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Relaxing in Key Largo

My husband and I visited the John Pennekamp State Park, on Key Largo last weekend for snorkeling and relaxation. The snorkeling was okay, the relaxation….

First, let me start out by saying that Saturday was a very frustrating day for me. We drove all day Friday, so John was pretty tired. I was more or less okay, but stress is like the flu; when one of you has it, the other gets it.

We left in the morning, but first I wanted to check on a package I had had shipped ahead of myself. It turns out the RV park hadn’t checked incoming reservations and had refused delivery– not delayed, as the post office claimed on their website, but refused. This necessitated a trip to the post office, which was as casual and carefree as a post office usually is on a Saturday before a holiday weekend.

After much teeth-gnashing, I was able to find out that my package had gone back to the sender. Great. Since there was nothing I could do about it, we got in the car and headed South.

We were only going about twenty miles to the state park on Key Largo. “Only.” Note to anyone heading to the keys this Spring Break: There is a drawbridge early on. Apparently, on nice days, the drawbridge will go up for any boat passing under it. Traffic stops for a full five to eight minutes while the boats go through. Then the drawbridge goes down. About thirty cars go across. Then another boat comes along and the drawbridge goes up. I am not kidding– this bridge is up as much as it is down.

An hour and a half after leaving Florida City, we arrived at our destination, just in time for lunch (1 PM) at a Cuban cafe across the highway from the state park entrance. It was fine. It’s a testament to how pissed off and frustrated I was that my sandwich was covered in mustard, which I detest, but I ate it anyway.

We went into the state park and paid $6 for the two of us to go in. We hadn’t reserved any of the boat tours out to the coral reefs, and we were really just there to relax. I swear. Even after ninety minutes of stop-and-stop traffic, we really just wanted some relaxation!

We first went to the farthest beaches, and found them lacking. They were largely coral and rock composition, not much sand, and no indication of what would be interesting snorkel sights. We headed back to the visitor center and got a map and asked about the wreck. There’s supposedly an old Spanish shipwreck within easy swimming distance. She indicated that it’s marked with a buoy and is inside the swimming area (outside the buoyed-off swimming zone, you need a dive flag to warn boaters not to run you over, which I don’t think we have).

The changing rooms at the park are under construction, so we changed in hot, gloomy tents in which the only light and air came in through the unclosable tent flaps. So, in essence, they were hot, dark canvas rooms that provided no privacy whatsoever.

We settled in and got our fins out. While we were setting up (and before I took off my sandals), someone spotted a small ray or kite in the surf and pointed it out. It looked a lot like a small moving rock (it was probably awesome if you were wearing a mask and floating nearby it). I waded in up to my ankles to see it, drenching my Tevas in salt water. Whoops. Did I mention that they have leather straps. *sigh*

The strap for our years-old disposable waterproof camera (which we have yet to use) fell off, so I gave to John to put in his pocket. We swam out to the buoy and looked around. John said he wanted to dive down to see closer, and I wished him well.

“You have the camera,” I said.

“What camera?” he replied. “That thing fell out two feet into the water. I’m lucky I still have my wedding band!”


There was not much to see of the wreck. Visibility was poor, and it just looked like a mound. On our way back to shore, we saw several fish and some little pink puffs of some kind of sea organism, just floating in the water. We cruised around (looking for the camera, just in case), then got out. Some helpful samaritan had placed our camera on a rock up on the beach! Too bad they didn’t take any pictures!

We sat on the beach and dried off a bit, and actually got some relaxing done. When the shore-land reversal picked up at 4:30 and things started to get very windy, we packed up and returned to the car to head home.

We changed out of our swimsuits in the parking lot. The return drive was much less– closer to 30 minutes– and we were back in plenty of time for Happy Hour.

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