Key Largo for Cruisers (Tarpon Basin)

Our most northern stop in the Florida Keys was a good one. Tarpon Basin lies just north of Buttonwood Sound and south of Blackwater Sound. There are numerous spots to choose from as far as dropping the hook, so you can move around to seek shelter from any wind direction. Though a fairly large body of water, it is surrounded by tall mangroves. It’s a completely enclosed circle with the ICW running through it’s center. We chose to anchor north of marker 48A as the winds were howling out of the north. We had plenty of water up close to the mangroves, but it was very thick grass. We had to search around a bit to find some open sand before we could get a good hook-set. The water is very clear so it’s not hard to find the white open spots, especially on a sunny day.


One could also anchor south of 48A, or continue to curl around to the east (under the word tarpon on the chart) and snug up close to shore like the locals do. We found 5 foot depths at low tide amongst the locals.

The cool part of staying here for a bit it the FREE dinghy dock, with FREE clean, fresh water. There is also a dumpster on the property, which is a park. It’s situated behind the Government Center, which houses the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department, among other things. There are covered tables, loaner carts, and at least one loner bike available.


We had heard of some “issues” amongst the locals that occured last summer, but we had zero problems at the dinghy dock. In fact, anyone we met was quite friendly and helpful to us. On shore we found most anything we could want, except a laundromat. 1/2 mile to the south, on the ocean side of US1, is a large plaza with Publics, K-Mart, LIQUOR STORE, Radio Shack, etc. US1 is divided here, with a big grass median, which helps when crossing on foot. There is a good paved walkway to the plaza. On the way you’ll pass Hobo’s Cafe. Don’t pass it up! Great food at very reasonable prices. They also have a great happy hour.

There is also a pizza place very close by. To the north there are at least three other restaurants just a short walking distance away. We didn’t try these. One mile to the north is John Pennekamp State Park. It offers glass bottom boat tours of the reef, snorkeling, SCUBA, kayak rentals, etc. There are two small beaches within the park as well.

Right next door to the Government Center, on the bay side, is Dolphin Cove/Dolphins Plus. I for one do not support holding dolphins in captivity, but this facility will allow you to swim with the dolphins and offers other educational opportunities if that’s your bag.

Fishing and snorkeling opportunities abound with the basin. We enjoyed an afternoon exploring the mangrove tunnels aboard our dinghy.


Overall a very pleasant experience for us. If you’re cruising up or down the Keys, I recommend Tarpon Basin highly. Just don’t forget about the grass.


5 thoughts on “Key Largo for Cruisers (Tarpon Basin)

  1. Philip Merlier

    I was wondering what you meant when you said: “Don’t forget about the grass”? Last week I had extensive communications with the folks at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and they clearly indicated that anchoring in grass is not restricted but chewing it up with a propeller is restricted and penalized. I pointed out the inconsistency but they said that is how it is. If you are interested, I could forward you the final email — it has lots of useful information.

  2. Tina

    Ed, really appreciate you sharing your knowledge with others. We are taking a cruise up that way shortly and may have to make a detour at Key Largo if the weather so dictates, and now we know where we can hide for awhile.


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