The Best Beach in Key West
There is no doubt that one of our favorite road trips is to Key West. We have written about the Florida Keys and Key West many times. Picking the best beach in Key West is not easy.
Let’s state upfront that you will not find the miles-long white snowy sand beach like Clearwater Beach 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 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 beaches, with only a couple of exceptions, are on the south and westerly part of the island. Most of the northerly and easterly side of the island has marinas, hotels, and other developed property with walls retaining the water.
Smathers Beach is the largest and most popular beach on the island. The beach faces the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is wide and runs along one of the main routes into Key West (Roosevelt Dr.). The 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.
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.
Fort Zachary Taylor Beach
If we had to choose our favorite beach based on uniqueness, we would name 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.
For more information about Fort Zachary State Park and a live video of the beach, follow this link.
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’s 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.
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 sand 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 restaurant/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!
The Casa Marina 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 kept up 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.
Find Your Own 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 others on the island such as;
- The Pier House Beach – a tiny spit of sand, but well protected from the weather.
- Dog Beach – small beach at the south end of Vernon Street (close to Louie’s Backyard, possibly the best restaurant on the island).
- Rest Beach – small local’s beach on Atlantic Drive.
- Southernmost Beach Café – small beach behind the café and hotel.
The best beach in Key West search is on for you – enjoy!