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What is the Best Beach in Key West – Photos & Maps

What is The Best Beach in Key West? 

There is no doubt that one of our favorite Florida road trips is to Key West. We have written about the Florida Keys and Key West many times. 

What is the best beach in Key West? There is not an easy answer, but there are only 5 main beaches in Key West. It is a small island – visit them all!

Let’s state upfront that you will not find the miles-long white snowy sand beach like Clearwater Beach, Siesta Key or Lido Key. That is not to say you won’t find your best beach in Key West based on the numerous choices available.

We will rank the best Key West beaches below based on each beach’s variables. Remember that Key West is a 2-mile by 4-mile rectangular-shaped island. Most of the Key West beaches, with only a couple of exceptions, are on the south and westerly part of the island. 

Most of the northerly and easterly parts of the island has marinas, hotels, and other developed property with walls retaining the water. 

Here is our list of the best Key West beaches:

Smathers Beach

Smathers Beach is the largest and most popular beach on the island. The beach faces the Atlantic Ocean. This Key West beach is wide and runs along one of the main routes into Key West (South Roosevelt Dr. – see Key West beaches map). The Key West airport is nearby and plenty of hotels line the north side of the road. Parking along the road makes it convenient for locals, travelers, and the occasional food truck.

Smathers Beach Key West Best Beach - What is the best beach in Key West
This is one entrance to Smathers Beach in Key West. There are many accesses along the road (A1A).

The view of the straits of Florida includes numerous ships heading for the security of a marina. Cruise ships come from locations around the world heading for their next stop. Along the beach, you will find rentals for everything from kayaks to jet skis. Overall, Smathers Beach offers plenty of sun and the best people-watching of any of the Key West beaches. Many people consider Smathers the best beach in Key West.

Fort Zachary Taylor Beach – Our Choice for One of the Best Key West Beaches

West side Fort Zachary Taylor Beach
This is Fort Zachary Taylor Beach on the rocky side.

If we had to answer the question, what is the best beach in Key West,  our answer, based on uniqueness, would be Fort Zachary Taylor Beach as the best beach in Key West.

One of the key features of Fort Zachary Taylor Beach is the rock jetty that protrudes into the Straits of Florida that unites the Gulf of Mexico with the Atlantic. The jetty protects one side daily from waves. Perhaps the best feature of the jetty is its cover for fish. That makes this beach a great place to wet a line.

Nearby are the remains of the Fort. You can walk a few steps for a little history and get out of the sun. There is a snack bar for refreshments and a few trees for shade. Fort Zachary Taylor has the best view of the channel entering Key West harbor.

It seems spring breakers discovered this beach and make it home while they are on the island. It can get crowded while the college crowd is in town. In our opinion, Fort Zachary Taylor Beach is number one or two when choosing the best beach in Key West.

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Fort Zachary Taylor answers what is the best beach in Key West
This side of Fort Zachary Taylor Beach has more sandy shores.

For more information about Fort Zachary State Park and a live video of the beach, follow this link.

Higgs Beach

Higgs Beach Key West
Higgs Beach is considered the best beach in Key West by many locals.

Just west of Smathers Beach is Higgs Beach. Higgs is not as large as Smathers or it would compete for the most popular beach in Key West. After your visit to Higgs Beach, you may consider it the best beach in Key West like many of the locals do.

At the west end of Higgs Beach is one of the only public piers on Key West beaches. Near the center of the beach is a full-service restaurant named Salute. There is also a section of the beach that has a dog park, restrooms, volleyball courts, and a memorial marking the burial site of African-American slaves.

The park is lined with a few trees and has walkways for easy access. The west end of the beach abuts the Casa Marina Hotel Beach discussed below.

Higgs Beach can be crowded since it is only about a quarter mile long. Locals consider this a favorite beach.

Simonton Beach

Simonton Beach Key West
This little-known beach in Key West could be your best beach in Key West. The view is north towards Sunset Island.

You won’t find Simonton Beach on many lists of the best beach in Key West. That’s because the beach is small and hidden away from most island traffic. At the north end of Simonton Street, the road ends into a white sandy 100-yard-long beach.

On the beach, there are some water bike rentals and other water sports options, but there is also one of our favorite hidden restaurants/tiki bars. In a little shack on the west side of the beach is a place called Lagerheads. This little place puts out some of the best tacos on the island. The cocktails and cold beer aren’t bad either.

Regular visitors and locals are the main patrons of this comparatively tiny beach, but toes in the sand with a few refreshments and a great view of the channel make up for the diminutive size. This is a regular stop for the Florida Travel Blog staff! This is certainly the best hidden beach of all the Key West beaches.

The Casa Marina Beach

Casa Marina Hotel Key West
No, this is not the beach at the Casa Marina, but this is the luxury you walk through on the way to their beach.

First, this is not a public beach. However, the Casa Marina Hotel has never been known to ask visitors to leave.

Behind the historic Casa Marina is a beach maintained by hotel staff. As mentioned above, the beach is next to Higgs Beach, but the public is blocked by a wall. You can enter through the hotel entrance and take advantage of the well-groomed grounds along with the bar near the beach. They also have jet ski rentals.

One of the fascinating things about Casa Marina Beach is the sand sculpture they always seem to have in progress along the beach. Casa Marina Beach has that luxury feel, but the sun and sand are the same on all the Key West beaches.

What is the best beach in Key West?

Finding the best beach in Key West is a personal decision. You may like our reasoning, but the fun may be to visit them all and pick your own. If none of these make your list, there are a few other Key West beaches to visit on the island such as;

  • The Pier House Beach – a tiny spit of sand, but well protected from the weather.
  • Dog Beach – a small beach at the south end of Vernon Street (close to Louie’s Backyard, possibly the best restaurant on the island).
  • Rest Beach – small locals’ beach on Atlantic Drive.
  • Southernmost Beach Café – small beach behind the café and hotel. Great place to have lunch.

What is the best beach in Key West? The search is on for you – enjoy! Let us know yours.

One of Florida’s best family beaches in just a few miles north of Key West – check it out.

Bahia Honda State Park Beach 

The Beaches of Florida

Here is more about the Florida Keys –

The Florida Keys and Key West The Ultimate Florida Road Trip 

Key West Beach Map

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