By Jill Martin

Heading to the Florida Keys for winter or spring break? Looking for a beach in the area? You might have a hard time finding one unless you know where to go.
The Florida Keys and Key West are coral islands that form a chain, connected by bridges, over 100 miles long. But why are beaches rare? Well, experts say it’s because there is little wave action. Since the reefs are well offshore, and reefs break the waves, a lack of waves onshore leads to less sand deposited - on the shore. Capiche? So, you really do have to know where to go.
Here are some my favorite beaches of the Florida Keys:
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
In addition to excellent diving, snorkeling and glass bottom boating, you will find beaches and palm trees as you wind your way through the park.
Founder’s Park, Islamorada
Rent a dive or fishing boat, swim in an Olympic-size pool or curl up on a bayside beach with a book. It's small and family-friendly.
Anne’s Beach, Lower Matecumbe
Right off US1 at mile marker 73.8, you’ll wonder why the traffic is slowing down. It’s because of Anne’s Beach. There's no overnight parking, but you can park for the day in the available lot. It’s not much, but it’s a beach on both oceanside and bayside. Picnic facilities are available.
Sombrero Beach, Marathon
This is a personal favorite, but you’ll drive right past it unless you turn left (heading south) at US1 and Sombrero Blvd – about mile marker 50. You’ll find picnic facilities, showers, bathrooms, palm trees, lots of sand, sometimes seaweed... but it’s plenty big. There is even a playground for the kids. Love it.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, Key West
In my humble opinion, it’s the best beach in Key West. It's a long, long walk in, so you may prefer to ride a bike or moped, or drive. Walk if you have to, but it’s a long, windy road as this is an 87-acre state park. There are restrooms, food and drinks, chair rentals, picnic tables and BBQ grills – oh, and a historic fort you can tour! Enter through Truman Annex at Southard Street.
South Beach, Key West
You’ll find lots of locals hanging out here enjoying the nice sand, at the end of Duval Street and the Atlantic Ocean.
Higg’s Beach, Key West
This one’s popular because you can find it easily (at the end of Reynolds Street), and there is a restaurant and picnic tables available. There's also a playground for the kids, wide beach, pier for fishing (license required) and watersport rentals.
Smather’s Beach, Key West
This one’s for the wild ones in the group. It can get crazy and crowded, and most folks have very little clothing on. (Hey, I’m a mom, not a prude!) It’s a man-made beach, but it’s about a half-mile long, and there are concession stands along the road. Play volleyball, ride a jetski or just gawk and/or get sun!
Fort Jefferson National Park
No walking to this one; you can only reach it via seaplane or the ferry. It's well worth the day trip to experience this. Many agree it’s the nicest beach in the entire Florida Keys (even though it’s about 70 miles away from Key West)! Take the ferry and you’ll get breakfast, lunch, your snorkel gear and a tour of the fort. It’s a great day in paradise.