Paddling Around Key West Suggestions?

I’m thinking of paddling around Key West in the coming months and I was wondering if anyone had suggestions on how to go about it.

I would love to paddle from island to island and camp at primitive sites for a couple of days but I’m not able to find any information or locations for such camp sites. Can I just camp on any island or is that illegal?

My two biggest concerns are where to get water paddling from island to island when I run out and where to park and leave my car safely for a couple of days.

If anyone’s ever done something similar or has any suggestions I would really appreciate to hear them.


It is illigal to camp on any of the Keys
around Key West - However there is such a thing as stealth camping! (which I wouldn’t advise or do)

I have been to every Key there is down there (except the Marquesas) and there are some awesome beaches on the ones in the Gulf

You can camp on the Dry tortugas, but during the day you will be with all the tourists, and when they all take the ferry back to the mainland you’ll be with other campers -the only way to get there is by ferry.

There are a few good places to Stealth camp on the Atlantic side of Boca Chica, but you will probably be sharing your camp site with a street person.

The ones with the nicest beaches are the Mud Keys and the outer Snipes.

You will have to bring your own water. there is no fresh water on any of them.

Many of the Keys that are six miles or so out in the Gulf are just mangrove Islands that are even impossible to land on

The cheapest and best way to paddle the Keys is to camp in one of the state parks and then do day trips, and Bahia Honda State Park is the one in Lower Keys

If you want any good day trips or need to know launch places drop me an e-mail and I’ll send you as many as you want. I have over a hundred trips in the Keys with descriptions and GPS coordinates.

Jack L

JackL knows the keys far better than I do but I do get down there.

We imagine lots of palm trees and sandy beaches, but that’s not whats naturally there.

The reefs protect the shores from the surf, therefore mangroves thrive, and sandy beaches do not.

I second Jack’s recommendation of getting a site at a state park, and doing some day trips. Save a bit of time for the tourist traps. There are some awesome artists peddling their wares down there.


The keys
On our last trip to the keys we camped at a “campground” in key West and did several fantastic day trips. The best ones were on the gulf side. We also got our kayaks and gear ferried out to the Ft Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas. It was a wonderfully realaxing place to paddle, camp, and snorkle.

Spent a couple years there
I spent my army years stationed on Boca Chica, just north of Key West. There was much more isolated areas back then. Sugarloaf Key was where a group of medics and corpsmen went to dirt bike and swim. Now, there’s condos everywhere. The mangroves are also terrible to camp in or near. Take it from someone who spent more than a few nights on overnight adventures courtesy of Uncle Sam. There are very few real beaches in the Keys. That is due to the nature of mangrove islands. The ones that exist are at a premium. It might be smarter to plan on staying in hotels near the beaches. If you get around to the SE shore of Boca Chica, the beach and marina for the naval air station is now open to the public. You may be able to find camping accomodations there, and the area is sprayed for bugs, making it somewhat tolerable on hot nights.

Nope, see my post above
You can launch your kayak at Boca Chica beach or at the public launch at Geiger Key, and than paddle south along the shore line to some places where the street people “stealth camp”, but you will have to share your camp site with them and their beer bottles and trash that they leave behind

jack L

You can also
camp at North Nest Key. One of the very few Keys with sandy beach. But is up north, gulf side off of Key Largo.

Thanks for all the suggestions. I’ve reserved a spot at the Bahia Honda State Park in the coming weeks and have some paddling trips planned.

As it turned out there’s barely any primitive land left out there. It’s not as I imagined, secluded beaches and islands with lots of land. Though I’m sure if that was there it would have been already sold.