Experience the stunning 165 mile road trip between Miami and the southernmost tip of the USA, Key West. This highly sought-after road trip unfolds along the enchanting Overseas Highway, often affectionately referred to as the “highway that goes to sea” and officially known as US Highway 1. With more than 42 bridges connecting the mosaic of islands comprising the Florida Keys, this route unveils breathtaking panoramas of the surrounding terrain. Gaze to one side to behold the vast Atlantic Ocean, and turn your gaze to the other to encounter the Gulf of Mexico – a truly breathtaking view.
You can do the drive as part of a day trip, as it only takes 3.5 hours to drive from Miami to Key West, without any stops. However, this journey is teeming with numerous points of interest waiting to be explored. Passing them by would be a missed opportunity. This is why many travellers opt to extend their trip over several days, giving themselves the chance to enjoy the local offerings.
This guide will showcase some of the top destinations between Miami and Key West. For those who prefer alternatives to driving, we’ll also highlight some of the alternatives on offer.
What are the Florida Keys known for?
The Florida Keys are renowned for their breathtaking beaches and clear waters, making them an idyllic destination for water enthusiasts seeking activities like diving, snorkelling, sailing, kayaking, and fishing. However, if water-based adventures aren’t your preference, don’t worry! The Keys offer a wealth of attractions and experiences on land. The region boasts a thriving arts and culture scene, with captivating art galleries and numerous historical sites to explore. Among the must-visit spots is the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum in Key West. Furthermore, the Florida Keys offer an abundance of dining options to suit every palate. Many of these restaurants specialise in local cuisine, sourcing their ingredients directly from the surrounding waters.
The 5 must-see stops
The Florida Keys have so much to offer, and it can be overwhelming to decide where to begin. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of our top 5 must-see stops.
Key Largo, a tranquil paradise just over an hour’s drive from Downtown Miami. Known as “The Dive Capital of the World,” Key Largo offers an array of water-based activities like kayaking, fishing, and diving, catering to all skill levels and interests. Don’t miss a visit to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the USA’s first undersea park, spanning over 70 nautical square miles and offering an abundance of exciting activities.
The picturesque views of Islamorada are not to be missed. Every opening in the lush greenery reveals a breathtaking glimpse of the dazzling horizon. If you’re a fishing enthusiast, this is the perfect place for you. Named as the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World,” Islamorada is where backcountry sport fishing and saltwater fly fishing first evolved.
Marathon, nestled in the heart of the Florida Keys, is a family-friendly destination spanning 10 miles. It boasts numerous attractions, including the iconic Seven Mile Bridge and the Pigeon Key museum, which sheds light on the Overseas Railway history. For animal lovers, the Dolphin Research Centre and the Turtle Hospital are a must visit, and highlights the local dedication to marine life conservation.
Big Pine Key & Lower Keys
Big Pine Key is a peaceful and tranquil island getaway located in the Lower Keys between Marathon and Key West. The area offers stunning waters and a range of water activities, including sailing, diving, and snorkelling. Bahia Honda State Park is a must-visit, with its three beaches and year-round opening hours. The National Key Deer Refuge, established in 1957, is a crucial sanctuary for various wildlife resources, including the beloved Key Deer, which is the smallest subspecies of white tailed deer.
Located at the end of the Florida Keys, and at the southernmost tip of the USA, you’ll find Key West. Renowned for it’s stunning beaches, historical landmarks, charming architecture, and it’s vibrant atmosphere. Believe it or not, in Key West you’re actually closer to Cuba than you are to Miami. The bustling heart of Key West is Duval Street, complete with shops, bars and restaurants, including the well known Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a beloved favourite of author Ernest Hemingway. With countless activities to choose from, you can experience so much including exploring the key attractions with a ride on the Conch Tour Train.
With its mouth-watering culinary options and bustling nightlife, Key West has something for everyone. Even if you want something more low key, there’s plenty on offer. Take a stroll along the sandy shores of Smathers Beach or play a game of Golf at the impressive Key West Golf Club. No matter what you choose, Key West is sure to leave you feeling impressed.
When is the best time to go?
Florida is known for its abundant sunshine, making it an ideal destination to visit throughout the year. Here’s a helpful guide that outlines the average temperatures to ensure you’re prepared for your trip.
Don’t want to Drive? There are other ways to experience this destination
Whilst many believe that driving through the Florida Keys is the best way to experience it, there are alternative ways to get there if you’re not wanting to drive. We’ve listed them below.
Top Tip: If you’re travelling in a Rental Car, it may be an option to drive from Miami to Key West, and then arrange to drop the car in Key West. Allowing you to travel back a different way. However, it’s highly recommended that you check this out with your car rental provider to ensure it’s allowed – remember to check incase there are any one-way drop off fees that need to be paid.
Travelling by Air
Key West International airport has a range of routes to and from many cities within the USA, including nearby destinations such as Miami.
Travelling by Bus
There are several bus services that cover the route, whether it’s direct to Key West, or somewhere in between.
Travelling by Sea
A high-speed ferry is available between Key West and Fort Myers, or Marco Island, which would take around 3.5 hours.
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