I recently took an extended road trip down the East coast from West Virginia, ending magnificently in the Florida Keys. Anyone who has traveled down that way, knows that the Keys can be quite expensive to stay in. So money for activities does not have to be that much thank goodness, there are plenty of beaches. There is plenty to do and see for free and the greatest asset of course is the beach and many are free or a small nominal fee. Parking can be tricky, but I only had to pay to park once and that was in Key West right on the beach. So here are a few of my favorites with pros and cons. Some beaches were great for swimming, while others were great to put a mask on and look for starfish.
Coco Plum Beach
This was a great introduction to the Keys and is located in Marathon, Florida. This is about mid-key and really was my favorite place in all of the Keys. At first, the beach seems quite un-impressive. There are a few locals and parking was a breeze with very few spaces taken. The beach itself is only 10 feet wide at best, and had a lot of washed up seaweed and such.
Upon closer inspection, there is a thick string of coral and small shells inches away from the water. There was a small strip of jungle meeting the beach and the seclusion was one of the best parts of this beach. Water was mellow and a great place for young swimmers to get used to the salty water
All the shells that were inspected had crabs in them, baby crabs were everywhere. Bigger the shell, the bigger the creature. Water was clear and everything seemed to be alive. My four year old adored this beach for many reasons. He caught several small fish, seen a baby squid, held a horse shoe crab and seen many other sea creatures he had heard about on Octonauts. We also found starfish and sea urchins, coupled with many jelly fish. A snorkelers dream, you could go out quite a ways before reaching mid-chest.
Cons are the beach is not the best place to lay out, unless you scrape a spot through the seaweed, however the water is so full of life, you may never get out of it. It was great to find a place so quiet and free to roam, and the locals were very nice and welcoming. Public access, convenient and free parking available.
Bahia Honda State Park
Another jewel of Marathon, Fl, although this one you will have to pay to visit. With four people, I paid under ten dollars and there is miles of beach, as well as camping and a butterfly sanctuary to spend a whole day here. The water is super clear and the beach is beautiful and white.
This beach is another great place to find some sea creatures, or just wade out a ways without getting far past your waist. Kayaks and canoes are available to rent, as well as other types of gear and is another great way to past your time at this wonderful location. I found the most beautiful black and red starfish, along with sand dollars and so much more. Great family place, especially the little ones because of the depth of the water. Not very populated at time of visit, loved the privacy and space available here.
One of the last beaches I went to while in Marathon and for me, it was great for swimming. There were many washed up eggs and jelly fish, even a sign to beware of Portugese Man of War, the water was fantastic. Good for stronger swimmers because it does get deep rather quickly compared to other beaches.
The sand on the beach was great, however, the sand under the water was a murky mess. If you dive in quickly and keep your feet up, great place to get out and feel like a bobber in the ocean for a while. Seagulls were perched on a few rutting pieces of coral that you can walk out on and find little tidal pools. There was a few people there, we went rather early till around 2 p.m. and enjoyed another quiet free beach site. Parking was plentiful and free and there was also a nice park with grass and picnic tables and BBQ grills for a nice lunch before or after your beach day.
Well this beach was also in Key West and I will admit, not my favorite. It was super small and crowded. It is close to town, so is easily walked to, however you will not be the only one. When I went down there, I had to pay 6 dollars to park for two or three hours, however I was out of there far quicker than that.
To swim, the water is deep, quickly, however the water is kind of dirty and choppy. There is a pier that goes out almost to over your head, although you can't dive off of it according to the signs. It was a good place to lay out, since all you could really see was a million people laying out on those little chairs that you can rent for ten dollars or so. There was nothing on the floor to look at, so don't even think about snorkeling or anything.
This beach was on the outside ring of Key West and was fairly easy to find Free plentiful parking was available, with a short walk to the beach from the road. The sand was large granulars, and almost felt like salt. The water was horrid however, maybe it was the algae, however it was so funky I could not even get in. This was a bummer because this was supposedly the best free beach to snorkel, so maybe I picked the wrong time of year. Either way, it was open and seemed private and was enjoyed. Great place to lay out and then just play in the sand. My son loved the sand and had a ball, though I think we all could if we are warm and by the ocean.
Pam on May 30, 2016:
Smashers beach has a little pier with ladders going into the water. We discovered by accident you could go out and access the water. It was crystal clear me we sat on the sandbar in about a foot of water.
kaiyan717 (author) from West Virginia on December 08, 2013:
Thanks for reading, I love the Keys as well. Seriously considering a move down that way, can't beat the weather and views. :)
Rebecca from USA on December 08, 2013:
I love the Keys. This was well written and all the places you've mentioned look amazing.