Locals’ Favorite: Fort Zach


Groupon: Get the Best Deal in New York Today! Fort Zachary Taylor State Historical Park is part of the State of Florida’s State Park system. It features not only an historic fort from the Civil War era but also the best beach in Key West.

It’s located on the southwestern corner of Key West, facing the Atlantic Ocean and Key West harbor. The beach is the cleanest in town because of the swift currents that run just off the tip of Key West to flush out any impurities. There are tall pine trees behind the beach that form a natural barrier from wind, if there is any, and provide lots of welcome shade on hot sunny days.

There’s a concession stand at Fort Zachary Taylor that serves snacks and light meals as well as refreshing drinks. You can rent kayaks or lounge chairs and walk the sandy beach. There is plenty of parking for cars as well as RVs at the park as well.

The fort was built in the 1800s by the US Army to fortify the coastal borders of the US. It took thirty years to build, and many men died in the process. The swampy hot humid area was full of mosquitoes that spread yellow fever.  Supplies were scarce, even from Washington during the Civil War when the men had to take and hold the fort for the Union when the entire rest of Florida was part of the Confederacy.

Conditions were miserable. Men got bored and would use one of the Martello towers for target practice. East and West Martello towers were part of the fortified system built by the Army in Key West around the same time as Fort Zachary Taylor. Neither tower saw any action and neither one ever housed a canon either.

There’s a moat around Fort Zachary Taylor and it’s fun to walk the trails around the park and view the picturesque moat from different viewpoitns. There are some permanent sculptures placed around the moat (see picture), depicting skeleton-like forms opening treasure chests.

The bicycle trails around the park are nice too. They wind around the fort and out to the rocky beach. From the beach, you can see Key West Harbor. This is the main thoroughfare for cruise ships, coast guard boats, dive boats and fishing boats. You might even see the glass bottom boat tour go by. It’s a great spot to sit and watch the world go by for an afternoon.