What to do in Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Construction of the National Landmark began in 1845, shortly after Florida became a state. In 1850, the fort was named after U.S. President Zachary Taylor, who died in office earlier that year. Throughout the 1850s, construction on Fort Taylor was slow. Yellow fever, shortages of material and men, remoteness and hurricanes had slowed down progress.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, Capt. John Brannon occupied the fort, placing it in Union occupation. Key West was an important outpost for the Union because numerous blockade-running ships were detained at Key West harbor and guarded by Fort Taylor's cannons.

Nearly 21 years after construction began, the fort was completed in 1866 with advanced features including a sanitary system flushed by the tide and a desalination plant that provided fresh drinking water.

In the years that followed, Fort Taylor was again used during the Spanish-American War. In 1889, in an effort to modernize the fort, the top levels were cut down to install newer weapons. Further remodeling also included the addition of Battery Osceola and Battery Adair on the inside of the fort.

With the coming of the 20th century, weapons that are more sophisticated, eventually radar, and other devices took the place of guns. By 1947, the Army turned Fort Taylor over to the Navy to maintain.

Beginning in 1968, through the tireless efforts of volunteers, excavations for old armaments in the gun rooms uncovered a number of guns and ammunition from Civil War times. This represents only a fraction of the buried arsenal, which is the largest collection of Civil War cannons in the U.S. In recognition of this, Fort Taylor was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Two years later, the fort was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Fort Zachary Taylor is a perfect example of the wealth of history Florida has to offer. The park, which now covers a total of 87 acres, is a National Landmark that played a significant role in Florida's early development. The area along the west side of the park is ideal for fishing. The main ship channel is approximately 33-feet deep and provides the angler with access to a variety of saltwater fish. Saltwater fishing licenses are required in Florida. Shaded picnic areas are available for visitors to enjoy their catch of the day. These areas include tables, grills and several outside shower and bathhouse facilities. Guided tours are available daily. Please inquire at Ranger Station for tour times.

Hours of operation are 8 A.M. till sundown 365 days a year. Pets are not allowed in camping areas, on bathing beaches, in concession areas and may be restricted in other designated areas of the park. Where pets are allowed, they must be kept on a six-foot, hand held leash and well behaved at all times.

Recreational activities at the Fort Zachary Taylor historic site include beaches, fishing, picnic tables, snorkeling and swimming.

The Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Site is located at the end of Southard Street on Truman Annex in Key West.

Southern Florida lies within a subtropical climate. It is usually hot and humid in the summer with brief afternoon thundershowers. It is not unusual for temperatures to exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit with averages reaching above 83 degrees Fahrenheit (above 29 Celsius). Winters are mild and dry with temperatures averaging above 64 degrees Fahrenheit (above 18 Celsius). The average precipitation for the southeast area is more than 60 inches per year. Hats and sunglasses are recommended throughout the year, as is the use sunscreen.

P.O. Box 6560
Key West, FL 33041

Phone: 305-292-6713

  • Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Travel Q&A