splendor. There are also picnic tables on hand.
Mosquito repellant is a must if you plan on spending time outside. During specific periods of the year, you may come across substantial golden digger wasps on the park trails, so make sure to follow the signage.
3. San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park
Location: Islamorada | Entry Cost: None | Vibe: Underwater
Are you up for some serious detective work? The San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park is an excellent place for snorkeling or scuba diving. The San Pedro, a 287-ton Dutch-built ship that drowned in Hawk Channel about 300 years ago, was part of a Spanish “treasure fleet.”
San Pedro is now reduced to a 90-foot-long and 30-foot-wide mound of ballast stones after massive salvage activities in the 1960s. Seven replica guns, an anchor, and a plaque have been added to the submerged site.
You can explore the ship’s surviving ballast stones, replica guns, and anchors by snorkeling or scuba diving. Examine the soft and hard coral growth on the ship’s wreckage up close. The abundance of fish (about 65 different species), crustaceans, and other marine life made this structure their home mesmerized.
The only way to get to this State Park is via boat, which is relatively unusual among Florida Keys State Parks. The location is situated a little over a mile offshore, south of Indian Key.
Those who don’t want to get their feet wet can still enjoy the area’s natural beauty by taking a glass-bottom boat excursion. While this Florida Keys State Park is underwater, we totally think it’s worth a visit whether or not you intend to swim because the water is just gorgeous.
2. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Location: Key Largo | Entry Cost: $8 per vehicle | Vibe: Aquatic
When it comes to aquatic life, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a genuine goldmine for those who seek it out. You can find the Key Largo Dry Rocks, the only living coral reef on the mainland of the United States, inside this 70-nautical mile underwater park. Snorkeling and scuba diving allow you to get a closer look at the park’s vibrant coral reefs and rich aquatic life.
Take a boat trip with a glass bottom to see this unique ecology, or take a dip in the ocean and see for yourself. Swim through an exotic underwater rainforest to get to the park’s centerpiece: Christ of the Deep, a bronze figure sculpted to celebrate the world under the seas.
Recreational canoeing and kayaking are popular, and fishing is allowed in specified portions of the park’s waterways.
Short hikes through tropical hammocks, picnics, and swimming at the beach are also available to visitors. Several big saltwater tanks house a variety of aquatic life, and in the theater, nature documentaries are screened regularly. There are also full-facility and youth/group camping options.
We love the affordable costs, experienced tour guides, and snorkeling experience, although the beaches might have foul-smelling seaweed depending on the present circumstances. But still, this is altogether one of our favorite State Parks in the Florida Keys because you can learn a ton while still having that vacation vibe.
1. Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
Location: Key Largo | Entry Cost: None | Vibe: Biking/walking paths
Even if you’ve been to the Keys, you may not know about this Florida Keys State Park. The 106-mile Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (FKOHT) includes more than 90 miles of current paved trail. The Overseas Highway from Key Largo to Key West goes through this park, which offers a lovely cycling track.
A highlight of this path, even if you don’t bring a bicycle, is the network of bike and pedestrian bridges that span the Florida Keys. Take a stroll over one of these unique bridges and enjoy the numerous tones of blue.
For the Florida Keys, the FKOHT is a multi-use bicycle and pedestrian facility that acts as a recreational and alternative transportation route. Incorporating 23 of the historic Flagler Railroad bridges, this recreational pathway provides a magnificent venue for hiking, jogging, biking, skating, sightseeing, fishing, and paddling.
The ten State Parks above, Everglades National Park, Key Deer National Wildlife Refuge, Biscayne National Park, Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, and Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge, are all accessible by this path. It kind of connects all of the State Parks in the Florida Keys together, which I think is so cool.
Visit Florida Keys’ State Parks: Here Are Some Insider Tips!
- Trails and viewing points are available for disabled visitors in most state parks in the Florida Keys. Prepare for your visit by checking out the State Park websites to learn about the facilities and concessions available at each location.
- Take your time if you’re going to be exploring the backcountry paths and hammocks. Learn about the animals and plants by reading and listening to the signs. You can take them a picture and explore the parks with your best “green” knowledge.
- Have lunch in a fabulous, shaded location. There are plenty of beautiful spots in every park.
- Prepare what you need. A camera is a must, but you’ll also want to carry a lot of water, snacks, energy bars, and insect spray.
- Taking a nature walk is an excellent way when you’re seeking something other than the usual tourist sites, beaches, and nightlife. Get away from the modern world for a while and recharge your batteries!
There you have it! These State Parks in the Florida Keys have a wide range of activities, from sunbathing on the sand to exploring the coral reef in the United States. Discovering the fascinating history of the Florida Keys while strolling through the wonders of nature is only one of many reasons why these State Parks are so amazing.
Hopefully, this list of amazing State Parks in the Florida Keys can help you plan your journey. Enjoy!