Top Beaches of the Florida Keys

Florida’s Overseas Highway

Pack your bags for a trip to paradise. Rent a car or even a motorcycle for the journey over the 113 mile-long Overseas Highway. This historic roadway, with 42 bridges, takes you over the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. All along it connects the barrier islands known as “The Florida Keys” to each other, and the mainland.

Unique natural and manmade features make this route just as much about the journey as the destinations! Distance and addresses in the Keys are noted by mile markers (MM), and by whether they are on the Oceanside or the Gulf side.

Whether you start at MM Zero in Key West, or at MM 105 in Key Largo, you are in for the drive of a lifetime.

Take a break from the road with stops at some of the numerous beaches along the Overseas Highway. Keep in mind, many of the Keys beaches are “man-made” to allow access to the Atlantic Ocean. Therefore, they are usually smaller in size than mainland shore beaches, and often sand has to be imported to replenish the shoreline. Naturally occurring Keys beaches are just that, natural, so the stars of the show here are mangroves and wetland hammocks, meaning the water is not always easy to access.

You will not be disappointed by the beauty or nature you encounter as you make your way throughout the Florida Keys.

Key Largo

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Mile Marker 102.6, oceanside

Pennekamp  Park is best known for its beautiful reefs and clear waters. Visitors are drawn to this underwater park that extends for three miles into the Atlantic Ocean.

Pennekamp features two small beaches. Cannon Beach – named for the 17th century cannons along its shores. This hard sand beach is a popular with snorkelers who come to explore the shipwrecks and reefs of the park.

On the other side of the park is Far Beach — but it’s really not that far! Just a half a mile from Cannon Beach, this sandy cove offers easy access to the warm Atlantic water. This family friendly spot has easy parking and a playground for young visitors.

If snorkeling isn’t for you, explore the sea from above. Glass-bottom boat tours will get you great views of the reefs and fish, without getting wet.

Feel like paddling? Rent a paddleboard or kayak from one of the concession stands and explore the calm Atlantic waters.

Admission to the Park is a reasonable $9 for two visitors, and just $10 for up-to four. Learn more about all this unique park has to offer by clicking here.

Tavernier Key

Harry Harris Park

Mile Marker 92.5, oceanside

Take a break from your drive along the Oversees Highway at this quiet beachfront park.

Swimmers will enjoy a dip in the shallow, calm water lagoon swim area protected by a jetty. There’s even a play area for the kiddos.

Pets are welcome, but must be kept on leashes and off the beach area.

Recently renovated following damage by Hurricane Irma in 2017, the park has new public restrooms and 34 picncic tables. There are 11 covered pavilions and 12  barbecue grills throughout the park.

Boat ramps and ample parking make Harry Harris Park a popular spot with locals.

There is a $5 charge for non residents to visit the park on holidays and weekends. Click here for all the details.

Islamorada

Founders Park Beach

Mile Marker 87, oceanside

Slip into the shallow Atlantic waters off this wide, 45-acre beachfront park.  This family-friendly  recreation area has something for everyone. The small beach offers beautiful ocean views, tiki huts, grills, a picnic area, and access to a volleyball court. Volleyballs are available for rent at the park office.

For the kiddos there’s a pirate ship-themed playground  and a splash pad for fun and photo opps.

Island residents and visitors are welcome free of charge (visitors must obtain a free guest pass from their hosts). The public is welcome too, with paid admission (cash only!). A day pass costs $8 for adults and $5 for children 17 and under.

Founders Park is home to the southernmost Olympic-size swimming pool in the United States! For an additional $3 for adults/$2 for children under 17 you can enjoy swimming and diving like a champion.

Find all the details of Founders Park here.

Anne’s Beach

Mile Marker 73.5, oceanside

Anne’s Beach recently re-opened after restoration following Hurricane Irma in 2017. This little beach offers 300 feet of oceanfront boardwalk and six covered pavilions that are perfect for relaxing and observing birds and wildlife.

Wade along the shallow clay shoreline which also makes a great swimming area for smaller children. Pets are welcome to enjoy the water here too, but they must be leashed.

There is a rest room and limited parking on the north side of the highway. Learn more about Anne’s Beach and other Islamorada parks here.

Marathon

Curry Hammock State Park

Mile Marker 56.2 , oceanside

Nestled half way through the keys is Curry Hammock State Park. Stop in for a day in an unspoiled, undeveloped tropical wilderness.

The shallow waters and mangrove hammocks are perfect for paddle boarding and kayaking. Rental equipment is available to take you through the mangroves, open lagoons, or even to the nearby sandbar. You never know what creatures you’ll encounter here. Frequent park visitors include starfish, manatees, birds, horseshoe crabs, and dolphin!

Sit back, relax and watch talented kiteboarders launching their colorful boards and sails from this popular spot.

If hiking is more your speed, there is a 1.3-mile trail that wind through the natural hammock, under the tree canopy areas of the park.

Start planning your visit to Curry Hammock here.

Sombrero Beach

Mile Marker 50, oceanside – then 1 mile to Sombrero Beach Road

Sombrero Beach is a secluded haven on Marathon’s Atlantic side. This quiet oasis is popular with locals and lucky visitors who venture off the main highway.

Relax your day away on the softest of Keys sand, next to the calm waters of Sombrero Cove. Coconut palms sway in the breeze as you contemplate the beautiful sunset.

The entire family will enjoy time at Sombrero Beach. Visitors with mobility devices can access the beach along the ADA compliant pathway.Children will enjoy the two playgrounds.

Canine companions are welcome throughout the park and beach, as long as they are leashed! Plan ahead and learn how to protect your fur babies from the Florida sun with these helpful tips.

Parking is free, but limited so arrive early on weekends. Public restroom facilities are available.

Insider Tip: Bring your own everything, including water, umbrellas and sunscreen. There are no concessions and little shade here.

Big Pine Key

Bahia Honda State Park

Mile Marker 37, oceanside

Explore Bahia Honda State Park, where history and paradise intersect.

This stunning state park has two beaches, Calusa Beach and Sandspur Beach, each with their own charm and unique features. The concession building offers a snack bar, kayak rentals, and wifi access. However, repairs from Hurricane Irma are still taking place, so some amenities are still in the process of being re-opened.

Insider Tips: There are no chair or umbrella concessions so bring your own. Arrive early to avoid traffic entering the park.

Calusa Beach

Situated on the northwest side of the Bahia Honda, this award-winning beach offers a breathtaking view of the historic Overseas Railroad Bridge, which is now part of the Overseas Highway.

Explore three different trails, home to a variety of keys wildlife, birds, and unique plants.

Sandspur Beach

Just a short walk from Calusa Beach, this mile-long beach, is on the Gulf side of the Key.  This laid-back beach offers spectacular views of the Gulf. Depending on the winds, this beach frequently has calmer waters than Calusa Beach.

Get all the information you need to plan your Bahia Honda visit here.

Key West

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

601 Howard England Way

The southernmost state park in the continental United States, is also home to one of the nation’s southernmost beaches. Fort Zach Beach, as the locals call it, offers a great day of history and relaxation.

The rocky beach is just next to the historic fort that pre-dates the American Civil War making for some amazing photos.

Enjoy the park’s natural beauty by watching a variety of birds that stop by this Great Florida Birding Trail site. Not sure what you’re seeing? Stop by the ranger station for a complimentary list of migrating birds.

Active visitors can ride bikes or hike along the park’s 87 acres.Β Anglers can fish off the rock jetty that runs along Key West’s main shipping channel (bring your own equipment and your fishing license).

Enjoy the water? Go swimming or snorkeling off the beach, or launch your own kayak or paddleboard from the east end of the beach.

Relax over lunch at the park’s cafe where you can sit and take-in the ocean views as you plan the rest of your day.

Find a detailed guide with all the info to plan your Fort Zach Beach visit here.

Higgs Memorial Beach/West Martello Tower

1000 Atlantic Boulevard at White Street

It’s just a short walk from the vibrant heart of key west to Higgs Beach. Visitors can enjoy wave and people-watching from a rental chair and umbrella at this beautiful spot on the Atlantic.

Higgs Beach is a laid-back spot with something for the entire family. The kids will enjoy the two playgrounds. Even pets are welcome in the dog park (but not on the beach).

Beat the heat and cool-off with a dip in the Atlantic and then enjoy lunch at the oceanfront restaurant (shirt and shoes required). Or take a stroll along the long wooden pier.

Sports minded visitors can hit the courts for a tennis match or game of volleyball.

In winter months the Higgs Beach hosts art fairs, food festivals, and live music.

C.B. Harvey Rest Beach Park

White Street at Atlantic Boulevard

This quiet stretch on the Atlantic is a great spot for collecting shells and wading. The waterfront benches, spectacular sunrise views, and free parking across the street, make this one of the easiest Florida Keys top beaches to access.

Stroll along the shoreline or the Edward B. Knight Pier, also known as the White Street Pier, that extends over the Atlantic. The Key West Aids Memorial is here at the foot of the Pier. It was established in 1998 as a tribute to those who have died of AIDS. Furthermore, those named at the monument had a connection to the Florida Keys. For more information about this thougtful Memorial, including how to nominate a new name for addition, visit here.

Insider Tip: If you want to walk the beach here bring water shoes as the shore can be rocky. Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the beach, of course. Don’t be surprised if you see neighborhood chickens wandering around Rest Beach.

Dry Tortugas National Park/Fort Jefferson

68 miles south of Key West is the day trip of a lifetime in this unique national park. The Dry Tortugas gets its name, Spanish for dry turtles, because its seven islands appear like turtles floating in the sea.

Getting to the Dry Tortugas is half the fun. The area is only accessible via private boat, ferry, or for the truly adventurous, by seaplane!

Known for its history and natural wonders, above and below the water, there is something for visitors of diverse interests. Explore a 19th Century fort, stroll along unspoiled white sand beaches, or snorkel above the coral and amazing marine life that surrounds the islands.

Whether you prefer scuba or snorkelling, you will be captivated by these waters. Ship wrecks line the sea floor, and there are many coral formations to explore. Divers should stop by the visitor’s center to get laminated underwater maps to help get the most out of the experience.

Insider Tips: No matter how you get here, this is a long day trip. There are no concessions on the islands, you must bring everything you think you will need, and be prepared to take it back out with you. Carefully research and select the best mode of transportation for you and your traveling companions. Communicate directly with your chosen transportation provider to find out all rules and regulations of their operation, and what, if any, amenities they offer.

Start planning your one-of-a-kind adventure to the Dry Tortugas here.

Another Day in Paradise

From the crystal blue waters of the Dry Tortugas, to the swaying palms of Key Largo, there are many top beaches of the Florida Keys to choose from. Take your time, enjoy the ride along the Overseas Highway, and find your paradise.

Written by Jacqui May

Jacqui May has a background in nonprofit project management and writing. She is currently a freelance consultant, Florida Supreme Court Certified Family Mediator, and writer. She enjoys working with diverse organizations to connect them with resources, and make a difference in the community.

Jacqui is a straight ally and several of her close family and friends identify as lgbtq. She volunteers with organizations serving veterans, developmentally disabled adults, the homeless, and low-income community members.

Originally from New York City, she is a long-time Floridian and has extensively explored the Sunshine State. Jacqui loves history and believes that everyone has a story worth listening to.


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