While Key Largo is a small, tight-knit community, it offers a great many resources for a truly abundant lifestyle. The area’s medical facilities and support groups are the finest, and the local educational facilities offer programs that are progressive and broad in scope.
Key Largo is also the perfect base for discovering the world famous Florida Everglades. There isn't anything quite like the Everglades anywhere else. But while you might feel you trekked back in time when you see this natural marvel, you'll have the pleasure of returning to the comforts of Key Largo -- which include some of the finest restaurants in the Keys.
Classic movie aficionados in Key Largo can experience a bit of Hollywood magic aboard the genuine steamship "African Queen" and can visit locales where scenes from the movies "Key Largo" and "PT 109" were filmed. Art enthusiasts will want to head for any of several galleries, including one that displays the works of famed black and white photographer Clyde Butcher. Key Largo also is home to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, where a variety of sick or injured winged creatures are either permanent inhabitants or have been rescued, are rehabilitating, and will soon be set free. Stroll the center's interpretive boardwalk, and you'll garner an education in how its varied residents came to be there.
To explore more of the Florida Keys natural environment, schedule a guided trek through the Key Largo State Botanical Site, where an array of endangered plants and animals, rare birds, and other exotic wildlife resides. Nature trails also are offered at Pennekamp Park. Harry Harris Park provides for fun family outings, while historic Tavernier on the southern end of Key Largo is a quaint settlement that boasts some of the oldest structures in the Keys, allowing for a peek into this area's rich and resilient heritage.
Key Largo is not only known for its beauty, but for its rich history. Shortly after Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492, adventurer Ponce de Leon, in search of the illusive fountain of youth, sighted the Florida Keys on Sunday, May 15, 1513. No record exists that anyone on the ship 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 over the past 200 years, the Florida Keys, discovered much earlier, remained undeveloped until the middle of this century. Pirates came and went, chased by a fledgling U.S. Navy Pirate Fleet that was established around 1822. Settlers followed while the native Indian population, the Caloosa, and other mainland tribes died out.
Early settlers farmed Key Largo and the Upper Keys. 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. Mosquitos, combined with almost yearly hurricane disasters kept expansion of Key Largo's small settlements of Planter, Rock Harbor, Basin Hills, and High Mangroves to a minimum.
Construction of Henry Flagler's “railroad that went to sea,” began in 1902 and was completed in 1912. It 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. However, even this ceased with the destruction of the railroad by the Great Hurricane of 1935. The property was then purchased by the state for the new highway, known ever since as U.S. One or the Overseas Highway. Today, private autos, rental cars and interstate buses transport thousands of visitors daily over a highway that was upgraded to the tune of $185 million.