On Key West, the snorkeling at Fort Zachary Taylor Park is considered by some locals as the best shore-based dive on the island. With its location of the southwest end of the island, the gentle currents help keep the water clarity reasonably high for a shore dive. While there is not coral to be found here, there are rock structures about 40 feet offshore to be explored. The best snorkeling is on the outside of the two middle rock structures. The water depths range from 3 to 15 feet deep. During Fort Zachary Taylor Park snorkeling, you may also encounter yellow butterflyfish, nurse sharks, wrasse, spotted eagle rays, southern stingrays, blue tangs, snapper, Queen Angelfish, French Angelfish, bermuda chub, stoplight parrotfish, lionfish, french grunts, moray eels, sergeant majors, porkfish, butterflyfish, spanish hogfish, porcupine fish, grunts, yellowtail damselfish, trunkfish, parrotfish and the occasional spotted eagle ray. Keep on the look out for Portugese Man Of War and for cone jellyfish (non-stinging).
Since early 2016, there has been agressive brain coral and star coral replanting. This effort is on-going. The coral replanting is located about 200 feet offshore in waters from 10 to 15 feet deep. These 5,000 coral transplants form a snorkeling trail.
At Fort Zach, there are beach concession stands that rent snorkeling equipment. But, keep in mind, there are no life guards at the Fort Zach beaches. After a morning of snorkeling, try a snack at the Cayo Hueso Cafe which is located on-site.
To reach the snorkeling in Key West, fly into Key West International Airport (EYW), which is served by several airlines including United/Silver Airways, Delta, USAir and Southwest. Alternately, there is also the regular Key West Express ferry service (4 hours) that runs from Ft Myers. Once in downtown Key West, try renting a bicycle for easily getting around town and out to Fort Zachary Taylor Park.
To reach the Fort Zachary Taylor Park, follow US 1 onto Key West. Veer right following signs to downtown Key West on North Roosevelt Boulevard. At the intersection with Eisenhower Drive, North Roosevelt Boulevard turns into Truman Avenue. Continue on Truman Avenue past Duval Street for one block. At Whitehead Street, turn right for 4 blocks to Southard Street. Turn left on Southard Street into Truman Annex neighborhood. At the end of Southard Street, turn left following the signs into Fort Zach.
Note: The Key West based Reef Relief organziation is responsible for the Key West Marine Park and for marking the major Florida Keys snorkeling sites with over 100 buoys. Consider donating to this worthwhile non-profit organization.
Overall, Fort Zachary Taylor Park is the 37th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 40 snorkeling dives in the Florida Keys.