Looking for a really good beach when in town? There are a few to choose from, but for us… Smathers Beach Key West FL is the best. Located on the south side of the Island along South Roosevelt Blvd. this man-made beach is a little slice of heaven. The Key West airport is down the road so you will hear some of the air traffic, but the view of the Atlantic Ocean is breathtaking. If you want to stay on this side of the Island, the Margaritaville Beach House Key West is directly across the street.
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There are so many other choices why do we say Smathers Beach is the best? Three reasons.
We all know when you come to Key West, it really isn’t about the beaches. Most of them are rocky and offer very little sand. Not so at Smathers Beach. First off, the sand is not local. I know, I know, hard to imagine you are on an island paradise, but there is no sand. The sand at Smathers Beach is imported from the Caribbean. I found one report where the city imported over 11,000 tons (yes tons) of sand … to the tune of $880,000.
Generally, Key West beaches are mostly made of tiny bits of crushed coral and stones. These don’t feel good on your bare feet. So a beach, in Key West, that offers real sand, is very welcoming to your feet. Smathers Beach is about half-mile of pure imported sand. It really is what you hope a sandy beach in paradise would look like. Keep in mind, that because of the coral reefs offshore, there are no waves. So, you won’t be surfing in Key West waters, but that’s ok.
This is one of the largest beaches in Key West. Keep in mind, because of its sand and shallow water, it is very popular with the Spring Breakers – so plan your trip to the island with that in mind if you are coming in early Spring. The beach sees about 150,000 visitors annually and honestly, most of those visitors are during Spring Break.
If you are an early riser, plan to capture the sunrise from Smathers Beach. There you can see the sunrise and enjoy a great cup of coffee; all before the rush of the day begins. Imagine sitting on the beach, under the palm trees enjoying an amazing view, before you start your day. Yep, it’s really that goo. By the way, the City of Key West cleans the beach every morning. You will see tractors raking the sand preparing it for that days visitors.
Amenities and Watersports
This beach offers lots of amenities. There are restrooms and shower facilities. These are maintained by the City and usually are pretty clean. There are volleyball courts and a boat ramp. The best is … free parking. Yep, one of the few places on the island offering free parking. Plus, it’s street side and close… imagine that … a close spot and free. Another thing that is free at Smathers Beach is the admission. Unlike Fort Zach, the admission to this beach is free. There are no lifeguards on duty, so carefully watch those around you.
As we know, Key West really doesn’t have a dress code, but remember that topless and nude sunbathing are illegal in town. Keep the tops (and bottoms) on. If you want to sunbath with out tan lines, consider this… some of the hotels in Old Town offer clothing optional pools and topless sunbathing roof tops.
Fishing is allowed at most of the beaches in Key West; especially from the piers. Be sure to get your Florida fishing license.
Interested in spending time on the water? At Smathers Beach you can enjoy many watersports. Consider renting jet skis or plan to go windsurfing or parasailing. Sunset Watersports offers a Key West Beach Pass. If you book online, you can save money. The pass is a one day – all day pass for a parasail ride and unlimited rentals. It also includes an option for beach chairs and umbrellas They rent sailboats, kayaking, paddle boards and Hobie Cat sail boats.
If you are really adventurous consider windsurfing. This side of the Island is always breezy and provides the perfect conditions to windsurf. Never having actually windsurfed, I found this video to show how others enjoy it. Plus you can see a wonderful view of Smathers Beach.
The beach offers concession stands and along South Roosevelt there usually are several food trucks. The food trucks offer standard beach fare; ice cream, hot dogs, etc. There are usually two regular food trucks parked along the street; Beach Bites and Leila’s Latin Food. Each offer a distinct menu and have rave reviews from their fans. Keep in mind, during September, the food trucks usually are not around. September is traditionally a very slow time on the Island, so a lot of the businesses are not open. This includes local restaurants. Check their websites or FaceBook pages to ensure your favorite food truck or restaurant is open.
If you would rather bring your own food, the beach has picnic tables. Imagine packing a wonderful lunch and then heading over to Smathers Beach for a picnic with the most awesome view of the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t want to pack a lunch? There are several restaurants in town that offer great take out or stop by the grocery store for a freshly prepared lunch from the deli counter. We usually head over to Public (or Fausto’s) and find something pre-made in the Deli section. Each store offers a selection of salads and sandwiches. Want to try something a little lighter, consider a loaf of fresh-baked bread, a few gourmet cheeses and some fruit.
If you want to spend a little time at the beach and then head over to a local restaurant or bar, then you are in luck. There are many close to the beach. Not close enough to walk, but certainly close enough to bike or drive.
Smathers Beach is the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon picnic, catching some sun or spending time on the water. No matter who you are traveling with, this beach offers something for everyone.
Traveling with your dog? Remember that dogs aren’t allowed on the beach, but a few minutes down the road is Higgs Beach and they offer a dog park. Let Fido run and meet new friends at the dog park. But, Fido really wants to play in the ocean and sand? Then head over to Dog Beach. It will be the perfect place to play. Then plan to hop over to Louie’s Backyard for a snack and cocktail.
Other Popular Beach Options
This is a local favorite. Relax on the sandy beach, or play a round on the tennis court. The calm waters are perfect for a cooling dip on a very warm day.
Located at the end of Duval Street, this is the best place to end a morning walk. Not much is available in terms of amenities, but the Southernmost Beach Cafe is there to serve an amazing meal or cocktail.
Next door to Higgs Beach, is Rest Beach. This is more of a park, versus a beach with a lot of sand.
Fort Zachary Taylor Beach
Named after President Zachary Taylor, this park offers a fort to explore and a beach to enjoy. They offer chair rentals, concessions, and a chance to snorkel right off the shore. It’s a great place to spend an afternoon and then come back for sunset. Be sure to pack your beach shoes, the sand here is rocky and your feet will thank you.
Want more?? Check out our Guide to the Best Beaches in Key West
Other Great Beach Options – outside of Key West?
Plan ahead for this one. The ferry sells out months in advance. But if you are lucky enough to score a trip to the Dry Tortugas, plan a day filled with snorkeling the crystal clear waters, touring the fort and so much more. Book your trip here.
Bahia Honda State Park
Another option is to head up the Keys and explore Bahia Honda State Park. While there enjoy the amazing views, snorkel, or simply enjoy an amazing sunset. Don’t have a car? No worries! Book a tour with Up the Keys and let them do all the driving. And, they will take you around to see Key Deer, Blue Hole and so much more.