Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

An almost hidden beach next to a fort from the Civil War era does not sound like the typical Key West scenery, but that’s exactly what Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is. Expansive beaches are surprisingly few and far between throughout the Keys, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any beaches at all; it just means they are oftentimes smaller and not always the white sugar sand beach one envisions when thinking of someplace tropical.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

The main beach in Key West is Smathers Beach and even though it’s gorgeous, I have never been too enthralled with it. So, when I found out about another beach at Fort Zachary, I just had to check it out. This beach is not abandoned nor filled with super soft sand, but only those in the know stop there as it is very out of the way. It would be difficult to stumble across the beach without knowing about it as it is hidden behind the Truman Annex residential neighborhood and beyond what looks like a restricted access area. Once you make it to the park, you have to pay a small entrance fee and are then free to explore.

If you are interested in history, make sure to stop by the old fort for a glimpse into the past. During the Civil War, Fort Zachary Taylor was under Union hands and served as a Navy fort, and the powerful cannons with a range of 3 miles were successful in deterring the Confederate Navy from taking over Key West. The fort was also used in the Spanish-American war before eventually being turned over to the Navy. Tours are held at 12pm daily, but you are also free to roam at your own discretion.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

After exploring the fort, especially in hot and muggy conditions, the beach will be a welcome treat. Even though the beach is not sugar smooth sand and it is rocky in places, the water is crystal clear and absolutely beautiful.  I heard the water is more clear here because it is where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Gulf of Mexico.  In my opinion, the water clarity and semi seclusion is what makes this spot top Smathers Beach which is the Atlantic Ocean side of the island. The off beach snorkeling is also supposed to be excellent here, and I can see why; if you don’t have your own gear don’t fret as you can rent it on site.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

There are shaded picnic tables and grills overlooking the ocean as well, so bring a picnic lunch to enjoy–there is plenty of space throughout the 54 acre park. Or, if you don’t feel like cooking, you are at the beach after all, stop over at the Cayo Hueso Cafe for a bite to eat instead.  At the cafe, views of the ocean are sprawling and food such as sandwiches, soup, pizza and ice cream are served.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park in Key West, FL

You can also bike, fish and explore the nature trails if you have had enough beach time and are looking for something a bit different.  Then wind down the day with a famous Key West sunset overlooking the sparkling ocean. The park also hosts special events throughout the year–one such event is a week-long civil war reenactment and another is a civil war themed haunted house that is open around Halloween.

Key West, FL

We really enjoyed exploring Fort Zachary and learning more about the history of the island of Key West. My only complaint is that we didn’t allocate enough time to spend at the park.  You really do feel like you are away from it all!

Do you like more secluded natural beaches or would you rather join a party in the sun?

12 Comments
  • Charli
    Twitter:
    Posted at 16:07h, 16 October Reply

    Wow, what an enthralling place. The tropical palms and azure blue waters look seriously appealing!
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    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 17:20h, 20 October Reply

      Thanks, Charli! It was such a pretty day–we didn’t want to leave! 🙂

  • Kimmy
    Twitter:
    Posted at 11:12h, 17 October Reply

    The beach looks beautiful. I wouldn’t mind being there, right now. I’ll have to add this place to our list as a possibility for our US road trip.
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    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 17:23h, 20 October Reply

      It is a really pretty spot! I would definitely recommend putting it on your list 🙂

  • Anna
    Twitter:
    Posted at 18:15h, 21 October Reply

    Gorgeous photos! I’ve never seen beaches like this in the Keys!!
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    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 23:37h, 21 October Reply

      Thanks, Anna! I never knew there were any like this either! I feel like I’ve been on a mission to find them lately, lol 🙂

  • Meagan
    Twitter:
    Posted at 18:51h, 21 October Reply

    I love this! I would kill to be at a beach right now. When the weather starts getting colder, it’s practically all I think about. This beach in particular looks amazing. I have a fear of the ocean (and what’s in it) so I love it when there’s crystal clear water. I also love that there’s a little bit of history close by. Nice find!
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    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 23:39h, 21 October Reply

      Thanks, Meagan! I don’t blame you–before we moved down to Florida, I did the same thing! Yeah, clear water is definitely nice for seeing what’s around you–it’s a great spot we were happy to find! 🙂

  • Bret
    Twitter:
    Posted at 00:21h, 22 October Reply

    I’ve actually heard about this place, and specifically that the snorkeling and Scuba diving off its shores is supposed to be impressive. I’ve only been to the Keys once: I really enjoyed it, but we never made it down to Key West. Would love to go back, especially to take part in the coral reef restoration project at John Pennekamp State Park.
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    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:41h, 25 October Reply

      Yeah we are hoping to go snorkeling off the shore there next time we visit! John Pennekamp is on our list too–need to find a day to get down there. Would be interesting to look into the restoration project there–would love to hear about it if you go!

  • Debbie
    Twitter:
    Posted at 00:44h, 26 October Reply

    Love the beach at Fort Zachary! We lucked out and it was never crowded.
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    • Jenna Kvidt
      Posted at 00:30h, 30 October Reply

      Nice! That makes it even better! We loved it there too 🙂

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