The remote stretch of the Sunshine State called Key West is known for its laid back lifestyle, hundreds of islands, maze of channels, and beautiful beaches to explore. Getting to Key West takes effort, but once there you can explore the region for days or weeks. These are our recommendations for the best beaches in Key West. You can use this list as a starting point, and then expand your travels to more remote corners of this stunning archipelago.
Saying Key West is the “tip of Florida” doesn’t accurately convey how geographically isolated the Keys are. From Miami, it is another four hours, or more, to drive to your destination. And if you hit traffic, you could be in for even more travel time. During rush hour, this drive can easily extend to six hours. At least you’ll have all the ocean views you can handle along the continuous one-lane highway. The ocean’s colors change throughout the entire journey; from blue to green, to light blue, to nearly white. Long story short, the great views make the drive a lot more enjoyable.
You know you’ve found South Beach when you literally can’t drive any further south. This idyllic spot has lovely clear and shallow waters, perfect for a mellow day of swimming and lounging. Because it’s so far south, it’s important to note that the amenities in this area are limited. You’ll be able to find a port-a-potty, a few drinking fountains, and a total of one cafe where you can get lunch or a smoothie. But do not count on big crowds or big luxury here.
For a natural experience, one of the best beaches in Key West goes by the presidential name of Fort Zachary Taylor. It is, in fact, the only “all-natural” beach in the region, with a coral shoreline. The sparkling blue waters are home to a variety of wildlife, so the area is a paradise for snorkeling. There are plenty of rental shops nearby to stock up on snorkeling gear for the day.
This state park is considered to have one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. The nearby island of the same name has zero inhabitants, and the surrounding waters are a brilliant blue-green. You will have plenty of space to yourself to explore. Camping is permitted and sites include water and electricity, but make reservations early for peak times.
This national park contains the partially submerged ruins of an old military base. But that’s not the only attraction here, you’ll also find a gorgeous beach that delightfully uncrowded. To get there, take the ferry to Dry Tortugas Beach, whose name is very deceptive, because nearly 99% of this park is watery. Confusing name aside, you’ll also find some great snorkeling spots off this beach. A word of warning, the area has very limited services, but the cost of a ferry ticket also includes at least one meal per rider.
Are you looking for a private beach? The Keys offer quite a few, and we recommend Casa Marina for its spa and over 1,000 feet of pristine sands for lounging or swimming. This stretch of tourist heaven offers lounge chairs, massages and lazy palm trees, plus amazing sunrise views—and you will have every service at your fingertips.
The aptly named Dog beach is lovely. But this really isn’t a typical tourist destination, it’s meant specifically for people traveling with their four-legged companions. It’s a very small beach, but it offers enough waterfront space for all the splashing and ball chasing your furry friend could ask for. Before you go, we recommend you do a quick online search to get specific directions to the beach. After Fido is worn out, be sure to grab lunch at one of the nearby, beachfront restaurants.
While we’re on the topic of dogs, this next public beach is well-known to locals, but surprisingly uncrowded. With an adjoining dog park, Higgs Beach offers outdoor showers and restrooms, a playground, and a spacious stretch of sand for sunbathing, swimming or just strolling along the waterline.
In the area of Islamorada, there is a beach dedicated to an environmentalist by the name of Anne Eaton. It is known simply as Anne’s Beach, and it is definitely among the best beaches in Key West. It has an endearing, mellow vibe and is well out of the way of most tourist destinations. It has long been a family favorite for wading with kids, because the waters here are very shallow, which limits ‘real’ swimming opportunities but also makes it an ideal, safe spot for kids.
From Little Palm beach you can find a remote and secluded gem within a short kayak paddle. Due east, Big Munson beach is a stone’s throw away, yet completely secluded. It’s only facility is a composting toilet, but the views of the Florida Straits are spectacular and you may have the whole cove to yourself.
Take a jaunt to nearby Marathon and check out Coco Plum beach. Take US1 and then drive a mile down a road that seems to lead to nowhere. This beach is little used because you cannot actually see the ocean from the road. Once you find the small parking lot, you’ll also be likely to find just a few other car using it. The lack of tourist traffic to this beach makes it one of the most tranquil spots anywhere in Key West.
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