Just 90 minutes south of Miami sits a Florida icon. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the very first U.S. undersea preserve. As this dive/snorkel paradise turns 50, the thrill of coral heads packed with blue- striped grunts is reason enough to celebrate the milestone. But the park’s namesake deserves a nod too. John Pennekamp’s land and marine-life conservation efforts remain his living legacy.
Despite Hurricane Betsy plowing through the Florida Keys with Category 3 winds in 1965, the Christ of the Abyss bronze statue—a replica of the original in Italy’s Mediterranean Sea—held fast in its watery abode 25 feet beneath the blue at Key Largo Dry Rocks. Explore the statue firsthand, and you might eye a rare townsend angelfish. Non-divers can see a landlocked replica outside St. Justin Martyr Catholic Church at mile marker 105.5. fla-keys.com/pennekamp50