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Up until fairly recently, I’d never heard of the Florida Keys and Key West until we did a Florida Keys road trip while travelling across the USA. When I found out about this chain of islands off the southern coast of Florida, I was amazed. The Florida Keys are made up of clear blue water in the Gulf of Mexico and when we got to visit the Florida Keys, I realised that driving to Key West is beautiful too. As you leave mainland Florida, 113 miles of road lay ahead of you until you reach Key West. At Key West you’re so far south you’re actually closer to Cuba than you are to the USA! As you road trip to Key West from Miami, there are turquoise waters either side of the road, palm trees and the occasional turtle crossing the road along the drive.
We did a Key West day trip as we were keen to make it back up the coast of Florida to watch a rocket launch at Kennedy Space Centre. It also makes a fantastic Miami road trip! While it means you’re in for a long day, a Miami to Florida Keys day trip is totally doable and makes for an awesome day! However, I’d recommend you break your trip up into 2, or more, days by staying in Key West. This gives you a bit more time to travel down and up the coast. If you’re planning a Florida Keys road trip, check out my guide below to see my favourite places to stop and take in the views as well as a few of the best places to stay in the Florida Keys.
About the Florida Keys and where are the Florida Keys?
The Florida Keys is made up of hundreds of islands, also called “keys”. The islands are joined by a series of bridges, the longest of which is the Seven Mile Bridge joining Knights Key with Little Duck Key.
The road that travels from mainland Florida to Key West at the bottom of the Florida Keys, and links the Florida Keys islands, is known as The Florida Keys Overseas Highway. It’s 113 miles in length and was rebuilt in the 1980s after a hurricane destroyed the railway that was there in 1935. You can still see some of the old railway bridges today and some of them have been converted into fishing bridges.
The first Key you get to is Key Largo and the last is Key West. If you do a Florida Keys road trip from Key Largo to Key West it would take roughly 2.5 hours with no stopping. However, you’re going to want to stop, trust me!
How far is Key West from Miami?
It’s 165.5 miles from Miami to Key West, Florida which will take you between 3.5-4 hours of continuous driving. The distance isn’t too long but you’ll want the best part of the day (and ideally more) to see the best of The Keys!
How to visit Florida Keys
Wondering can you drive to Key West, Florida? You totally can!
Driving Florida Keys is easy as there’s just one highway; you can’t really get lost! Highway US 1 is one of the most scenic drives in the world and you’re going to love it! But first, here are a few tips on how to do a Florida Keys road trip from Miami to Florida Keys.
While you can go from Miami to Key West in one day, we went from Homestead to Key West and back in one day, I’d recommend making your trip to Key West longer if you can. That way you’ll have more time to spend doing all the fun things to do in Florida Keys that I’ve listed below.
Miami to Key West drive
As there’s only one main road all the way from Key Largo to Key West it’s easy to find the places I recommend you stop in Florida Keys due to the mile markers you’ll see along the side of the road. The Florida Keys Mile Markers get to 0 in Key West, at the southernmost point of the US. Most of the stops below are right off the highway and pretty much everything is well signposted.
If you need to rent a car before driving the Florida Keys then have a look at RentalCars.com which has lots of choice for rental cars in Miami. They make it super easy to find the best deals too.
Book a Key West day trip tour
If you don’t want to rent a car or are travelling solo and want to meet other travellers in The Keys, then check out day trip to Florida Keys from Miami by bus. It also includes a return trip from Key West to Miami.
Where to stay in the Florida Keys
If you’re looking to break your Miami to Key West road trip up into two or more days or have a Florida Keys weekend getaway, then have a look at these Key West hotels which are amongst the best hotels in Florida Keys.
- Douglas House: Just 2 minute’s away from Ernest Hemingway’s House and the Southernmost Point marker, this Florida Keys hotel has an outdoor swimming pool and a tropical garden to relax in after a day of exploring the Florida Keys making it one of the best places to stay in Florida Keys.
- Oceans Edge, Key West: With panoramic water views, Oceans Edge Key West is one of the most luxurious hotels in The Keys and has 6 swimming pools and a waterfront bar and restaurant. Definitely adds some luxury to your Florida Keys vacation.
- Ambrosia Key West B&B: This Key West B&B offers a hot breakfast and has 2 outdoor pools. It’s pet-friendly and just a short walk from some of the best Key West attractions. It’s one of the best-located places to stay in The Keys.
Where to stop on a Florida Keys road trip
Here are some of the top Florida Keys attractions and places to stop on a Florida Keys road trip. If you think I’m missing any of the best places to visit in the Florida Keys, let me know in the comments below!
Map of Florida Keys points of interest
This Florida Keys map will come in useful for your road trip from Miami to the Keys. It has all the places to stop on drive from Miami to Key West that are mentioned below. You can add it to your Google Maps so that you can see the points of things to see in the Florida Keys as you’re driving through the Florida Keys (just don’t look at it while driving!).
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
This is one of the first places you’ll come across as you leave mainland Florida and begin the drive down to Key West.
The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first undersea park in the whole of the United States and, together with the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary next to the park, there are 178 nautical square miles of coral reef, seagrass beds and mangrove swamps. It’s also the ONLY living coral reef in Continental US.
It costs $9 per vehicle (based on 2-4 people per car) to enter the park. With that ticket, you can come and go all day (although if it’s too busy you’ll be refused reentry).
Once you’re there you can enjoy snorkelling, swimming, go scuba diving, take a wildlife hike or simply relax.
Good to know: Most of the Florida Keys beaches aren’t sandy, so be prepared for rocks!
If you’re looking for where to go in the Florida Keys for some good comfort homecooking then head to Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. Mrs Mac’s was originally founded in 1976 and has continuously been voted “The Best” in the People’s Choice Awards. It’s the longest-running restaurant in Key Largo and serves comfort food favourites for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Grab a photo at the Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery
If you’re looking for some new photo opps and are wondering where to stop on the way to Key West for them then check out the Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery. Here you can get a snap with this giant lobster – not many places in the world you can do that!
Feed some wild Tarpon
At Robbie’s Restaurant on Islamorada you can take the opportunity to feed some huuuuge fish. The wild Tarpon that live in the waters around there can grow up to almost 2.5m long and weigh over 90kg!
Keen fishers from all the world come to the Florida Keys just to have the chance to catch one and if you visit Robbie’s you can buy a bucket of bait and hand-feed the Tarpon from the docks. It’s certainly a unique experience.
Walk the sand bar at Anne’s Beach
At Anne’s Beach you can walk out far into the ocean thanks to the sand bar that’s there. Even when you’re pretty far out you may only be up to your knees in the water.
Another benefit of the shallow water is that it’s nice and warm which makes it one of the best beaches in The Keys.
Long Key State Park
Make sure you add Long Key State Park to your Florida Keys road trip itinerary. Long Key State Park at mile marker 67.5 was once the home of a luxury resort. The resort was destroyed during a hurricane in 1935 and it was never reopened. Whilst you can’t stay in luxury here anymore, you can camp overnight at the campground. Or, if it’s just a Florida Keys day trip you’re after, go fishing, hike, kayak, swim, snorkel, bird watch, or picnic!
Seven Mile Bridge
Driving the 7-mile bridge is one of the best parts of the road trip to Key West. Whilst you’re driving you can’t fully appreciate it so I recommend pulling in just after you’ve crossed the bridge (headed south), to take in views of both the new and old bridge.
The old bridge was destroyed by bad weather and now you can walk along it for about half a mile. It was one of my most memorable places to stop on the way to Key West.
Bahia Honda State Park
At mile marker 37 in the Florida Keys is Bahia Honda State Park. The park is made up of over 500 acres and some offshore islands. The islands are said to be home to some of the best snorkelling and beachcombing in all of Florida. By this point, a lot of people have whizzed on down to Key West, so it’s a bit quieter than some of the other stops too! Like Anne’s Beach, the water here is warm and this State Park is home to one of the best beaches in Florida Keys. But, it’s a bit deeper so its one of the best beaches in Florida Keys for swimming.
No Name Pub
If you’re looking for more things to do in The Keys then be sure to check out No Name Pub. It’s one of the coolest pubs in the Florida Keys and it feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere on Big Pine Key however it’s pretty easy to find with Google Maps. The pub started off as a bar and brothel back in 1931. No longer a brothel, visitors have been sticking their dollar bills on the walls and ceiling of the pub since the 1980s and now the pub is COVERED!
Definitely a cool place to check out as you road trip the Florida Keys!
Key West, the final destination! Once the largest town in Florida, Key West is now home to a unique blend of Latino, Cuban and American culture.
There are plenty of things to do in Key West and is a fun city to explore for a few days. If you’ve got longer than one day to explore the Florida Keys then I recommend staying in a hotel in Key West before heading back the following day. Check out these places to visit in Key West before you head back to Miami.
What to do in Key West, Florida Keys
You’ve reached the end of Florida Keys but there’s still so much to see! Check out the following things to do in Key West if you’re still wondering what to do in Florida Keys.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Florida’s southernmost state park, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park was originally built for defence purposes but is now popular with tourists travelling the Florida Keys. You can take a guided tour of the fort or enjoy the beach and bicycling within the park.
The beach here is a little rocky but the water is turquoise green. You can also tour the fort which still has Civil War cannons in the walls and around the grounds.
See the southernmost point
One of the top things on people’s “what to see in Key West” lists is the southernmost point market. This marker in Key West marks the Southernmost Point in the Continental USA where you’re only 90 miles from Cuba!
You can also find Mile Marker 0 at the end of U.S. 1 for a photo op by the sign. It gets suuuuper busy here though so go early in the morning or late at night or you’ll have to join the back of the (very long) line.
Eat your weight in tasty Florida Keys foods
The Florida Keys has its own types of food, one of which being conch fritters. Conch fritters are fritters made with conch meat, flour, egg, milk, peppers, and onions, and are usually rolled into a ball and fried. They’re on the menu in pretty much every restaurant on between Miami and Key West. Conch fritters make a great road trip snack, so stock up!
Another food you’ve got to eat on your trip to Key West is Key Lime Pie. It’s delicious and makes the perfect sweet treat while watching the sunset in Key West.
Visit Ernest Hemingway’s house
One of the top places to see in Key West is the home of renowned writer, Ernest Hemingway. He owned a house right in the heart of Key West, which is now a museum open to visitors. The house is quite charming and Hemingway lived and wrote here for more than ten years. If you’re a Hemingway fan, you’ll get a glimpse into the world and culture that influenced so many of his writings.
But the best part? The place is filled with cats. More than 40 six-toed cats. Apparently, Hemingway owned a six-toed cat, and this cat’s dependents continue to live at and roam freely around the house!
Watch the sunset in Key West
Key West has a Sunset Celebration every single night, and for good reason. The sunset we saw was amazing and the crowd goes wild when the sun finally disappears for the day. After sunset, Mallory Square comes to life with entertainment including magicians, jugglers, clowns, musicians, and artists. Alternatively, you can take a sunset cruise around the island just as the sun sets.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Almost 70 miles west of Key West is the very remote Dry Tortugas National Park. At a whopping 100-square miles, this US National Park has 7 small islands to explore. You can’t drive to this one though, you’ll have to park your car up in Key West and take a boat or a seaplane to get out to it. It’s worth the extra effort though as the watercolour is incredible and it’s teeming with coral reefs and marine life.
Staying longer in Key West? Check out these Florida Keys tours
- Key West snorkelling tour – try one of the best Florida Keys activities on this tour!
- Food tour & tasting in Key West
- Old trolley hop-on, hop-off tour
Are you planning a trip to Key West?