Today, let’s visit Smathers Beach, another stand out among Key West beaches, and the second beach featured in our ongoing series on Key West public beaches. Smathers is a long, narrow, palm-lined man-made beach that runs along the Atlantic side of south Roosevelt Boulevard, or State Road A1A. The beach actually begins at mile marker zero of A1A, the 338-mile scenic and historic north-south Florida coastal road that runs mostly along the Atlantic Ocean from Key West to Fernandina Beach, on Amelia Island just south of the Georgia state line. Among Key West public beaches, Smathers stands out for its convenient accessibility, plentiful parking, and close proximity to hotels popular with college students on spring break. You will often find it crowded with tourists and locals alike.
Early morning at Smathers Beach.
However, Smathers Beach has plenty of sunbathing space on its half-mile length of white sand, and one of its best features is the free beachside parking spots that allow you to grab the chair and cooler out of the car and be set up and enjoying the beach within a few short steps. As the longest of the Key West beaches, Smathers is also tops for strolls along the water’s edge. Although there are places with sand patches just off the beach, the water entry is rocky in most areas, so be sure to pack water sandals or booties if you would like to wade along the shoreline. The plus side of this is that the offshore rock, coral, and vegetation structures, along with shallow, calm water, make for good snorkeling at Smathers if you catch water conditions conducive to good visibility.
Smathers Beach is a definite all-day destination beach for active beach goers or families with kids because of the wide variety of land and water sports activities available there. The sidewalk path runs past the beach and along Roosevelt Boulevard for several miles and is fine for bike riding, rollerblading, running, or just walking and enjoying the great open view out to sea. Footballs, and frisbees are common, and there is usually a pick-up beach volleyball game you can join in.
Smathers Beach windsurfer.
A small boat ramp is open to the public and jet ski rentals are available. Sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, and parasailing are also popular on Smathers Beach, and equipment is close at hand at the beach concession stand. If you like water sports, a Cool Key West All Day Beach Pass is one of the best deals on Key West. Play on Smathers beach all day with unlimited use of kayaks, floats, stand-up paddleboards, Hobie Cat and Sun Fish sailboats, wind surfing gear, and the instructions to go with all of the above. With a parasail ride, beach chair and umbrella thrown in, those looking for a chance to get into some water sports really cannot go wrong with a Beach Pass.
Along with all the water toys, the bathrooms, showers, concession stands, and picnic tables at Smathers Beach make it a great place to spend the day. It is no surprise that Smathers is one of the most popular Key West public beaches, with its many attractions drawing around 150,000 patrons a year. If you arrive during spring break season, expect crowds because this is the location of choice for the majority of breakers coming down to hit the Key West beaches. The party goes on until the sun goes down, and although official hours run from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., an early morning arrival at the beach will often turn up folks sleeping on the beach.
Try a Hobie Cat sailboat at Smathers Beach.
Already one of the best known of the Key West public beaches, Smathers Beach gained an additional claim to fame on September 2, 2013. Legendary long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad landed on Smathers after making an open-ocean swim of 110 miles (166 kilometers) across the Florida Straits from Havana, Cuba. Nyad’s accomplishment was heightened by the fact that she was the first to make the swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Smathers Beach is obviously the best choice among the Key West public beaches for sports-minded visitors. It also offers beautiful offshore views, palm trees, and easy-access convenience. It is certainly worth one or more visits during your stay in Key West.