There is a little known spot on the west side of Key West that not a lot of people know about. It sits off the beaten path away from the noise and carnival atmosphere of Duval street. You won’t find any barkers hawking $5 shirts or nekkid wimmen. The bums and drunks stay away too. The secret spot? Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park.
Ft. Zachary Taylor Park is marked on the maps. There is even a sign out on Whitehead and Southard streets pointing to it. But few people seem to go there compared with the rest of the touristy areas. I knew the park was there and was planning a trip to check it out when I found out about the USS Spruance coming into town. The park was the perfect vantage point to see the new destroyer come in the channel so my two friends from Orlando and I headed over. What I found was a very pleasant surprise. A nice quiet peaceful park away from all the noise and with a bit of history behind it. So I took another trip over to check out the whole park.
The park is not all that large. Just a few acres on the western tip of the island. Central to the park is the Civil War era fort of the same name. There is not much left other than the original structure and some old cannons but it is pretty neat to walk through. The rest of the park is all nature. There is a nice bike path running along the fort and back along the water. Not very far, maybe a couple of hundred yards or so. It is where we got all the good shots of the destroyer. It is also a great place to catch sunset. A nice change of pace from Mallory Square. No screaming gymnasts, no creepy guy hiding behind the palm fronds, no dancing dogs begging for money.
On the south west side is a very nice manmade sandy beach. There is plenty of room to lay out, go swimming but right along the beach is a beautiful shaded wooded area complete with picnic tables, nature trails, a butterfly garden, and tons of bicycle parking. It is a great place to relax on a hot day and be in the shade at the same time. There are several restrooms, very clean, rinse stations to get the sand off, and a small concession with plenty of choices including sandwiches, drinks, even beer and wine. Prices are very competitive for Key West. They even have a wifi connection.
Here are the particulars. The park is located next door to the Truman Annex which is a military base. From The corner of Whitehead and Southard head west. This is also the corner where the Green Parrot bar sits if you need a reference point. You will go past a guard but they don’t stop you. Follow the signs to the park. Entry fee is just $2.50 for a bicycle or pedestrian. $4.50 and up for cars. If you can walk Duval you can walk to the park or ride your bike. As I said there were bike lock stands all over the place. The fee is doubly nice as it keeps the urban outdoorsman and other undesirables out. Because it is a park and the rangers patrol pretty good you won’t run into loud music, beggars, or obnoxious drunks.
There is a guided tour of the fort everyday or you can do a self tour. There are all sorts of little things to see or you can just relax on the beach. An inexpensive way to spend a day in Key West. The official website is here: Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
And here are some shots I took of my afternoon there. There is a bunch and I hate slideshows so warm up yer scrollin’ finger:
This first is of Joyce in her new Tiki office. This is where you check in by bike or foot.
The original blacksmith shop.
This is a 10″ columbiad cannon. Fires a 75lb ball about 10 miles with a good tailwind.
Note in the background the USS Spruance and a cruise ship. The cruise ship is bigger but I would put my money on the destroyer.