John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (pdxjeff\flickr)

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Marina (pdxjeff\flickr)

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (pdxjeff\flickr )

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What to do in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

The first underwater park in the United States, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is Key Largo, Florida’s equivalent of New York’s Central Park—it’s where the cooped-up go to play. With nearly 180 nautical square miles of coral reefs, the most popular activity here is to don a snorkel and fins and slip below the surface. Sharks, turtles, and stingrays all patrol the clear, warm waters, and Christ the Abyss, a 4,000-pound bronze statue of Jesus Christ keeps a watchful eye on all of them. If you’re not much of an underwater explorer, there’s still plenty to do. Board a glass-bottom boat to get a good view from above the surface, or ease through more than two miles of mangrove troves via kayak or canoe. A 2.5-mile marked canoe trail winds throughout—it’s the only way to get in the middle of a mangrove thicket without sinking in muck.