Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park: Best Beaches and History


Nestled in the beautiful island city of Key West, Florida, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is a remarkable destination that seamlessly blends natural beauty with rich history.

This coastal gem, named after the 12th President of the United States, Zachary Taylor, invites visitors to step back in time and explore the fascinating past of this significant military fortress while basking in the sun-soaked surroundings.

Fort Zachary Taylor History

Construction of the fort began in 1845, strategically located at the southernmost tip of the continental United States.

Its purpose was to defend the nation’s southeastern coastline and protect the crucial deep-water port of Key West. Throughout the years, the fort played pivotal roles in several significant American conflicts.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Map
Map in Key West

During the Civil War, this fort remained under Union control despite Florida’s secession. It served as a crucial base for the Union’s naval blockade of Confederate ports, helping to cut off supplies and weaken the Confederate states. The fort’s strategic location and steadfast Union control earned it the nickname “the Gibraltar of the Gulf.”

In the Spanish-American War, the fort functioned as an essential supply depot and staging area for naval operations in the Caribbean.

Its presence further solidified the importance of Key West as a naval base, which persisted through both World Wars and the Cold War era.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Inside
RH&XL / Flickr

The fort was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1973, a testament to its enduring significance in American history.

Today, the meticulously preserved fort serves as a window into the past, allowing visitors to explore its storied legacy and the vital role it played in shaping the nation.

Things to Do at Fort Zachary Taylor

This fort is not just a historical treasure but also a haven for nature lovers. The park’s unique location at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico creates a diverse ecosystem that offers a variety of natural attractions for visitors to enjoy.

  • Beaches: This park is home to one of Key West’s most picturesque beaches, where clear turquoise waters meet soft white sands. This idyllic setting is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and unwinding while taking in the breathtaking views that surround you.
  • Snorkeling: With its coral reefs and seagrass beds hugging the shoreline, the park is a fantastic spot for snorkeling enthusiasts. Delve into the vibrant underwater world filled with colorful fish, sea turtles, and other marine life. On-site snorkeling gear rental ensures a hassle-free experience for visitors of all ages.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach Coast
How to get to the beachRH&XL / Flickr

  • Wildlife: The park’s varied ecosystems, such as mangroves and coastal hammocks, serve as a sanctuary for numerous wildlife species. Keep an eye out for Key deer, raccoons, and perhaps even the rare American crocodile. Additionally, the park’s position along the Great Florida Birding Trail makes it an excellent location for birdwatching, where you might glimpse migratory and native birds like ospreys, pelicans, and herons.
  • Nature trails: Explore the beauty of the state park by strolling or biking along its network of nature trails. These paths take you through diverse habitats, offering a wonderful opportunity to observe the park’s flora and fauna while basking in the serenity of its pristine landscapes.

In summary, the state park’s natural beauty offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in a pristine environment that blends the best of coastal and terrestrial ecosystems.

From its breathtaking beach to its lush landscapes, the park truly has something for everyone seeking to connect with nature.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Walls
PhotosKevin Banks / Flickr

Swimming in Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach

The state park is home to a stunning beach, renowned for its clear turquoise waters and soft white sand. Visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, or simply relaxing while taking in the breathtaking panoramic views.

Facilities at the beach include restrooms, showers, picnic areas, and a concession stand, where you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas, and other essentials for a comfortable day at the beach.

Fort Zachary Taylor Snorkeling

With its shoreline surrounded by coral reefs and seagrass beds, the state park is a prime location for snorkeling.

Visitors can embark on an underwater adventure to discover the park’s vibrant marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and other fascinating creatures. On-site snorkeling gear rental ensures a hassle-free experience for explorers of all ages.

Camping at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park

Unfortunately, there is no camping available within the state park. The park is primarily focused on its historical and natural attractions.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Historical
RH&XL / Flickr

However, there are several campgrounds and RV parks available in Key West and throughout the Florida Keys, providing a range of camping options for those looking to stay overnight in the area.

While there are no campgrounds within the state park, several options can be found nearby in Key West and the surrounding Florida Keys. Some popular campgrounds and RV parks close to the park include:

  • Boyd’s Key West Campground
  • Leo’s Campground and RV Park
  • Geiger Key Marina and RV Park
  • Sunshine Key RV Resort and Marina

Each of these campgrounds offers a variety of amenities and accommodations to suit your needs. Be sure to check their respective websites or contact them directly for availability, reservations, and additional information.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Entrance Fee

Entrance fees for the state park vary depending on the mode of transportation and the number of people in your group.

  • Single-occupant vehicle: $4.50
  • Vehicle with 2-8 occupants: $7.00
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists: $2.50 per person

It is advisable to check the official website or contact the park directly for the most up-to-date information on fees and other charges.

How to Get to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park?

Getting to the state park is relatively easy, whether you are driving, biking, or using public transportation. The park is located at 601 Howard England Way, Key West, FL 33040.

  • By car: From the mainland, take US-1 (also known as the Overseas Highway) southbound. This scenic route will take you through the Florida Keys, crossing numerous bridges and offering picturesque views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Once you reach Key West, follow the signs for the state park. There’s a parking lot available within the park, with a nominal parking fee in addition to the park entrance fee.
  • By bicycle: Key West is a bicycle-friendly city, with dedicated bike lanes and numerous bike rental shops. Cycling to the park is a great way to explore Key West and enjoy the warm weather. Simply follow the signs or use a map or GPS to navigate to the park.
  • Public transportation: Key West offers a public bus service called the Duval Loop, which provides free transportation around the city. The Duval Loop has a stop close to the park entrance, making it a convenient option for those without a car. Check the bus schedule and route map for more information on planning your trip.
  • By ferry: If you’re visiting the park from another key or from the mainland and prefer a more scenic and leisurely journey, consider taking one of the ferries that operate in the Florida Keys. While these services don’t take you directly to the park, they will bring you to Key West, where you can then use one of the other transportation options mentioned above.

Keep in mind that there is an entrance fee to access the park, which varies based on your mode of transportation and the number of people in your group. Be sure to check the current fee schedule and park hours before planning your visit.


Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park offers a unique blend of rich history, natural beauty, and outdoor recreational opportunities that make it a must-visit destination in Key West, Florida.

While you explore the park’s fascinating past and immerse yourself in its pristine environment, you’ll create lasting memories and gain a deeper appreciation for the important role this historic site played in shaping our nation.

Although camping is not available within the park, numerous options are available nearby for those wishing to extend their stay in the captivating Florida Keys.