One of my favorite parts of our vacation in the Keys was our time spent in John Pennekamp State Park. Our rental house was right across Rt. 1 from the entrance to the park, so it was really accessible to us.
On the morning of our first full day in Key Largo, we explored a few tourist shops along Rt. 1. The giant lobster caught our attention first… as giant lobsters are prone to do, I suspect. We stopped only to take a picture with this big fella, but ended up shopping here for a while.
There were a bunch of little shops all back through these mangroves and wooded area, and each shop was filled with local artists work. It was such a cute little place to spend an overcast morning.
We grabbed lunch at Lorelei’s (see this post for all my restaurant reviews) and then went back to our rental house to put on swimsuits. Our rental house was booked through Home Away rentals and we really hit the jackpot. In the pictures, it looked like it was a town home or condo attached to another and the pool area looked like it was going to be shared with several different properties. But when we got there, it ended up being one giant house with the pool and boat ramp on the canal all to ourselves!
They seemed to have recently put in the pool table down underneath the house, which made that area a whole extra outdoor living room for us to use. Though, the mosquitos were so horrible that we really didn’t stay outside much at the house, unless we were in the pool.
The house also had a little kayak that we used to take paddle trips up and down the canal. On one excursion, our friend, Quinn, and his daughter, Layla, even saw a manatee while they were out!
After we had been to the house to change into swimsuits, we spent the rest of the afternoon over at Canon Beach in Pennekamp Park. It was a small beach area that had a roped off swimming place in a little lagoon. There were a lot of people there by the time we got there and it was pretty crowded when a school bus seemed to drop off a load of students. But as long as you were in the water, it wasn’t so bad.
The water itself was great for the kids to learn and practice snorkeling. Bean and Gracie had not been snorkeling before, so this was a great time for them to learn before our big snorkeling adventure at the reef a few days later. Thankfully, my friend, Danielle, is a big swimmer and adventurer and so she took the kids all around the edges of the cove while they snorkeled. It was really nice because it was shallow and they could stand up all along the way, but there was still so much for them to see.
Out at the edge of the marked off swimming area is an anchor from an old Spanish shipwreck and there were lots of people snorkeling out by that. It was kind of hard for our kids to get there there too long because they couldn’t touch and so they were holding onto our floats (or us!) the whole time. Plus, none of the adults liked being far enough out where we couldn’t see the bottom and the sea grass was pretty thick in some places.
While we were in the lagoon, there were these small dolphin looking things jumping and breeching the surface of the water. It freaked my freak at first because they definitely had FINS on their backs and we all paused for a long minute to make sure they weren’t sharks! But these fish had two fins on their backs, instead of one. “Are they mini-dolphins?” we laughed. They turned out to be tarpon swimming out there and they were HUGE. About the size of Gracie. They didn’t bother the kids at all, but I am not a fan of giant fish in the water with me, so I sat on the shore the rest of the afternoon pretending to protect my beach chair.
Turns out, sitting on shore was just as wildlife-y! These giant iguanas were walking around everywhere! And they weren’t scared of humans at all. This dude camped out right next to my chair for a good five minutes and I almost wet my pants.
We were at the beach all afternoon, exploring and soaking up the sunshine. We would be back at Pennekamp later in the week for a big snorkeling adventure, but so far, John Pennekamp State Park was a big hit for our group!