Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach park
County owned Clarence S. Higgs Memorial Beach Park is located on the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to the Waldorf Astoria’s Casa Marina Resort, in Key West, Florida, the southernmost city in the continental United States, and comprises approximately 16.5 acres of ocean front vista.
From its clear turquoise waters to its beautiful sandy beaches and its tropical vegetation, Higgs Beach Park is one of the most inviting public beach parks in Florida because of its diverse array of activities and offerings. Within the Park, you will find a: Civil War Era Fort, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Salute! On the Beach, a lovely beachside café which features a lighter, Caribbean-influenced take on Italian classics - with fresh bread, vegetables, and local seafood and reportedly, the largest African Refugee Burial Ground in this hemisphere as well as one of the largest Aids Memorials in the Country.
Higgs Beach Park is truly unique on many fronts as it hosts the only shore-accessible underwater marine park in the United States and is also the terminus of the Florida Overseas Heritage Trail, one of only 31 nationally designated All American Highways in the United States.
Activities available to park users include swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, beach volleyball, tennis, pickleball, and a beachside Children’s Playground. Tropical Water Sports, a beach concessionaire, offers users a broad array of beach accessories for rent including beach chairs, umbrellas, kayaks, and paddleboards, among others. Additionally, the historic civil war era fort known as the West Martello has served as the home of the Key West Garden Club for over 50 years and offers free self-guided tours of almost 2 acres of beautiful gardens with an ocean breeze and view. For animal lovers, the Park hosts a large and actively utilized dog park with separate runs for small and large dogs.
Whether you visit the park daily, weekly or only periodically while vacationing in the beautiful Florida Keys, we offer our genuine welcome and encourage you to take advantage of the many and varied activities available to park users.
Further, we welcome your contact and input and hope that you return and enjoy the Park for many years to come.
Park Improvements and Revitalization
The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners approved a Master Plan renovation for the Park in January 2012. (See plans below). The non-profit group, Friends of Higgs Beach, Architect Bill Horn, and county staff worked tirelessly on public input, surveys, and funding sources over the past six years to produce a plan that distinguishes the future of the park as a gem of the county.
The objective of this Master Plan is to have an overall sense and organization to the Park’s long-term renovation.
A couple of interesting facts in the Master Plan:
- An increase of green space and beach area
- A decrease of more than 1 acre of “paving” (road, parking, sidewalks)
- Less than 0.11 acre in new buildings
- A .12-acre decrease in existing building structures
- A .10-acre increase in amenities (pickleball courts, etc.)
Phase I and II: Complete
Beachside Playground, completed in 2012, and a ten station Athletic Trail, thanks to the Friends of Higgs Beach, on the north side of the park was completed in 2016.
Park Access Road Realignment
This project was approved by the Board of County Commissioners as part of the 2014 capital improvements plan. It is being funded by the one-cent infrastructure tax.
A company has been hired for professional services in the relocation of the Higgs Beach Park access roadway. In March 2015, the Board of County Commissioners voted to extend their services in order to address impacts to other park resources that will be affected by the roadway realignment including the existing racquetball court, the existing dog park, and connections to the West Martello Tower. The amendment will also provide for permitting and construction oversight of sand replenishment efforts on the beach. The sand replenishment is being funded through a Tourist Development (TDC) grant.
County staff is currently working with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the National Park Service to complete final approvals necessary to begin construction which is anticipated to begin in the spring of 2019.
For comments or questions regarding the road realignment, contact Commissioner Heather Carruthers’ office at 305-292-3430.
Additional Park Projects & Improvements
Reynolds Street Pier
The Reynolds Street Pier Refurbishing project included rehabilitation of the existing 400 feet long pier with the installation of new fiber grate decking, handrails, interpretive sign panels, viewing scopes, and replacement of two existing stairways leading into the water. The project also included the construction of a pedestrian plaza at the entrance to the pier, reconstruction of the elevated concrete ramp to the pier, replacement of the existing sidewalk, installation of a 12 by 20-foot pre-fabricated shelter pavilion, benches, landscaping, tree grates and relocation of existing palm trees.
This project was funded by a Florida Department of Transportation Local Agency Program grant in July 2013.
During the improvement process, wave action from Hurricane Irma and then later, a winter storm in 2018 damaged the pier. Since then, the pier is fixed and open to the public.
You can rent the Higgs Beach pavilions for birthday parties, weddings, anniversaries, and family outings. Please view the Use of County Property document for information on fees and insurance. Call 305-295-4385 for more information.