Top Reasons to Visit Fort Zachary Taylor State Park:
- Historic Civil War fort with a real cannon
- Amazing beach for swimming (watch for jellyfish, though!)
- Low-cost admission (pro tip: bike in)
- Great sunsets!
On our trip to Key West, we took a visit to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Located at the southernmost point in the continental United States, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West, Florida, is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. This stunning state park boasts a wide variety of recreational opportunities, from hiking and biking to swimming and snorkeling, making it an excellent choice for a day trip or weekend getaway. (Find our full Key West Itinerary HERE!)
At the heart of “Fort Zach” (as it’s called by the locals) is Fort Zachary Taylor, a historic military fort that played a critical role in the Civil War (for the Union side!) and the Spanish-American War. Built when the United States was still young and vulnerable, Fort Zachary Taylor was the first line of defense for anyone attempting to strike from Florida’s southern coast. The fort took 21 year to complete (in 1866) with supplies and construction labor being outsourced from places as far as Germany. Today, visitors can explore the fort’s many exhibits and artifacts, including a collection of Civil War-era cannons, while learning about the fort’s fascinating history.
In addition to the fort, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the Florida Keys. The park’s main beach is a popular spot for swimming and sunbathing, with crystal-clear waters and soft, white sand. For those looking to explore the park’s underwater world, there are also several excellent snorkeling spots located just offshore.
One of the most unique features of Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is its proximity to the ocean. Visitors can take advantage of this by renting kayaks or paddleboards and exploring the park’s coastal waters. There are also several fishing opportunities available, with a variety of species available to catch, including tarpon, snook, and bonefish.
For those looking to relax and unwind, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park has plenty of shaded picnic areas, as well as a full-service restaurant and bar. The park also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, including live music and outdoor festivals, making it a fun and vibrant destination for visitors of all ages. It’s also an incredible spot to watch the sunset!
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Key West. With its rich history, stunning natural beauty, and endless recreational opportunities, it’s no wonder that this park has become one of the most popular attractions in the Florida Keys. So whether you’re looking to explore the fort, soak up some sun on the beach, or try your hand at fishing, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is the perfect destination for your next adventure.
If you’re planning to swim at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, here are some things to be careful of:
- Rip currents: Key West beaches can have strong currents, so it’s important to be aware of rip currents, which can quickly pull swimmers away from shore. Always swim within designated areas and never swim alone.
- Jellyfish: Jellyfish are common in the waters around Key West, especially during warmer months. Their stings can be painful, so it’s important to be cautious when swimming and avoid areas where jellyfish are present.
- Sunburn: Key West has plenty of sunshine, so be sure to apply plenty of sunscreen and wear protective clothing to avoid sunburn.
- Boat traffic: Key West is a popular destination for boaters, so it’s important to be aware of boat traffic when swimming in the water. Always stay within designated swimming areas and never swim near boat docks or channels.
- Coral reefs: Key West is home to some of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world, but these delicate ecosystems should be respected. Never touch or stand on coral reefs, as this can damage the fragile ecosystem.
- Sharks: While shark attacks are rare, it’s important to be aware that sharks do inhabit the waters around Key West. Avoid swimming at dawn or dusk, when sharks are more active, and never swim alone or too far from shore.
- Strong winds: Key West can have strong winds, which can make swimming challenging. Be sure to check weather conditions before heading out to the water and never swim in high winds or rough seas.