Many people visit the Florida Keys each year in order to take advantage of its beaches. The many beach options up and down the over 100-mile Overseas Highway can get pretty overwhelming. That's why I've decided to map out where all the beaches are and help visitors decide which ones would be best to focus on.

For example, some Keys beaches are free and some charge a fee. You may need to balance the experience you'll get with the cost or even the time it will take to drive there.

Whatever the struggle, this post provides details on all the beaches, including my experiences with the ones I visited and a map to locate each one!

Where Are the Florida Keys Beaches Located?

One of the best experiences to have in the Florida Keys is to drive the Overseas Highway.  Mile markers are used to identify stops along the way, including the many beaches and state parks.

Make sure to plan out the time. From the top of the keys at Key Largo to the bottom of the keys at Key West, you'll travel for roughly 2 hours in either direction with no traffic. You'll need to add an hour for traffic particularly on weekends and during high season (mid-December to mid-April).

To help you plan ahead, I've put together a map of all of the beaches. This includes short descriptions of each which reflect the descriptions I give in this post. This way, you can decide which ones you want to focus on and which ones to pass on.

Map of Florida Keys Beaches

Which Florida Keys Beaches are Free?

Budget travel is how I like to travel so, in my opinion, free beaches are the best beaches. There's no risk except your time and gas to get there. Plan ahead and enjoy these spots with no admission:

Harry Harris Park
Location: Southern Key Largo, Mile Marker 92.6

This was the first beach Jono and I went to, it was free when we went because it was a weekday. This is the only beach I am aware of that that charges $5 on weekends but is free on weekdays so beware weekend travelers!

The beach is really nice and it's complete with public toilets, picnic tables, BBQs, a boat launch, and lots of shallow swimming areas that are good for children. When we visited, there were people wading into the water to go fishing.

Anne's Beach
Location: Lower Matecumbe Key, Mile Marker 73.4

This is a very small stretch of beach with a short boardwalk through mangroves and areas to rest and picnic. There is limited parking in three separate places in the area (two on the ocean side separated from each other along the highway and one on the bay side a bit further down). The water here is fairly shallow far out from shore making it a good place for beginner snorkelers and kite surfers.

We stopped for a bit to take photos because it's such a picturesque location with clear, aqua blue water. We were on our way home, otherwise I would definitely have gone for a swim there!

Sombrero Beach
Location: Boot Key, Mile Marker 50

On one of our last days in the Keys, Jono and I drove over half way down the Overseas Highway and ended our journey at Sombrero Beach. We followed Sombrero Beach Road for one mile off the highway to this sandy beach with all the amenities we needed. T

he white sand here was lovely, the waves were minimal, and there seemed to mostly be locals lounging around. It was perfect for a relaxing day at the beach.

Veterans Memorial Park
Location: Little Duck Key, Mile Marker 39.9

This is a small beach at the south western point of the seven mile bridge. It is good for a picnic under a little hut!

Smathers Beach
Location: Key West, Mile Marker 0

Locals consider this free beach to be a party beach especially for young spring breakers. It's one of the larger beaches in Key West at about a half mile long with lots of coconut trees. And there's lots to do here. In addition to the usual amenities (toilets, showers, etc.), there's parasailing, wind surfing, paddle boarding, kayaking and more.

Fun fact: This is the beach at which Diana Nyad (a long-distance swimmer) landed after a 110-mile swim from Havana Cuba without a shark cage in 2013. It was the first and only time it's ever been done.

Higgs Beach
Location: Key West, Mile Marker 0

Get to Higgs Beach early enough to find parking, as space is limited. This beach is fairly small with chest-high water and a lovely pier to jump into the water from. The usual amenities are here, but there's also a botanic garden nearby which is not to miss!

Which Florida Keys Beaches Make You Pay?

All of the state park beaches make you pay admission fees throughout the year. They also have an additional $0.50 per person Monroe County tax on top of their regular fees.

Sometimes the experience is worth the price; sometimes it's not.

Far Beach and Cannon Beach, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Location: Key, Mile Marker 102.8

Cost: $8.00 per vehicle for 2+ people; $4.00 per vehicle/motorcycle with 1 person; $2.00 for pedestrians, cyclists, and all additional passengers (Add $0.50 per person tax for all listed fees)

While you could spend a day here filled with activities and exploration, Jono and I were a bit disappointed with the beaches at this park. The beaches at John Pennekamp were small, a bit crowded, very shallow, and in murky green water. The waters were also infested with 1-inch to 8-inch upside-down jellyfish making it difficult to swim without worry about where you were stepping or floating. Perhaps it was only because of the season (July).

The park advertises snorkeling as a good activity here, but don't go expecting to see anything amazing. The coral reef is best seen by taking a boat out from the shore. You won't see much from these beaches except some sunken canons and a submerged anchor from a Spanish shipwreck 100 feet out from the shore.

Long Key State Park
Location: Long Key, Mile Marker 67.5

Cost: $5.00 per vehicle for 2+ people; $4.00 per vehicle/motorcycle with 1 person; $2.00 for pedestrians, cyclists, and all additional passengers (Add $0.50 per person tax for all listed fees)

This one gets mixed reviews. It's a small park with a boardwalk and mangroves, shallow waters, and some campsites at $43.00 per night. I'd say skip it in favor of Bahia or Fort Zachary, which I'll describe below!

Curry Hammock State Park
Location: Little Crawl Key, Mile Marker 56.2

Cost: $5.00 per vehicle for 2+ people; $4.00 per vehicle/motorcycle with 1 person; $2.00 for pedestrians, cyclists, and all additional passengers (Add $0.50 per person tax for all listed fees)

While there is some sand and ample water, this is less a beach and more a launch pad for some water activities. Kite surfers and kayakers like to go out from this small beach since the water is shallow and the area is fairly private and quiet. You can take a picnic lunch under a gazebo here.

Calusa Beach and Sandspur Beach, Bahia Honda State Park
Location: Big Pine Key, Mile Marker 36.8

Cost: $8.00 per vehicle for 2+ people; $4.00 per vehicle/motorcycle with 1 person; $2.00 for pedestrians, cyclists, and all additional passengers (Add $0.50 per person tax for all listed fees)

Calusa and Sandspur Beach in Bahia Honda State Park are award-winning beaches considered the best in the keys. Some people say it's well worth the fee to get in, but others still say the seaweed gets to be too much at certain times of year.

If you like the idea of walking along a really cool, old bridge over the water, however, then this is your place. In this park, you can access and walk along the Bahia Honda Rail Bridge which used to connect Bahia Honda and Spanish Harbor keys before the new Overseas Highway was built in 1980.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Location: Key West, Mile Marker 0

Cost: $7.00 per vehicle for 2 people ($0.50 for each additional person); $4.50 per vehicle/motorcycle with 1 person; $2.50 for pedestrians and cyclists (Add $0.50 per person tax for all listed fees)

As Florida's southernmost state park, Fort Zachary has sand and pebble beaches with a rocky bottom beneath the waves. This makes for great for snorkeling! It's an excellent place to go for a fun day at the beach. My only suggestion is to wear water shoes or fins because of the rocky bottom.

When are most Florida Keys Beaches Open?

Most Florida Keys beaches are open from sunrise to sunset. The state parks open at 8am and close at sunset.

However, some of the parks have campsites which means you can camp nearby the beaches after sunset. If you spend the night, you could probably get away with being on the beach after hours!

Otherwise, you'll have to visit the numerous beach bars around the keys or stay at a resort that has beach property to have access to the beaches at night.

In Conclusion

With the above information and the map I provided, you'll be able to find the right beach for you if you plan a trip to the Florida keys!

All in all, my advice is to go with one of the free beaches—like Sombrero! During my time there, it seemed to me that I could get much more out of the free beach experience than I could from paying. But the choice is yours and now you can use this guide to help you make an informed decision!