Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary

Florida Keys

Looe (pronounced ‘loo’) Key, located 5 nautical miles off Big Pine, isn’t a key at all but a reef, and is part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. This is an area of some 2800 sq nautical miles of ‘land’ managed by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. The reef here can only be visited through a specially arranged charter-boat trip, best arranged through any Keys diving outfit, the most natural one being Looe Key Dive Center.

The marine sanctuary is named for an English frigate that sank here in 1744, and the Looe Key reef contains the 210ft Adolphus Busch, used in the 1957 film Fire Down Below and then sunk (110ft deep) in these waters in 1998.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Florida Keys attractions

1. Big Pine Flea Market

5.58 MILES

This market, which attracts folks from across the Keys, rivals local churches for weekly attendance. This is an extravaganza of locally made crafts,…

2. National Key Deer Refuge Headquarters

5.92 MILES

What would make Bambi cuter? Mini Bambi. Introducing the Key deer, an endangered subspecies of white-tailed deer that prance about primarily on Big Pine…

3. Blue Hole

7.63 MILES

This little pond (and former quarry) is now the largest freshwater body in the Keys. That’s not saying much, but the hole is a pretty little dollop of…

4. No Name Key

8.52 MILES

Perhaps the best-named island in the Keys, No Name gets few visitors, as it’s basically a residential island. It’s one of the most reliable spots for Key…

5. Bahia Honda State Park

9.01 MILES

This park, with its long, white-sand (and at times seaweed-strewn) beach, named Sandspur Beach by locals, is the big attraction in these parts. As Keys…

6. Veterans Memorial Park

11.1 MILES

This small park has covered picnic tables and good access to the mudflat and mangrove habitat that makes up most of the Keys’ coastline. The views onto…

7. Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower

11.49 MILES

It resembles an Aztec-inspired fire lookout, but this wooden tower is actually one real-estate developer’s vision gone utterly awry. In the 1920s Richter…

8. Pigeon Key National Historic District

17.1 MILES

For years tiny Pigeon Key, located 2 miles west of Marathon (basically below the Old Seven Mile Bridge), housed the rail workers and maintenance men who…