South Florida Sunshine

Key West Beaches

By now you’ve had time to browse the blog and find the perfect cup of morning coffee, several bars and restaurants to check out, a great deal on getting around town in an electric car, and the perfect book to read. You’re all set with your beach towel and sunscreen. Which Key West beach are you going to pick to kick back and relax? For such a small island, we have several to choose from.

Smathers Beach

Smathers Beach - Witold Skrypczak, Lonely Planet Images

This two mile stretch of white tropical sand is the largest public beach on the island. Offering wide views of the Atlantic Ocean, this is a beach you could spend the whole day enjoying and if the sand between your toes feels like it did on your last trip to the Bahamas; you’re right!  As with all the sand on our beaches, it was imported, this one from the Bahamas.  Smathers offers volleyball, snorkeling, and other water sports right from the beach.   There are picnic areas to enjoy a snack from the local beach vendors. Public restrooms can also be found nearby. Several moderately priced hotels can be found all along this beach, making it a favorite of the Spring Break crowd. As with parking anywhere in Key West, be prepared to pay a meter.

Higgs Beach

This beach is located ½ mile further south of Smathers on Atlantic Blvd. near White St. This little beach with its shallow water and beach side playground has much to offer families with small children. Along with swimming and water sports, you can find a pier, restaurant, volleyball, tennis, and handball courts nearby. Dogs are welcome at the dog park across the street. There is even a civil war era fort and garden to enjoy with your children. A limited amount of free parking is available for this beach.

Dog Beach

Located on the southern end of Vernon & Waddel Streets this is the only beach in the Keys were dogs, as well as other pets, can go to freely swim and play.  It is a favorite of families with pets but don’t plan on having the kids build sand castles or laying out on your towel to catch some rays while Fido is frolicking with Fifi; it is a dog’s beach!  It is not cleaned by the city; just by responsible pet owners.  This parcel of land is squeezed between Louie’s Backyard and The Reach Resort.  To make sure I don’t steer you wrong I called our friends at Louie’s Backyard and confirmed your pooch is still welcome at the bar during lunch hour so you can grab a delicious bite to eat while your dog catches the waves.

As a side note: if you want to go to Louie’s for dinner and bring the dog, to be on the safe side, you should give the manager a call first to see what the crowd is like.

Rest Beach

Located next to Higgs Beach, Rest Beach is wheelchair accessible and where you will find the White Street Pier.  This is a great place to fish, relax, and enjoy the natural vegetation.

Fort Zachary Taylor

This 54 acre state park is where the Atlantic meets the Gulf of Mexico and home to probably the all around best beach Key West has to offer.  If you prefer to sit in the shade; no problem.  If you like to roast under the sun; no problem.  If you want to swim or snorkel; no problem.  If you’d rather sit on a beach chair but forgot to bring one; no problem.  If you like to bike or walk along the wooded park; no problem!  I think you get the idea.  In addition to all that there is also the Civil War fort which you can get a guided tour  of and fishing is allowed on the western end.  It is a wonderful place to see the famous sunset views Key West is known for.  Public restrooms, a food and drink kiosk, chair rentals, picnic tables and BBQ grill pits are there too.  The beach can be a bit rocky so I advise bringing your flipflops.  There is an admission fee.  To get to the beach you enter through the Truman Annex at Southard Street.

South Beach

Despite its name the beach is not related to its Miami namesake.  This small and open area is a favorite of locals.

Sign at South Beach

The beach is nice and sandy and the water is fairly shallow allowing you to walk out quite a way.  There is also a concrete pier.   There are no restrooms or facilities but there is a snack bar and you can easily walk to nearby restaurants.  The beach is located at the south end of Duval Street on the Atlantic Ocean.

Broken Glass Beach

At first glance this probably was not the best choice in names for a public beach area in a tourist town, however; there was method to the madness and it has to do with a bit of Key West history, albeit the less exciting side.  This strip of the Atlantic shoreline is best accessed at low tide and getting to it does require steeping down off a retaining wall. The terrain is somewhat rocky and thus this not my first recommendation for beaches.  The name Broken Glass Beach stems from when the local garbage dump used to be situated on the site many years ago and it has been obviously well cleaned up since.  Well some of the broken glass remained and after years of being pounded by the surf and being rolled back and forth over the rocks, corral and sand, these glass pieces are now nicely rounded and are much sought after by jewelry makers!

Simonton Beach

We love our town and all its charm to bits and I want you to enjoy every part of what I share with you, however; suffice it to say Simonton Beach is not really a place you need to visit.  We added it here to cancel any doubt about not having included it, just in case you wonder why when you see it on a map.

Sunset Key Beach

* * This just in! * * Our apologies go out to the Sunset Key Westin – they have a great beach and we neglected to include it originally, so here goes…

Sunset Key Beach - a Starwood Hotels property

Sunset Key is a 27 acre island just a bit more than a stones throw off the end of Duval Street and is easily accessed by a 24 hour ferry service.  About 1/4 of the island is home to guest cottages belonging to the Westin Resort and dedicated to the sophisticated traveler.  An exclusive residential community covers much of the rest of the island.  The beach, made of soft white sand, is so inviting it makes you want to just sit and stare out over the water all day long!  Cabanas, lounge chairs and attendants complete the scene.  Slightly back from the water you’ll find a lovely pool, whirlpools as well as two tennis courts.  To round out your day of relaxing don’t forget to stop by the Flipper’s Pool Bar for a cool drink before heading off to a beach-side dinner at Latitudes.  For a different view of Key West, give the Sunset Key Westin a call to book your next stay here!  Tell them Sunshine Michelle referred you 🙂

Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas

Fort Jefferson - National Park Service file photo

Dry Tortugas - National Park service file photos

Articles like this wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention the most inaccessible national park in America, 70 miles off the shores of Key West, out on Garden Key.  This group of seven small islands, first discovered by Ponce de Leon, is home to the largest coastal fort; the majestic Fort Jefferson.  The only ways to get there are by high speed ferry or seaplane, both of which depart from Key West and since seating is limited on each trip out you are best advised to book in advance.  The trip is worth it though.  The palm lined beaches are pristine  and snorkeling over the living reef is an experience you’ll never forget!

For more information on getting out to Fort Jefferson or about planning any other Key West activities and bookings please just ask me either by leaving a comment, by email, or on Twitter. I would be happy to help.

Related articles of possible interest:

A Key West Local’s Favorite Bars

Key West: Where to Find The Perfect Beach Book


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. My 36 Hours in Key West, Florida (Full Moon Optional) « Garrett On The Road pingbacked on 8 years, 5 months ago
  2. Key West Summer Sun Tips « Key West Sunshine pingbacked on 8 years, 5 months ago
  3. Tour Key West by Jet Ski « Key West Sunshine pingbacked on 8 years, 5 months ago


  1. * Matt says:

    Wow! Great post! Whoever says Key West isn’t known for their beaches needs to read this!! The only downside of the post is I’m reading it from my desk at work and not actually at the beach-haha

    Of all those beaches, I’ve only visited Smathers, which as you said is great. It’s a nice ride if you’ve rented a bike, and is certainly relaxing once you get there.

    For my upcoming trip we’re staying in the Truman Annex, so I’m excited to be so close to Fort Zachary Taylor. Nothing beats starting the day on the beach!


    | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
    • * Sunshine Michelle says:

      I’d be happy to send you a “starter pack” of sand in a small jar to get you acclimatized beforehand!

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
      • * Matt says:

        hahahaha thanks! even then I’d sit at my desk staring at the sand all day.

        Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
  2. * Gary says:

    Coming in September and I will be using the above info! Thanks!!

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
    • * Sunshine Michelle says:

      Let us know when Gary and we’ll keep any eye out for ya! If we can help with bookings or planning just let me know.

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
  3. * Sandy says:

    I love all the beaches in the Keys. We went to the Dry Tortugas last time. OMG, it was the most beautiful place I have ever been. If you havent went. You really need to. Next time I want to camp all night there. I love that place. The ocean is that aqua color. And, the beach is snow white. Like the Bahamas. So, thankful I got to go.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
    • * Sunshine Michelle says:

      What an appropriate name for a beach lover Sandy! I guess your destiny of loving our beaches came in your name 😉 The Dry Tortugas is a great camping experience. Booking in advance is a must due to space limitations on the ferries as well as in the camping area. Let me know if I can be of help to you in planning and booking your trip.

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
  4. * Danny says:

    So many beaches to choose from hope to hit as many as I can, thanks for this great resource I am planning a trip to the Keys in July.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
    • * Sunshine Michelle says:

      You’re welcome Danny; thanks for leaving a comment! Let us know if we can help you with any lodgings or activity planning & bookings.

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
  5. This is really informative, Michele. I’d like, with your permission to add a link to it from “My 36 Hours in Key West (Full Moon Optional)” column. If I may, I’d also like to add to your information here with one comment that Smathers Beach is probably the No. 1 spot in town (from my experience) to watch the moon rise. On a clear night, the experience of watching the moon slowly come up out of the sea is nothing short of magical. If you bring your sweetie along for the experience, I think you will agree this beach is also Key West’s most romantic!
    Jerry Garrett

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
    • * Sunshine Michelle says:

      Why, Jerry, I had no idea you were such a romantic! Thanks for the tip. And thank you very, very much for linking back here from your blog. Miss our little slice of paradise enough to come back, yet?

      | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
  6. * Davelyn says:

    Going Check out the beach near the fort today…YEAH loving Key West. Thanks for the information Michelle!

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 5 months ago
  7. * LaShea Maddox says:

    Hi I just wanted to thank you for adding this!!! I’m planning on having a key west wedding next month and its going to be on smathers beach… I enjoyed seeing this and having an idea of how pretty my wedding will be!! Its beautiful!!!! And I can’t wait to be there on the beach for my wedding!!

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 9 months ago

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: