All along the Hawk Channel side of Key West (the south-east side) is a long beach, which runs from up by the East Martello Tower around to the West Martello Tower. This is a man made beach, and the sand is a little coarse, but it is the closest thing Key West has to a beachy-beach. South Roosevelt Blvd runs down alongside the beach, and on the beach side of the road is a sidewalk for jogging, or roller blading. On the both sides of the road, is parking for cars. This car has attempted to park a little bit in the shade. The sun is very hot even in the winter.
The two main beaches on this side are Smather's Beach which is Key West's largest public beach - a 1 mile stretch of fine sand beach.- west of Key West Airport and South Roosevelt Blvd. and Higgs Memorial Beach - Reynolds Street and White Street, Key West down by the West Martello tower. Both of these beachs have bathrooms. Higgs Beach in Old Town Key West is not as great a swimming beach, but it is a favorite hangout for locals.
Equipment: Smathers Beach -bring aqua shoes if you plan on swimming. There are food and beverage vendors, volleyball courts, showers and you can rent beach chairs, windsurfers, jet skis, kayaks and umbrellas at several locations along the beach. The beach itself is free.
Higgs Beach - There are beach chair and umbrella rentals available. There is also a bar and restaurant on the beach, volleyball courts, grills for cookouts, famous sunning pier and free tennis courts. This beach is also free.
There are a string of beaches along the south side of Key West (ocean side) This beach is one of them.
Rest Beach has soft sand and natural vegetation. It is wheelchair accessible and there is a yoga deck with nightly classes. Restrooms are within walking distance.
Rest Beach is the home of the White Street Pier where you can enjoy some great fishing.
C.B. Harvey Park is a newly installed beach front park that has picnic facilities and shoreline for wading and shell searching.
Higgs beach formerly known as Monroe (County) Beach is a free beach that is open 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., daily
In Feb. 2004, 374 tons (300 cubic yards) of sand on Higgs Beach that had been washed away over the last year was replaced, .. greatly improving the conditions on the beach and better facilitating the daily cleaning of seaweed and other debris" according to the Monroe Co. news release
Higgs Beach has shaded places to eat, restrooms and an outdoor shower. I am told there is also a restaurant right on the beach for food and drinks
Equipment: There is a grove of Australian pines nearby that provides the area with good shade. There are also gazebos on the beach - gun emplacements that were here during WWII have been used as the bases for these.
Across the street is a large Playground for the younger kids in the family if they "get bored of the beach."
There is a long wooden pier (White Street Pier) to the right side of the beach. There is a rental shack on the beach to get chairs. You can rent Snorkels and mask also and get comfortable with snorkeling if you've never done it before.
Clyde's Key West website says: "Walk out to the end of the wooden pier there you will find a set of concrete steps going into the water. Use caution the bottom of the steps that are in the water are slippery, use the hand rails. You will notice a line of old pylons from the original pier curving around. Snorkel along it you will encounter a wide variety of sea life both on the wall and on the bottom. Take your time and see how many different sea creatures you can find. .. don't touch anything"
Snorkeling is addictive and you will lose track of time so wear a coverup or you will get badly sunburned
The beaches on Key West are nothing spectacular. They are mostly manmade. The ones recommended to us as the best were Smathers, Zachary Taylor, and Higgs.