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4.1
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John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Campground

102601 Rte 1, Key Largo, Florida 33037 USA

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Opens Mon 8a
  • Independent
  • Credit Cards
    Accepted
  • Pet Friendly
  • Wheelchair
    Accessible
  • Public
    Restrooms
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“under the sea!”

Welcome to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park The first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. While the mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks in the park's upland areas offer visitors a unique experience, it is the coral reefs and their associated marine life that bring most visitors to the park. Many enjoy the view of the reef from a glass-bottom boat tour, but visitors can get a closer look by scuba diving or snorkeling.  Canoeing and kayaking through the park's waters are popular activities; fishing is permitted in designated areas. Visitors can enjoy walking on short trails, picnicking, or swimming at the beach. The Visitor Center has a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and nature videos are shown in its theater. Full-facility and Youth/Group campsites are available. Beach wheelchairs are available without cost. Free 24 hour WI-FI at Concession Building and Dive Shop Building. In 1962, the Underwater Society of America was given a Christ of the Deep statue. It was on display at Chicago's Navy Pier for a little bit, and then it was sent to Florida to be sunk in the reef. You can spot it while snorkeling in the reef, or get more up close to it by scuba diving down-- just make sure not to touch it, no matter how tempting it may be, because that can seriously hurt the fragile coral that the statue has supported. Otherwise, enjoy snorkeling through the holy waters!  

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Reviews of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Campground

38 people have reviewed this location

Ratings Summary

4.8 Access
4.9 Location
4.5 Cleanliness
3.6 Site Quality
4.3 Noise

Cell Coverage

Verizon 4G/5G

Confirmed by 18 users | Last reported on October 26, 2023

AT&T 4G/5G

Confirmed by 14 users | Last reported on January 08, 2023

T-Mobile 4G/5G

Confirmed by 8 users | Last reported on March 05, 2023
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  • 1 Review
  • 2 Helpful
May 24, 2013
Rated

Cool place to snorkel

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Greek_nomad

  • Road Warrior
  • 401 Reviews
  • 296 Helpful
September 11, 2014
Rated 4.0

As soon as we heard about the John Pennekamp State Park's coral reefs, we immediately bought diving suits from the shop located at the Park and dived to see it ourselves. The experience is just one in a million. You get to see a great variety of sea creatures. (colorful fish)

The staff that guide and help you snorkel were very helpful. We had a great time while the sea was calm, then we got informed that the sea will become aggressive so we had to end it fast.

Very good experience.

1 person found this review helpful
  • 187 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
August 22, 2015
Rated

We stayed at John Pennekamp State Park at the end of March which is a very busy time in the park both with snowbirds and spring break. We were able to pick up a couple canceled nights through Reserve America with some site stalking.

The campground is only 45 sites and sites are close together with full view of your neighbor with a tropical tree in-between but all sites are full hookup and it is well kept. The cost is high for us but it's an economical stay based on surrounding commercial RV parks in the area. Because the park is so crowded with day trippers, I appreciated the coded gate to the entrance of the campground. Checkout time is 1pm but if you pull out in the morning, there are plenty of long parking spots outside the campground gate (but still within the park) that you are welcome to park at to enjoy the day in the park.

The main draw of this park are the numerous activities to enjoy in the area. There are snorkeling, scuba and glass boat trips that leave from the park however, it was crazy busy when we walked into the concessionaire building so we chose to go with Keys Diver just down the road. The snorkeling here is amazing so sign up for a trip with your preferred company but definitely go! The park also has a great visitors center with huge aquarium displays. There are also kayak and canoe rentals to either enjoy the bay area or a canoe trail amongst the mangroves which is awesome. There are a few easy walking trails within the park and three swimming areas.

Plenty of usable Verizon 4G LTE service.

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roadtripper996029 would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $38.00

Days Stayed: 2

Site Number: 42

5 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
3 Site Quality
4 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 4G

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Reviewed by
Campendium

September 21, 2015
Rated

We loved this park. Definitely would come back here. Snorkeling, kayaking, swimming and other tours within walking distance at the park. They also have a short nature trail for walking dogs. Staff was very friendly. Sewer, water and dump stations at camp site. Great location for people with kids because all activities are at the park. Also local deep sea fishing charters just a few minutes away.

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This reviewer would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $38.00

Days Stayed: 3

Site Number: 18

4 Access
5 Location
4 Cleanliness
4 Site Quality
4 Noise

Reviewed by
annecarol

  • 90 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
June 01, 2016
Rated

The main attraction here is the availability of water sports. Rentals are available for canoes, kayaks and motor boats. There is a glass bottom boat tour, snorkel tours, and scuba diving tours and courses. We definitely recommend the snorkel tour -- beautiful! Beach areas are available for swimming and walk-in snorkeling. You can fish from the shore or from a boat. There is a very nice aquarium at the Visitor Center that is worth a visit. Also we enjoyed walking the short nature trail a couple of times. As noted in a previous review, this park is very busy with day visitor activity, so we too appreciated the gated campground area. But the campground.....the sites are clean, level gravel and the bathrooms/showers were nice, but the sites are close like a parking lot with virtually no vegetation for privacy. Also the sewer connection for your neighbor is unfortunately placed next to the place you'd like to set up chairs under your awning. The bottom line: this is a great base for water activities, but not the spot to slow down and enjoy the campground atmosphere.

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annecarol would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $38.00

Days Stayed: 3

Site Number: 35

5 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
3 Site Quality
3 Noise
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Reviewed by
Campendium

September 07, 2016
Rated

We have been to this park many times over the years and seen the changes. It now has an asphalt drive through the campground and the gated keypad entrance is a great benefit, especially through December and Spring Break when everybody wants to take a drive through the park.
The rest rooms are very roomy and cleaned on a daily basis by resident volunteers.
There were campground hosts on duty throughout the time we were there.
The only negative is the coral stones surface that tent campers have to set up their tents on. If you are camping in a tent, remember to bring extra padding to prevent damage to the base of your tent. Also, tenters and RVers are expected to camp right next to each other which can be a bit awkward.
We go mainly for the snorkeling and diving to the Coral Reef that is just offshore from the marina, but there are a lot of on-shore activities, including numerous restaurants and bars with very good happy hours. The bird sanctuary a few miles south from the park is well worth a visit and there are other sea-life attractions a days' ride away.
Miami is close enough to take a day drive to, as well as the Everglades National Park.
awkward. It would be nice to have a separate area for tent campers.
Cell service is a bit 'sktechy' in the campground (due to the tropical trees everywhere) and we had very limited television reception using our antennae, because of the trees. Satellite reception is available, but you have to move your dish around quite a bit before you get the best signal..

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This reviewer would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $38.00

Days Stayed: 5

Site Number: 17

5 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
4 Site Quality
4 Noise

Reviewed by
dattoll

  • 136 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
December 07, 2016
Rated

This park is absolutely beautiful. Staff is great. Sites are a bit close

Dings: Noseeums loved me. They were thick all day. We stayed 3 Nights instead of 7 because of this issue. Headed to Bahia Honda hoping it's a little better.

Stayed Dec 4-7, 2016. $38 plus tax

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Nightly Rate: $38.00

Days Stayed: 3

Site Number: 38

5 Access
5 Location
5 Cleanliness
4 Site Quality
4 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 4G

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Reviewed by
Campendium

January 15, 2017
Rated

This is a great stop on your way down the keys. There are so many activities that you can do here (see the other reviews below). The bugs were insane in December (No See Ums), we couldn't be outside in the evening...so have bug repellant on hand. Very easy access into the park from the highway. The campground itself is not very impressive for a state park, but the park itself has great features, like a nature center with aquariums, trails and a small beach. It was worth staying here just to have entry into the state park for a day. We enjoyed it here, but I wouldn't stay for more than a night or two.

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This reviewer would stay here again

Nightly Rate: $46.00

Days Stayed: 2

Site Number: 10

4 Access
5 Location
3 Cleanliness
3 Site Quality
4 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 4G

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Reviewed by
Campendium

January 25, 2017
Rated

Dear Mr. Pennekamp, CR,

It is with a heavy heart that I write you from the trenches of the Floridian strip malls, where I have seen many of my fellow campers go broke from high fees at RV parks or find their souls tattered from lack of hope that they might ever get a reservation at one of the Sunshine State's great sites at a state park.

Months ago in preparation for a visit to these fabled Florida Keys, I booked my reservation with your fine establishment. I would be remiss should I not mention that I was indeed hoping to find the favor of your sister to the south, Bahia Honda, but a certain light did come to develop in my eyes when I realized that I might have a shot at spot number 9 in your own campground. Given my relatively vast experience with state parks throughout Florida, I had nothing but the highest of hopes...and perhaps that is where our relationship's downfall began.

They say expectations set too high are the source of all problems, and I am--for that--admittedly guilty. Where I had hoped for some sandy, waterfront expanse to pitch my tents, park my van, grill my own food and rally 'round a campfire nightly with my family as we basked in the glow of the Real Florida, these small slices of the Keys left untainted by too many a flip flop shop or Starbucks drive through, I arrived to a grim sort of reality that my six day reservation was, in all likelihood, six days too long.

Instead of a spacious area to call my own come evening's beckon, a nice patch of nature to call home after long days spent frolicking in the waters and amongst the birds for which we largely came to this region to enjoy, I was greeted with what I can best describe as an RV park, and of the least desirable type.

While those coming here are, admittedly, more likely to do so in a large RV where they can retreat into the living spaces and lose themselves in the broadcast networks of their choice, for the camper who is in it for the nature, for a chance to be outside and enjoy the world around him, this is simply not what your grounds could afford.

Sleeping in a tent to the soft hum of my neighbor's hot water heater dappled with the barking of his dogs, I realize now the good fortunes of my past. That ground fires are not permitted is not your own fault entirely, but to provide raised pits for your guests perhaps would have been a token of appreciation that this fling we had together meant something more to you than just another leveling jack crunching on your gravel pad.

Please don't get me wrong, they were all not bad times. Indeed, the massive orange iguanas, the herrons and ibis, the whistle of the palmettos and even the nightly raccoons and feral cats who frequented our site in hopes of finding some crumb my children left behind were all lovely experiences. Likewise, nor do I hold the unseasonably cold weather, the rain or the mosquitos against you. Indeed, these are the rigors I have come to appreciate about camping.

Should you find it in your heart to expand the slice of the park meant for campers, or perhaps even to rework the campsites so that each could have even 1/3rd more space, were that time to come I hope we can wipe clean these past indiscretions and give what I had hoped would be a strong young love a chance to flourish anew.

It will be difficult though. Just as it was difficult to leave without saying goodbye, four days early, and only over the phone. Just as I find it nearly insurmountable that your otherwise fine park attendants didn't bother to mention that I was indeed owned a partial refund, a policy for which I commend you, but take some piece of sorrow with me back to the mainland that I hadn't been openly made aware of upon checkout.

I wish you nothing but the best, and please tell the lovely ranger who was astounded that my 4 and 5 year old boys could complete an incredibly difficult Junior Ranger Program in but two days that, should she check her records, we are the first to have ever completed said program a few years back.

Now I am just bragging...

Regretfully no longer yours,

Nathan P. Sourcamper

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Nightly Rate: $44.00

Days Stayed: 2

Site Number: 9

5 Access
4 Location
3 Cleanliness
1 Site Quality
4 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

AT&T 4G

T-Mobile 4G

Reviewed by
leighwetzel

  • 347 Reviews
  • 0 Helpful
January 28, 2017
Rated

John Pennekamp has full hookups and a low nightly rate for the location. The downside is, the campground is so cramped that your neighbor's sewer connection is predominant in your outdoor space and smells are regularly wafting through the campground.

We didn't use the bathhouse or laundry, though we did take advantage of the marina and rented a boat and with some friends to go snorkeling.

NOT BOOSTED:
Verizon - DOWNLOAD: 4.29Mb/s, UPLOAD: 10.97Mb/s
AT&T - DOWNLOAD: 12.34Mb/s, UPLOAD: 1.78Mb/s

BOOSTED:
Verizon - DOWNLOAD: 8.67Mb/s, UPLOAD: 15.66Mb/s (4 bars LTE)
AT&T - DOWNLOAD: 20.10Mb/s, UPLOAD: 6.19Mb/s (5 bars LTE)

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Nightly Rate: $38.00

Days Stayed: 6

Site Number: 36

4 Access
5 Location
4 Cleanliness
3 Site Quality
4 Noise

Cell Coverage Rating

Verizon 4G

AT&T 4G

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John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Campground

102601 Rte 1
Key Largo, Florida
33037 USA
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Hours

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  • Sun - Sat: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

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    Pets Allowed
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    Wifi
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    Wheelchair Accessible
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    Credit Cards Accepted
Max Stay
14
Max Length
55 ft
Affiliation
State park or forest
Sites Count
42
Last Nightly Rate
36.0
Lowest Nightly Rate
26.0
Back In RV Sites Count
22
Longest Vehicle Length Reported
38.0
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    Laundry
  • Unavailable
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    Big Rigs
  • Unavailable
    Boondock
  • Unavailable
    Firewood
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    Fifty Amp
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    Full Hookup
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  • Unavailable
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  • Unavailable
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    Public Water
  • Unavailable
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    Sewer Hookup
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    Water Hookup
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    Potable Water
  • Unavailable
    Age Restricted
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    Rec Facilities
  • Unavailable
    Dispersed Sites
  • Unavailable
    Open Seasonally
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    Permit Required
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    Group Tent Sites
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