Fort Taylor, Key West
My husband read about some great bird watching opportunites out at Fort Zach, but we were about 3 weeks too early. We enjoyed ourselves anyway, walking along the beach (pebbly - not sandy - so be sure to wear your flip-flops or aquasox!). The water was beautiful and I found some sea glass! Next we walked over to the civil-war era fort - we had missed the daily tour (noon), but walked around anyway. There is a great view from the top of the fort - Key West is so pretty, but being up high and looking out to sea for miles is just breathtaking! We walked around the fort and saw a few birds, and a couple of HUGE iguanas - scared the bejezus out of me!
I've been told the snorkeling here is pretty good, and the picnicing families seemed to really enjoy themselves. We actually came back here twice more - we enjoyed the park so much!
There is a small admission fee ($2 to walk in - more to bring in a car), but it makes for a more private beach experience.
My brother has a bucket list to go to the furthest points of the four tips of the continental US, so our cruise stop in Key West was part of his must do list. There is a much photographed spot for this goal, but he looked at maps and realized that this state park was at least as south or more southeast as the designated spot, and certainly prettier and less crowded, so that was where we headed from our shuttle drop off point at Mallory Square. Once we got away from the more touristy shopping district we walked through some lovely neighborhoods that made the walk worthwhile. Local information about the park lists it as a multiple year winner as the best state park in America.
Once we finally got to our destination we were very pleased with our choice. A short walk took us to the beach and a rock jetty where my brother's dream was realized. Although other reviews don't say a lot good about the Key West beaches, I quite liked this one. Palm trees created a picture postcard beach effect, and the trucked in sand was perfectly nice. The beach was relatively uncrowded and completely free from commercialized touristy influences. There were lots of picnic tables back in the shady pine woods by the beach, and we had a view around the corner of the beach of our ship.
On the backside of the fort on the grassy bank by the moat we spotted several large female and one large male Iguanas that had come up from the area by the water to sun and feed. We'd seen a lot of tiny lizards on the sidewalks on the way there, but lizards this size were a fun bonus.
If we were ever to return here though we'd probably get a taxi there and walk back though. We did flag a taxi on our way out and paid around $7 to get back to our starting point.
There are several beaches on the Atlantic (east) side of Key West. However, the beach inside Ft. Zachery Taylor Park is my favorite.
The sand is imported from the Bahamas (so I was told). There are several rock outcroppings for sunning and snorkleing, and the tide is pretty calm. There is also a snackbar as well as picnic tables, restrooms, showers, and Park Rangers.
There is a fee of about $1.50 a person, which includes the beach as well as tours of the fort. The fort museum is currently closed.
Granted, you can see power lines to the side of the beach heading into the substation, and there is some restoration going on all around the fort and fort museum. But it did not bother us one bit.
General note about beaches - the beaches in the Keys are for the most part man made and are not what people have come to expect on the Gulf Coast or Atlantic further north. The seaweed is heavier and the sand rougher.
There are tons of trails at the fort to hike. Plus we drove a car in earlier in the day rented the mopeds and drove back to the fort with them for a nice picnic on the beach. Made for a great dayin the sun..
This park is both a recreational area and a historic site. A fort was built in the 1800s to protect the coastline during the Spanish American War. Guided tours of the fort are offered daily.
The park also has a beachfront area and a short nature trail. Its a great place to find some quiet time away from the activity on Duval Street.
Fort Taylor was completed in 1866. I've done a whole VT travel page on Fort Taylor The regular website is on the Florida Parks page.
Mail address P.O. Box 6560, Key West, Florida 33041
- there is a $4 per car fee
- there are daily tours of the fort at Noon and 2 p.m.
The fort was turned over to the Navy in 1947 to maintain. It was not available in the 60s when we lived there, as all the old armaments were buried and restoration was not started until 1968.
On the bank of the moat there are some extremely interesting sculptures. Don't miss them.
There is not only has the partly restored fort, but also a park/beach area for fishing, swimming, snorkeling, and picnics etc. which is said by some to be the best beach in Key West. There are showers, a snack bar and restrooms.
Fort Zachary Taylor. This is a fort that was used in the Civil War, WW I & II, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The fort was built in 1845 and controled by the Union Army during the Civil War. The Confederates could never take away the fort because of 10' Rodman & Columbiad cannons that had a three mile range.
Not too much to see in the fort, but if you are a war buff it is worth it. The fort is on the water right next to a nice, quiet beach.