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Looking for family vacation ideas?

The Florida Keys should be at the top of your list! This coral island archipelago stretches 120 miles off the southern tip of the state of Florida, with five white sandy beaches, azure blue water, and plenty of family-friendly activities. The Florida Keys are well known for fishing, boating, snorkeling, scuba diving, or complete relaxation! And after a day full of fun in the sun, you can just hang out and watch a spectacular Florida Keys sunset.

Whether it’s the first stop on your Florida Keys vacation or your only destination, Key Largo offers plenty of options for all types of families. If your family is the type to want to do nothing and purely enjoy the scenery, this tropical island can be your peaceful escape, where the days go by and time slows down. Or if your family is full of energy and has an adventurous spirit, Key Largo has endless fun and activities for you!  

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The Keys exude the feel of a Caribbean vacation without ever leaving the country.  And, if you live in South Florida, it’s just a few hours away.

We have a lot of families that stay with us, so we’ve compiled a list of great family-friendly things to do in Key Largo, and we wanted to share it with you.  It will make your Florida Keys vacation planning easier, and in the Keys, we’re all about easier!

Family-Friendly Things To Do In Key Largo

Take a look at these fun-filled, outdoor activities you can do with your family on a Florida Keys vacation.

 

Swim with Dolphins at Dolphins Plus

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Dolphins Plus is a great place to see to get up close and personal with dolphins and other marine creatures.  Dolphins Plus is known for their structured swim and shallow water encounters with Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, available to adults and kids over 3 years old*. They also offer fun dockside programs for kids as young as 6 months old*, where you get to experience just kiss from a dolphin or even handshakes, belly rubs, and paint with them while sitting on a floating platform. (* Minimum age & requirements vary depending on dolphin encounter chosen.)

 

Watersports and Activities Around Key Largo

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Key Largo is surrounded by beautiful warm waters year round, as the Florida Keys are strategically located between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Do you know what that means?  Key Largo is one of the best places to enjoy water activities such as stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, and scuba diving. If you’re staying at Dolphin Point Villas, you can use our kayaks and paddleboards free of charge, as they are part of our fantastic amenities.  Our guests can also enjoy a private beach, where you can take a nice, easy swim in the smooth, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Families can enjoy fishing or sailing on a chartered boat. And, if you want to get really adventurous, you can go parasailing or better yet kite boarding. Otherside Boardsports offers kite boarding lessons for a variety of skill levels in Islamorada and Marathon. With expert instructors, boat trips, and rental equipment, your family is sure to enjoy learning to kite board at Otherside.

 

Private Kayak Tours with Out There Kayak Expeditions, Key Largo

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Out There Key Largo offers you and your family a more remote, unspoiled private kayaking experience in the Florida Keys.  Captain KC and his crew take you on their spacious, smooth-riding pontoon boat to the back-country so that you and your family can paddle in Florida Bay and Everglades National Park.  There’s nothing like enjoying the beautiful natural scenery away from the crowds. Out There offers fishing expeditions where you can try your luck sight-fishing for snook, tarpon, redfish, trout, bonefish, and a slew of other species that live in the shallow waters surrounding Key Largo and Everglades National Park.  Fishing expeditions usually last from 4 to 8 hours, and you can even enjoy the challenge of kayak fishing. They also offer snorkel and kayak trips to the reefs of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. And, better yet, Out There Key Largo will pick you up right at our very own dock at Dolphin Point Villas.

 

Bamboo Charters

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“Fishing in the Florida Keys varies from a simple day of snapper fishing in a quiet Florida Bay channel with your wife and kids to a one-on-one brawl with a 150 lb tarpon screaming all the backing from your reel. “The fish are all here, the choice is yours! The nearby flats that surround the Upper Keys hold bonefish, permit, tarpon, barracuda, and sharks. These fish all readily eat lures and bait and will test your skills.The beautiful sights of the Everglades National Park are a short ride across Florida Bay and once there the fishing is spectacular! The list is varied from snook, redfish and sea trout to tarpon, snappers and HUGE sharks. At times, you can catch them all on one trip without really trying. So whether you are an experienced or hardcore angler to a first timer Bamboo Charters has the experience, boat and know how to get you out there where they are.  Get out on the water…Go Fish!” – Capt. Matt Bellinger.

 

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the first underwater park in the United States. The park was established in 1963 in order to protect and preserve the only living coral reef in the United States, which are some of the most diverse and beautiful coral species in the world.

John Pennekamp State Park is also a fantastic place to view wildlife, tropical plant species, and a wide variety of fish.  If you want to see the coral reefs up close, you can go on a snorkeling trip to the reefs. The park also offers glass bottom boat tours where you can take in the sun and surf while getting a unique look at the shallow reefs teeming with wildlife. Either way, it’s a 2 ½ hour round trip boat ride to the reefs that are eight miles out.

This state park is also a great place to go kayaking through scenic mangrove-lined waterways.  You’re sure to encounter manatee alongside your kayak, as they reside in these water inlets.

 

Glass Bottom Boat Rides

If you want to see the marine flora and fauna, but don’t want to get into the water, we suggest that you take a ride on one of two glass bottom boat ride options.  There’s the glass bottom boat ride, which departs from John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and there’s another glass bottom boat ride that departs from the Holiday Inn Marina.  The John Pennekamp glass bottom boat tour’s itinerary aboard the Spirit of Pennekamp includes a glimpse of various shallow reefs with an abundance of wildlife.  This tour is 2 ½ hours long. The glass bottom boat that departs the Holiday Inn Marina is called the M.V. Key Largo Princess 2.  The cruise travels the waters of John Pennekamp state park, so whichever glass bottom boat ride you choose, you’ll be sure to experience the best that Key Largo has to offer.

Educational Activities For Kids Of All Ages

Did you know that a Florida Keys vacation could be educational too?  Take a look at these educational activities in Key Largo that everyone in your family is sure to enjoy.

 

Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder

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Dolphins Plus Marine Mammal Responder (DPMMR) is a nonprofit organization that offers educational dolphin swim programs and actively participates in conservation and protection of marine mammals worldwide.  DPMMR leads and operates the local marine mammal stranding organization for rescuing stranded marine mammals in a 10,000 square mile area off of the Florida Keys. Since, DPMMR is a not-for-profit organization, when you book a swim with dolphins you are directly supporting the marine mammal stranding efforts to help sick and injured whales and dolphins in the wild. Every swim and program at DPMMR makes a difference!

 

Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center is a must if there’s a bird lover in your family.  Plan to spend an hour or two at this “bird hospital” located in Tavernier.  The mission of the rehabilitation center is to rescue and rehabilitate injured or harmed birds so that they can be released back into the wild.  Kids of all ages will enjoy learning about how they help protect wildlife and the environment and enjoy seeing both recovering birds and wild birds that come to enjoy the space.  Be sure to leave a donation, if you can, as The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center operates solely on donations.

 

Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park

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Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, which is named after Dagny Johnson, a local environmental activist, offers over six miles of bike-friendly natural trails that you and your family can explore.  Get ready to learn about the 84 plus protected species of plants and animals that call the state park home.

Keep on the lookout for signs with names and descriptions of native plant life such as Mahogany Mistletoe, Wild Cotton, Wild Cinnamon, Crabwood, and Wild Tamarind.  Some of the protected animal species inhabiting the park include the American crocodile, Key Largo Woodrat, Key Largo Cotton Mouse, and an array of rare tree snails.  Dagney Johnson State Park is the largest area of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock in the nation.

Local Restaurants

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When you vacation in the Florida Keys dining like a local is a must. Nothing is more adventurous, and fun than eating local cuisine.

The Florida Keys are known for fresh fish and local Florida lobster.  Some restaurants, such as Buzzard’s Roost or the Lazy Lobster, in Key Largo, even cook the fish you caught on your morning fishing trip!  Another specialty of the Keys is the world-famous Key Lime Pie with its tart, creamy refreshing taste. Take a look at these places to discover some of the local's favorite cuisine, so that you too can dine like a local.

I’ve also included my faves or must try, but you can’t really go wrong with whichever dish you decide on.

 

Hobo’s Cafe

Hobo’s Cafe is one of the most popular restaurants in Key Largo.  This eatery serves up both American and Caribbean cuisine. Hobo’s Cafe specializes in serving local fish such as Mahi-Mahi, Yellowtail Snapper, Grouper, Yellowfin Tuna, Conch, and Hogfish.  You can dine on the catch of the day in a variety of manners - coconut crusted, key lime style, blackened, or pan sautéed, which is the house specialty.  Hobo’s Cafe offers a creative, yet simple menu.  They also serve a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and pasta dishes.  

My must try - For lunch the Woodrow chicken sandwich or Hobo’s fish sandwich and for dinner Seafood Hobo’s over rice or pasta. They also have great nightly specials. And, if you have room for desert, you have to try their amazing Peach Melba or warm brownie sundae!

 

Lazy Lobster

Lazy Lobster serves fresh, local seafood in a variety of ways. They also offer vegetarian options, sandwiches, steaks, and chicken dishes. Lazy Lobster is another great place to go if you want them to prepare the fish you caught during your fishing excursion. Lazy Lobster oftentimes has live music in their outdoor garden seating area under a huge palm thatched tiki, There is also indoor seating if you want to keep cool.  

My must try - for lunch, their Billings Salad or their Fresh Catch Sandwich and for dinner something off their amazing nightly specials.

 

The Buzzard’s Roost

Buzzard’s Roost offers local cuisine and is vegetarian-friendly.  This is the place to go if you want to dine on the fish you caught!  Buzzard’s Roost is open daily for lunch and dinner, and brunch on Sundays.  Everything here is made in house, including the desserts. Located in the Garden Cove Marina, Buzzard’s Roost offers indoor and outdoor waterfront dining with a lovely view.  If you like live music, then this place is a must, as a live band plays every Friday and Saturday night. Sunday’s brunch is extra special with live steel drums showcasing island beats.

My must try their Lobster Francaise (when in season) and you can’t go wrong with their Seafood combination platter.  I also love their Sunday brunch!

 

Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen

Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen offers classic diner cuisine with a Florida Keys twist.   The kitschy decor brings out a true laid back vibe. This place is perfect for families with children as the menu features a wide variety of dishes that everyone in your family is sure to enjoy.  Be sure to try Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen’s world-famous chili and conch chowder. This place is also known for its delicious key lime pie. They have two locations. For the more “Key-sy” experience visit the Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen.  Must try – Their “Superfishwich” fish sandwich is a must.

 

DJ’s Diner and Seafood Grill

DJ’s Diner and Seafood Grill is a great breakfast spot.  This restaurant serves up classic American fare and seafood options.  Kids will love their scrumptious waffle and pancake selections! Better get there early, as they only serve breakfast and lunch, and close at 3 pm!  This is a great place to fill up in the morning before a day out on the water. My fave is the Spinach and Feta omelette, but if that’s not your liking, you can never go wrong with The Original.



Day Trips

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Venture beyond Key Largo for a day trip down south or just a bit north. The mainland and our neighboring islands have a ton of things to see and do.  Take a look at some of our favorite day trips that you and your family will love.

 

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness within the continental U.S.  It’s also one of the largest national parks run by the National Park Service (NPS). Be sure to arrive at the park early, so that you can see all that Everglades National Park has to offer.  The Anhinga Trail is a 0.8 mile paved and boardwalk wetlands area designated as a spot to see alligators, anhinga, turtles, and other wildlife. If you want to explore the park by water, head down to the southernmost part of the park near the Flamingo Visitor Center.  Here you can rent kayaks or canoes to explore the waterways. You can also take a guided pontoon boat ride through various sections of the park.

Shark Valley is another section of Everglades National Park that is perfect for families to enjoy a day outdoors.  Here you can rent bikes to go around a 15-mile loop or you can hop on a tram that takes you around the park. This is probably one of the best spots to see alligators and birds in the entire park.

Located near the entrance to Everglades National Park, the Everglades Alligator Farm is South Florida’s oldest alligator farm. They offer airboat tours, snake and alligator shows, and alligator feeding demonstrations for your family’s education and entertainment. Boasting over 2,000 alligators on-site, Everglades Alligator Farm is an attraction you won’t want to miss on your way to the Florida Keys.

 

Islamorada

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Islamorada is a cool place to visit on your Florida Keys vacation.  There are plenty of things to do in Islamorada that you’re sure to spend the entire day on this tropical oasis.  If your family loves learning about history, Islamorada is teeming with historical places to visit! You can view the remains of a shipwreck at the Indian Key Historic State Park, or check out the coral reef quarry that was once used for the Florida East Coast Railway at the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park.  Interested in learning about diving? You can visit the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum and learn about the 3,000-year history of diving. Robbie’s of Islamorada is one of the best places to go to feed tarpon, an experience that has become wildly popular since the tradition started in 1976.

 

Marathon

While there are many things to do in Marathon, I’d like to give you the run-down on a few of the most fascinating and unique ones. Most interesting are the nature experiences in this part of the Florida Keys, which include Crane Point Museum, Nature Center & Historic Site. Crane Point sits on 63-acres of breathtaking nature trails, trees, and educational displays, and is sure to be fun for the whole family. The Turtle Hospital, which focuses on rescue, rehabilitation, and release, is open for daily educational tours of the rehabilitation area and hospital facilities. With educational information and a chance to feed the permanent residents at the hospital, your visit is sure to be and eye-opening one.

 

Key West

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A couple of activities worth highlighting in Key West are a trip to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory and, at the end of the day, a visit to the Key West Sunset Celebration. The Butterfly and Nature Conservatory contains 50-60 different species of butterflies from butterfly farming operations around the world. Here, you can observe these beautiful creatures, along with colorful birds, in a very natural setting. The Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square is a 50-year tradition that begins two hours before sunset each night. During this beautiful festival, you can enjoy watching the smoldering sun sink into the horizon while enjoying street food, local musicians and artists, and more.

Quick Tip on Accommodations

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When going on a family vacation, a vacation rental is the best way to go! Having your own villa is not only spacious for a family but economical as well! Here at Dolphin Point Villas, we offer beautifully appointed Florida vacation villas complete with fully equipped kitchens and fantastic amenities at no extra cost.  

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In fact, at Dolphin Point Villas we don’t have resort fees or any other hidden fees. What you see is what you pay. Renting your own villa allows you and your family to have ample space to relax, more than a hotel room can offer, while giving you the ability to create better memories cooking together and not having to eat out for every meal. You can also stay in and make it a day of hanging out by the pool, swimming on our private beach or going for a kayak or paddleboard ride.

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Best Key Lime Pie Recipe

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If you’ll be staying at Dolphin Point Villas, don’t neglect the kitchen! Try out this delicious Key Lime Pie recipe that locals love.  

 

Crust

16 graham crackers, crushed

3 Tbsp granulated sugar

Pie Filling:

4 large egg yolks

14oz  sweetened condensed milk

½ c fresh key lime juice (approximately 12 key limes)

2 tsp lime peel, grated, green portion only

 

Whipping Cream for garnish (optional)

½ c heavy whipping cream

2 tsp granulated sugar

¼ tsp Madagascar pure vanilla extract

 

How to make real Key Lime pie from Key West.

 

Crust:

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix the ingredients together and press them into a 9-inch pie plate (glass or pre-formed tin is your option)
  3. Bake in the oven in the middle rack for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned.
  4. Remove from oven, and cool on a rack.

Note: Do not turn off the oven, as you will be baking the next portion of the pie momentarily.

 

Pie Filling:

  1. In a stand mixer with the whipping attachment, beat the egg yolks on medium speed until they are thick and turn yellow, DO NOT OVER MIX!
  2. Turn the mixer off and add the sweetened condensed milk, and turn the mixer speed to low and drizzle 1/2 of the lime juice, once the lime juice is incorporated, add the other half of the juice and the zest, continue to mix until melted (just a few seconds),
  3. Pour the mixture into the pie shell.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes to set the yolks.
  5. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for approximately 2 hours to set.

 

Whipping cream:

  1. In a stainless steel medium bowl, combine whipping cream, sugar and vanilla and whisk by hand until creamy peaks form.

 

Serving:

Take the pie out of the refrigerator and slice pie in 8th. Plate pie and add a dollop of whip cream! Try it also with some toasted coconut too!

 

Credit: https://www.justapinch.com/recipes/dessert/pie/real-key-lime-pie-from-key-west.html

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