The Florida Keys are amazing for many reasons, however one of my favorites must be standing at the edge of the continental US on a beach looking out to the open ocean. Many first-time visitors fall in love with the island charm of this archipelago, and the crystal-clear blue waters that realizing they do not have to go too far to have the Caribbean vacation of their dreams without even leaving the country. The best beaches in the Florida Keys are often easy to drive by if you don’t know where to look.
The best way to experience the Florida Keys is a road-trip from Miami to Key West. Along the way are some of the best beaches in the Florida Keys, an abundance of wildlife, and plenty of outdoor adventures that will have you basking in the Florida sun. Don’t miss 10 of the best beaches in the Florida Keys as you drive the 42 bridges (including a 7-mile bridge), and the 34 islands as you journey down the overseas highway!
1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Don’t miss John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park as you enter The Keys! This is a gem of Florida located on Key Largo, where you can go swimming, snorkel, or take a glass-bottom boat over the coral and aquamarine sea.
While most of the park is “undersea” due to the coral reef, the park offers a 30,000 gallon salt-water aquarium that you can enjoy, kayaking, canoeing, and relaxing on the beach. The park covers 70 nautical miles and the park also offers diving! This is the most adventure fueled state park in Florida!
2. Anne’s Beach Lower Matecumbe Key, Islamorada
When most people think of visiting the Florida Keys, the first that comes to mind is going to Key West. However, I would recommend a night in Islamorada. I love this town in the Keys! It is the perfect halfway point on a road trip from Miami to Key West. The best beach in Islamorada is Anne’s Beach, located on Lower Matecumbe Key.
Once you have had enough at one of the best beaches in the Florida Keys make sure to head to Lazy Days for a meal full of seafood and local favorites. With a great spot on the water definitely choose to eat outside if the weather permits!
3. Long Key State Park
Long Key State Park sort of sneaks up on you. Many have probably never heard of it before they start their drive down to Key West, however the beach and walking path here make it one of the most picturesque spots.
From walking along sand bars in crystal clear waters, or just taking in the nature around you Long Boat Key State Park offers the perfect place to relax on the beach and not be around throngs of tourists.
4. Sombrero Beach, Marathon, Vaca Key
Want pearly white sand, and azul blue waters? Well, Sombrero Beach may be your best bet for a nice dip in the water to cool down. Located on Marathon Key, this local hot spot is perfect for a day at the beach: free parking, restroom, showers, and a volleyball court!
Also, there are many things to do including visit this 10-mile island. Animal lovers can visit the Dolphin Research Center or take a tour of the Turtle Hospital. Be careful if you visit between April and October this beach is one of the turtle nesting zones. (Stay away from marked nests).
5. Calusa Beach, Bahia Honda State Park , Big Pine Key
Calusa Beach has often been touted as the most romantic beach in The Keys, also it is personally my favorite beach in Bahia Honda State Park. Many tourists to the Keys pass this state park on the last leg of their journey (a total mistake), however it is one of the most unique and picturesque beaches.
Tucked away next to the old train bridge this is the perfect spot for snorkeling and swimming due to its’ calm waters. Calusa is not far from the Marina, picnic shelters, and the nature center of Bahia Honda State Park.
6. Loggerhead Beach, Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key
Best beach snorkeling is off of Loggerhead beach in Bahia Honda State Park. My favorite thing about Bahia Honda is that you can camp! Camping here feels like you are in the movie Cast Away with primitive camp sites that really make you feel close to nature. Bahia Honda is extremely popular so be sure to reserve your camping trip far in advance.
7. Smathers Beach, Key West
One of the most popular beaches in Key West, Smathers Beach offers adventure and relaxation in one spot. Here you can either lie on the miles stretch of beach and take in the rays, or you can take a jet ski or paragliding adventure. Most tours leave from Smathers so it is definitely a spot you can expect to see many people enjoying during your stay.
8. Rest Beach, Key West
Rest Beach is where the Key West locals go to chill and relax on the beach. There is a nice picnic area and small stretch of sand to enjoy the views and ocean breeze. Here is the best spot on the Atlantic side of Key West to enjoy sunrise.
9. Zachary Taylor State Park, Key West
The state parks in Florida are some of the best in the nation if you ask my opinion. Zachary Taylor State Park is $4 USD to enter, here you can bike, watch birds (since it is a part of the Great Florida Birding Trail), hike, paddle, and many more activities.
Divers are also welcome to bring their own equipment to go diving and see the new coral reef being built off the coast of Key West. There are also tours offered of the Civil War era fort that has been used in throughout the Civil War, Spanish American War, World Wars, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The tour leaves at 11am daily or you can explore on your own with a self guided tour.
10. Dry Tortugas National Park
Not the easiest beach to get to in the Florida Keys, but it is definitely one of the most worthwhile destinations in Florida. Probably the most remote national park in the United States, Dry Tortugas National Park can only be reached by boat, or seaplane.
Whether you arrive by air or sea, Dry Tortugas will make you feel as if you are in the Pirates of the Caribbean. Many people come here to snorkel in the crystal-clear waters, explore the old fort while camping overnight, and swim with the beautiful backdrop of the Caribbean.
How to get there?
The entrance fee is $15 USD on top of the cost of the seaplane or ferry. The ferry costs $180 USD round trip or $200 USD for a camping trip overnight.
Where to stay in the Keys?
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