When the artist on Duval Street mentioned she’d gathered vase sponges on Smathers Beach, I was hoping for a bonanza as Hurricane Frances was coming ashore. Instead, I almost got blown into the water. Watch out where you walk when’s there’s weather!
Lined with coconut palms and carpeted in coral sand, this is a pretty beach, and the largest on Key West. Someone usually sneaks in and grooms the thing, which means the sponges, corals, and shells are gone soon after daybreak, so arrive before dawn for shelling.
Sea grass and coconuts bob in the water, which is clear and stretches off forever. Clean restrooms and free access make this a popular stop for beach-hungry visitors. Sea kayaks, snorkels, and other water playthings are for rent.