Your Guide to Florida Keys Wildlife
Florida wildlife is incredibly diverse, and the Keys are home to thousands of animal species, more than three dozen of which are federally protected, including the cotton mouse, Key deer, striped mud turtle, and the Lower Keys marsh rabbit. If you are planning a visit to the Keys, check out these five wildlife-watching hotspots for the best chances to see some of our most exotic and exciting species.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the United States’ first undersea park. The park adjoins the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and together, they cover more than 175 nautical square miles stretching three miles into the Atlantic. The park includes mangrove swamps and seagrass beds as well as part of the continental United States’ only living coral reef.
You can find some of the most incredible Florida wildlife, shorebirds, and marine creatures, including more than 260 species of tropical fish, lobsters, shrimp, anemones, sea cucumbers, urchins, and about 80 species of coral. John Pennekamp is located in Key Largo.
Turtles are some of the Keys’ most magnificent animals, and at the Turtle Hospital, you can experience them in a whole new way. At the Turtle Hospital, experts are working to keep these animals healthy and safe from a wide range of issues, ranging from infectious tumors to ingestion of foreign objects. More than 1,500 sea turtles have been treated and released from the Turtle Hospital, and you can see and possibly even feed one of several species of turtles here. Located in Marathon, the Turtle Hospital is well worth a visit during your Florida Keys vacation.
Have you ever wanted to swim with dolphins? At the Dolphin Research Center, you can! You can also learn about and visit a range of other animals, including sea lions, iguanas, and birds, such as the peafowl and hyacinth macaw.
This not-for-profit research and educational facility is committed to helping marine mammals and creating healthy environments for the animals that live at the center. They have rescued not just dolphins in distress but also whales and other sea mammals and provide the public with extensive educational opportunities. When visiting, you can choose from several options that allow you to get up-close-and-personal with the dolphins and other animals that make their homes here. You can find the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon.
You might be familiar with Robbie’s as a restaurant, but it is also known for its massive tarpon. Tarpon can reach up to 8-feet long and are found throughout Florida but tend to cluster in the Keys especially during the winter months. Robbie and his wife once saved an injured tarpon back in 1976, and since then, tarpons have returned to the docks outside Robbie’s at feeding time every day. You can access the dock for just $2.50 and feed the tarpon for $4 with a bucket of fish. Get up close and personal with the tarpon at Robbie’s in Islamorada.
The Florida Keys Bird Center includes a sanctuary, which is home to nearly 40 species and more than 90 birds. Each bird is non-releasable but can still enjoy its life in safe enclosures with enrichment activities, perching, and a healthy diet. You can visit the sanctuary 365 days a year. You can attend one of the twice-daily pelican feedings or try a self-guided tour along the boardwalk, which ends at the picturesque bay.
Mangrove Marina extends across 20 acres and is well-protected by mature mangroves, which makes it attractive to a wide range of marine life. Here, you can watch the pelicans fish for their early-morning breakfasts and see dolphins playing at sunset right from the comfort of your houseboat. Call us today to learn more about Mangrove Marina and make your reservations.