Destination Key Largo Guide

A Slice of Key Largo History

The Island of Key Largo is situated between Everglades National Park (to the northwest) and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (to the east). The Coral Reef State Park is the first underwater park in the United States and protects part of the Florida Reef, the only living coral barrier reef in the continental United States. Key Largo’s proximity to the Everglades also makes it a premier destination for kayakers and ecotourists. Key Largo is not only known for its beauty but for its rich history, as well. Not long after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, adventurer Ponce de Leon, in search of that illusive fountain of youth, sighted the Florida Keys on Sunday, May 15, 1513. There is no record

that any of the ships even came ashore, but later other visitors did. The Spanish Explorers named the island CAYO LARGO, the “long rock shoal.” While most of eastern North America has had continuous development for the past 200 years, the Florida Keys, although discovered much earlier, remained mostly undeveloped until the middle of the twentieth century. Pirates came and went, chased by a fledgling U. S. Navy Pirate Fleet, established here in 1822. Settlers followed while the native Indian population, the Caloosa Indians, and other mainland tribes died out. Those early settlers farmed in Key Largo and the Upper Keys, and productive groves of Key limes, tamarind, and breadfruit were common, as well as fields of pineapples. The lower part of

Key Largo became known as “Planters,” which is now the town of Tavernier. Henry Flagler’s “railroad that went to sea,” which started in 1902 and was completed in 1912, did little for Key Largo communities except to shift transportation centers from the ocean (where coastal schooners had provided the only mainland contact) to railroad stops. This ceased with the destruction of the railroad by the Great Hurricane of 1935. The state

then purchased the railroad property for the new highway, known ever since as Highway U.S. 1 or the Overseas Hwy. The island gained fame as the setting for the 1948 film Key Largo, but apart from background filming used for establishing shots, the film was staged on a Warner Brothers sound set in Hollywood. After the film’s success, pressure from local businesses resulted in a change in the name of the post office serving the northern


Destination Key Largo

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