It may be small, but boy is it beautiful! At only four miles long and one mile wide, Key West, the island city in the Florida Keys, is home to some of the most picture-perfect beaches in the county. The U.S.’s southernmost city is famous for its natural beauty, lively nightlife, and of course, sun and surf. Here are the island’s best beaches.
No, this isn’t the famous Miami party beach, rather Key West’s South Beach got its name for its location at the southernmost end of the island. And, quite the contrary to the famous Miami locale, this Key West beach is actually very popular among families due to its calm and shallow waters. South Beach is super laid-back and boasts beautiful crystal-clear water. A beach café and a few makeshift food stalls are available, however, there are no public restrooms—for emergencies try the bar nearby.
By far the most popular beach on the island, Smathers Beach is the place to go for all-day action. Stretching about two miles down Roosevelt Boulevard, Smathers offers visitors all they need for a fun-filled day in the sand. Food vendors, watersport rentals, and plenty of beach volleyball are available for those seeking action. Parking is free along the boulevard, and restrooms and lounge chair rentals are available as well, and there is no entry fee.
For those seeking the less crowded option, head over to Higgs Beach in the Florida Keys. Located within walking distance to Smathers but doesn’t draw the same crowds most probably because of the way the tides flow in this area of the island. There tend to be lots of ocean debris, seaweed and such, in the area that can make it less comfortable for swimming. But the city does work hard to rake the beaches daily and clean up any floating driftwood, so chances are it won’t bother you. The water is very clear and ripe for snorkeling, and stingray is often spotted in the area by the pier.
Rest Beach is small, only 300 yards long, but it has by far the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets on the island. This beach offers unparalleled views of the Atlantic Ocean and is well worth the early morning trip. Of course, if you find yourself sleeping in, be sure to head over to Mallory Square, the waterfront gathering area known for its nightly sunset celebrations. A yoga deck is located on the beach as well and classes are available pretty often.
Dog Beach is the only beach on the island that allows dogs to roam free, so head here if your four-legged friend is in need of exercise. However, at only 20 feet across, the area is not too big. The terrain is also a bit rocky, though that is probably why dogs love it so much. There is a small sign indicating where the beach is but if you get lost as for directions to Louie’s Backyard, the eatery is adjacent to the beach.
For those seeking adventure and seclusion, head over to the uninhabited island, Bahia Honda State Park. It’s about 37 miles from Key West, which is about a 45-minute car ride, and it is well worth the trip. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset, though concessions close at 5 p.m. Camping is available by reservation, but most visitors just come for the day to enjoy the amazing snorkeling, breathtaking beach, and world-renowned reef. The park is still recovering from Hurricane Irma but is open to the public with limited amenities.
Fort Zach, as it’s known to locals, is one of the more authentic beaches on the island because of its ground coral shoreline (most of the sand on the beaches in the Keys is shipped over from the Carribean). But just because you can’t sit and sunbathe here doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do. Zach Beach mainly attracts snorkellers and divers as the waters in the area are teeming with all types of sea life. It’s also a great location for history buffs. Fort Zachary, named after President Zachary Taylor, was built during the Civil War to protect the Key West harbor. Today, it holds the largest collection of Civil War-era cannons in the country.
Another off-the-beaten-path beach day is sure to be had at Dry Tortugas National Park. Book a ferry or seaplane to reach the uninhabited island and spend your day snorkeling, relaxing, and touring one of the nation’s largest 19th-century forts, Fort Jefferson. Pack everything you are going to need for the day, including food, although some ferry tours include breakfast and lunch, there is nothing available on the island. Camping is allowed but reserve a spot early.