From Key Largo to Key West, strips of sandy beach provide vacationers places for relaxing, sunning, swimming or just dipping their toes in warm, clear turquoise waters.
Key Largo is home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, with its main entrance at mile marker (MM) 102.6. Known worldwide as America’s first undersea preserve, the park also boasts upland areas including the popular Cannon Beach and Far Beach. Guests can rent kayaks, paddleboards and snorkel gear to explore the park’s waters.
Anne’s Beach, located at MM 80, attracts waders and kiteboarders cruising along the shallows off Islamorada. Great views and scenic walkways please passersby and visiting families, and the shallow water typically means no breaking waves.
The free-access public park and beach features a kayak and paddleboard launch, volleyball courts, children’s playground, shady picnic pavilions equipped with cooking grills, freshwater showers, restroom facilities and handicap access. Well-socialized and well-behaved dogs are welcome with their owners, but must remain on leash.
Marathon also features a 1,200-foot beach at Curry Hammock State Park. Sunbathing, swimming and sandcastle building are favored activities at the beach facing the Atlantic Ocean. The shallow, protected mangrove creek and waters off the pristine coastline are ideal for paddleboarding and kayaking. The park is located on a large protected parcel of land along both sides of U.S. Highway 1 at MM 56.2, starting at Little Crawl Key.
The Keys’ most widely known beach area, because of its repeated accolades as one of the top 10 beaches in the United States by travel surveys, can be found at Bahia Honda State Park, located in the Lower Keys between MMs 36 and 37.
Bahia Honda beaches include Calusa Beach, the smallest, on the northwest side of the island that offers a unique view of the historic Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad trestle bridge. On the south side of the island is shallow-water Loggerhead Beach featuring a large sandbar a few feet offshore. Sandspur Beach, the largest of the three, is located on the southeast end of the island.
Bahia Honda was voted the USA’s best beach in 1992 by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, dubbed “Dr. Beach” — a professor at Florida International University who has been rating beaches since 1989. Leatherman lauded the popular state park for its facilities including boat slips, cabins and amenities for camping in tents or RVs. The on-site concession offers a complete gift shop, snack bar, kayak rentals and daily snorkeling tours to nearby Looe Key.
In Key West, sun-seekers can enjoy the temperate waters of Florida’s southernmost state park, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, swimming and snorkeling among colorful tropical fish and exploring a National Historic Landmark. Currents help keep the water clear and clean off what locals refer to as “Fort Zach” or “rocky beach.” The park features picnic tables and grills, nature trails, fishing areas and the opportunity to tour the iconic Civil War-era fort.
Key West’s beaches also include the popular Smathers Beach, stretching alongside South Roosevelt Blvd on the Atlantic Ocean, and the oceanfront Higgs Beach beside historic West Martello Tower.
The Florida Keys News Bureau is a division of NewmanPR, the tourism public relations agency for the Florida Keys tourism council. For more Keys travel information, go to fla-keys.com.