People walk past a beach covered with sargassum on May 18, 2023 in Key West, Florida. Reports indicate that as summer progresses, a huge mass of sargassum seaweed which has formed in the Atlantic Ocean is possibly headed for the Florida coastlines and shores throughout the Gulf of Mexico. The sargassum, a naturally occurring type of macroalgae, is reported to span more than 5,000 miles. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

If you’re heading down to Key West, Florida for drinking on Duval Street, should be a good time. Boating and fishing – excellent. Outdoor water adventures, a big yes. But if you want to spend some time on the Key West beaches, you’re gonna have a bad time. Sargassum has made it’s way to the Key West beaches earlier this year. And there’s a lot of it.

Sargassum in Key West is normal. They usually start seeing some rolling up on the beaches in June. We get in Fort Myers and Naples, too. But usually for Key West it’s a big summer occurrence. It piles up on the beaches with the smell in the air. Then the winter winds pull it from the beaches and things clean up. This year was different. Large amounts of sargassum started showing up in March.

According to the locals at Key West Island News, “Decomposing sargassum releases an intense “the devil has arrived” sulfur smell. That’s hydrogen sulfide.  It stinks, but generally doesn’t harm humans in outdoor settings. (Although, if you’re sensitive to strong smells or have significant respiratory problems, like asthma, you might want to wear a mask or limit your exposure until you see if the hydrogen sulfide bothers you.) ”

So that’s what it is. The question then becomes whether you should reconsider a trip to Key West. Simple answer is ‘no’. No one really goes to Key West for the beaches. The sandbars are where you want to be. If I want to spend some time on a beach, I stay in Naples or Fort Myers Beach. Key West is for other things.

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