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Key West Time
July 12th
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Ultimate Key West Beach Guide

Key West beaches provide a wonderful opportunity to experience first-hand Caribbean-style coral reef beaches. This is because Key West and the Florida Keys are flat coral islands — the top are remnants of former coral reefs.

Key West beaches are similar to The Bahamas, with white sand, coral rocks, and shallow water with marine life swimming right off shore.

The living coral reef line is 7 miles offshore and protects the flat islands of the Florida Keys from crashing waves. So when you plan your Key West beach days, don't think of 'long stretches of beaches with crashing waves' like you find on the mainland of Florida. Think 'Caribbean beach vacation.'

And as a bonus - remember, beyond the white sand beaches of Key West, you can explore the underwater offshore coral reefs on the Atlantic side and immerse yourself on the Gulf of Mexico side of the island in Key West's 'Back Country.'

Without further ado, let's dive right into the best beaches in Key West and what you need to know about each one.


Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

fort zachary taylor state parkFort Zachary Taylor Beach is often referred to as 'The best beach in Key West.' Located at the southwest tip of the island on the 54-acre Fort Zachary State Park, the beach is a favorite island destination for locals and tourists alike.

Fort Taylor predates the Civil War and its natural surroundings provide an idyllic island setting for weddings on the beach and private parties. You can picnic, swim, and snorkel right off the beach in the turquoise waters, or explore one of the many nature trails. There are bathrooms, rinse showers, and beach chairs for rent. An on-site beach café called 'Cayo Hueso Café' offers snacks, drinks, and sunscreen, and is also available for catering.

Guided tours of the fort are available daily. You have to pay a small entrance fee to access this beach park but for everything it offers ...it's a bargain!

  • Website: floridastateparks.org
  • Address: 601 Howard England Way, Key West, FL 33040
  • Get There: Go all the way to the end of Southard Street through the gate at Truman Annex. Parking lots.

Smathers Beach

smathers beachSmathers Beach is Key West's largest public beach and is on the south shore of the island.

It's famous for all kinds of water sports including kitesurfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and parasailing, and you can swim and snorkel at this beach too. On the beach there is plenty of space to sunbathe. Volleyball is popular, and there's a wide paved path along the beach for walking, biking, and skating, too.

You'll find plenty of great beach food at curbside vendors that are licensed by the City of Key West, and there are picnic tables to sit and eat.

Smathers Beach provides on-site restrooms plus beach chairs, umbrellas, and water sports equipment from established vendors. This beach is also a popular wedding location for couples who want a tropical Key West wedding.

  • Website: cityofkeywest-fl.gov
  • Address: 2601 S Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL 33040
  • Get There: This is the first beach you see when you drive onto Key West along the south side of the island. It starts just south of the Key West Airport and goes all the way along South Roosevelt Blvd to about the 1900 block of Atlantic Blvd. Park curbside next to the beach on South Roosevelt Blvd.

Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach

higgs beachHiggs Beach is a personal favorite of many locals. It has a treasured Caribbean-style retro feel and exudes an authentic charm that is rare these days in U.S.A. beach communities.

While Higgs provides a very endearing beach scene, it still has an understated presence in Key West. 1950s beach kiosks and volleyball courts create an ambiance for 'old time' fun. Rent kayaks, water toys, and beach chairs from old-fashioned beach stands and there is plenty of room to sunbathe.

A long wooden narrow pier allows you to walk out into the ocean. The water stays shallow for a long way out, making it a great swimming place for the entire family.

A focal point of Higgs Beach is the unique 'Salute on the Beach' restaurant that has rapidly become a destination in itself. The White Street Pier is right next to the beach. Visit the African Slave Cemetery and the Key West Aids Memorial.

Across the street, there are beautiful tennis courts and the 'Astro-City' playground for the little kids.

  • Website: monroecounty-fl.gov
  • Address: 1000 Atlantic Blvd, Key West, FL 33040
  • Get There: Next door (just east) to the Casa Marina Resort. Plenty of free parking in the parking lot.

Rest Beach

rest beachRest Beach is just east of Higgs Beach on the opposite side of the White Street Pier.

Many people disregard this precious stretch of island sand but it's worth taking a stroll through. It has a beautifully designed, roped-off boardwalk that provides a short and scenic meander through the sand and beach vegetation.

There are a couple of kiosks to sit and rest. It reminds me of similar little beach areas in The Bahamas and provides a great vantage point to look at the White Street Pier. There is also a wooden deck where you can opt-in for a yoga class right on the beach.

Across the street are Key West's impressive bocce ball courts for Key West's Bocce Ball League. Use restroom facilities and amenities next door at Higgs Beach.

  • Website: cityofkeywest-fl.gov
  • Address: White St & Atlantic Blvd, Key West, FL 33040
  • Get There: East of Higgs Beach. Plenty of free parking in a parking lot at Higgs Beach.

Dog Beach

dog beachDog Beach is a must-do if you love your dog and want to swim with him. Of course, if you don't have a pooch of your own you can just enjoy watching other dogs and their owners frolicking in the ocean and playing on the beach.

This is a precious little strip of beach with plenty of sand and some swaying palm trees.

Conveniently situated right next door to Louie's Backyard restaurant and the After Deck Bar, you can sip and eat and watch this unique scene from a great vantage point.

This is one of the most unique beach scenes you'll find anywhere, but note that there are no designated beach restrooms.

  • Website: cityofkeywest-fl.gov
  • Address: 700 Waddell St. Key West, FL 33040
  • Get There: Right next door to Louie's Backyard. Park on the street in a residential neighborhood, or better yet, ride your bike over.

South Beach

south beachSouth Beach Key West is perfectly perched at the top of Duval Street at the very end of Uptown Duval. Not to be confused with the art deco scene in South Beach in Miami, Key West's South Beach does have a touch of casual island elegance that is carried over.

The beach offers a small, well-maintained stretch of white sandy beach nestled in between a hotel complex and a sea wall. Here you can wade out through beautiful turquoise water to swim, and sunbathe on the beach. Beach chairs and sun umbrellas are available to rent, and there are restrooms in the bar area.

Don't miss the opportunity to grab a bite from the nearby Southernmost Beach Cafe that perches on the southernmost point of the continental U.S.A.

  • Website: cityofkeywest-fl.gov
  • Address: 1319 Duval St Key West, FL 33040
  • Get There: The beach is at the very end of Duval Street, 1300 Block, at the southern end. Metered parking is available on the street, but it's best to ride a bike or walk over.

Simonton Beach

simonton beachSimonton Beach is on the north shore of Key West on the harbor side of the island. It's recently seen a boom of development and went from an under the radar spot to one of the more popular beaches in the area.

There are rental chairs and Lagerheads Beach Bar for food, drinks, and even watersports.

  • Website: cityofkeywest-fl.gov
  • Address: Simonton St, Key West, FL 33040
  • Get There: The very tip of Simonton Street on the northern end. Metered parking on the street but it's best to ride a bike or walk over.

Bahia Honda State Park

bahia honda beachesThe Bahia Honda beaches are located in the Bahia Honda State Park at MM 37 on the Overseas Highway in Big Pine Key. The park has two award-winning beaches: Sandspur Beach, located just north of the park entrance, and Calusa Beach, next to the Bahia Honda Bridge.

We include these beaches even though they are about 45 minutes from Key West because it is a local's favorite trip; the beaches are truly beautiful and have won several awards.

This once remote island (before bridges) resembles the Bahamas in so many ways that when you walk the beaches you can almost imagine you are in the Abaco Islands. You'll get to see a wide variety of wading and shore birds and unique island plant life.

You can picnic on the beach, snorkel and scuba dive in the clear blue waters, fish from the shore, and finish your day with a stunning sunset. Bahia Honda Park includes over 500 acres of land and an offshore island.

Concession stands offer kayak rentals, refreshments, and a gift store. Restrooms, changing rooms, and showers. There is a small State Park entrance fee but it's well worth the price.

  • Website: floridastateparks.org
  • Address: 6850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key, FL 33043
  • Get There: Drive north from Key West to 36850 Overseas Hwy, Big Pine Key (MM37), ocean side. There is plenty of parking throughout the Bahia Honda State Park.

Fort Jefferson - Dry Tortugas Beach

fort jeffersonFort Jefferson - Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles off Key West and is one of the best day trips you can do from Key West.

The park is a protected marine sanctuary encompassing 64,700 acres that include seven tiny islands, each with soft sand beaches, surrounding crystal clear emerald waters, and offshore coral reefs.

We include these beaches even though you have to take a ferry or seaplane to experience them because they really are "the jewel of Key West." As our late friend and local legend Dink Bruce put it, "To go to Key West without visiting the Dry Tortugas, is like going to the Grand Canyon and not looking over."

Don't forget your snorkel gear because these beaches offer some of the best snorkeling in North America, and living coral reefs are directly accessible from the beaches. From the shore you can see, diving, and bird watching.

The park is isolated and visitors need to bring their own refreshments, food, and water. The visitor center at Fort Jefferson has restrooms and offers self-guiding tours and park Ranger-led activities to learn about the surrounding nature and history of the park. It is also possible to camp at the park.

  • Website: drytortugas.com
  • Address: Park at 300 Grinnell St, Key West, FL 33040 and take the ferry
  • Get There: Take the Dry Tortugas Ferry, a high-speed catamaran from Key West. There are daily seaplane flights into the park that pass over shipwrecks and treasure sites.

Enjoy These Best Beaches in Key West

Whether you're looking to catch a tan and do some sunbathing or splash around in the Atlantic Ocean, You're sure to find the perfect stretch of beach.

The only thing that could make a trip to Key West even better is a luxurious oceanfront vacation home. For the beach bums, divers, and those that just love a great vista, there's no better beach destination than the Keys.

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