For many people, Memorial Day is the traditional beginning of summer — and what screams “Summer” better than a day at the Beach? Key West has some fantastic seaside spots to set up for the day & celebrate summertime in true island style!!
Fort Zachary Taylor Beach
Located at the very southwestern tip of the island in the Fort Zachary Taylor State Park (through Truman Annex at the end of Southard Street), Fort Zach Beach is considered one of the best beaches in Key West. Typically more quiet, this pristine island spot features large palm-shaded picnic areas complete with charcoal grills; a gift store and small restaurant (Cayo Hueso); a rocky stretch on the west shoreline great for fishing; & some of the best snorkeling spots around! A rental hut offers various beach equipment including chairs, floats, and snorkel gear & the beach has a nice restroom & changing facility with showers.
Visitors can also enjoy narrated tours of Fort Taylor, the fortress that served as headquarters for the U.S. Navy’s East Gulf Coast blockade squadron during the Civil War. This squadron deterred numerous supply ships from reaching and leaving Confederate ports in the Gulf of Mexico, and the fortress still houses cannons and other war construction!
Higgs Beach & Beach Park
Located at the end of Reynold’s Street on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island, this little piece of paradise boasts a diverse array of activities & offerings. Attractions include a Civil War Era Fort (listed on the National Register of Historic Places); “Salute! On the Beach” – a lovely beach side cafe featuring a lighter, Caribbean-influenced cuisine; the largest African Refugee Burial Ground in this hemisphere; & the only shore-accessible underwater marine park in the United States.
Activities include swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, beach volleyball, tennis, pickleball & a Children’s Playground. Tropical Water Sports (a beach concessionaire) offers a broad array of beach accessories for rent including beach chairs, umbrellas, kayaks, and paddle-boards, among others. Additionally, the historic civil war era fort known as the West Martello has served as the home of the Key West Garden Club for over 50 years and offers free self-guided tours of almost 2 acres of beautiful gardens with an ocean breeze and view.
For animal lovers, the Park hosts a large and actively utilized dog park with separate runs for small and large dogs!
Located a short distance away from Higgs Beach on the same side of the island (Atlantic Ocean), Smathers is the largest public beach in Key West and offers nearly a mile stretch of sandy, man-made beach splattered with shade-providing palms, restroom facilities, concession stands & vendors. With low surf and rarely an undertow, this seashore is ideal for small children & provides ample room to spread out and set up camp. Additional attractions include volleyball nets; picnic tables and sitting areas; bike and walking paths; & watersports rentals — jet skiing, parasailing, & windsurfing!
Visitors also have access to a public boat ramp, street or lot parking (some metered), and a front row seat for one of best sunrises you can see. Pick a spot to relax for the day & enjoy some of Key West’s best ocean views, or try your hand at an adrenaline-driven water activity! (We won’t judge, promise.)
**Whatever you choose to do this Memorial Day, enjoy…….and Here’s to SUMMER!!**