One of my favorite stops on the drive down the Florida Keys — Anne’s Beach in Islamorada — re-opened in 2019 after it was devastated by Hurricane Irma two years ago.
Located at mile marker 73.5 at the southern end of Upper Matecumbe Key, Anne’s Beach is a rare thing in the Florida Keys – a natural sandy beach. And it’s free.
The park consists of two parking lots and restrooms facilities connected by a 1,300-foot boardwalk that winds through the mangroves. Along the way, there are six pavilions with picnic tables. You won’t find a more picturesque spot for a picnic in the Keys.
Rebuilding the beach lots and boardwalk cost $1.6 million.
The water at these sand flats is very shallow, almost too shallow for swimming. You can wade out a great distance and only be up to your knees. People visiting in the summer just plunk down in knee deep water and sit in the sand with water lapping over them.
When driving down the Overseas Highway, I like to stroll the boardwalk or stop and wade here. Once I looked down and just missed stepping on a small octopus.
Anne’s Beach is also a popular place with windsurfers, and if it’s a breezy day, it’s fun to watch them swoop and soar.
Dog are permitted in the park but must be leashed.
Parking can be difficult to find. (It always was.) There is an additional parking lot about a block south of the park on the bayside. This parking is designed to serve the long bridge extending south to Craig Key, popular with fisherman and a wonderful place to take a short walk and gaze into the water.
At this bayside parking lot, you’ll see the “Highway Piers Historical Marker.” Off in the water on the bayside are remnants of a bridge that was being built in 1935 by World War I veterans who had been given jobs during the Great Depression.
The marker explains: “On Sept. 2, 1935, the great Labor Day hurricane with 200 mph winds and 20 foot waves destroyed the camp and the railway. The road was rebuilt on the railway bridges leaving the unfinished piers as a memorial to the hundreds who lost their lives.” Details about the marker.
Who is Anne’s Beach named after?
The beach is named after local environmentalist Anne Eaton. Hers is a remarkable story.
A teacher by profession, she spent her life in a wheelchair after being paralyzed by polio at age 24. At age 35, she married a 74-year-old Ohio millionaire, founder of the Republic Steel Corporation, who was an outspoken advocate of nuclear disarmament. She fell in love with the Keys in the 1960s, bought an old frame house built of Dade County pine and became deeply involved with life in the Keys, where she eventually made a permanent home. She actively campaigned against over-development of the Keys and helped raise funds for the preservation of this stretch of beach as a county park. When she died in 1992, it was named after her.
Planning your trip to the Florida Keys
- The essential Florida Keys Mile Marker guide: Print it out!
- Florida Rambler’s channel devoted to the Florida Keys
- 11 great kayak outings in the Keys
- Legendary road food on the Overseas Highway
Notes from the editor:
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning a trip, especially to areas hard hit by hurricanes.
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.