Miami to Key West Road Trips
Driving from the city of Miami to Key West in Florida and along Overseas Highway (U.S. 1) is a classic American road trip. With sweeping scenery, fun pit stops and quirky things to see and do during the 165-mile trip, you'll want to leave plenty of time to enjoy the experience fully.
- Key Largo
- Turtle Hospital in Marathon
- Seven Mile Bridge
- Bahia Honda State Park
- Key West
If you drive non-stop, you should be able to complete the 166 mile journey in under four hours. However, you should not rush this road trip! Savour it and enjoy the stops along the way. Taking it at a leisurely pace will allow you to fully appreciate your surroundings. After all, the best part of being on the road is soaking up the scenery, and the views along this route will take your breath away! You have the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other and the open road in front of you. It truly is one of the great coastal routes in the world.
Travellers on this road are in for a treat as apart from the sweeping scenery, there’s a lot to do en route. Looking for destination inspiration? Here are some of our favourite places to stop on your Miami to Key West road trip.
Things to know before you go on your Miami To Key West Road Trip
The distance between Miami and Key West is about 166 miles. The first leg of the trip is getting from Miami to Key Largo, a distance of 69 miles. This is the first "key" (island) of the Florida Keys. The Florida Keys are a coral island archipelago stretching over 180 miles. There are over 800 keys in total. Once you reach Key Largo, you then start a scenic 113-mile trip across the breathtaking Overseas Highway (U.S. 1) through the Florida Keys. By the time you reach Key West in the Lower Keys, you'll actually be nearer to Havana, Cuba than to Miami, Florida.
As for the best time to take a Miami to Key West road trip? This journey is best undertaken during the winter or spring months so as to avoid the Florida hurricane season, which is from June to November.
Places to see on your Miami To Key West Road Trip
1. Key Largo
As you begin your drive from Miami to Key West, the first key you reach is Key Largo and this is one of the most popular stops along the route. As well as being the northernmost island in the Florida Keys it is also the longest. It stretches from mile marker 107 south to mile marker 91. From Miami airport, it should take you just over an hour to get here.
Key Largo was made famous when the 1948 movie “Key Largo,” was released. Featuring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, most of the filming took place in the Warner Bros. studio. However, the Caribbean Club in Key Largo was used as a filming location, and today you can still visit this waterfront club and enjoy food and drinks with a sea view.
Key Largo is also famous for being the diving capital of the world. This is because of how much there is to see under the water. It is a diver's playground with sunken ships, statues and coral reefs. Visibility is terrific, the water is balmy and there is a great dive industry on Key Largo.
This makes it a great place for beginners as well as advanced divers. One of the most popular places to dive is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This is the first undersea park in the U.S and part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. For those who don't dive, you can enjoy the underwater spoils on a glass-bottom boat tour.
Islamorada or “purple island” is just south of Key Largo. It is known as the sport fishing capital of the world. It is also one of the prettiest small beach towns in Florida. There is plenty to do here including water sports, eco-tours, nature hikes and bike trails. There's plenty of cultural centres and institutions too where you can learn more about the history and heritage of the Florida Keys. One of the best places to start is at the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District downtown.
One of the quirkiest things to do in Islamorada is to head to Robbie's Marina and hand-feed the massive tarpon fish. More than 100 tarpon fish come to Robbie's Marina daily and linger for hours looking for food. How this came about is all rather strange. Way back in 1976, Robbie and his wife saw a tarpon with his jaw ripped open. The couple decided to help the poor fish and stitched it up. They named him Scarface and then hand-fed him until it was healed. They released Scarface back into the wild, but he just kept coming back. Eventually, he brought his friends along too and now, Robbie’s Marina is filled with friendly, but hungry tarpon fish.
3. Turtle Hospital in Marathon
The island of Marathon is in the Middle Keys. It is a firm favourite with families as there is so much to do for people of all ages. There is a wide range of accommodation here too, so it is a great place to stay overnight to break up your road trip.
One of the most popular visitor attractions in Marathon is the Turtle Hospital. Located at mile marker 48.5, the Turtle Hospital rescues and rehabilitates injured sea turtles. The end goal is to release and return the turtles, when they are better, to the wild.
One way that visitors can support the not-for-profit Turtle Hospital is by taking a tour. On one of the daily educational tours, you get up close to these magnificent creatures and meet the resident sea turtles. You'll also learn all about the hospital’s curative programs for loggerhead, green, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley turtles.
4. Seven Mile Bridge
The Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight's Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. It is one of the most stunning stretches of road in the world.
Seven Mile Bridge is actually two bridges that run parallel to each other. The older of the two bridges was constructed from 1909 to 1912 and was severely damaged in a 1935 hurricane. It is now only open to pedestrians and cyclists. The newer bridge was constructed from 1978 to 1982 and when complete, it was one of the longest bridges in the world. This is the bridge that you will drive over as it is open to vehicular traffic.
This section of the Overseas Highway is the most spectacular as you are driving for seven miles (it's actually 6.79 miles) across turquoise waters. The Atlantic Ocean is on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. It is quite surreal and a journey that will live long in the memory.
5. Bahia Honda State Park
If you are looking for some of the best beaches in the Florida Keys, you'll find them here at Bahia Honda State Park. In this park, you'll find three totally tropical beaches lapped by some of the most crystal-clear water anywhere in the world.
Calusa is the smallest beach, Loggerhead is in the middle and Sandspur is the biggest. All the beaches have picnic tables and showers making them the perfect place for a quick dip or full day of lounging. The three beaches are completely different from each other. Calusa Beach is nestled in a cove at the foot of the old Overseas Railway bridge. This is now an elevated walkway where you get sweeping views of the beach and inlet.
Loggerhead Beach has an inviting shallow-water sandbar that emerges at low tide. As soon as the tide goes out, the beach goers perch loungers on the sand spit and relax surrounded by the shallow aqua water.
Sandspur is paradise personified with pure white sand as soft as powdered sugar which is gently lapped by crystal clear turquoise waters. The beautiful mile-long beach often tops lists naming the best beaches in the Florida Keys. Once you visit, you'll understand why.
6. Key West
Of course, you are going to stop in Key West, but we couldn't leave it off the list, as it really is a highlight of the whole road trip. A top tradition when you arrive in Key West is to take a photo of the mile marker 0 and the famous “Southernmost Point” buoy. This concrete buoy marks the southernmost point in the continental United States. It is located at the corner of South and Whitehead Streets.
Another tradition when in Key West is to walk down Duval Street and head to Mallory Square where nightly sunset festivities take place. Beginning two hours before sunset, people gather for the Key West Sunset Celebration to watch the fiery pink and red sun sink into the horizon of the Gulf of Mexico. This is one of the most magical ways to end a memorable road trip.