The best beaches in the Florida Keys pretty much guarantee days filled with sunscreen, ice cream and margaritas. This group of coral islands – sprinkled with smooth-sand coasts – is nestled up against the Gulf of Mexico to its west and the Atlantic to its east. Though best known for its stunning coral displays, the archipelago hosts a string of worthy beaches where you can find some respite under the hot Floridian sun. The all-year-round beach weather is another huge draw.

    Pitch up a parasol in a serene stretch of sand or grab a snorkel and join the fishes. Either way, you’ll leave understanding why many famous writers, designers and artists – Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams included – made this place home.


    Calusa Beach

    Picnic on this sheltered beach

    Calusa Beach is found on the gulf side of the Bahia Honda State Park, which is found between Big Pine Key and Marathon. With its sheltered nature, the beach exudes serenity with its gently lapping waves and calm, glistening waters. Because of this, Calusa Beach is ideal for families with young children. Not to mention, it also has covered picnic area and lots of parking. For those looking for a bit more excitement, the beach leads to an excellent coral reef with an abundance of sea life… so best pack your snorkel.

    Location: Big Pine Key, FL 33043, USA

    Phone: +1 305 872 2353


    Smathers Beach

    People watch in beach bliss

    At Smathers Beach, there’s little chance you’ll find yourself bored. As the Key West’s biggest public beach, it’s brimming with life as it offers water activities such as wind and kite-surfing, kayaking and jet-skiing. If you’d rather just stick to the beach, there are also volleyball nets and sun loungers to participate in some people watching.

    Found right next to Roosevelt Boulevard, you’ll find a lively crowd of bikers, skaters and runners taking advantage of that famous Florida sunshine. If you’re feeling drained from all the activity, get your fill at one of the many food trucks lining the boulevard.

    Location: 2601 South Roosevelt Boulevard, Key West, FL 33040, USA

    Open: Daily 7 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +1 305 809 3700


    Dry Tortugas National Park

    For the adventure lovers

    Considering a 2-hour catamaran journey is needed to reach Dry Tortugas National Park – seclusion and quiet is almost guaranteed. Setting off from the Key West, this national park impresses with its small, hidden beaches and vibrant displays of sea life.

    On any of these 7 islands, you’ll be confronted with stunning reefs, shoals and sandy spots ideal for a sun-bathing session. Loggerhead and leatherback turtles are frequent visitors to this area, so keep an eye out. The 19th-century Fort Jefferson only adds to the spectacle of the national park. Scuba divers will be glad to hear there are also shipwreck sites full of life just off the islands. Make sure to book a tour guide well in advance.

    Phone: +1 305 242 7700


    Sombrero Beach

    Play volleyball beside sparkling blue water

    In the heart of Marathon, Sombrero Beach draws in tourists for its fantastic array of activities and its charming beauty. Its fine sand is dotted with picture-perfect palm trees and its water exists in striking shades of blue.

    The water at Sombrero Beach is a bit deeper than at most beaches in Florida Keys, so it’s best for confident swimmers. Fit with barbecue stations, picnic areas, volleyball nets, a pier and public showers - you could spend hours on end at this beach. For a spot of snorkeling, swim just off from the shore but beware of the rocks.

    Location: Sombrero Beach Road, Marathon, FL 33050, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +1 305 743 0033


    Zachary Taylor State Park Beach

    Spend a day snorkeling with tropical fish

    As the southernmost beach of the U.S. and a hop, skip and a jump away from Barbados and Cuba - you’re basically on a Caribbean vacation. Spend a full day here basking in the sunshine under swaying palm trees, floating around in the warm, tropical waters and indulging in cheap drinks from its beach club.

    If you’re looking for something a bit more cultural, stop at the historical Fort Zachary Taylor to learn about the history of the Keys. Be sure to bring some water shoes as it can get a bit rocky around the shore and some cash to pay for the $7 entry fee.

    Location: 601 Howard England Way, Key West, FL 33040, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to sundown

    Phone: +1 305 292 6713


    Higgs Beach

    For an activity-filled day

    Anyone indecisive about whether they want a relaxing day or energy-filled day should head to Higgs Beach. When Smathers Beach gets a bit too crowded, Higgs Beach should be your go-to spot. Equipped with volleyball and tennis courts, plenty of room for swimming and snorkeling and even a bike path running along the beach – you’ll be spoilt for choice.

    It doesn’t stop there, with even kayaks and paddle boards at your disposal. For a meal with a gorgeous view, head to Salute! On The Beach, which serves some delicious mussels and a mean Key Lime Pie. Higgs Beach is a dog-friendly park with even small and large dog areas for your canine friends.

    Location: 1000 Atlantic Boulevard, Key West, FL 33040, USA

    Open: Daily from 6 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +1 305 295 4385


    C.B. Harvey Rest Beach

    Catch the sunrise and some beach yoga

    For those early risers, C.B. Harvey Rest Beach is the place to start your day. This spectacular sunrise spot should be reason enough to grudgingly get out of bed. If this isn’t your cup of tea, the beach at sunset is just as lovely. Yoga classes are held every evening on a deck overlooking the beach – a serene way to end the day with the beach swarming in golden light.

    In between these glorious times of day, perfect the art of doing nothing by reading a book in the sun, partake in some snorkeling or head up the White Street Pier (which separates it from Higgs Beach) to watch fisherman do what they do best.

    Location: White Street and Atlantic Boulevard, Key West, FL 33040, USA

    Open: Daily 7 am to 11 pm

    Phone: +1 305 809 3700


    photo by Shiva Shenoy (CC BY 2.0) modified


    John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

    Scuba dive to a World War II shipwreck

    John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is more known for its spectacular sea life than its beaches, but it delivers well on both fronts. Found on Key Largo, this state park is home to the extraordinary 2-tonne statue of Jesus, which sits on the ocean’s floor.

    Visitors can take glass-bottom-boat rides to experience the vibrant colors of the ocean, as well as marvel at the unusual sight of the statue. With its thriving sea life, it’s no wonder it's a hotspot for scuba divers and snorkelers. If you’d rather have a less passive day out, explore the park by cruising around its waters, stopping at all the hidden beaches for your own private getaway.

    Location: 102601 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, FL 33037, USA

    Open: Daily from 8 am to sunset

    Phone: +1 305 451 6300


    photo by Ebyabe (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Sunset Park Beach

    Enjoy the sunset from the sand

    Found in the municipality of Key Colony Beach, Sunset Park Beach is a snug stretch of sand dotted with wooden picnic tables and benches. Hunker down with an icy cocktail as the day winds down and the sun sets before you.

    This mesmerizing atmosphere is elevated even more when locals sing a song made for the island - you may even be handed a song sheet to join in. Though it’s not typically known as a swimming beach, visitors often spend the afternoon here playing and sitting on the sand or its pier.

    Location: Ocean Drive West, Key Colony Beach, FL 33051, USA

    Open: Daily 7 am to 7 pm


    Anne’s Beach

    Bare all at this nudist beach

    • Budget
    • Unusual

    Anne’s Beach is a quaint beach found on Islamorada surrounded by enchanting mangrove trees, a wooden boardwalk… and frequent nudist sunbathers. If you’ve got no qualms about the ‘lounging without clothing’ part, this beach is the ultimate paradise.

    The beach does have many private coves, so avoiding nudity may be in the cards, if you’re really that fussed. Grab a picnic and soak in the sun from a picnic table or on the sand. Due to the shallowness of the water, you can easily walk at least a quarter of a mile into the sea.

    Sophia Macpherson | Contributing Writer

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