The Drive to Key West
Everything You Need to Know
Ever tried planning a gorgeous, beach vacation to Key West, but switched course immediately after seeing the price of flights? If so, you are not alone. Key West is one of our favorite domestic destinations, perfect for a quick weekend getaway, or even weeks of relaxation. This magical destination truly offers something for everyone – the bachelor or bachelorette party, the honeymooners, the worn-out NYC dwellers looking for an escape, the midwestern family craving sunshine and a crystal clear ocean… you get the point. But who wants to spend $1000+ on a domestic flight when you can fly to Europe for less? Not us! Which is why we are here to tell you that there is a cost effective, fun way to visit Key West: driving from Miami!
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Generally speaking, Miami is a very affordable destination to reach. We always recommend checking out flight prices to Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Miami (MIA), as the airports are only about 20 minutes apart from each other. Be sure to book your rental car in advance so that it is ready when you arrive. Once you are in Florida, it is time to hit the road!
The drive to Key West takes about 3.5 hours with no stops – but trust us, this is about to be the most fun road trip of your life! With more than 800 keys and 42 bridges, the Overseas Highway provides hours of breathtaking scenery, starting at mile marker 127 and extending through mile marker zero in Key West. Even better, there’s a ton of great places to stop and experience the Florida Keys along the way. This Miami to Key West drive guide provides all the details of the numerous places to stop, ranging from nature preserves and outdoor activities, to breweries, restaurants and bars. Thanks to the mile markers, the stops are fairly easy to find – check out all the details below!
1. Snorkel, Scuba Dive & Eat in Key Largo
Key Largo is world famous for its diving and snorkeling, especially in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. We recommend booking an excursion in advance, and spending a full morning on the water. Afterwards, refuel at one of the best restaurants in the area, including Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen (known for incredible key lime pie), Snooks, and The Caribbean Club. At this point, you will be about 2.5 hours drive time from Key West, so be sure to start your day early and allow yourself time for all the wonderful stops!
2.Marker 88 Restaurant
Whether you’re after food, beach views, or delicious drinks, Marker 88 Restaurant is a must! This easy-going beachfront bar & grill is home to one of the only natural beaches in the Keys, and offers delicious local seafood and cocktails right on the sand. We highly recommend ordering a key Lime Mojito.
3. Islamorada Craft Breweries
Ready for a drink yet? This brewery and distillery might just be our favorite stop along the way… With neon yellow and aqua, the building is impossible to miss as you are driving through islamorada. Since opening in 2014, this mile marker 82.2 spot has taken the lead on the local craft beer market and spirit distilling in the Florida Keys. The menu is massive, offering a wide range of local beer, cocktails, frozen drinks, selzers, and more. The options are so endless that we highly recommend tasting a few things, with their flights of 4-6 beverages. Don’t miss the newly renovated biergarten out back, complete with a stage, food trucks, additional bars, picnic tables & more.
4. Robbie’s Marina
Mile marker 77 offers one of the quirkiest stops on the drive, a place that offers sunset cruises, offshore fishing, parasailing, and most importantly, tarpon feeding! It all began when the owners of Robbie’s Marina saw a severely injured tarpon fish, whom they stitched up and hand fed until it recovered. To their surprise, the fish returned to Robbie’s dock daily for more food, and with him came a ton of his fish friends. Today, you can stop by and pay a few dollars to feed these massive, 5-foot-long fish right from the docks! Keep an eye open for manatees and small sharks, and don’t let the pelicans steal from your bucket of fish!
5. Dolphin Research Center
At mile 59.0 comes the Dolphin Research Center, where injured dolphins are rescued and provided with a home if they can’t be released back into the wild. Guests pay $28 for basic admission to see interactive dolphin programs and activities, such as educational presentations, painting with dolphins,swimming with dolphins and more!
6. The Sea Turtle Hospital
A bit further down the road at mile marker 48.5 is another incredible marine-rescue spot, The Sea Turtle Hospital. Since 1986, this hospital has been helping to rescue, rehabilitate, and release injured sea turtles – already releasing over 1500 turtles back into the wild. For $27 per person, you can join one of the hourly guided tours to see these endangered sea creatures. This is also one of the best places to stop in the Florida Keys to support the local wildlife.
7. Seven Mile Bridge
Once you head out of Marathon, your breath will be taken away as you reach the Seven Mile Bridge – one of the most scenic drives in all of Florida. This stunning bridge connects many of Florida’s most underrated islands, including Bahia Honda Key and Big Pine Key, and provides unparalleled views of the turquoise waters, leafy mangrove trees, and tucked-away fishing piers. We highly recommend pulling over at some point to admire the historic bridge, which runs parallel to the current bridge, and to take a few photos!
8. Bahia Honda State Park
Despite the gorgeous scenery of Key West, the beaches are actually a bit mediocre. Which is why a stop to Bahia Honda State Park on Bahia Honda Key is a must! Head to Calusa Beach, Loggerhead Beach and the Old Bahia Honda Bridge to experience the bright white sand and brilliant blue waters of some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. At the end of the bridge you’ll reach this ‘beach haven and marine sanctuary’, where you can pay $8 per vehicle to cruise through paradise (aka the state park).
9. National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center
While most people know that Florida is filled with alligators, snakes, and all sorts of unique creatures, many don’t expect to see dog-sized deer roaming around! The endangered species can only be spotted in the lower Florida Keys, and this refuge center is at the forefront of helping these deer survive. In addition to helping injured or sick Key deer, the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center also helps 22 other endangered species in the area.
10. No Name Pub
Immediately after the refuge, briefly leave the Overseas Highway to find No Name Pub – our other must-not-miss recommendation! This colorful bar and restaurant has its own unique character, starting with the thousands of $1 bills previous visitors have left hanging from the ceiling. This famous spot is perfect for photos, delicious pizza and bites, and a quick drink before you get back in the car for the final stretch onto Key West.
Offering endless activties and a taste into the culture of the Keys, the drive to Key West is an incredible experience. Not only will you save hundreds on flight costs, but you are garunateed to have an incredible time. Thanks for reading & we can’t wait to hear your feedback! Heead over to our full Key West Travel Guide for all the details on where to stay, eat, drink, thing to do & more!