Florida Keys Beaches
Life in the Keys revolves around fishing, boating, SCUBA diving, eating, and drinking beer. Beaches are few and far between on these dry rocky islands. Most beaches are just a few feet wide at low tide and the water is just a foot or two deep for perhaps a thousand yards out, except in deeper channels and holes. The few beaches that exist in the Keys are on the Atlantic Ocean side of the islands. The shore on the Gulf side is mostly rocky and is more suited to fishing and boating.
To illustrate, the Insider's Guide to the Florida Keys and Key West spans 366 pages, but it only needs to devote 4 pages to cover Keys beaches. Nevertheless, there are several decent beaches in the Florida Keys. A few of them are excellent and worthy of a true beach lover's affections.
Mile Markers in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys stretch about 120 miles or so from Miami, southwestward into the Gulf of Mexico in a great arc. To the first-timer, all the keys pretty much look the same. So how do you know where you are? Mile-markers. The Keys have a system of green mile-marker signs on the side of the road. They tell you how far north of Key West you are. Key West is mile-marker zero. Florida City, just before you enter the Keys, is mile-marker 127.5. You'll come to depend heavily on the mile-markers. Here's a great list of all the mile-markers in the Florida Keys. (this link takes you away from BeachHunter.net)
Best Beaches in the Florida Keys
In my opinion, the Best Florida Keys Beaches are, in order:
Anne's Beach in Islamorada is more of a wayside park than a destination beach, but is a nice place to stop and relax on your long drive down the Overseas Highway.
Sombrero Beach, in Marathon, is one of the best beaches in the Keys. It has great facilities, a scenic view, and a very nice sandy beach.
Bahia Honda State Park has the largest and most secluded beaches in the Keys. It is also the most scenic spot in the Keys (above sea level). The view from atop the old Henry Flagler railroad bridge is spectacular.
Smathers Beach, in Key West, is much better than most travel guides let on. Its wide sandy beaches stretch for close to a mile along South Roosevelt Blvd. Beach relax under lush swaying coconut palms and stare out over clear shallow water.
Higgs Beach and Rest Beach, also in Key West, are adjacent to each other on Atlantic Blvd. Rest Beach is by the White Street Pier and is popular with dog walkers. Higgs Beach is more of a lively beach scene with lots of traditional beach activities going on.
Zachary Taylor State Park has a great beach with a spectacular woodsy and very shaded picnic area.
Dry Tortugas National Park is a two-and-a-half hour boat ride away via high-speed catamaran, but is well worth the trouble if you love remote beaches with excellent snorkeling. My trip to the Dry Tortugas is one I'll never forget. Wow!