Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Key West, Monroe County

fort zachary taylor
601 Howard England Way
Key West


Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is 87 acres of a little bit of everything tucked away in a corner of Key West. There is the namesake Civil War era fort and the history it represents. There are the birds any time of the year, but especially during migration seasons, when our avian friends make one last stop to gather strength for, or to recuperate from the great flight over the seas. And there are the beaches, by accounts the best in Key West.

The park is a bit out of the way, sequistered from the hubbub of the city by a portion of the Key West Naval Air Station. There is an easy to traverse nature trail through a hardwood hammock. Birding is good enough to qualify the park as a stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.

Note: The the park is open every day of the year 8 a.m. until sundown. There is an entrance fee. Confirm times and the fee using the website, link above.

History: Planning for Fort Taylor began in 1822 shortly after Spain ceded Florida to the United States. Work on the design of the fort started in 1836 under Joseph G. Totten, who would later build Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. Actual construction began in 1845 after Florida became a state and would take 21 years to complete. The unfinished fort played a major role in the union’s blockade of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Fort Taylor again became a hub of activity again during the Spanish American War in 1898, World War I, World War II and during the Cuban missile crisis. It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1973, turned over to the state in 1976 and opened as a Florida state park in 1985.

What You'll See: You come here for the history, for the beach, for the birds, especially during the fall and spring migrations. Situated along Key West’s south shore and its extensive greenery, the park is a magnet for migrators looking to rest and fuel up for the next leg of their journey as well as gulls and other sea-going birds. The best places in the park? Pretty much everywhere.

Amenities: The major amenity is Fort Taylor itself, which gives visitors a glimpse of what life was like for the soldiers garrisoned here during the mid-19th century. There are two nature trails, one leading along side the fort, through a field and along side the ocean. There is a beach and swimming area, picnic area and various food and drink concessions. Drinking water and restrooms are on site; parking is plentiful.

Nearby: Fort Taylor is one of two Key West sites that are part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the other being the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden situated on Stock Island at the entrance to the city. The National Key Deer Refuge is about 20 miles north off U.S. 1 on Pine Key. Dry Tortugas National Park is 75 miles to the west and may be reached by ferry or seaplane leaving from Key West.

Links: The Great Florida Birding Trail's take on Fort Taylor is here.

Virtual Tour

Cover Photo: We debated in our mind what photo best represents the park. We considered one of the many birds we photographed here, but in the end nothing better represents Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park then Fort Zachary Taylor itself. And we really like the photograph, the way the trees frame the fort and the peek of the ocean in the center left..
Getting There ...
From the Florida Park Service website: Follow US 1 into Key West. Turn right, following signs to downtown Key West via North Roosevelt Blvd. At Eisenhower Drive, Roosevelt becomes Truman Avenue. Continue on Truman, 1 block past Duval to Whitehead Street. Turn Right on Whitehead. 4 blocks to Southard Street. Turn left on Southard, continue through the entrance to the Truman Annex residential neighborhood. At the end of Southard turn left, following the signs to the park entrance.

Photo Gallery for Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Click on the photograph to see an enlarged image. Click on the name to read more about the species.

Published by Wild South Florida, PO Box 7241, Delray Beach, FL 33482.
Photographs by David Sedore. Photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without permission.