Which way to the beach? It’s one of top questions asked by first-time visitors to Key West. If you’re dreaming of long stretches of soft dunes next to crashing waves, don’t drop your suntan lotion when you hear the answer. While the Florida Keys reap the benefits of having the only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S. off its shores - with excellent fishing, snorkeling and diving - that same reef keeps the sand from washing ashore and creating natural beaches.
Sun bums and water babies shouldn’t lose all hope. Key West has a sprinkling of small private and public beaches hidden across the island and surrounding locales. The public sands along the Atlantic shore may be modest in size, but that makes them no less popular with locals and visitors alike. With calm shallow seas and a variety of watersports rentals, they’re perfect for either a lazy day under an umbrella or an active afternoon on a paddle board.
At parks like Bahia Honda, Fort Zachary Taylor and the Dry Tortugas, the beaches rest in the shadows of historic relics like Flagler’s rusted railroad bridge and crumbling Civil War forts. Other prime shorelines (usually made with imported sand) line private resorts like Casa Marina, and they’re primarily for guest use. You can still sample their amenities--think massage on the beach or long lunch at a waterside cafe. So throw on your swimsuit, slather on that sunscreen and head to these top 10 beaches for fun in the sun.