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The 13 Top Florida Keys Beaches

Relax on the sandy shorelines from Key West to Key Largo.

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The Florida Keys are known for their stunning sunrises and sunsets, swaying palm trees, and picture-perfect white sand beaches. The Florida Keys, a well-liked year-round vacation spot in the Sunshine State, also draw tourists with top-notch sport fishing and diving options. The entire island chain is surrounded by the sole remaining barrier coral reef in the contiguous United States, which sustains the islands’ diverse aquatic activities. The Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Big Pine Key, and Key West sectors make up this 125-mile-long archipelago, which stretches from just south of Miami to 90 miles north of Cuba. With its 42 bridges, the 113-mile Overseas Highway connects all the islands.

Visitors may expect to have a memorable time when visiting the distinctive and stunning beaches in the Florida Keys, from Key Largo to Key West.

(Note: The COVID-19 pandemic may have an impact on some of the venues and activities listed below. There may be new regulations in place, such as mask requirements, reservation requirements, or capacity restrictions. Before departing, inquire with the local tourism bureaus, the U.S. Department of State, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)

Key Largo: Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach, one of the park’s two man-made beaches, is situated on Largo Sound in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. The cannons from the 17th century that rest on the rocky edge of this Key Largo beach gave it its name. Most visitors to Cannon Beach spend their time snorkeling in the shallow waters, where they can see shrimp, crabs, and a variety of tropical fish, such barracuda and tuna. Continue your exploration to find a Spanish shipwreck model approximately 100 feet from the shore and you might even spot rays, tarpon, and manatees, in addition to other marine life. The state park, which is a whopping 70 nautical square miles in size, is also home to the first underwater park in the nation. To reach Cannon Beach and Far Beach, you must pay a daily park entry charge.

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Beachfront: Key Largo

You should proceed to Far Beach for a tranquil afternoon spent under the palm palms after snorkeling at Cannon Beach. Although there is a small daily entrance fee and this beach is also part of the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, it offers a less rocky option to Cannon Beach. Before you relax on the white sand beach or go for a refreshing dip, take some time. Because of its Mobi-Mat, Far Beach is wheelchair-accessible. Renting a kayak, paddleboard, or canoe to explore the mangroves and water trails is another activity available in the park, as is taking a glass-bottom boat trip to observe the marine life from above the water. The park also provides four-hour scuba tours to introduce beginning divers to the coral reef if you’re feeling particularly daring.

Beach at Founders Park: Islamorada

The Florida Bay at Islamorada, a premier Florida beach destination, attracts visitors because of Founders Park Beach’s shallow seas. Residents of Islamorada use the 45-acre Founders Park mostly for enjoyment, but guests are welcome to take advantage of the park’s facilities, events, and activities. Guests of nearby hotels and rental homes can get free guest cards. You must pay an admission fee and an additional fee for access to the pool area if you are not staying nearby. The beach has grills, a picnic area, a playground with a pirate ship motif, a volleyball court, a pickleball court, and outdoor showers. After spending the day at the beach, travel a mile to the northeast to Twisted Shrimp for fish tacos, fried shrimp, and iced beverages. Additionally, if you’re considering an extended family vacation, consider staying at the laid-back and welcoming Matecumbe Resort.

Beach Sombrero: Marathon

The Middle Keys’ lesser-known beach is a favorite among residents and the select few in-the-know tourists. Snorkeling is very popular at Sombrero Beach because of the area’s soft, white beaches that border the Atlantic Ocean’s crystal-clear waters. The beach is also the ideal location for taking a dip and soaking up some sun. While canines must be on leashes, Sombrero Beach is handicap accessible and pet-friendly. Bring lunch with you if you intend to stay all day so you can eat it under a covered picnic shelter. After that, make your way back to the beach so you can play some beach volleyball in the late afternoon. Spend a few days at Tranquility Bay Beachfront Resort, where you may unwind on the property’s private beach, to enjoy the Gulf of Mexico side of Marathon. The resort offers guest rooms and private homes.

State Park Beach at Curry Hammock: Marathon

In Curry Hammock State Park, there is an Atlantic Ocean beach that is 1,200 feet long. The park is the largest unspoiled area between Key Largo and Big Pine Key, with more than 1,110 acres of pristine tropical maritime wilderness. The safe beach has shallow seas and mangroves that are great for paddleboarding and kayaking. If you’re fortunate, you might even see a dolphin or a manatee. You might also spot daring kiteboarders cutting across the turquoise waters if you look up from tanning or constructing sandcastles on the beach. The park charges a fee for vehicle entry, and camping is permitted here over night.

Big Pine Key, Calusa Beach

The smallest of the three beaches in Bahia Honda State Park is Calusa Beach. The sea is calmer at this section of coast, also known as Bayside Beach, because it is located on the Gulf side and is at the southernmost point of the park. The Florida Keys Overseas Railroad trestle bridge, which is now a section of the Overseas Highway, can be seen from the shore in a special fashion that architecture lovers will appreciate. Three pathways can be found in the park, where you can find a variety of uncommon plants and animals. Bahia Honda State Park is specifically mentioned as the best birding habitat in the Florida Keys by the Great Florida Birding Trail. All three of the park’s beaches—Calusa Beach, Loggerhead Beach, and Sandspur Beach—are accessible as part of the park’s entrance fee.

Beach at Loggerhead: Big Pine Key

In Bahia Honda State Park, Loggerhead Beach is located on the southern side of Big Pine Key. A big sandbar is located few feet offshore and is separated from the shoreline by this beach’s shallow water. One of Florida’s best opportunities for astronomy after sunset is at Loggerhead Beach. Due to the low levels of light pollution, the visibility is great in this area, making it simple to see a wide variety of stars in the night sky. For access to Bahia Honda State Park, you must pay a charge.

Key West’s Fort Zachary Beach

Locals refer to this rocky section of coastline as Fort Zach Beach. Its name comes from Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which is the southernmost state park in the continental United States. Fort Zach, a popular Key West beach with both locals and tourists, has calm, clear waters that are great for swimming and snorkeling. Visitors should visit the fort, a National Historic Landmark that existed before the Civil War, as an afternoon activity. Every third Saturday of the month, historical reenactments take place in the park, bringing history to life. At Cayo Hueso Café, have lunch while viewing the Atlantic Ocean and sampling regional beach delicacies. After that, beachgoers can go geocaching, fishing, birdwatching, paddleboarding, or trekking along the local trails. There is an entrance fee for the state park.

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Beach Smathers: Key West

Smathers Beach, one of Key West’s largest and busiest beaches, is situated on the Atlantic Ocean alongside South Roosevelt Boulevard. It is especially well-liked during spring break. The beach’s beautiful white sand makes it the ideal location for volleyball matches, coastal runs, and quiet reading spots. For those who are feeling more daring, Sunset Watersports provides a variety of activities such as Hobie Cat trips and parasail rides in addition to access to kayaks and paddleboards. Parking at the beach is chargeable, but access to the grounds and use of the restrooms are free. After getting clean up, go to Lagerheads Beach Bar & Watersports to enjoy a refreshing, salt-rimmed margarita while admiring a spectacular Key West sunset.

Beach Higgs: Key West

Higgs Beach, a public beach at Clarence Higgs Beach Park, faces the Atlantic Ocean and is close to Casa Marina, A Waldorf Astoria Resort, one of Key West’s famous hotels. This beach is a frequently sought-after location for swimming, tanning, and watching the sun set because of its long wooden pier, soft white sand, and gorgeous surroundings. The only shore-accessible underwater marine park in the nation is located near Higgs Beach. Rentals for umbrellas and chairs, a modest café, and tennis, volleyball, and pickleball facilities are among the beach’s features. Additionally, there is a playground for children and a dog park for animals to run about in.

Beachfront: Key West

The iconic Southernmost Point marker in Key West is located on South Beach, which is at the end of the rowdy Duval Street. “90 miles to Cuba” is written on this striped buoy, which stands for the southernmost point of the continental United States. The Southernmost House, a vibrant Victorian mansion that functions as an adults-only boutique hotel, is also located across the street. Despite being small, South Beach may be crowded with tourists. Even so, it’s worthwhile to visit this great Florida Keys beach for a family portrait by the buoy, a quick swim, or a relaxed lunch at Southernmost Beach Café. A trip here is also a fantastic way to start the Duval Crawl, a traditional Key West vacation activity. This pub crawl visits the bars and clubs along Duval Street, which is home to many of Key West’s top nightclubs and bars.

Key West’s Dry Tortugas National Park

Set sail from Key West on the Yankee Freedom III for a full day of exploration of Dry Tortugas National Park’s historic Fort Jefferson, seven islands, and four beaches. This far-off national park, which is roughly 70 miles west of Key West and spans 100 square miles, is situated in the Gulf of Mexico. Explore the unfinished fort in the morning, then spend the afternoon snorkeling or skin diving in the tropical fish and coral-filled seas that surround the historic monument. The tall palm trees on the white sand beaches make for great sunbathing locations if you’d prefer to unwind. Consider taking a day trip that includes transportation from Key West by boat, breakfast, lunch, admission costs, a guided tour of the fort, and snorkeling gear. The more daring visitors can fly in by seaplane or arrange a campsite in the park for the night.

Park and Beach of Harry Harris: Tavernier

Harry Harris Park’s little sandy beach is the ideal place to soak up the Florida sun, unwind in the shade, or go swimming in the sea. Pavilions, picnic tables, charcoal grills, a playground, and restrooms are among the park’s amenities. On weekdays, access to the beach is free; however, non-Monroe County residents are subject to a fee on weekends and holidays. You can pay to utilize the deep-water boat ramp there. Pack up your catch and proceed to The Lazy Lobster at Mile Marker 102 that evening if you decide to go boating and reel in a fish. The full-service restaurant serves a variety of cuisine, including fresh seafood, and the chef will even cook your day’s catch for dinner.

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U.S. News & World Report, copyright 2022