Nestled along the southernmost tip of the United States, a Miami to Key West drive is more than just a commute; it’s an experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the mesmerizing landscapes, vibrant culture, and fascinating history of the Florida Keys.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or embarking on your first road trip, join us as we explore how to make the most out of your Miami to Key West drive. From must-visit attractions to hidden gems, dining delights, and practical tips, this guide will help you craft an unforgettable journey along the Overseas Highway.
When Should You Make The Drive From Miami To Key West?
As you’re planning the perfect family getaway or road trip with friends, you might be wondering when should you make the drive from Miami to Key West. And you must know that it can be enjoyed year-round, as the Florida Keys offer a tropical climate with mild temperatures during the winter and warm to hot weather in the summer.
However, there are certain considerations you should keep in mind when planning your drive:
- Weather: The hurricane season in the Atlantic typically runs from June 1st to November 30th. While you can drive to Key West during this period, staying updated on weather forecasts and potential storm warnings is essential. Hurricanes or heavy storms can disrupt travel plans and road conditions.
- Crowds: Key West is a popular destination that can get quite crowded during peak tourist seasons. If you prefer a more relaxed experience with fewer visitors, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (fall and spring) when the weather is still pleasant and crowds are thinner compared to the winter months.
- Weekdays vs. Weekends: While you can drive to Key West on any day of the week, weekdays (Monday through Thursday) are generally less congested than weekends. If you want to avoid heavy traffic and find better parking options, planning your trip on weekdays can be a smart choice.
- Holidays and Special Events: Key West hosts festivals and events throughout the year, such as Fantasy Fest and Hemingway Days. If you want to participate in or avoid such events, check the Key West event calendar and plan accordingly.
- Sunset at Mallory Square: Watching the sunset at Mallory Square in Key West is a famous attraction. Consider planning your drive to arrive in Key West a few hours before sunset to secure a good spot, especially if you want to enjoy the sunset celebration with street performers and local vendors.
Ultimately, any day of the week can work for a Miami to Key West drive, but you may have a more relaxed experience on weekdays and during the shoulder seasons when the weather is pleasant and crowds are thinner. Be mindful of hurricane season and major weather events when planning your trip.
Driving Time From Miami To Key West
The drive from Miami to Key West is approximately 160 miles (257 kilometers) along the Overseas Highway (U.S. Route 1). The duration of the drive can vary depending on factors such as traffic, road conditions, and stops along the way. On average, driving from Miami to Key West takes about 3.5 to 4.5 hours without significant stops.
Here’s a rough breakdown of the drive time:
- The drive from Miami to Key Largo, the first major key along the route, typically takes 1.5 to 2 hours.
- From Key Largo to Key West, it’s approximately another 2 to 2.5 hours, depending on your driving speed and stops.
- Keep in mind that the Overseas Highway offers stunning scenic views, and there are several interesting places to stop and explore along the route, including state parks, beaches, and historic sites. Many travelers choose to make stops at places like Bahia Honda State Park, Marathon, and the Seven Mile Bridge to soak in the beauty of the Florida Keys.
Additionally, if you encounter heavy traffic or road construction, it can add some time to your journey. It’s a good idea to check traffic and road conditions before you start your drive and plan your stops accordingly to make the most of this scenic route.
Your Miami To Key West Road Trip Itinerary: 20 Stops For A Full Experience
Embarking on a Miami to Key West road trip is like entering a realm of endless possibilities. Along the Overseas Highway, you’ll find a captivating blend of turquoise waters, swaying palms, and a unique island culture that beckons travelers from all corners of the globe. Crafting the perfect road trip itinerary is the key to unlocking the full potential of this sun-soaked adventure.
In this guide, we will map out an unforgettable Miami to Key West trip itinerary, highlighting must-visit stops and attractions every tourist enjoys.
1. Everglades National Park
A turnoff just south of Florida City on Highway 1 will lead you into a section of the Everglades National Park as you travel toward the Florida Keys.
Plan an early morning stop in Everglades National Park if you haven’t gone and want to make this a full-on road trip. You can enter the park via the main road, watch a magnificent dawn, and trek a few trails before heading to the Overseas Highway.
2. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which is around 70 square nautical miles, was the country’s first underwater park. Although there are hammocks to relax in and mangrove swamps to kayak in at this Florida State Park, what lies beneath the surface is the park’s main attraction.
Beautiful coral reefs, many marine life, and even an underwater sculpture may be seen underwater. In addition to the natural beauties, the visitor center contains a saltwater aquarium with some of the same marine species as the state park, measuring 30,000 gallons.
Don’t snorkel or scuba dive? No problem! You may unwind and take in the tranquil landscape in the park’s many hiking routes and on its immaculate beaches. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a must-see while visiting Key West since it is home to magnificent coral reefs and marine life.
3. Spiegel Grove Ship Wreck
One of the best dive locations in the Florida Keys is this enormous Navy ship, located about 6 miles off the coast of Key Largo. It was purposefully sunk in 2002 to serve as a home for marine life and an artificial reef. The 512-foot ship was the biggest vessel ever to be purposefully sunk for use as a scuba diving artificial reef at the time of the sinking.
4. History of Diving Museum
The History of the Diving Museum must be on everyone’s Key West road trip itinerary, regardless of whether they are avid divers. A remarkable collection of diving gear from hundreds of years ago is housed within, and yes, you can even put on a vintage diving helmet!
5. Dolphin Research Center
For creatures that have been rescued and healed but cannot be released back into the wild, the Dolphin Research Center offers a permanent home. Jayne & Armando Rodriguez founded the research facility as a non-profit in 1984 to offer a habitat for dolphins and educational opportunities for tourists. The center offers education tours and a sneak peek into the lovely marine creatures they are taking care of.
6. Turtle Hospital
In 1986, the Turtle Hospital began providing care for everyone’s beloved marine animals. Since then, they have treated and returned to the ocean surrounding the Florida Keys more than 1,500 turtles. On one of their 90-minute tours, which begin every hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, you can stop in and see the turtles currently receiving treatment if you’re driving through the Keys.
7. Seven Mile Bridge
The west end of Marathon in the Middle Keys is home to one of the most spectacular bridges you’ll ever drive over. It’s understandable why this is considered to be the most beautiful part of the Miami to Key West route. As you travel from Knights Key to Little Duck Key, you are separated from the great Atlantic Ocean by 7 miles of flimsy concrete.
The 7 Mile Bridge’s breathtaking views have been depicted in many films and auto advertisements.
8. Bahia Honda State Park
your Key West drive itinerary, as this is one of the top state parks in the Florida Keys. Some of the Florida Keys’ greatest beaches can be found at Bahia Honda State Park. The state park also has excellent snorkeling chances, spanning more than 500 acres.
There are three campgrounds with a combined 80 campsites at Bahia Honda State Park if you’re taking an RV or campervan from Miami to Key West. Bahia Honda State Park offers three cabin rentals; however, your vehicle must fit under the Bahia Honda Bridge, which has a maximum height of 6 feet 8 inches.
9. Long Key State Park
Long Key State Park, formerly a private resort for the rich and famous, is now accessible to the general public and provides unrivaled views of the beach.
Popular pastimes in this area include fishing, camping, and relaxation. The park is a wonderful place to let your kids play in the sand and is highly family-friendly.
10. Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park
Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, a natural gem nestled within the Florida Keys, offers a captivating escape into this unique island chain’s lush and diverse ecosystems. Spanning over 2,400 acres, this state park is a sanctuary for native plants and wildlife, providing visitors with a serene and immersive experience in the heart of the Florida Keys.
11. Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park offers a unique glimpse into the ancient past with its exposed fossilized coral reef. Visitors can explore well-preserved geological formations, including fossilized corals, mollusks, and other marine life.
It’s a fascinating opportunity to witness the geological history of the Florida Keys during your road trip. The exposed fossils and educational displays provide insight into the region’s natural evolution.
12. Indian Key Historic State Park
A visit to Indian Key Historic State Park transports you to the 19th century, where you can explore the remains of a once-thriving shipwreck salvage community. The island features historical structures, including the ruins of a hotel and the homes of early settlers. Guided tours provide engaging narratives about the island’s intriguing past.
Indian Key Historic State Park by The Key Largo Dude
13. Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park
This park is a pristine oasis with a hardwood hammock and a historic Matheson House. The lush vegetation and serene surroundings offer a tranquil escape from the modern world.
Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park provides an opportunity to experience the unspoiled beauty of the Keys. The Matheson House provides insight into early Florida life, and the nature trails allow for peaceful exploration.
14. Curry Hammock State Park
A coastal paradise with sandy beaches, clear waters, and lush foliage, tourists can experience a wide range of activities at Curry Hammock State Park, including swimming, kayaking, and hiking along nature trails. It’s an ideal spot to relax and enjoy outdoor activities. The park’s natural beauty and diverse ecosystems make for a refreshing break on your journey.
15. National Deer Key Refuge
National Deer Key Refuge offers a chance to observe Key deer, a unique and endangered species, in their natural habitat. The Key deer are a symbol of the region’s ecological diversity. Birdwatching and wildlife viewing are also popular activities.
16. Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Visit Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park first thing in the morning to experience the fusion of history and nature. If you’ve made it down to Key West, you should definitely see this lovely fort from the Civil War that is located at the end of the mainland United States.
As you go through the fort grounds, take in the breathtaking vistas all around you and sense the history. Discover the old structure, enjoy the gorgeous beach, or go snorkeling in the pristine ocean. Of course, you should also stroll around the park’s natural trails while admiring the stunning ocean views.
17. Islamorada Beer Company
Islamorada Beer Company and its adjacent distillery are housed in a brightly colored structure that is impossible to miss. Take a seat at the bar and choose a flight of delectable beers from the extensive selection of breweries. Their IPAs were quite good, and testing some of the brews with local flavors and ingredients could be interesting.
18. Florida Keys Brewing Company
On a road trip from Miami to Key West, you won’t have to travel very far between stops to find interesting spots to get a drink.
The Florida Keys Brewing Company, one of the best brewers in the region, is located in Islamorada. As you go down the Keys, make sure to stop at their bottle cap-tiled beer garden and taproom.
19. Tarpon Feeding at Robbie’s Restaurant
Where else can a 5-foot-long fish jump out of the water and take a fish out of your hand? Robbie’s is well known for its terrapin feeding, which started by attempting to heal a sick fish. You can purchase a “fish food” bucket to feed tarpons.
They also cook some delicious cuisine. They’re open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For the price, the food is a great value.
20. Sol by the Sea
Fine dining at the Playa Largo Resort & Spa in Key Largo with unobstructed sunset views. Sol by the Sea is a great location for a special meal or simply enjoying being in the Keys! Many of the meals have Caribbean influences.
Road Trip From Miami To Key West
A Miami to Key West drive is a captivating journey that promises an array of unforgettable experiences. As you traverse the Overseas Highway, you’ll encounter a tapestry of natural wonders, historical gems, and cultural delights that embody the spirit of the Florida Keys.
So, whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply seeking the joy of the open road, this road trip offers a kaleidoscope of experiences that will leave you with cherished memories and a deeper appreciation for the enchanting Florida Keys. Buckle up, savor the drive, and let the adventure unfold.
One of the most popular activities that attract visitors from near and far is feeding tarpons in the Florida Keys. People crowd the docks of the marinas in the Keys where the enormous inhabitants of the deep congregate can be fed, sometimes by hand.
Waterfront dining at Key Largo is a lovely and compelling tourist activity. Although Key Largo claims to be the “diving capital of the world,” local eateries are contesting this claim and suggesting that, in fact, Key Largo may be one of the world’s gastronomic capitals, particularly when it comes to seafood and key lime pie.
Miami To Key West Drive FAQs
The drive from Miami to Key West is worth it for those who appreciate stunning coastal scenery, unique attractions, and a leisurely journey. Along the Overseas Highway, you’ll encounter breathtaking views, charming small towns, and opportunities for outdoor activities. It’s not just a drive; it’s an experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of the Florida Keys.
The drive from Miami to Key West is relatively easy in terms of road conditions. The Overseas Highway is well-maintained, and GPS navigation is readily available. However, traffic conditions can vary, so it’s advisable to plan your departure time to avoid peak traffic, especially on weekends and during the winter tourist season. Additionally, be aware of weather conditions, especially during hurricane season, as storms can impact the ease of travel.
The choice between flying to Key West or driving from Miami depends on your preferences and priorities. Driving offers the opportunity to savor the scenic route, explore the Florida Keys, and make stops. It’s a more immersive experience for those who enjoy road trips and want to soak in the beauty of the journey.
In Miami, the ideal duration depends on your interests. For a basic exploration of the city’s highlights, 2-3 days can suffice. If you want to delve deeper into its diverse neighborhoods and cultural attractions, consider spending 4-5 days. It’s the same situation as staying in Key West.