6 Best Key West Sandbars
People come to Key West, Florida for its allure of the sun, turquoise waters, and beaches. Everything that happens here is related to the water, and no matter where you are, it isn’t far away. The Florida Keys is the only place to enjoy the sunrise on the Atlantic over a café latte and sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
This distinct geographical trait makes the Florida Keys and Key West a place everyone needs to visit at least once.
At only eight square miles in area and a population of about 25,000, Key West is a tiny place. Therefore, activities on-land are a bit limited, other than visiting the historic Old Town area, a few popular beaches, and of course, Duval Street; however, once you’re out on the water, there is a whole aquatic world to explore, including some of the best sandbars in Florida.
Start your adventure at these six popular Key West sandbar locations:
- Woman Key Wildlife Management Area — Sandbar
- Boca Grande Sandbar
- Jewfish Basin Sandbar
- Great White Heron Park
- Snipe Point/ Marvin Key Sandbars
- Islamorada Sandbars
Also be sure to check out our complete guide, Boating in Key West, FL: Everything You Need to Know.
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Are there sandbars in the Florida Keys?
Yes, there are, as there are many sandbars in Florida. Where you have tidal flow, sand, islands, and wind, sandbars will develop in the shallows where all these elements converge. Shoals are evident at low tide but hide just below the surface when the tide comes rolling in.
Many of Florida’s sandbars have become locations to meet up with other boaters, anchor, and spend the day in the sun, playing in the warm waters. However, the only way to get to the sandbars of the Florida Keys and Key West is by boat. Don’t have a boat? You can rent a boat locally through Boatsetter!
Where are the Key West sandbars?
Much like favorite fishing spots, the location of many sandbars is a carefully guarded secret. The list here is not extensive; however, it will put you in the right direction.
The islands (Keys) within the Key West Wildlife Refuge are uninhabited and have no facilities. When visiting this area, boaters can arrive half an hour after sunrise and leave half an hour before sunset. There are no camping facilities here and no picnic areas.
Be aware that certain Woman’s and Boca Grande Keys areas are off-limits to boats and people to protect the wildlife. Loggerhead turtles nest and lay their eggs here, and many different sea bird species make their homes here, too.
1. Woman Key Wildlife Management Area — Sandbar
Located just inside one area of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge is the Woman Key Wildlife Management Area. About 13 miles west of Key West and a little over a mile east of Boca Grande Key, Woman Key sandbar is a place of quiet beauty. The waters here are clear, and the bottom is sandy, where the sandbar lies at the west end of the Key.
These are not party sandbars. It is a place where one can be contemplative and forget anything but the sand, sea, and the sun. You see, there is no cell service this far from the mainland, so no one can interrupt your solitude.
2. Boca Grande Sandbar
A few miles south of Woman’s Key is Boca Grande Key and the sandbars that have formed around this Key are fabulous. Again, the pristine white sand, turquoise blue waters, and privacy allow you to disconnect from civilization for a few hours.
Whether you choose to beach on a sandbar or snug up to the shore, a visit to Boca Grande Key will allow you to dive, snorkel, and fish. But be sure you have a license before fishing, whether you are fishing from above or below the water.
3. Jewfish Basin Sandbar
Less than ten miles north northeast of Key West is Jewfish Basin. The sandbars here are magnificent. Fanning out from the seafloor and exposing themselves at low tide, the sand is brilliant white, and the waters are as turquoise blue as you will see anywhere in the Florida Keys.
Jewfish Basin is a large interior bay of the islands that runs adjacent to the Florida Keys. It has interesting geographical formations within its boundaries. It is an area you need to visit while boating in the Florida Keys. If fishing is your game, many species occupy these waters, including goliath grouper, mutton snapper, and sharks. Don’t forget the sharks!
4. Great White Heron Park
Great White Heron Wildlife Refuge is east, toward the mainland, and directly north of Sugarloaf key. It and the Key West National Wildlife Refuge encompass 6200 acres of land and almost 124000 acres of water. The sands around the islands in this waterborne park are constantly shifting. Consequently, you will find sandbars along many of the islands.
Pick your favorite site and make a day of it. As with every sandbar, beware the tides as they can be fast in narrow inlets. Keep an eye out for the locals when you seek Key West sandbars because they know where they are, how the tides run, and you might make a new friend or two.
However, like Boca Grande and Jewfish Sandbar, this area of the keys can be very quiet, and if that is what you seek, you will find it here.
5. Snipe Point/ Marvin Key Sandbars
Snipe Point and Marvin Key sandbars are about ten miles north, northeast of Boca Chica Key, and less than two miles apart. Both of these locations have knee-deep shoals in crystal clear water. Like many of the sandbars listed, they have few visitors, and those who come here aren’t looking for a party; they seek quiet and a great catch of the day.
6. Islamorada Sandbars – Here’s your party!
Also known as the Whale Harbor Sandbar because of the location in Whale Harbor Channel, at the north end of Islamorada, the waters here flow from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. The result is an almost delta-like vista at low tide.
Over 100 boats will gather here on weekends and stay long enough that their ships are hard aground at low tide, so beware the time when sandbar hopping or your day trip may last all night. Located on the Atlantic side of the Florida Keys, they are less than a mile from the mainland. Yet, the sandbar here has become the place to be on the weekend for boaters looking for a good time.
Find a Sandbar in the Florida Keys that fits your mood.
The sandbars of the Florida Keys all have a different feel. You can choose seclusion or a party of a hundred boats and a carnival flavor. The choice is yours when sandbar hopping. A few hours on the water can give you a taste of either or both. However, a few hours may not be enough, and you will want more than just a minute to enjoy one of the unique places in Florida.
If you don’t have a boat for this adventure, we can help you one at Boatsetter. You can use a boat built for the island life for a few hours or a few days. A captained or bareboat key west boat rental gives you the option to go at it alone or to be piloted about by someone with knowledge of the area.
Either way, a day on the water in Key West is always fantastic, no matter what you choose to do. Happy voyages!