If you have ever flown over the Florida Keys, you will have seen the incredible blue waters and expansive stretches of coral reefs and sand passing below.
The Keys are a hugely popular holiday destination.
With many parts of the USA experiencing harsh winter temperatures, escaping to Florida and the Keys is an ideal vacation year-round.
There are over 1,700 islands in the Keys but the majority are small and uninhabited.
Just 43 form the chain of almost 200 kilometers which ends in the far south at Key West.
You can fly down from Miami to Key West in just 45 minutes, but that would be such a waste – the drive is nothing short of spectacular.
As you take the road trip south, the Gulf of Mexico is on your right and the Atlantic on your left and you will pass amazing beaches along the way.
Sand has to be regularly replenished at some of these shorelines because the coral reefs help prevent erosion and the build-up of sand.
With so many to choose from, let’s narrow it down to the 15 Best Beaches in Florida Keys.
1. Harry Harris Park, Key Largo
Harry Harris Park on Key Largo is a great place for families to come and enjoy the sun.
Key Largo is the largest of the Keys.
The beach is man-made, with the sand shipped to the park whenever required – usually every few years.
These imported sands give the park a tropical feel, and even though the beach is rather small, the water is perfectly safe for children; the stone jetty gives it excellent protection.
The facilities within the park are excellent and include a playground, picnic tables, and good restrooms.
2. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
The major attraction of this State Park is written in the name – coral reefs.
The beach is quite small and snorkelers often set out from here to explore the underwater world.
There is a Spanish shipwreck not far from the beach which has become a magnet for marine life.
The old cannons and anchor have long since become encrusted.
If you are lucky, you may even come across barracuda.
The beach rarely gets too busy, though its size means that there is nowhere to be entirely alone.
3. Anne’s Beach, Lower Matecumbe Key
This beautiful beach in Islamorada is a great place for a vacation, whether you want to relax or have some more active fun.
It’s named after local environmentalist Anne Eaton.
The water is fairly shallow and facilities include parking, restrooms, and picnic tables.
There are nearby mangrove forests and a boardwalk.
The water is clear and shallow and people have been known to step on some marine life as they explore the shallows.
Hurricane Irma caused considerable damage in 2017 that required some repairs, but today the beach is back to its pristine environment and a fantastic place to spend the day.
4. Long Key State Park, Long Key
Long Key State Park is a great place for fishing, with overnight stays possible in one of the fully-serviced campsites.
There are plenty of activities available, including kayaking, swimming, and snorkeling.
The birdlife is varied, while hikers will enjoy hiking and exploring the park.
There are good facilities, including picnic tables and BBQs close to the shore.
The water is shallow, so ideal for children, but they must be careful not step on sharp rocks.
There are a few lagoons and kayaks can be rented to see them up close.
Last year’s Hurricane Irma, unfortunately, caused some damage.
5. Coco Plum Beach, Marathon, Vaca Key
Coco Plum Beach in Marathon is located on the Atlantic Ocean.
The beach is natural, unlike some others in the Keys that are manmade.
The shoreline, next to an area of wetlands, is a nesting site for endangered turtles, which may reduce access at certain times of the year.
Facilities include a covered pavilion and restroom facilities.
The beach is quite big so you have no need to worry about crowds and your dog is more than welcome.
Coco Plum Beach opens early in the morning and closes at dusk.
6. Sombrero Beach, Marathon, Vaca Key
Sombrero is another Marathon Beach facing the Atlantic.
It provides good accessibility for disabled people and facilities include showers, pavilions, and restrooms.
There is also a playground with swings for children, as well as a volleyball court.
Sombrero Beach is also an important nesting site for endangered sea turtles.
As a result, people are banned from entering the area near the nests until the baby turtles have hatched and swum away.
But there’s still plenty of space, the turtle area takes up less than 10% of the total beach.
7. Calusa Beach, Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key
Bahia Honda State Park beaches are all natural, so arguably the best in the Florida Keys.
Hurricane Irma had an impact here, so the pick of those currently open is Calusa – a fairly small stretch of sand.
It is popular with swimmers as well as those who love to snorkel.
There are a few concessions at the beach – a souvenir shop, refreshments, and picnic shelters.
You will also find a small marina and a nature center.
A favorite photograph is one which takes in the beach with the old and new bridges.
8. Curry Hammock State Park, Big Pine Key
This State Park is found between Big Pine Key and Key Largo.
It is an uninhabited part of the Florida Keys.
The protection given to the mangrove swamps and seagrass beds is essential to the maintenance of the Keys.
The beach is 350 meters long and calmer waters attract people interested in water sports – including kiteboarding, windsurfing, kayaking and paddle boarding.
There are offshore islands with lovely coves to explore.
Hiking and fishing are good enough to justify a popular campsite.
9. Loggerhead Beach, Bahia Honda State Park, Big Pine Key
In the heart of the State Park, Loggerhead Beach has a submerged sandbar that appears at low tide.
Sunbathers often pick the top of the exposed sand hills to put down their loungers and relax.
The shallow blue water offers up sea glass and shells and it is fun to make a collection.
There are over 150 different types of flora, and with three hiking trails, there are plenty of opportunities to see them.
This spot can get fairly busy in high season, with the car park filling up quickly.
10. Dry Tortugas National Park, Key West
Dry Tortugas National Park is known for its great marine life and 19th Century Fort Jefferson.
The Park is quite remote, 100 kilometers to the west of Key West.
There are seven small islands which can be accessed by both seaplane and boat.
The clear blue water and amazing coral reefs are just part of the story – birdwatchers are also in their element.
Because of its location, it is rarely busy, and the people you may meet are likely to have similar interests – the environment and its preservation.
11. Rest Beach, Key West
C.B. Harvey Rest Beach Park is a narrow beach where visitors like to bring their dogs.
There are views of the south and endless sea views stretching to the horizon.
Rest Beach – its abbreviated name – is not especially large and there is little in the way of activities, but the shore makes a great photograph.
It is fun to wade in the clear warm water down the shoreline looking for shells.
It is likely that you will find this beach relatively quiet as opposed to others on Key West – that is one of its attractions.
12. Simonton Street, Key West
This beach is right in the heart of the busiest part of Key West around Mallory Square, yet more often than not, visitors find it by accident.
Hurricane Irma blew most of its sand away so it has had to be replaced by the truckload.
Locals know all about the beach and residents at the Hyatt Key West are blessed with spectacular sea views.
It is fairly small but often busy, with nearby parking available.
A popular beach bar serves everything from breakfast to seafood.
You must try the craft beer while you are there.
13. Smathers Beach, Key West
Smathers Beach is the top beach on Key West, offering plenty of activities.
There are many restaurants nearby serving lunch and an evening meal after a day on the sands or in the surf.
It is around three kilometers long but no wider than around 30 meters.
You can hire water sports equipment locally to enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, kitesurfing, and windsurfing.
There are opportunities to go sailing as well.
Some people jog down the beach on a daily basis but it can be very hot for those not used to the temperatures.
14. Higgs Beach, Key West
Higgs Beach is fairly close to Smathers but offers a more tranquil experience.
The tropical landscape creates a lovely setting, with palm trees framing the white sand and turquoise waters.
The best place for swimming and snorkeling is near the pier; sometimes you might catch sight of stingrays.
Higgs has free parking, which is an advantage it holds over Smathers.
There is a pleasant breeze generally, and if you want a break from the sands, there are lovely gardens behind with interesting flora and fauna.
You will find a playground as well and somewhere to walk your dog.
15. Zachary Taylor State Park Beach, Key West
This park opened in 1973 and offers both history and recreation.
You can take a tour of Fort Taylor if you want a break from the beach; it was built back in 1866 and remains interesting to this day.
However, with good snorkeling and swimming and the chance to picnic or fish, you might want to stay where you are.
There is a nature trail and you can hire a bike to explore the whole park.
Cayo Hueso Café has snacks and cold drinks as well as beach sundries and souvenirs.