Explore Top 9 Florida Keys State Parks: Bahia Honda & More

florida keys state parks

What You Will Learn (Click to Expand)

Dive into Florida's Natural Wonders

Unveiling the Top 9 State Parks

Prepare to embark on a journey filled with the awe-inspiring scenery and serene landscapes of the Florida Keys. With a constellation of 10 state parks dotting the archipelago, each offers unique adventures and breathtaking vistas.

From underwater playgrounds teeming with marine life to tranquil havens of rare flora, these parks are living postcards waiting for your exploration. 

Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of Florida Keys State Parks!

Northern Gateway to Paradise

1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: The Underwater Marvel

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Experience the aquatic marvel of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, a pristine underwater treasure trove. Renowned as the first undersea park in the United States, this park stretches over 70 nautical square miles.

Discover the vibrant colors and diverse marine life as you snorkel or dive into the park’s coral reefs, a spectacle that draws nature enthusiasts from all over the world.

Top 5 Features:

  • Glass-bottom boat tours for a dry view of the coral reefs.
  • Scuba diving and snorkeling for an up-close encounter with marine life.
  • Canoeing and kayaking through mangrove waterways.
  • Tropical hammock trails for a land-based nature experience.
  • Saltwater aquarium and informative nature videos at the Visitor Center.


  • Offers educational opportunities about marine ecosystems.
  • Encourages physical activity and adventure in a natural setting.


  • Some activities may not be suitable for those with mobility issues.
  • The popularity of the park may lead to crowded conditions, especially during peak seasons.

Best for:

  • Nature lovers and marine enthusiasts looking for a vivid underwater experience as well as families seeking an educational and immersive adventure in a unique ecosystem.

2. Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park: A Tropical Haven

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

Step into the lush, green embrace of Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, a tropical haven that showcases an incredible diversity of flora and fauna.

This park is a serene escape where you can wander through six miles of tranquil trails and marvel at one of the largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammocks in the United States.

Top 5 Features:

  • Over 6 miles of trails are suitable for hiking and biking.
  • Accessibility options include paved pathways for wheelchairs.
  • Interpretive signage for self-guided educational nature trails.
  • A rich variety of 84 protected species of plants and animals.
  • A peaceful retreat away from the more tourist-heavy areas.


  • Provides a habitat for rare and endangered species.
  • Promotes conservation and awareness of delicate ecosystems.


  • Limited recreational activities compared to other parks.
  • Wildlife viewing may require patience and is not guaranteed.

Best for:

  • Eco-tourists and nature enthusiasts interested in biodiversity, bird watchers, hikers looking for a quiet, natural setting, and anyone seeking to learn about local ecosystems and wildlife conservation efforts.

Ensure you’re ready for your Key West getaway with our ultimate packing list, tailored for the perfect island escape!

Middle Keys' Hidden Gems

3. Curry Hammock State Park: Nature in Harmony

Curry Hammock State Park

Nestle into the tranquil beauty of Curry Hammock State Park, an untouched sanctuary where land and water activities merge in natural harmony.

With its 1,000 acres of preserved wilderness, this park features the largest uninhabited parcel of land between Key Largo and Big Pine Key – a true gem for those who cherish seclusion.

Top 5 Features:

  • Paddle-friendly waterways are perfect for kayaking, paddleboarding, and kiteboarding.
  • A picturesque 1.5-mile-long nature trail for hiking enthusiasts.
  • Family-friendly amenities like picnic areas with playgrounds.
  • Solar-powered hot showers and well-maintained restrooms for comfortable camping.
  • Secluded beachfront for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.


  • Enjoys a low-profile presence, offering a less crowded experience.
  • Supports a wide variety of terrestrial and marine wildlife in a protected setting.


  • Limited camping spaces make it essential to book well in advance.
  • A greater appeal to those seeking a rustic and natural experience, potentially less so for those looking for luxury.

Best for:

  • Beachgoers who yearn for camping by the sea, nature lovers looking to paddle in pristine waters, and families eager to engage in outdoor recreation away from the bustling tourist spots.

For the ultimate Key West experience, explore the best hotels in Key West. Check out our recommended list for top-notch accommodations.

4. Long Key State Park: Where History and Recreation Collide

Long Key State Park

Long Key State Park stands as a historical beacon, once an exclusive resort, now a captivating locale where recreation and history intersect. 

Immerse yourself in this park where crystal-clear waters invite you to swim, and trails lead you through tropical habitats straight out of a historical novel.

Top 5 Features:

  • The Golden Orb Trail winds through the park, offering an incredible bird-watching experience.
  • A span of shallow, clear waters ideal for kayaking, snorkeling, and swimming.
  • Fishing opportunities along the flats and shoreline to catch the big one.
  • Primitive campsites stretched along the Atlantic shore for a rustic retreat.
  • Historical significance as a luxury resort, adding an enriching element to your visit.


  • Combines outdoor recreation with a historical narrative unique to the Keys.
  • Provides a habitat for rare wildlife, especially for birding aficionados.


  • After the destruction caused by hurricanes, amenities are more limited than in other parks.
  • Primitive camping might not appeal to those accustomed to more amenities.

Best for:

  • History buffs and outdoor enthusiasts are looking to capture the essence of the Florida Keys’ past while enjoying its present natural beauty. 
  • Ideal for those seeking a tranquil environment to camp, fish, and explore less-trodden paths.

Unlock the secrets to a seamless Key West adventure with these essential travel tips!

Hair Tools Travel Bag

Store your everyday haircare accessories at home and on the go with our 2-in-1 Hair Tools Bag and Heat Resistant Mat.

Southern Charms of the Keys

5. Bahia Honda State Park: A Blend of Sun, Sand, and Sea

Bahia Honda State Park is the epitome of relaxation, epitomized by its sparkling sandy beaches, jewel-toned waters, and balmy sea breezes.

This idyllic enclave in the Lower Keys offers visitors a tropical retreat where they can lounge on the beach, explore the old railroad trestle, and absorb the majestic sunsets.

Top 5 Features:

  • Some of the Keys’ finest sandy beaches are perfect for sunbathing and building sandcastles.
  • The historic Bahia Honda Rail Bridge provides panoramic views of the island.
  • Exceptional snorkeling with vibrant coral and plentiful tropical fish.
  • Rental options are available for kayaks, snorkeling gear, and paddleboards.
  • Nature trails and bird-watching opportunities abound in the park.


  • An award-winning beach environment for a quintessential Florida Keys experience.
  • A wide variety of activities cater to all ages and interests.


  • Vulnerable to seaweed influxes, which may affect beach quality at times.
  • It can be crowded during peak tourist season, making parking challenging.

Best for:

  • Beach lovers looking for soft sands and clear waters, snorkeling enthusiasts eager to explore marine life, and families seeking an accessible and engaging outdoor experience.
  • If you’re after stunning oceanic views and a full day’s worth of diverse outdoor activities, Bahia Honda State Park beckons.

Don’t forget to check out our handpicked pet-friendly hotels in Key West, providing the perfect retreat for you and your furry family members.

6. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park: Past Meets Present

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park serves as a bridge between epochs, combining the lure of historical intrigue with the splendor of southern Florida’s natural beauty.

Here, you can delve into the country’s past by touring an actual Civil War fortress and then cool off in the inviting waters that paint the park’s edge.

Top 5 Features:

  • Home to the largest cache of Civil War armament in the world, perfect for history buffs.
  • Crystal-clear waters for prime swimming, snorkeling, and fishing.
  • Nature trails that let you explore the local flora and observe wildlife.
  • Daily guided tours of the fort provide a dive into the park’s historical significance.
  • A picturesque beachfront ideal for picnicking and sunset views.


  • Fosters an appreciation of American history through immersive experiences.
  • Offers diverse activities, blending cultural enrichment with beach recreation.


  • The beach may sometimes be rocky, so water shoes are recommended.
  • Busy on holidays and weekends, it’s wise to visit early if you seek solitude.

Best for:

  • Anyone enamored with the idea of walking in the footsteps of history combined with the joy of beachside activities.
  • This park is especially appealing to those interested in Civil War history and families looking for an educational yet enjoyable trip.

Exploring Key West’s charm? Take a break from the beaches and explore the best shopping in Key West. You won’t be disappointed!

Unique Discoveries in the Lower Keys

7. Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park: Rare Beauty Revealed

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park

Discover the secluded enchantment of Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park, a living snapshot of the Florida Keys as they once were, untouched and fully enveloped by nature.

This rare beauty is home to one of the last old-growth hardwood hammock forests in the region and is accessible only by boat. 

It offers an exclusive escape into a world where endangered plants thrive, and history resonates through the preserved Matheson Homestead.

Top 5 Features:

  • Guided tours of the Matheson House, which peeks into the life of early 20th-century Keys settlers.
  • The Lignumvitae tree itself is a central feature after which the island is named.
  • Pristine coral formations are visible during nature walks.
  • Kayak trails through red mangrove creeks for intimate encounters with the park’s serene waters.
  • Opportunities to spot rare and protected bird species among the hardwood canopy.


  • Serves as a protection area for vulnerable species and delicate ecosystems.
  • Presents a genuinely off-the-beaten-path experience with its boat-only accessibility.


  • Accessibility may be limited for some visitors due to the need for boat transportation.
  • Less developed amenities compared to other state parks in the area.

Best for:

  • Adventurers looking to explore the hidden natural wonders of the Keys, birdwatchers, history enthusiasts, and anyone in search of a tranquil and exclusive environmental experience.
  •  This park is truly a sanctuary for those yearning to connect with a rare piece of Florida’s lush history.

Discover the perfect RV park in the Florida Keys to kick back, relax, and soak in the island vibes!

Hair Tools Travel Bag

Store your everyday haircare accessories at home and on the go with our 2-in-1 Hair Tools Bag and Heat Resistant Mat.

8. Indian Key Historic State Park: An Island Steeped in Lore

Indian Key Historic State Park is a unique blend of abandonment and natural splendor, a ghost town set amidst tropical beauty. Once the county seat of Dade County, this now uninhabited island retains the mystique of its past.

The draw of this locale is its easy, safe kayak trip and the freedom to walk through remains of the original village, making it an adventurous excursion back in time.

Top 5 Features:

  • Unspoiled historic village roads and building foundations to explore.
  • Snorkeling opportunities around the island to see a variety of sea life up close.
  • Paddle-sport activities like kayaking to and around the island.
  • Stunning views of the Alligator Reef Lighthouse from the ocean side.
  • A quiet picnic spot away from the hustle and bustle of mainland Florida Keys.


  • Offers an intimate look at Florida Keys’ history and 19th-century life.
  • Provides a peaceful, less-crowded alternative to more popular destinations.


  • No camping facilities, which limits overnight stays and multi-day explorations.
  • The snorkeling experience requires careful navigation over the rocky shore, which could be a drawback for some.

Best for:

  • Those who relish the chance to uncover islands lost in time, maritime history enthusiasts, and nature aficionados eager to kayak and snorkel in less-traveled waters.
  • This park suits anyone looking for an educational adventure along with a healthy dose of tranquility and beauty.

Looking to reel in some memories? Dive into our curated selection of Florida Keys fishing spots and discover where the action is hot and the fish are biting!

Beyond Beaches: Specialty Adventures Await

9. Dry Tortugas National Park: Remote Island Exploration

Dry Tortugas National Park

Embark on the ultimate adventure to Dry Tortugas National Park, a remote island exploration that promises intrigue and unparalleled natural beauty. 

Located almost 70 miles west of Key West, this park is a treasure trove of history, including the immense Fort Jefferson, stunning blue waters, vibrant coral reefs, and a rich tapestry of avian life.

Top 5 Features:

  • The colossal Fort Jefferson is one of the largest 19th-century American forts and a captivating piece of history.
  • The shimmering clear waters invite you to dive, snorkel, and discover one of the most beautiful coral reef environments.
  • enigmatic shipwrecks and maritime heritage sites scattered around the park, ready for exploration by diving enthusiasts.
  • Secluded sandy beaches for a peaceful retreat, sunbathing, and picnicking.
  • A diverse bird population makes it a prime spot for birdwatching, especially during migrations.


  • Offers a truly isolated experience far from the usual tourist spots.
  • Preserves an incredible array of natural and historical resources for future generations.


  • Limited access, reachable only by boat or seaplane, which could pose a challenge for planning and accessibility.
  • The remote location makes it necessary to bring all supplies, as there are no services on the island.

Best for:

  • Intrepid travelers were eager for a sense of adventure away from the throngs of tourists, history buffs fascinated with military architecture, and nature enthusiasts longing to revel in the undersea wonders and birdlife of a less-touched paradise.
  • This park is a match for those who appreciate the serenity of an isolated natural sanctuary mingled with a rich historical tapestry.

Plan Your Adventure Smartly

Practical Tips for Visiting the Florida Keys State Parks

Florida Keys State Parks

Before you pack your bags and head to the beautiful Florida Keys State Parks, here are some practical tips to ensure that your encounter with nature is unforgettable—and for all the right reasons:

  • Check the Weather: The Keys can be hot and sunny but also experience sudden showers. Pack sunscreen, rain gear, and plenty of water.
  • Be Mindful of the Ecosystem: These parks are home to fragile ecosystems. Stick to designated areas, and remember not to disturb the wildlife.
  • Book in Advance: Popular activities like camping or guided tours often fill up quickly. It’s best to reserve ahead to secure your spot.
  • Bring Suitable Gear: Depending on your plans, you might need swimwear, snorkeling gear, comfortable walking shoes, or water shoes—especially for rocky shorelines.
  • Pack Your Snacks: While some parks offer concessions, many don’t. Bring enough food and drinks, especially when venturing out to more remote areas.
  • Leave No Trace: Whatever you bring into the park should leave with you. Help keep the Keys pristine by packing away all trash.
  • No Lifeguard on Duty: In most state parks in the Keys, including lovely beach locations, lifeguards are not on duty, so always practice safe swimming and snorkeling.
  • Acquaint Yourself With the Parks Rules: Each park has its own set of rules and hours of operation. A quick visit to their respective websites can provide valuable, specific details.
  • Invest in a Florida State Park Pass: If you plan on visiting multiple state parks, considering a pass might make your travels easier and more economical.

Adhering to these tips will not only enhance your visit but also contribute to the preservation of the Florida Keys State Parks for future adventurers to enjoy.

Reserve Your Spot: Kayak Rentals and Tour Bookings

Kayak Rentals and Tour Bookings

Ready for an up-close personal encounter with the natural beauty of the Florida Keys? Don’t miss out on the chance to paddle through mangrove canopies, glide over seagrass beds, and potentially spot marine life by securing your kayak rental or tour booking in advance.

With miles of scenic paddling trails like those in Pennekamp waters, it’s a must-do activity.

  • Book Early: Especially during peak tourist seasons, rentals and tours can be booked up quickly. Reserve as soon as your travel dates are set.
  • Explore Options: Look for packages that might offer guided tours, which provide expert insights into the local ecology and hidden spots you might miss on your own.
  • Consider Your Skill Level: If you’re a beginner, guided tours can offer additional safety and instruction. For the more experienced, renting a kayak gives you freedom to explore.
  • Pack Appropriately: For a day on the water, essentials include sun protection, water shoes, waterproof bags for personal items, and hydration.
  • Stay Informed: Always check in with rental companies or guides on the day of your excursion for any last-minute changes due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

With a reservation in hand, you’ll be set for a day of serene exploration, all while experiencing the Keys’ unique ecosystem from the water.

FAQ: Answers to Your Florida Keys Queries

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and Bahia Honda State Park are top picks for snorkeling in the Florida Keys. They offer clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and abundant marine life, providing an exceptional underwater experience.

Absolutely! You’ll find a variety of accommodations ranging from quaint bed-and-breakfasts to luxury resorts near state parks. For proximity to both John Pennekamp and Bahia Honda, consider staying in Key Largo or Marathon. They offer a comfortable base for your park explorations.

There are 10 state parks in the Florida Keys, each offering unique experiences, from snorkeling and hiking to exploring historical sites and enjoying serene beachfronts.

The Florida Keys is home to one majestic national park, Dry Tortugas National Park, renowned for its stunning coral reefs, abundant marine life, and historic Fort Jefferson.

Walking from Key Largo to Key West isn’t practical due to the 100-plus mile distance and limited pedestrian pathways along the Overseas Highway. It’s best explored by vehicle or bicycle in segments.

At John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, you can see colorful coral reefs, a plethora of marine life, and the famous Christ of the Abyss statue, all best viewed by snorkeling, scuba diving, or taking a glass-bottom boat tour.

Bahia Honda State Park is located at Mile Marker 37 in the Lower Florida Keys, on Bahia Honda Key near Big Pine Key. It’s renowned for its iconic beaches and clear waters.

Secret hangouts in the Florida Keys include hidden coves, peaceful beaches, and secluded islands accessible by boat, like the tucked-away Indian Key Historic State Park or the serene Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park.

Driving from Key Largo to Key West is a scenic journey worth taking. The Overseas Highway offers breathtaking ocean views, and you’ll pass through various key islands, each with its charms and attractions.

The entrance fee for Bahia Honda State Park is around per person for single-occupant vehicles, and about the vehicle for up to 8 passengers; additional passengers are priced. Exact fees can vary, so checking the park’s official site before visiting is a good idea.

The famous national park close to Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park, noted for its historic Fort Jefferson, stunning blue waters, and exceptional snorkeling above vibrant coral reefs.

Yes, Bahia Honda State Park is worth visiting for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters, snorkeling, and iconic views from the historic Bahia Honda Rail Bridge. It’s a must-see destination in the Florida Keys.

You can camp at several Florida Keys state parks, including John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Bahia Honda State Park, Long Key State Park, and Curry Hammock State Park. Amenities vary from basic to RV hookups, so choose based on your camping style.

Yes, a map of Florida Keys state parks is available. You can usually find one online through the Florida State Parks website or pick up a hard copy at any of the park visitor centers or local tourist information outlets.

To make camping reservations at Florida Keys state parks, visit the official Florida State Parks reservation website, ReserveAmerica, or call their reservation line. Booking can typically be made up to 11 months in advance.

A campsite map for individual Florida Keys state parks can often be found on the Florida State Park’s official website or at ReserveAmerica where you can make your camping reservation. These maps detail the layout of the campsites and amenities.

Cabins are not a common offering in Florida Keys state parks due to the environmental sensitivity of the area. Most parks provide tent and RV camping alternatives. Always check the latest amenities online before planning your stay.

The best Florida Keys state parks to visit include John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for snorkeling, Bahia Honda State Park for beaches, and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park for history. Each park offers a unique slice of the Keys.

Yes, you can camp at Bahia Honda State Park. There are campsites available for both tents and RVs, complete with various amenities like picnic tables, grills, and electricity, but it’s wise to reserve early!

Camping at John Pennekamp State Park is possible, with sites for both tents and RVs, featuring electrical hook-ups, and access to bathhouses. It’s a popular spot, so booking well in advance is recommended.

Made by travelers, for travelers, check out the Barefoot Caribou Products below!

Conclusion: Florida Keys State Parks

The Florida Keys State Parks are a string of tropical gems, where every park offers something different, from serene beaches and historic monuments to unique ecosystems and underwater wonders. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, nature lover, or simply searching for relaxation amid picturesque landscapes, the Keys provide a multitude of experiences that cater to every interest.

Remember to plan, respect the delicate environments, and immerse yourself fully in the splendor of these natural sanctuaries. Your adventure in the Florida Keys awaits, promising memories that will last a lifetime. So grab your gear, mark your maps, and set out to discover the top 10 state parks that make the Florida Keys a destination like no other.

Which Florida Keys State Park is your favorite for outdoor adventures? Share your top picks and memorable experiences below!

Other Posts You Will Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Exclusive Travel Tips

Receive the same tips we use to make traveling easy and fun and special coupons and promotions.

*We respect your privacy and Do Not Spam.

Please share this article

Scroll to Top

Get the Packing eBook for Free

The Universal Packing List 2.0 is our most comprehensive cheklist, so you never forget a thing when you travel.

Your eBook will be delivered to your email address. Please also check the Spam folder.