I have been trying since we bought this RV in September to get a reservation at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park…..it is about the hardest site to reserve ever! But I finally got a 2 night reservation for Barry’s birthday, and we planned our trip to Florida around it!
The campground is small with only 39 campsites; but to get there you have to drive through the beautiful mangrove hardwoods and past the dive / snorkeling / kayaking / swimming lagoons! Our site (#37) backed up to the mangroves and was completely shaded by noon…..an important feature in the Keys. We had full hookups and used our WiFi HotSpot rather than the spotty campground WiFi, but our Dish found the satellite easily for TV watching. There is no dog park here, but lots of bags and trash cans for their deposits. Of course, Ratchet took me to the nearest waters edge and waded in to his belly as usual! I was watchful for things that might be lurking in the water though! The shower rooms are clean and nice and the campground is gated to prevent the public from wandering in! Every type of campers were here: big coaches, 5th wheels, campers, even tents.
After we checked in, my friend, Cindy and I went snorkeling there. I grew up terribly afraid of water and never, ever put my face under……until about 5 years ago when Cindy invited me to come down here with her to snorkel. I knew my son and Cindy loved to snorkel and thought it was about time I got over that fear…..now, five years later, I will go out of my way to snorkel! Cindy and I love to come here to John Pennekamp (the $$ is right, and we love the protected reefs here), love the 2.5 hour trips (4.5 is just too long!), and could float around Grecian Rocks every time! We have been to both Grecian Rocks and Dry Rocks and the Christ of The Abyss area and took a private tour out to Molasses Reef once also; Grecian Rocks is our first choice. If you have not been snorkeling before, it is amazing! It takes about 45 minutes to get out to the reef and we pass over beds of sea grass before the water begins to turn a breath-taking color of light blue/green…..that is the sandy bottom before the reef. The boat moors off the reef and far enough away that he can’t be washed over it to avoid any chance of damage. The boat captain & dive master (necessary for every trip out) have lectured us before we left the dock, as we moved through the mangroves and again, just now before we left the boat about safety and not touching anything or standing up anywhere and, splash we were in the warm, salty water! We saw sea urchins, barracuda, fish of every size and color (grouper, parrot fish, angel fish, I don’t even know what they all are) and so many varieties of coral! Sorry, no cameras or phones on the trip!
Afterward, we joined Barry and had dinner at the famous Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen in Key Largo. Lobster bites, Mahi was the fish of the day, sweet tea and the famous Key Lime Pie finished our wonderful day!
The next day was Barry’s actual birthday, Cindy returned to Ft. Lauderdale, and Barry & I went out to kayak in the mangroves. I am not the most coordinated person and fought with my paddle and kayak as much as possible….usually propelling myself into the low-hanging mangrove branches and then trying to figure out how to get out of them! We floated deep in the mangroves trying to see wildlife, any wildlife, but for nothing! No reptiles, amphibians, birds, well, maybe a few fish…..but I was hoping to see manatee! Nope! After a couple of hours, we went back to the RV to shower and rest and walk the dogs before dinner.
Barry’s choice for his birthday dinner was our favorite Key Largo place, The Buzzard’s Roost. It sits away from the main road and touristy places, and shares the water with Garden Cove Marina. They have 3 dining areas: A/C, covered screen porch, and an outdoor space near the water. We sat in the porch (less flying insects here) and enjoyed the marina activity while we enjoyed our dinner. The important thing here is the unbelievable coconut cake with warm pineapple rum sauce. Every time we visit the Keys, we stop to eat this sweet treat, and never regret it! During dessert, a fishing boat came in to unload his huge fish coolers, they were full of ballyhoo, a bait fish used by saltwater fishermen. They were small, silvery-green fish with a long “beak” and the coolers filled with fish and ice were full!
Our two nights passed too quickly, the skies clouded, rain threatened, and we headed to Ft. Lauderdale to celebrate our grandson’s 2nd birthday!