Camp at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for an Undersea Adventure

America’s first undersea park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef SP, is located in Key Largo, “the first of the Florida Keys”, at mile marker 102.5 on U.S. Highway 1. If you’re driving from the Florida mainland, Key Largo is the most northern and so the first of the keys you’ll encounter. John Pennekamp park is somewhat plain, but it’s clean, peaceful, and always improving. It’s the water activities that are the big draw. To experience the underwater beauty there’s snorkeling, scuba diving, or the glass bottom boat tour. If above the water is more your thing, you’ll enjoy boating, canoeing, kayaking, or maybe fishing. Local South Floridians come play for the day, and visitors from the rest of the country and throughout the world make the journey for family fun and adventure.

The park was established in 1963 and encompasses around 70 nautical square miles. It is named after John D. Pennekamp, an associate editor at The Miami Herald who worked tirelessly to help establish the Everglades National Park in 1947, and later the Coral Reef Preserve. When combined with the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, 178 nautical square miles of coral reefs and mangrove swamps are protected.

The campground is just one part of the park itself and offers 47 sites that are full-service, but they do feel tightly spaced. The restrooms are clean and the showers are hot. Best of all, it’s a short walk to the beach or the marina, and that makes this a great place to camp.

Campground and park map

John Pennekamp Map


Quick Tips

If you go in the Summer and want to sit outside at camp, bring a fan to plugin and help keep the mosquitoes away. If going for a nature walk, it’s best to keep moving to avoid the mosquitoes or use a repellent. Bring water shoes for the beach area, which can be a bit rocky. You can rent snorkeling equipment, except for the snorkel itself in which you’ll have to purchase. Do you need a prescription mask? If you have your own gear, bring it. If you think you might go snorkeling more than once while in the Keys, then stop in one of the dive shops and buy a kit. Don’t forget your swim suit and suntan lotion. And if you have a waterproof camera…bring it.



  • 47 tent and RV sites, each with:
    • picnic table and grill
    • electrical (50 amp, 30 amp, 110V)
    • water hookups
    • sewer hookups
  • Two restroom facilities
  • Hot showers
  • Coin operated laundry
  • Dump station
  • Group camping area for qualified groups
  • (max RV length 45 ft.)


  • Dive Shop – equipment sales and rentals, lessons
  • Boat Ramp – can accommodate most boats up to 36’
  • Boat Rental – four and eight-hour rates for a variety of power boats so you can explore, fish, or dive on your own
  • Boat Slips – overnight camping rentals include water and electric hookups, and nearby restrooms and showers, plus use of park facilities
  • Mooring overnight rentals – located in Largo sound, includes dingy dockage and full use of park facilities
  • Restroom facilites


  • Restaurant – breakfast and lunch counter, snacks
  • Gift Shop
  • Snorkeling gear for sale
  • Beach gear for sale
  • Canoe and Kayak rental
  • Snorkeling gear rental
  • Restroom facilities and outdoor cold showers


  • Glass Bottom Boat
  • Scuba Diving
  • Snorkeling

Visitor Center:

30,000 gal saltwater aquarium plus other exhibits in nice air conditioning


  • Beaches – Cannon Beach for snorkeling, and Far Beach for relaxing
  • Nature trails
  • Canoe trails
  • Picnic – pavilion rentals
  • Playground


Pets must be well behaved and on a 6-foot leash. Allowed in the campground, marina, nature trails, and parking areas. Not allowed on the beaches, the Visitor Center, or the group campsite.

Contact and Reservations (recommended):

  • Camping Reservations – online at ReserveAmerica, or (800) 326-3521
  • Front Gate – general info, camping, group camping, pavilion rental (305) 451-1202
  • Main Boat Tours, Scuba Tours and instruction – (305) 451-6322 or (877) 727-5348
  • Glass Bottom Boat and Snorkeling Tours – (305) 451-6300
  • Boat Rentals (305) 451-6325

Key websites for more details:


Here’s a fun video of Key Largo, including John Pennekamp park, to get you in the mood: