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Key West Sandbar

The Ultimate Guide to Key West Sandbars

Key West is a beautiful island with tons to see and do. We’ve got beautiful sunsets in Mallory Square, , and chickens roaming the back roads. But going to the beach for the day seems a natural choice when you’re on an island.

So, to the beach we go! But, wait. Where is the best beach in Key West? The internet
will point you to Smathers, Fort Taylor, Higgs, or Harvey Park. But are these really the
best–are they where the Conchs go?? (Fun fact–local Keys people are known as
“Conchs”)


Nope, the locals favor the sandbars over the beach. And after a boat ride through the
beautiful backcountry, spotting dolphins and riding over the shallow waters surrounding
Key West, you’ll soon realize that Key West sandbars are truly some of the most
beautiful beaches in the world.

Where are the Best Beaches in Key West?

Key West has a reputation as a beach town–but you could probably fool the locals. In actuality, Key West is an island town with few beaches.

There are beaches, of course. Smathers Beach is the longest at just over a mile long, and Fort Zachary Taylor has a beautiful beach inside the state park. There are others as well, a few smaller and more private. They are sprinkled around the island, some harder to find than others. With so little sand and so many people, you’ll often find them crowded on nice days and a bit wanting compared to other destinations renowned for their rankings on those best beach lists.

You have to understand a little bit about the geology of the Florida Keys to know where to find a beach. The Keys are low-lying limestone islands that would wash into the sea if it weren’t for the vegetation growing here. Tropical forests of Red Mangroves bind the rock and soil together, allowing these islands to weather storm after storm, year after year. A sandy beach may be beautiful, but it will wash away quickly.

You’ve got to get offshore to find sandy beaches and postcard-perfect paradise settings in the Keys. That’s right, the best beaches in Key West are sandbars– submerged at high tide and exposed only during the party hours set by the moon and tides every day.

Don’t get us wrong–there are some beautiful beaches in Key West. But for the absolute best views and fun times, you will want to check out a Key West sandbar excursion when you’re here.

Key West Sandbar Adventures

Finding the sandbars is half the adventure. Sandbar excursions combine a boat trip, wildlife viewing, and beach-going into one fun day.

Getting There – Best Sandbar Trips in Key West

You can’t walk, drive, bike, or scooter to the good sandbars. Everyone in the Keys has a boat (or a friend with a boat!). That’s because the best stuff is off the highway and away from the crowds.

So, you need a boat to get to the sandbar. What do you do? You could rent one for the day, or, if you have your own boat, you could bring it down on a trailer. But navigation in the backcountry off of Key West is tricky with tons of shoals, shifting sandbars, narrow channels, and confusing cuts.

So most visitors to the island will opt for a sandbar cruise in Key West. There are plenty of options, some in large boats with many passengers and other small Key West private sandbar charters.

Tides and Winds

A Key West sandbar adventure is all about the weather. Every day has a low tide, but every day on the sandbar is different. Hot summer afternoons are best for vibrant tropical colors and floating in the cool water with your favorite beverage. Cloudy days are perfect for wading and hunting for shells and spotting wildlife.

There are enough sandbars in the waters off of Key West that a knowledgeable boat captain can find a great spot no matter what day you want to go.

What is a Key West Sandbar Charter?

A sandbar charter is a small boat cruise to the sandbar, perfect for folks without access to their own boat. You get the boat and a professional captain who is an expert at navigating the local waters. The captains are guides who know where the sandbars are and the best ones for your adventure.

Larger boats are generally cheaper per person, but you will share your ride with strangers. These buses will get you there if you’re looking for a ticket to the pretty beach. These are usually 50-foot power catamarans. They are open-air boats with great views, fresh air, and room to stretch out.

Private sandbar charters are generally smaller center console fishing boats. These boats travel quickly and only hold six passengers. Generally, a private charter on a boat like this will be a more intimate experience that you’ll share with only your friends or relatives. In other words, your charter is yours alone.

A private charter has more flexibility when it comes to customizing your trip. The captain will ask you what you want to see and where you’d like to go. They’re happy to oblige if you want to combine a little snorkeling or dolphin watching with your sandbar trip.

What Do You Do on a Sandbar Cruise?

On the typical sandbar boat trip out of Key West, you’ll load up near town and cruise through the backcountry for 45 minutes to an hour. The boats that take you out there are fast, so it’s a fun trip through the tiny mangrove islands that make up the backcountry.

The boat will arrive at your destination, and you can hop out. You’ll be free to take a swim, lounge in the refreshing water, or wade and hike across the bars looking for critters.

The sandbars may be deserted or a party scene–it all depends on the weather that day and the time of year. Morning sandbar charters make the perfect eco-cruise if you want some quiet time in the backcountry spotting dolphins and birds. Afternoon trips during summer tend to be happy hour on the sandbar, with many tours and locals meeting up under beach umbrellas with their coolers stocked and ready. If you book a private tour, the captain may know of some quieter spots!

Here are a few of the best sandbar charters in Key West. Book your cruise today by calling your favorite charter.

Casual Mondays with Captain Zak

Captain Zak offers affordable sandbar excursions in Key West on the Casual Mondays, a 25-foot Hydrasport center console. Zak is a laid-back local with tons of stories to share and knows all the best places to go. Six passengers max.

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