Hankering for some hammock time? Or would you prefer a heart-pumping deep-sea dive? Whatever your thrill level, put the lovely Florida Keys state parks on your bucket list. Strung out like jewels along a 125-mile-long stretch of South Florida, these stunning subtropical islands offer breathtaking coastal landscapes and pristine beaches.
Want to relax under the palms? Check. Feast on fresh seafood? Dig in. Dive deep to explore an undersea park? Take the plunge.
Whether you want to get revved up or take on a laid-back vacation, pack it all in with our complete guide to the best state parks in the Florida Keys.
Bahia Honda State Park
Want to soak up some history, connect with nature, and dig your toes into the sand in one place? Bahia Honda State Park is a triple threat, offering travelers a variety of activities. Named by Spanish explorers centuries ago, this award-winning beach is a magnet for both history buffs and nature lovers.
With its soft sand and blue waters, the 500-acre Bahia Honda State Park is a natural choice for sand-and-sea lovers. Snorkel or kayak for close-up glimpses of colorful coral and tropical fish. Hike the century-old original trestle railroad structure to get a birdseye view of the waters below.
Or hit the hiking trails to view local flora and fauna. You can also zip down the Overseas Highway to Big Pine Key, where you’ll experience some of the best reef diving and snorkeling in the Florida Keys.
At the day’s end, head back to Bahia Honda Key and pull up a piece of beach. Sit back, savor the balmy sea breezes on its white sandy beaches, and be awed by one of the finest star-studded skies in South Florida.
Curry Hammock State Park
Looking for something off the beaten path? Here’s a hidden gem: Curry Hammock State Park. Protected from development, this 1,000-acre park is the largest uninhabited parcel of land between Key Largo and Big Pine Key. The park’s tranquil island setting and abundant animal life make it a magnet for travelers craving a truly “natural” experience in the Florida Keys.
Explore large swathes of mangrove swamps, tropical hammocks, and seagrass beds—all vital elements of the Florida Keys ecosystem. Take to the water to kayak, paddleboard, or snorkel. Cast a line to see what bites. Hike the nature trail for fantastic views of mangrove tunnels, deep water lagoons, open ocean, grassy flats, and sandbars.
Go fly a kite. Seriously—it’s a hugely popular activity at Curry Hammock. Feeling extra adventurous? Be a kite. Strap yourself to a kite-powered board and let the wind carry you across Florida Bay’s beautiful green water. It’s the perfect way to travel when you want an adventure that’s just about you, the wind, and the water.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
If marine life intrigues you, count on finding a treasure trove at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Covering 70 nautical miles, this underwater park features the Key Largo Dry Rocks, the only living coral reef in the continental U.S.
Take a glass-bottom boat tour to view this fascinating ecosystem. Or snorkel or scuba dive to explore it first-hand. Swim through an exotic underwater jungle to reach the park’s centerpiece: Christ of the Deep, a striking bronze statue created to honor the world beneath the waves.
Prefer to stay landside? This barrier island is a haven for rare and endangered tropical and coastal species; take your binoculars to spot locals like herons, pelicans, and terns. Launch a kayak and paddle through two miles of mangrove wilderness. Pull on some hip waders and cast a fishing line in the lagoon.
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Winding down? Choose a picnic spot at Cannon Beach, one of Key Largo’s finest beaches, and fire up one of the park’s grills. A tasty way to end a day at John Pennekamp State Park.
Indian Key Historic State Park
Intrigued by paths less traveled? Set your compass for Indian Key Historic Park, at mile marker 78.5 off the coast of Islamorada. Accessible only by rented or private boat, this tiny eight-acre island was once the county seat for Dade County.
The Florida Keys coastline—site of numerous disasters at sea over the centuries—gave birth to the lucrative business of cargo salvaging. In the early 1800s, Indian Key took top honors thanks to Jacob Housman, the “Wrecker King” of the Florida Keys. But the island’s thriving community was razed to the ground by the historic hurricane of 1935.
Today, Indian Key is a fascinating ghost town marked by haunting signposts of the past. The inhabitants are long gone, but you’ll feel their presence as you walk the roads and explore the ruins of historic buildings. Navigate a self-guided interpretive tour, and climb the observation tower to get an eagle-eye view of one of the most fascinating footnotes in Florida Keys history.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Keen to immerse yourself in history while exploring a beautiful natural setting? Drop in for a visit to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Perched on the southern edge of Key West, the park boasts one of Key West’s most popular beaches. The warm, shallow water here provides an excellent snorkeling experience, so be sure to get your hands on some gear! There are plenty of other aquatic activities: take a dip, paddle the aquamarine waters, or cast a fishing line.
Hit the ground to experience history first-hand at historic Fort Zachary Taylor, the park’s centerpiece. Built in the 1800s to guard Key West Harbor, the fort is home to the largest collection of Civil War weaponry in the world.
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As you walk the red-brick corridors with its cannon and gun ports, the past becomes vividly real. Learn from guided tours and interpretive panels about the critical role the fort played in the Civil War and Spanish-American War. No textbook required!
Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park
Want to wander in a secluded island paradise? Get footloose in Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, a hidden gem that’s one of the coolest places to see in Islamorada, a tiny 11-acre island. Home to one of the Florida Keys’ last old-growth hardwood hammock forests, this park is a haven for endangered plants and protected bird species. Accessible only by boat, it also features Native American cultural sites and a remarkable wind-powered house.
Purchased a century ago, Islamorada was intended to be a private hideaway. William Matheson built himself a windmill-powered home, and later developed a 287-acre park for public use. The star attraction: the Lignumvitae tropical hardwood forest that gave the park its name.
Step back in time with a tour of a rare 19th-century Dade County Pine home, or take a ranger-led hike to view striking coral formations. Follow the nature trail through the hardwood forest—and bring your camera to capture the beauty of the native flora. Pilot a kayak to explore seagrass flats and winding red mangrove creeks. Enjoy the wander!
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
Outdoor enthusiasts visiting the Florida Keys: Be sure to put Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park on your must-see list. Spared from a scheduled condo development, this Florida state park boasts one of the largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock in the U.S. It’s also home to an amazing population of 84 protected plant and animal species ranging from wild cotton to the American crocodile. (Something for everyone!)
Hike or bike six miles of nature trails through Dagny Johnson’s hardwood forest for close-up sightings of a fascinating variety of plants and animals. Follow the signs to navigate a self-guided tour—or get an in-depth backstory about the local ecosystem from a park ranger.
Get an up-close look at the ancient coral reef remnants that line the rock walls along the nature trail. Follow the trail to spot an assortment of birdlife, including pied-billed grebes and herons.
A special treat for fans of small winged creatures: a native plant butterfly garden, complete with picnic tables. (Hope you brought your camera!)
Long Key State Park
Looking for a destination that blends natural beauty, aquatic fun, and history? Look no further than mile marker 67.5: Long Key State Park. The site of an early 20th-century luxury fishing resort, Long Key was decimated during the historic Labor Day Hurricane of 1935. But thanks to careful oversight, it’s been reincarnated as a tranquil outdoor getaway.
Hop on a glass-bottom boat tour for great views of aquatic life. Slip into a kayak or canoe to explore a chain of lagoons. Pull on your snorkeling gear to view underwater life in the clear, shallow waters. Cast a line to sample some of the best fishing in the Florida Keys.
Hike the 1.1-mile Golden Orb Nature Trail to explore the park’s profusion of flora and fauna. Bring your binoculars for wildlife viewing, including the nesting grounds of rare bird species. Trek the trail to the observation tower and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of one of the loveliest Florida Keys State Parks.
Want to linger? Stake your claim to one of Long Key State Park’s camping sites and spend a night under the stars.
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Fascinated by fossils? Curious about coral? Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park reveals the hidden secrets of one of the world’s most intriguing coastal landscapes: the Florida Keys.
Head for mile marker 84.9. Get this: The road that takes you to this 300-acre park was built on an ancient fossilized reef. This “Key Largo Limestone” became the base layer for the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad built in the early 1900s – an undertaking that opened the Florida Keys up to the world. Quarried through the late 1960s, the site was also the source of Keystone, a beautiful decorative stone found on many structures throughout the Keys today.
Explore the historic quarrying remains. Walk along the eight-foot-high quarry walls for a one-of-a-kind sight: cross-sections of beautiful fossilized coral. Venture beyond to enjoy the island’s natural beauty while hiking self-guided trails that wind through a tropical hardwood hammock.
Still curious? Check out the Environmental Education Center to learn more about the history and geology of this one-of-a-kind destination. All will be revealed.
San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park
Want to do some deep-dive detective work? Grab your snorkel and scuba gear and head to San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park. Part of a Spanish “treasure fleet,” the San Pedro was a 287-ton Dutch-built ship that sank during a hurricane in Hawk Channel nearly 300 years ago.
Snorkel or scuba around the ship’s remaining ballast stones, replica cannons, and anchor. Get a close-up view of the soft and hard corals that have proliferated on the ship’s remains. Enjoy entrancing glimpses of the multitudes of fish (over 65 species), invertebrates, and other forms of underwater sea life that have made this unique structure their home.
Need more convincing to visit this underwater park? Here’s a tip: you’ll be “deep-diving” in an 18-foot-deep underwater park, making it ideal for scuba newbies.