Fort Zachary Taylor
Construction on Fort Taylor started in 1845. During the Civil War era, the fort was one of only three in Florida that remained under federal control. Fort Taylor is now a National Historic Landmark and contains the largest cache of Civil War-era seacoast cannons in the US. To learn about the fort’s history, take one of the daily tours or pick up a pamphlet for a self-guided exploration.
These days, Fort Zachary Taylor is best known for its outdoor activities: The beach, which is the southernmost in the US, offers a lovely expanse of sand (a rarity in the Keys) as well as swimming, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Other activities include biking, fishing, hiking along nature trails, bird watching, and picnicking.
Things to Know Before You Go
There are no lifeguards on duty at the beach.
You may want to bring water shoes; the ocean bottom is rocky.
There are two shower stations in the park, but the use of soap is prohibited.
Chairs, umbrellas, and snorkeling equipment are available for rent.
The park is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail and attracts birdwatchers during the spring and fall migrations.
The park charges a vehicle fee, which is based on the number of passengers, and a different fee for anyone walking or biking into the park.
How to Get There
Located at the tip of Key West, at the end of Angela Street, Fort Zachary Taylor is about a 10-minute walk from Duval Street and is accessible by car, bike, or pedicab. If traveling by car, head down Southard Street, following the signs for the park entrance.
When to Get There
Fort Zachary Taylor is open all year round from morning until sundown; the fort itself closes at 5pm. In February, the park is transformed into a mid-1860s encampment, where costumed reenactors dress as Union and Confederate military personnel, craftsmen, and more to recreate military maneuvers and take part in period craft demonstrations.
Key West Lighthouse
A short walk from Fort Zachary Taylor, the Key West Lighthouse is one of the island's oldest structures. While visiting the fort, make sure to make a detour to climb the 88 steps to the top of the lighthouse for amazing views of the coast and Key West. The Lighthouse is also home to the Keeper's Quarters museum, which contains a variety of historical artifacts.
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