Where To Watch The Sunset In Key West: The Two Best Spots That AREN’T Mallory Square
The Florida Keys are known for their glorious sunsets, and Key West sunsets in particular get a lot of hype. As I planned my itinerary out, I knew I needed to anchor each day with a specific sunset plan, and made it my mission to find the best places to watch the sunset in Key West…and specifically, spots that *weren’t* Mallory Square.
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Why was I wanting to avoid Mallory Square?? That’s totally my personal preference. Everyone says you MUST experience the famous Sunset Celebration there, which happens every evening. They have food vendors and street performers, local artists, and more. If that sounds like your vibe, then absolutely do that one night.
The blogs I’d read suggested getting to Mallory Square about two hours before sunset to secure a good spot at the edge of the water, or get a seat at El Mesón de Pepe Bar and Restaurant (right on the square, with a good view). You can use the time to watch the performers and enjoy some food and drinks.
For me…I really hate crowds and I hate waiting and I hate stressing out about getting a spot somewhere. The sunset should be beautiful and peaceful. With a limited time in Key West, the Mallory Square experience just didn’t sound appealing to me, so I tried to figure out the best Key West sunset spots for someone like me.
This is what Mallory Square looks like during the day, just for reference. Also, Sunset Pier is just to the right of Mallory Square (if you’re facing the water), and is another popular (and crowded) option.
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Where to watch the sunset in Key West
I’ve got two Key West sunset options for you below, both of which I absolutely loved. Now, I’ll say that neither of the sunsets themselves were particularly impressive…but they were nice, and I always love a sunset on the water.
I made a little video (part of my 2022 travel intentions) to whet your appetite as well!
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#1 – Get out on the water…a sunset sail
Y’all KNOW I love being on a boat! Especially a sailboat type deal. So a sunset cruise is not only a must-do in Key West, but was always going to be on my own personal list.
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There are several companies that offer these, and I ended up going with Danger Charters. Specifically, I did the “Wind & Wine Sunset Sail“, which includes tastings of like 8 different (actually quite good) wines and some hors d’oeuvres.
We even had a surprise wedding on board! For me, there’s little better than watching the sun sink below the horizon while the boat gently sways, the wind fills the sails, and the light sparkles off the water.
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You can look at other companies (Sebago gets great reviews), do more of a rowdy booze cruise on a schooner, or even rent your own private floating tiki bar to watch your Key West sunset.
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#2 – Beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park has a LOT to recommend itself if you’re planning a trip to Key West. It’s definitely worth a visit regardless of your sunset plans, from the Civil War-era fort to the great (by Key West standards) beaches to great snorkeling to hiking and biking trails.
It’s also very easily accessible from Key West (I Uber-ed there and walked back, if that tells you anything). The fort itself closes at 5:00 and the park technically at sunset (though you don’t have to be scared about being shut in…plenty of people come here for the sunset).
One important note: in addition to the fort, all the restrooms and other amenities close at 5:00 as well.
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You can bring your own little chair or towel to sit on, but there are also some picnic tables and benches scattered around.
The rock wall here is considered by many to be the best place to watch the sunset in Key West (and I agree, it’s especially romantic), but there is a looooong stretch that looks out west, all of which makes an amazing sunset view.
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Note, it does cost to enter the state park (I paid $4.50 as a single-occupant vehicle). Consider bringing a picnic (just be aware the park is pack-in, pack-out) or a refreshing beverage (alcohol consumption in designated areas only), or get there before 5p and grab a snack at the concession stand before it closes.
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I had fun playing around with my “real” camera while I waited for the sunset colors to truly develop. Love me a starburst effect.
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While there will probably be plenty of people here to watch the sunset, it doesn’t feel remotely crowded. You don’t have to jostle for space or really worry about people getting in your view or photo.
I would have loved a few clouds for the colors to bounce off of, but at least enjoyed the sunset sailboats cruising by (which gave my pics a bit more interest).
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You can get a feel for how NOT crowded it was here…
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I’ll note one other option, which I haven’t experienced myself so can’t vouch for. Latitudes is a fancy restaurant located on Sunset Key, an exclusive island right by Key West. You can take a complimentary ferry there, and the sunset there is said to be breathtaking.
So you can snag a reservation and try that as well! If I’d had one more night, that would have been my next option.
Other amazing sunset views you’ll fall in love with:
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- Costa Rican Adventures With Locals…& One of the Most Amazing Sunset Ever
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