Islamorada Sandbars

The Islamorada sandbar is a shallow stretch of white sand, just offshore of Islamorada in the Florida Keys. 

The Islamorada sandbar is an extremely popular place for boats to anchor and swim in the crystal clear water.

Gatherings on the sandbar can be calm and relaxing, or wild parties, depending on the day and the crowd.

Many people also bring their dogs to run and play in the shallow water.

The Islamorada Sandbar is also known by other names, including the “Whale Harbor Sandbar”, “Tiki Bar Sandbar” and the “Holiday Isle Sandbar”, among others. 

There are other sandbars near Islamorada as well, but this is the largest and most popular.

Location

By land, the Islamorada Sandbar is located in the area around mile marker 84 on the Overseas Highway.

By water, the Islamorada sandbar is located outside of the Whale Harbor Channel, less than a mile offshore from Islamorada, on the ocean side. 

The approximate GPS coordinates for the Islamorada Sandbar are 24°55’59.9″N 80°35’54.7″W. You can also use this map, or this Google map link.

Navionics can also be used to find the Islamorada sandbar on a nautical chart: Link to Sandbar on Navionics.

islamorada sandbar florida whale harbor

The Islamorada sandbar is long and narrow. The main section is found near the red “4A” channel marker. There is usually an American flag planted on the sandbar to mark its location.

There are sandbars on both the north and south sides of the channel. Most boats anchor on the north side of the channel because it is wider. 

There is more room to spread out on the north side, and the bar can accommodate more boats at anchor. Some boats anchor on the southern side, although the sandbar there is narrower.

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Note: There are delicate seagrass beds on either side of the Islamorada sandbar. Sadly there are lots of “prop scars” from where people have damaged the seagrass beds. 

Please help minimize your boating impact on the ocean! Damage from boats and propellers can kill large areas of seagrass, which is extremely destructive to the ecosystem.

Seagrass is extremely important for the area’s long-term water quality and the health of the Florida Keys marine ecosystem.

If you visit, please don’t damage the seagrass with your boat, propeller or anchor!

Sandbar Description

The Islamorada sandbar is absolutely beautiful. The water is usually crystal clear, especially on calm days without wind or choppy water. The bottom is fine white sand. 

Boats anchored at the Islamorada sandbar in Islamorada, Monroe County, Florida Keys
Boats anchored at the Islamorada Sandbar in the Florida Keys

The water depth varies with the tide, but can vary from zero depth to approximately 3 feet deep. It is generally about knee to waist high. 

The sandbar and channel are bordered on either side by large beds of seagrass. 

Sadly there are propeller marks throughout the fields where clueless boaters have plowed through the seagrass, which is extremely destructive to the marine environment.

Crowds

The Islamorada sandbar is one of the most popular sandbars in the Florida Keys

The Islamorada sandbar is heavily visited year-round. There are boats present on the sandbar almost daily, as long as weather conditions are favorable.

The Islamorada sandbar is most crowded on warm summer holidays and weekends. It is least crowded during cool weather, and during weekdays.

During busy times the Islamorada sandbar can get extremely crowded. When crowds are present there is often loud music, and there can be rowdy behavior. 

Some visitors are inconsiderate and may ruin the experience for others, or make the trip more exciting, depending on your preferences.

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Note: Be sure you know how to anchor or beach your boat properly, especially in crowded conditions! Visitors should be respectful of other people and operate their boat safely at all times.  

When the sandbar is crowded it’s a good idea to be on the lookout for people who don’t know what they are doing!

How to Access Islamorada Sandbar

The Islamorada sandbar is one of the most popular sandbars in the Florida Keys. It’s beautiful, and is easily accessible, even for people who don’t own their own boat.

Visitors can reach the Islamorada sandbar via a variety of easy options. 

Many people visit the sandbar with their own boat, but it is also popular to use a sandbar tour, local boat rentals, or even kayak or SUP paddleboard rentals. 

Kayaking to the Islamorada Sandbar

It is possible to kayak or SUP paddleboard from Islamorada, where rentals are available. The sandbar is less than a mile from the shoreline.

It can be difficult to find a place to park safely and to launch your boat or kayak.

Note: It is inherently dangerous to kayak or paddleboard to the Islamorada sandbar for a variety of reasons.

Before kayaking to the Islamorada sandbar, paddlers should ensure that all safety precautions are taken:

  • The weather and water conditions are safe
  • All paddlers are properly equipped, experienced, and have the appropriate level of fitness to ensure a safe trip
  • Be especially careful of boat traffic
  • Stay out of the busy boat channels

Port Antigua Beach Sandbar (Islamorada)

Note: Visitors to White Marlin Beach or the Port Antigua sandbar should ensure that they know and respect the private property boundaries.

There are other sandbars near Islamorada. One of the most popular is the Port Antigua beach sandbar.

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The Port Antigua sandbar is another name for White Marlin Beach, a privately-owned white sand beach on the bay side of Lower Matecumbe Key. 

Navionics Link to White Marlin Beach and the Port Antigua Sandbar: Map

The Port Antigua sandbar has been extremely popular for many years. It attracts large numbers of boats who anchor off of the beach and gather on the shoreline. The sandbar would be especially crowded on weekends and holidays.

Over the years, the large number of boats and crowds has created friction and conflict with residents who live in the Port Antigua neighborhood in front of the sandbar. 

Residents said that boats and sandbar parties were disruptive and brought illegal behavior, especially trespassing on private property.

As of August 2020 the Islamorada village council created a 300 foot “swim zone” off of White Marlin Beach. The goal of the swim zone was to prevent boats from anchoring off of the sandbar, and to prevent use of the beach.

The restrictions came after years of complaints from homeowners who live in the Islamorada neighborhood of Port Antigua.

The restrictions were controversial, even among residents of the Port Antigua neighborhood.

Note: Visitors to White Marlin Beach or the Port Antigua sandbar should ensure that they know and respect the private property boundaries.

The sandbars near Islamorada are beautiful, and are definitely worth visiting! If you do visit please be safe, and be respectful of other people and the environment.

Cover Image by Matthew McBrayer