Apart from a few background shots, the Humphrey Bogart classic Key Largo wasn’t actually filmed here. But then Key Largo doesn’t need the silver screen to advertise its charms, since the secret is already out. Famed as the ‘Dive Capital of the World’, vacationers in the know opt for Key Largo holidays not only for the quality of what lies beneath the water, but for palm trees and sunsets, beach action, excellent sport fishing, and some stunningly beautiful State parks.
If it’s diving you want though, then Key Largo holidays can’t be beaten. The dive shops that line Overseas Highway are a clue to the quality of the underwater action here, and you can either learn the ropes with an instructor or head straight out. This is one of the best and only places in the USA you can access a living reef, complete with mesmerising marine life, but there are also sunken wrecks to explore – including the 140-foot deep US Navy ship Spiegel Grove.
The snorkelling is equally captivating for anyone who prefers to be shore-based, and at Cannon Beach you can spot not only multi-coloured fish but underwater artefacts from an 18th-century Spanish shipwreck. If you don’t fancy donning a mask, then glass-bottomed boat tours are the way to go – plus there’s a multitude of other water-based activities, from boating and jet skis to paragliding. Or for a quieter time you can go kayaking in the back country.
Come sundown, there’s plenty of restaurants and bars to keep you busy well into the night, whether there’s a quiet cocktail or a seafood feast on your personal menu. Plus you shouldn’t miss Key Largo institution the Caribbean Club, where flaming sunsets, stiff drinks, live music and Bogart-Bacall memorabilia help to round off yet another perfect Key Largo day.
America’s first undersea park is a vast natural wonder, with stunning coral reefs, exotic marine life, and a submerged bronze statue of Christ to explore. Anyone not wanting to dive or snorkel can glide across the reef in a glass-bottom boat; plus there’s canoeing and kayaking; and nature trails through the mangrove swamps.
Plenty of boats head out from Key Largo each day, taking anglers to the reef and beyond in search of mahi-mahi, tuna, sailfish, grouper and marlin. In fact it’s said that more saltwater fishing world records are broken in the Florida Keys than anywhere else around the globe. There’s also excellent backwater fishing for elusive bonefish, and wreck fishing too.
For a chance to learn about, swim alongside and interact with dolphins, head to the Dolphins Plus or Dolphin Cove marine education centres. Choose from ‘structured’ or ‘natural’ swims and then shake a fin, play chase, hitch a ride or accept a cuddle from these fascinating and lovable aquatic mammals.
Be sure to make a trip to the nearby Everglades National Park during Key Largo holidays – a unique natural wilderness of tropical wetlands with breathtaking scenery and abundant wildlife. Walk the Anhinga Trail to spot alligators, turtles and all manner of exotic bird life, then hook up with a ranger to identify them for you. Finish off your trip by kayaking through the sawgrass.
Humphrey Bogart’s association with Key Largo doesn’t finish with the film of the same name or the memorabilia on the walls of the Caribbean Club – the river steamer from his classic 1951 movie African Queen is permanently moored here. Channel your inner Humphrey or Katharine Hepburn with a canal or dinner cruise aboard.