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Boca Grande Sandbar

Boca Grande Sandbar — Key West’s Best-Kept Secret Beach

Shipwreck off Key West

Looking for the best Key West sandbar? There are a ton of options, and every charter captain has their favorite spot. But for our money, the sandbar at Boca Grande Key is one of the top three. It’s beautiful, remote, and there’s plenty of space for everyone. It has the feel of some deserted island where you wouldn’t mind being stranded for a while. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the Boca Grande sandbar, located a few miles west of Key West. 

Lobster Trap at Boca Grande Sandbar

Where Is the Boca Grande Sandbar?

Did you know that the Florida Keys don’t end at Key West? Key West is often thought of as the end of the road, and that much is true. US 1, the famous Overseas Highway, only goes as far as Key West.

You might have caught a glimpse of a few islands while watching the sunset from Mallory Square. But if you hop in a boat and keep cruising toward the sunset, you’ll find even more small groups of islands out there. 

And for every island, there are miles and miles of shallow water flats, sandbars, and crystal clear water. The fishing is superb, and beyond other boaters, you really won’t see many people at all. So there’s plenty of space to spread out. 

One of the first big islands that you’ll happen upon out that way is Boca Grande. Compared to the other islands in the area, it’s pretty large—about a half mile across.  And like all the other little Keys, it’s made entirely of mangrove trees growing out of the shallow water.

On the western side of Boca Grande Key is where you’ll find the famous sandbar and beach. All in all, it’s about a 30-minute ride by fast boat from Key West. You can get yourself there with one of the many boat rentals, or charter a private sandbar tour to get you there.

Some of you are shaking your head in confusion and saying, “No. No, man! Boca Grande sandbar is on the west coast of Florida. It’s on Gasparilla Island, right by the causeway, man!” Well, man, that’s true. We won’t debate who named their sandbar first or which is better. But our Boca Grande sandbar is so much better. Just get yourself down to Key West and find out, man!

The Trip to Boca Grande Sandbar Key West

Of course, the most fun part of visiting the Boca sandbar is the trip to get there! Leaving Key West, you’ll head west and put the busy little island town behind you. You’ll get to see the Keys the way the locals know and love—from the deck of a boat cruising over the clear, tropical water.

Along the way, you’ll do some sightseeing, of course. Keep your eyes peeled for Magnificient Frigatebirds soaring above and dolphins splashing in the waves ahead. You’ll often see sea turtles’ heads pop to the surface for air. If they haven’t spotted you, they’ll lounge on the surface for a while. But once they see you, they dive quickly out of sight.

As you pass through an area known as Lakes Passage, you’ll pass tons of smaller little Keys. Most are nothing more than a group of mangrove trees sticking out of the water. A few have small beaches. 

Ballast Key is a tiny island that is the actual southernmost point of the continental United States. I know, you thought that was at the big Southernmost Point Buoy marker where you took your selfies. But it’s not; that’s just a convenient spot to take selfies. Ballast Key is a tiny private island—sorry, no selfies unless you’re a guest of the owner!

There are also a few shipwrecks along the way, including the USS Coral PY-15 and a few other burned-out hulks the military has used for bombing practice. 

Boca Grande Sandbar
Boca Grande Palm Tree

What Will You See on the Boca Sandbar?

The draw of Boca Grande is not the island itself but the long beach on the west side. In addition, it’s easy to get to by boat since it is right next to a deep water channel.

The beach is pretty, but it’s the way it stretches into the water and becomes a gorgeous sandbar. The water here flows freely between the deeper water of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, keeping the water clarity crystal clear.

You can entertain yourself for hours just walking along the flats with your toes in the sand and water. Keep on the lookout for treasures, both natural and manmade. We’ve found some cool historical things that have floated in on the tide occasionally, like very old Cuban beer bottles and, of course, lots of shells. If you’re after the perfect Instagram spot, you’ll want to find the lone palm tree. You’ll know it when you see it. It’s alone. 

Critters love this spot, too. You’ll often see dolphins swimming in the area. Stingrays fly over the flats in the shallow water. You can spot their distinctive shapes gliding around the flats from a long way off. If you’re lucky, you might spot one of Key West’s spirit animals, the Queen Conch, working its way across the sand. Tons of reef fish frequent the channels around the sandbars, too.  

Speaking of wildlife, one small area of the beach is closed to visitors. This island is part of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge, which includes a huge swash of islands in the Lower Keys. These islands are breeding and nesting habitats for endangered and protected species. These 375 square miles of islands and sea have been protected since President Theodore Roosevelt designated the refuge in 1908. 

While you can’t walk on that part of the beach, you can wade forever on the shallow sandbar. Just keep your feet wet and wade to your heart’s content.

Where's the Boca Grande Sandbar Party? Boca Grande Sandbar Memorial Day and Weekends

Depending on when you go, the Boca Grande sandbar might be a quiet escape from the crowds or in the thick of a massive party. This is one of the most gorgeous beaches near Key West, and for those with access to boats, its location is one of the easiest to get to.

Not surprisingly, this popular spot gets a little busy on busy holidays and weekends of great weather. You’ll see many boaters anchored in the shallows, folks hanging in the water and having a good time, and some tunes playing from various boats. It’s a good time and a wonderful place to spend a day on the water. Boca Grande sandbar Memorial Day is one of the best party spots around. 

If you were hoping for a quieter experience, don’t fret. The sandbars and beaches wrap around the island, so finding a spot to yourself is pretty easy. 

Boca Grande Sandbar Photos

 

Here are a collection of photos our guests have shared from their time on the Boca Grande sandbar. 

Ready to Head to Boca Grande?

If you’re ready to start swimming, hold tight, man. It’s quite a trek from Mallory Square to get out to Boca Grande, not to mention the ships and boats and stuff. Better to call up Captain Zak and have him gas up the Casual Monday. Then you can zip over there without worries, go around the ships and stuff, and enjoy a couple of cold ones on your very own deserted island. Sounds better than swimming, eh?

Boca Grande Sandbar FAQs

Why is it called a sandbar?

A sandbar is a beach that is only exposed at low tide. Some sandbars are connected to regular beaches, while others are on their own, set apart from land. Even at high tide, you can usually wade on a shallow Florida sandbar.

What is a sandbar beach?

In the Florida Keys, sandbars are the best beaches. These are shallow areas where you can beach a boat and hang out all day. At low tide, there are often spots of exposed sand like regular beaches. At high tide, there are just areas of really shallow water where you can sit or wade. It’s the perfect place to relax and hang out on a tropical afternoon. It’s like hanging in nature’s swimming pool.

Does Boca Grande have beaches?

In Florida, there are (at least) two Boca Grandes. In Key West, Boca Grande Key is an uninhabited offshore island you can only get to by boat. It has a stunning beach and sandbar, with clear water and lots of wildlife. Boca Grande is also a small town on Gasparilla Island, on the southwest coast of mainland Florida. Their beaches are ok, too, I guess. 

Are there sandbars in Florida?

Yes! Most of the Florida coast and the sea bottom are made of sand, which moves around and piles up with every storm. Around waterways and channels, sandbars form. Sandbar parties are the best parties in Florida—pull the boat up, hang out in the shallow water, and relax in the cool water under the hot sun. Nothing better. 

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