Sand Key is a large sand island off Key West in the Florida Keys

Sand Key is marked with a lighthouse that stands 109' tall. The depth of the water ranges from 0' to 65'. There are 27 mooring buoys, S1 through S27. No anchoring is allowed here so you have to tie up to the mooring buoys. It’s located seven miles southwest of Key West. This is a Sanctuary Preservation Area. You’re not allowed to take fish or lobster. The GPS Coordinates are 24'27.111N and 081'52.619W.

The island itself and the shallow waters around the lighthouse are made up of crushed coral and small shells. The oceanside of the lighthouse has large spur and groove coral formations. Big sand gullies divide the fingers. Large stands of elkhorn coral grow really close to the surface of the water near the island. There are small patches of elkhorn coral scattered around. In the deeper water 45' to 65' you’ll find nice ledges and drop offs. This dive site is alive with marine life. The largest school of spade fish I’ve ever seen was here. There’s also schools of grunts and yellowtail snapper, colorful tropical fish, tarpon, sting rays, really big barracuda, spiny lobster and an occasional shark.

Sand Key

The northwest corner is a great start for the novice diver. It’s shallow there. But be careful when you get up near the island, you could encounter the surge from the waves.

This island is no more than a sand spit. It’s constantly changing. Every strong storm reshapes it. It has no vegetation. It’s cool to be able to swim over to the island and take a walk on the sandy beach. You could even have your picture taken standing beside the lighthouse?

This is one of Key West’s most popular dive sites for snorkeling and scuba diving. The visibility is almost always good here and the current is usually light.

The lighthouse is a Historical Site. It was lit for the first time on June 20, 1853. In 1941, soon after the Coast Guard took control of the lighthouse it was automated. The keepers dwelling vacated and not used again until 1980. It was manned with Coast Guard personnel to watch for Cubans during the Mariel Boatlift. In the 1800's and early 1900's thousands of Terns would nest and lay their eggs on Sand Key. It was reported that between nine and twelve thousand birds used to nest here. Their eggs were very tasty and many of them were taken. Out of the thousands of eggs only two to three hundred chicks would hatch each year. Adult Terns were taken for their feathers. It was fashionable to have plumes of fancy feathers on ladies’ hats. A Bird Protection Committee was formed and the lighthouse keeper appointed warden to keep the egg stealers and plume hunters away.

This Florida Keys dive site is one you’ll want to try and visit. It’s not that far from shore. You can easily see Key West from here.

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