48 Hours in Key Largo

Where to stay, what to do, and where to dine in the northernmost island of the Florida Keys.

Sunset at the Caribbean Club
Photography by Katie Schweiss

Toes in the sand and a line in the water: That pretty much sums up Key Largo’s personality. The laid-back island, northernmost in the Florida Keys chain, is a destination for diving, fishing, and boating—not to mention imbibing, preferably beneath the thatched roof of a chickee hut. Peel off the Monday-Friday clothes, leave the cares at home, and claim a slice of the “long key” for an attitude-adjusting weekend.


For families needing a little more space and privacy than a typical hotel room provides, the newly constructed Dolphin Point Villas feel more like a well-appointed vacation home. The villas, ranging from one to five bedrooms, are open and breezy with soaring ceilings, contemporary West Indies furnishings, full kitchens, and indoor/outdoor living areas. The prime property of the group is the Nautilus House, a two-story, five-bedroom stilt home overlooking the bay. It sleeps 16, so bring the kids and grandparents for a reunion or multigenerational stay. A private, west-facing beach has a boat launch and dockage, as well as paddleboards and kayaks for those who want to explore the bay. Of course, unwinding with a margarita as the sun goes down is always an option.


Key Largo has been called the Dive Capital of the World for good reason. The island is home to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which contains a portion of the only living coral reef in the continental U.S. Charter boats transport divers and snorkelers to the farthest reaches of the underwater park and the Christ of the Deep sunken statue. Other aquatic activities include sport fishing for snapper and mahi, and dolphin therapy programs through Dolphins Plus , located next door to Dolphin Point Villas.

Another of Key Largo’s claims to fame is its role in the eponymous 1948 film. Movie buffs will recognize the exterior of the Caribbean Club (caribbeanclubkl.com) from some of Key Largo’s key scenes. Another bit of Hollywood history, the African Queen steamboat (africanqueenflkeys.com) from the Humphrey Bogart film of the same name, is permanently stationed in Key Largo and available for short cruises.

Eat + Drink

Dolphin Point Villas guests who don’t care to grill their own enjoy benefits at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. The “konk” chowder, in a tomato base with a hint of heat, is the real deal. In fact, you can’t go wrong with any of the conch or fresh fish dishes. Mrs. Mac’s asserts that its key lime pie is “world-famous,” and it’s not far from the truth.
A Key Largo holiday is incomplete without a night—or two—at a tiki bar. Lounge by the marina at the Buzzard’s Roost or mingle with old salts and Parrotheads at the bar at Pilot House Marina (pilothousemarina.com). Though the atmosphere is unassuming, the food is quite excellent. The seafood mixed grill (ask for it jerked) at Pilot House is the freshest around, and the ahi tuna nachos are the perfect accompaniment to a locally brewed IPA. «


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