The reason we love coming to this Florida State Park is that there is so much to do, whether out to sea or on land. If you are a pure water lover, you can base yourself here for days on end either with a canoe, traversing the maze of mangrove swamps, or, if (like us), you prefer to be out on the ocean in your own boat, there are numerous coral reefs that you can visit on a daily basis while camping in the park.
Usually, on arrival at the campsite, we take our boat directly to the attached marina, where there is a free, allocated dingy docking area. We use our 'boat loader' to plop the boat in the water and take it around to the dingy dock, where we tie up and leave the boat for the duration of our stay. Because the marina is a short walk from the campsite, it is very convenient to not have to drive very far to start our days activities.
If you are happy to mix your visit with either enjoying the great outdoors and enjoying some sightseeing, the opportunities for day trips are endless. We can either take our vehicle or a bus ride northwards into Miami for the day, or we can go further south towards Key West. Traveling from Key Largo south should be on anyone's bucket list of things to do before they die. The bridge construction between each 'Key' is just phenomenal, considering that the original purpose of joining the islands together was to make way for a train ride from the mainland all the way to Key West and then a short boat ride to Cuba where the rich and famous would be able to spend their days on the beautiful Cuban beaches and their nights gambling and carousing in the colonial town of Havana, with it's then beautiful architecture.
The whole plan was cut short when access to Cuba was not a popular option and then the railway was severely damaged by hurricanes. But more of the history of the Flagler Railway empire in another blog.
Back at Pennekamp, the other activities afforded campers is the newly completed bicycle track that bike owners will enjoy traveling alongside Highway 1 for many miles, south of Key Largo. Of course, there are numerous walking trails that hikers can enjoy.
The campground at John Pennekamp is well laid out, with 44 sites available for use either by large RVs that need a full electric and sewer hookup, or tent campers who can hook up to the electric plug-ins if they wish. The campsites are notoriously close together and campers will be slotted next to each other. This is not a problem if everyone is respectful of their neighbors, ie. no loud music or gatherings until late into the night.
The base for all campsites is coral. The big ding here, especially for tent campers is that you will be subject to either your tent base getting damaged by the coarse coral stones, or your bare feet will feel the brunt of the sharp corals. The suggestion is that you come prepared with an extra tarp to put under your tent, and be prepared to always wear shoes when on your campsite. RVers might also want to consider bringing a heavy duty outdoor carpet to lay at their doorstep to make it easier to move around the outside of your RV.
Another ding about being anywhere in Florida in the summer is the no-see-ums and the mosquitoes. Even in winter, the no-see-ums can be bad on a warm evening, especially around sunset. Bring lots of bug lotion with you and, if you have the space, bring a fan that can be set up outside your tent or RV so that you can sit outside in the evenings.
The camp has two very clean restrooms that include numerous hot showers and sinks, all with good water pressure. There is a nice dish washing sink in the same area as where the washing machines and dryers are located, so visitors can get their clothes and dish-washing chores done in one visit.
John Pennekamp is a very popular campsite, so if you plan to visit around any holidays throughout the year, including Spring Break, expect to have difficulty getting into a site that you want. Go to RESERVEAMERICA.COM and pre-book a site, or if you are coming during the quieter months, refer to the ReserveAmerica.com site to check on availability options if you want to check in when you arrive.