Welcome to our Florida Keys road trip planner.
We love road trips. For us, they are those big, beautiful, exciting journeys that make life worth living.
Driving the Overseas Highway stretch of the Miami Key West Florida Drive is probably the best one of them all.
There are many incredible reasons to make the drive to Keys from Miami.
First, it’s in Florida – that tropical paradise of perfect climate and white sand beaches.
Second, it connects the two vibrant Florida destinations of Miami and Key West.
Third, it’s full of quirky roadside stops, fantastic eats, and roadside attractions – all the hallmarks of a great road trip.
Fourth, the road is spectacular with scenic views of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico while the Seven Mile Bridge is just stunning.
Fifth, it’s a trip you have to take when you are carefree and full of life – almost a rite of passage.
And so we did just that.
Bundled our young, carefree, full-of-life selves in a sexy Mustang convertible to embark upon an epic Key West drive from Miami.
With our brand-new infant turned toddler in the back – to celebrate his first birthday – with the top down and the wind blowing through his hair and all that – during hurricane season!
Yeah, we are the kind of family that does crazy things.
But hey, our son enjoyed every moment of the Miami key west trip – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
It was an awesome trip of firsts for our son – first camping trip, first visit to the beach, first sandcastle and beach-combing, first ferry ride, first oyster, first ice-cream (has to be key lime), and his first hurricane.
Though more about that later.
Also Read: Best road trips in America
In our defense, we had every reason to be carefree and celebrate.
We had survived our first year of parenting – 12 whole months of crying and sleepless nights. And now we had a walking and sleeping toddler.
Things could only get better or so we made ourselves believe!
Enough said! And now, here it is: our comprehensive Florida Keys road trip itinerary including 25 Incredible Miami to Key West Drive stops.
One thing we can guarantee: you are going to see some of the most beautiful Florida sunsets on this trip!
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“My love for you is like a Florida sunset. Orange, coral, pink, and lavender, it exists to warm your heart through the inevitable darkness.” – Jarod Kintz
Understanding the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a group of coral archipelagos located off the southern tip of mainland Florida. They start about 15 miles from the south of Miami and continue even beyond Key West.
These islands constitute the southernmost part of the continental United States. The word ‘Keys’ is derived from the Spanish word cayo which means a small island.
So how did these small islands form?
The Florida Keys are exposed parts of an ancient coral reef. That means, at most places on the Key West road trip from Miami you will find abundant opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving.
This is also the reason why there are fewer beaches in the Keys than you would expect.
Key West is the last key that is connected by road while the remote, uninhabited Dry Tortugas are the very last of the keys.
Dry Tortugas National Park is established on this group of 7 remote keys and is a fantastic day trip from Key West. The islands also make a perfect last Key West drive stops.
The Atlantic Ocean is to the east of the Florida Keys while the Gulf of Mexico lies to the west.
The Keys are connected to each other by the scenic, coastal Overseas Highway which is comprised of over 42 bridges.
This route allows visitors to enjoy the tropical island life as well as encounters with marine animals and coral reefs: all awesome Miami to Key West stops.
The Florida Keys enjoy a Caribbean climate: hot summers, mild winters, and swaying palm trees.
Miami to Key West Drive Planning Tips
Which airport is the best for making this trip?
To make the Miami Key West road trip, we recommend taking flights to the Miami Fort Lauderdale area. Fort Lauderdale is a city on Florida’s southeastern coast, about 40 minutes away from Miami.
You can also fly into Tampa or Orlando and then make the drive to Miami. Or alternatively, search for cheap flight to Key West airport and make the Miami to Fl keys road trip in reverse direction.
How Much Is The Distance From Miami To Key West?
Miami is located in southern Florida along the Atlantic coast while Key West is the southernmost point of the continental United States.
You will have seen the famous Key West painted concrete buoy saying the same.
The Florida Keys are actually an archipelago chain connected to the continental US and Miami through Key Largo by the Overseas Highway (US Highway 1).
The driving distance on the Overseas Highway is ~165 miles and the time required to drive it is under 4 hours without stopping.
However, there are many unmissable Miami to Key West road trip stops including famous eateries, unique roadside attractions, scenic state parks, and numerous opportunities for wildlife encounters.
Do keep in mind that many parts of this road are toll roads, and you will need to pay a nominal toll to make the Overseas Highway trip.
How long is the ride from Miami to Key West? How much time should you plan for the Miami to Keys drive?
Since Miami is not very far from Key West, the drive can be completed in under 4 hours. (~5 hrs or so due to traffic on weekends and major holidays.)
However, we recommend devoting at least 4 days to a week for this beautiful road trip.
You may wonder, is the drive from Miami to Key West worth it – after all, we all are busy! But hear us out for a minute.
Miami and Key West, the end towns have plenty of attractions and are destinations in their own right.
You can check out Miami’s food scene and vibrant street art while enjoying the Cuban culture and cuisine in Key West: both excellent city breaks.
As for along the route from Miami to Key West: small Florida Keys towns including Key Largo, Islamorada, and Marathon have plenty of natural attractions and wildlife viewing opportunities.
State parks like Bahia Honda, Long Key, Curry Hammock, and John Pennekamp are some of the best stops from Miami to Key West while Dry Tortugas National Park at the very end is a rarely visited treasure.
Hence we would recommend keeping aside significant time for this Miami key west trip planner – you won’t regret it!
When is the best time to go to Key West? When to drive the Miami to KeyWest drive?
Anytime but the hurricane season! If you follow us via social media, you probably know what happened. Yepp, Hurricane Matthew.
We often plan off-season trips because of low rates on flights and hotels. We booked tickets for our Miami to Key West road trip itinerary for the first week of October, which falls in the middle of the hurricane season.
After all, what are the chances a hurricane will make landfall the very week we are in Florida? Turns out, pretty strong.
So we can *strongly* recommend not traveling to Florida in hurricane season. Or at least taking out travel insurance.
(Not to say that we learned anything from our experience. The next hurricane season saw us sandwiching a trip to Easter Island between two worst hurricanes of the year, Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.)
If you do plan a trip in the hurricane season, you will find great deals on accommodations from June to October.
However, on the off-chance that a hurricane decides to arrive at the same time as you, the entire trip can be at the risk of cancellation.
So what is the best time for the Overseas Highway road trip in southern Florida?
The best time to plan the scenic drive from Miami to Key West is from November (post-hurricane season) to May.
One thing to keep in mind – November to January during the holiday season is the busiest time of the year for the Florida Keys and Key West.
Visitors from the northern states flock down to Florida’s coast to escape snow and winter and enjoy the warm sun. Consequently, hotel rates are quite high.
If you drive Miami to Key West between March and May, you can skip the high season crowds and get better rates and discounts on accommodation.
Another good option for Miami to Key West driving: the summer months of June to early August. These months are hot and humid with the possibility of rain but have a comparatively lesser chance of a hurricane.
These months also have many popular events: June hosts the popular Key West Pride while October is the time for Fantasy Fest.
How is the drive from Miami to Key West? Why should you rent a car for traveling to Key West?
This drive is, in a word, sensational! Did you know that the Overseas Highway crosses over exactly 42 bridges?
The best route Miami to Key West will take you along white-sand beaches, swaying palm trees, and turquoise water.
There are many awesome places to stop on the drive from Miami to Key West including state parks, marine reserves, amazing eateries, cultural attractions, and even an artists colony.
To get the quintessential experience of this great American road trip you have to do it by car and experience the amazing things to see from Miami to Key West – a bus or ferry simply can’t compare!
We highly recommend renting a convertible sports car or a jeep for driving Miami to Key West. It makes the road trip quite memorable.
Driving the Overseas Highway and especially Seven Mile Bridge with the top down is an amazing experience.
The weather is often perfect and cruising along the blue water while the wind blows through your hair feels carefree and dreamy. Something out of a movie. You can totally justify the cost of renting a convertible because you *need* to take photos for the ‘gram!
What If You Have Less Time?
We understand that life happens and you can’t always devote 7 days to a 4-hour drive, beautiful as it may be.
The beauty of the drive from Miami to Key West Florida is that it is so short that it can be completed in anywhere from 2-4 days as well.
If you are really really busy then you can even consider a Miami to Key West Day Trip.
Miami To Key West Drive – Road Trip For Foodies
This epic road trip in the USA is as much for foodies as it is for driving enthusiasts.
Over half of the best stops on the way to Key West are for tasting the local delights including conch fritters, key lime pie, key lime milkshakes, key lime ice creams, and key lime chocolates, and more.
You should actually do these requisite stops on the drive from Miami to Keywest even if you are not hungry because most of the eateries along the Overseas Highway are iconic and have been there for ages.
Apart from the food, they are also worth a visit for the history, ambiance, location, and drinks!
You will find fresh seafood at the decrepit streetside shacks and can down a refreshing cocktail or beer to salute the good times.
Hurricanes and the Florida Keys
Hurricane Irma, among the worst hurricanes of 2017, did considerable damage to the Florida Keys. Yes, it is 4 years on but the keys are still recovering.
As our luck would have been, we were transiting Miami on our way back from Easter Island the day Irma was supposed to hit, and our plane was delayed by several hours.
With a very real chance of being stranded at the airport during the hurricane, we couldn’t help but be scared of the wild wind outside.
And I couldn’t help but wonder how bad it was for the people of the Keys.
As it eventually came to be seen, it was very bad indeed.
The hurricane caused large-scale devastation to homes, businesses, entire communities, coral reefs, and mangrove forests.
Very few were spared and most suffered some degree of flooding and wind damage.
However, it’s almost 3 years since that and the resilient Florida Keys and Key West have mostly dealt with the damage.
Most things are back to normal however you may find some resorts, campgrounds, and RV parks still under repairs and operate under limited availability.
Where to stay in the Florida Keys?
Wondering what are the best places to stay while driving Key West?
There are a variety of accommodations in the Florida Keys and Key West from budget-friendly inns to luxurious beachside resorts.
You will find historic accommodations where famous personalities stayed and private island resorts. Here are some of our favorite places to stay in the Florida Keys and Key West:
If you are on a multiday trip to the Keys, then the laidback Key Largo is a great option for the first stop. You can enjoy the water sports at John Pennekamp (see below) by day and island life by night at Key Largo.
For a luxurious stay, we prefer the stunningly decorated Bakers Cay Resort wth its gorgeous on-site restaurants and tiki bar.
For more of a beach town vibe but still close to Miami, consider staying at Islamorada. This little town has art galleries, breweries, pubs, and restaurants to make the most of your stay.
One of our favorite places to stay in Islamorada is the gorgeous Postcard Inn. This beachfront property has a private beach, pool, and an amazing oceanfront bar to enjoy Florida’s gorgeous sunsets. You can check out the photos now.
For a budget option, you can’t go wrong with the La Jolla Resort.
Marathon is exactly midway between Miami and Key West, making it a popular stop for most road trippers.
There are plenty of things to do in and around Marathon, making it a destination in itself.
On Marathon, you will find a variety of inns, motels, and hotel chains for every budget. If you are looking to save money, then Marathon is your best bet.
Some of the best budget options on this island include Banana Bay Resort, Captain Pip’s Hideaway, and Hyatt Place. You won’t find as many luxurious beach resorts in Marathon, your best bet for a luxe stay is either the swanky Isla Bella Resort or the Hawks Cay Resort or the Tranquility Bay Resort.
Key West is the state’s official party island. Stay close to Duval Street and paint the town red or stay a little further away from the Old Town to enjoy a quiet family vacation.
For ultimate romance, consider a stay on the private island of Sunset Key at Sunset key cottages. A ferry will transport you to the fabulous room and you will have the best time of your lives.
If you want to stay near Key West but still away from the crowds, then the underrated Big Pine Key is also a great option.
The road Miami to Key West is also great for car camping. We set up our tent on many beachside campsites in some of the best state parks in Florida.
Also Read: Best Beaches to Camp in the USA
There are also many RV sites so you can easily make the trip down in a large camper. The sites often get booked far in advance, so we recommend booking your campsite as soon as you plan the trip.
What to pack for the Florida Keys and Key West
The temperature in the Florida Keys and Key West is mild year-round. Also, life in the Keys is very casual.
We would recommend packing shorts, cotton shirts (preferably in vibrant colors and tropical prints), tank tops, sundresses, maxi dresses, and skirts.
Since we were visiting in the hurricane season, we also carried a pair of denim and a light rain jacket, but this isn’t necessary if you are going outside of the rainy months of June to November.
My favorite travel shoes for the warm weather
You will be spending a lot of time near the beach and in the water – snorkeling, swimming, and scuba diving so you will need swimsuits, sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
We also always carry a dry bag when going to the beach – it’s super useful to keep essentials like ids, passports, cameras, phones, and keys dry and safe. We have this floating, waterproof one and it’s a steal for the low price, check it out now.
For footwear, we would recommend flip flops and/or sandals and water shoes for water activities. I have the barefoot socks-style aqua shoes and love them for the comfort, you can check out the awesome reviews here.
If you plan to go hiking near the mangroves or along coastal trails, also pack hiking sandals or waterproof hiking shoes.
Other essentials include snorkeling gear, daypacks or travel purses, medications, if any, and water bottles. We own the collapsible water bottle and fold it up for plane travel.
If you get seasick, then bring Dramamine.
If you are traveling to the Keys with kids, then pack beach toys.
I also usually bring along beach reads or load them up on my Kindle. Don’t forget a camera to capture all the memories.
My recommendations for best waterproof sandals for the beach
7 Days Miami to Key West Itinerary: 25 Incredible Stops
Here is it!
Our ultimate Miami to the Florida Keys drive guide along with detailed recommendations for best places to stop on the drive to Key West.
Along with the best Miami to Key West drive attractions, we have also included a detailed 7 Day Miami Key West Itinerary with recommendations on where to stay at the end of each day.
You can customize our Miami to Key West road trip itinerary as per the number of days you have and skip some of the stops below as per your time, interest, or budget.
While we would have loved to do the Houston to Key West drive, we did not have enough time and so we actually did this road trip as part of our Florida road trip.
We landed in Tampa and rented our car – spent a couple of amazing days in the Tampa Bay area – then drove to Miami.
Here’s a tip to save on car rentals: rent your car from non-airport locations! Our Mustang rental car came to be under $250 for the entire week.
The drive from Tampa to Miami is about 4 hours long and we reached Miami mid-day.
You can use this day to explore Miami’s top attractions including Wynwood Walls murals, South Beach, Ocean Drive and the Art Deco Historic District, Miami Design District, Little Havana, and the Bayside Marketplace.
If you have One Day in Miami, then read our Miami itinerary post to plan your trip.
After having a late lunch and checking top attractions, we visited the Miami Zoo, visited South Beach, and then camped at Larry and Penny Thompson Memorial Campground for the night. At $15 per night, this campground is a steal if you are looking for budget accommodation in Miami.
Day 1 of the Drive to Key West from Miami
On this day, drive from Miami to Key Largo. Visit Coral Castle, also known as Florida’s Stonehenge and learn about the mystery man Ed Leedskalnin.
Drink key lime milkshake at ‘Robert Is Here’ and eat the famous conch fritters at Alabama Jacks.
Explore the coral reef in the keys by taking a glass-bottom boat tour at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. This is one of the best places to stop on drive from Miami to key west.
Stop 1: Coral Castle
Coral Castle in Homestead, Florida is quite unique among the places to stop on the way to Key West. It is located 30 mins away from the Miami zoo area and about an hour from North Miami / Miami Beach area.
Coral Castle is, as the name suggests, a castle made from coral stones.
However, it is unlike any other castle you have seen and has no definite rooms or a roof. It is a unique, open to sky castle where everything – including furniture – is built from extremely heavy stones.
Coral Castle was single-handedly built by Ed Leedskalnin, a Swedish American. He built the castle for his lost love. You can hear more about the story from a guide at the castle.
Ed built Coral Castle without using any kind of heavy machinery; various theories abound as to how he lifted the extremely heavy rocks and placed them exactly on top of each other.
This has created an aura of mystery around Coral Castle and its creator Ed. The castle is as mysterious as Stonehenge in England and hence, is also locally known as ‘Florida’s Stonehenge’.
Many legends exist about Ed, including the one that says – Ed discovered the secret of the pyramids and used it to lift the heavy stones to create Coral Castle.
Did you expect to find anything so intriguing among the things to do on drive from Miami to Key West?
Coral Castle offers guided tours – these are included in the ticket price and the guides are excellent at narrating details about the castle and creating a mystery about the place.
We bought discounted tickets on Groupon and recommend you to check there before a visit – there’s almost always a Coral Castle deal available.
We walked around the Coral Castle and looked at Ed’s many creations for about 40 minutes and enjoyed the experience on our Florida Keys drive from Miami.
Coral Castle is located at 28655 S Dixie Hwy, Homestead, FL
Stop 2: Homestead Miami Speedway
Next, head down to the nearby Homestead Miami Speedway. This is a Nascar Speedway and must for Nascar and racing enthusiasts – one of the best places to stop on the way to Key West.
The race track holds many events – you can check their online program for the day of your visit to see if there’s a race that you would like to attend.
Even if they don’t have anything major going on when you visit – you can do a little tour and check the gift shop for Nascar memorabilia. The track is huge and you can imagine the excitement of attending a race day.
The speedway is a super hit for teenagers and one of the popular kid-friendly things to do between Miami and Key West. Race weekends are especially popular with people of all ages enjoying the thrill and speed of the races.
You can also drive exotic cars at this racetrack occasionally – check their website and Groupon for deals – and enjoy the adventure of speeding down the track on your Miami and key west vacation.
The Homestead Miami Speedway is located at 1 Speedway Blvd, Homestead, FL
Stop 3: Robert Is Here
‘Robert is Here’ is one of the essential Key West road trip stops.
This is actually a famous fruit stand with an amazing story. The fruit stand began more than 50 years ago when a 6-year-old boy – Robert – was given his own produce stand by the roadside.
His father set up the stand to sell the family’s fresh farm produce but no one saw little Robert. So after a few days, his father placed the sign ‘Robert is here’ by the stand.
Today Robert is quite old and the stand is one of the best places to stop on the way to Key West.
The fruit stand is actually located before you begin driving on the Overseas Highway and is a popular stop even for those visiting Everglades National Park from Miami.
At the stand, you can buy fresh produce, fruit milkshakes, homemade jams and much more. While the stand has grown into a big shop, it still retains the old name and is a must-stop on the Overseas Highway.
The fruit stand is annually closed in the offseason: so we recommend checking their website before you visit.
One of the most popular milkshakes at Robert is Here is, of course, the tangy key lime.
Strawberry, coconut, and mango shakes are also quite good. You will also find exotic fruits and shakes in their extensive menu.
They also have an animal farm with parrots, iguanas, and emus behind the stand. They also have picnic tables and restrooms – and are a perfect rest stop on the road to Key West from Miami.
Robert is Here is located at 19200 SW 344th St, Homestead FL
Stop 4: Alabama Jacks
If you are wondering where to stop on the way to Key West for best conch fritters, Alabama Jacks is your answer.
This eatery looks quite dilapidated from the outside and the parked motorcycles are enough to make you doubt but once inside, Alabama Jacks is very family-friendly and serves excellent food and drinks.
It has been in the same spot for 50 years and is an institution on the Key West route from Miami.
To reach Alabama Jacks, you will have to take the road less traveled from Robert is Here.
Two different routes connect Key Largo to mainland Florida: the Overseas Highway (US Highway 1, also known as the South Dixie Highway) and a less popular route, the Card Sound Rd (905 A).
Card Sound Rd is a quite scenic toll road and a great alternative to the more frequented beginning stretch of Overseas Highway 1.
The road passes via mangrove forests and has plenty of water views. You will see ‘Crocodile Crossing’ warning signs along the roads and if lucky, even spot a crocodile sunning itself.
While we didn’t see a crocodile, we did see a turtle cross in front of us.
Continue driving along Card Sound Rd and just before Card Sound Bridge, you will see Alabama Jacks on the right. This eatery is popular with those in the know on Miami drive to Key West and quite busy on weekends.
We reached here just in time for a late lunch.
Before stepping into Alabama Jacks, we did wonder if it was suitable for toddlers. However, our waterfront table was just perfect – away from the bar and in clear view of many birds including sparrows, pigeons, ducks, and seagulls to keep our son happy.
There were other families dining as well and we saw older kids feeding fishes from over the railing – we could see why it is one of the best stops driving to Key West.
Overall Alabama Jack’s is quite kid-friendly and we would recommend it for all types of travelers.
Our conch fritters were yummy. We also tried many other dishes including a dolphin sandwich, grouper sandwich, and sweet potato fries – delicious!
The cold beers and live country music at Alabama Jacks were just the right start to our laid-back Miami to Key West road trip.
Alabama Jack’s is located at 58000 Card Sound Road, Homestead FL.
Reaching Key Largo
At 33 miles long, Key Largo is the largest and the uppermost island of the Florida Keys archipelago. It is known as the ‘Diving Capital of the World’ because of the beautiful coral reef located just a few miles away.
If you love water sports then you will have a great time in Key Largo.
You can scuba dive, snorkel, go on dolphin watching tours, canoe, kayak tour, and go fishing. Key Largo and its attractions are among the best things to see driving to Key West.
You could easily spend 3 to 4 days on Key Largo if you want to hike, snorkel, see wildlife, etc – we spent 2 days and could fit a lot in.
Stop 5: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Your last stop of the day and first stop on Key Largo should be John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which is the first underwater park in the country.
The park was created to protect the only live coral reef in the country and conserves an area of 21 miles along the coast. It extends 3 miles into the ocean and has colorful offshore coral reefs plus excellent visibility.
If you don’t want to snorkel or scuba dive in the state park, you can opt to explore the coral reef via glass-bottom boat tours. These tours last about 2 to 2.5 hours and are perfect for families with kids as everyone gets an opportunity to look at the rich marine life irrespective of age.
When we visited, the tours were about $25 per adult while our toddler got in for free.
The Visitor Center at John Pennekamp has a huge 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium; kids love to check it out.
The park also has excellent kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking trails. The state park’s Cannon Beach is very popular with visitors. It has real cannons on the beach which make for excellent photo ops.
You can also easily snorkel to a nearby shipwreck site – making Cannon Beach one of the best beaches on the way while driving from Miami to Key Largo.
You can camp at John Pennekamp after checking out the aquarium and snorkeling/glass bottom boat tour.
The park has about 50 campsites, all of which take reservations. Finding an available site during peak season is quite hard and we would recommend booking them as soon as you plan the trip.
The campsites come with picnic tables and grills but some of them are close to each other.
Camping at this state park isn’t really a must-do activity and you can instead camp or stay elsewhere in Key Largo.
Key Largo has everything from motels, hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, to luxurious resorts. If you want to camp but not at John Pennekamp, then an alternative is to check some of the other campgrounds in the area including Key Largo Campground and Marina.
Next step: Book your Key Largo accommodation now.
John Pennekamp State Park is located at Mile Marker 102.5 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, FL.
We have designed this Day 1 of driving from Miami to the Keys such that its a relaxing introduction to this part of Florida.
Hopefully, you are not traveling in advance of a hurricane – like us – in which case, you will spend half the day keeping an eye on the weather channel – not at all relaxing and something we didn’t plan on!
Day 2 of Road Trip from Miami to Key West
Wondering what to do on the way to Key West for wildlife lovers?
See all sorts of injured birds at the Florida Keys Bird Rehabilitation Center and feed the tarpons at Robbie’s Marina!
On the way, you can try chocolate-dipped key lime pie – a hit with the kids and drink beer at a local brewing company.
Oh, and did we forget to mention Betsy, the giant lobster on the roadside? Trust us, this is going to be a super fun day, at the end of which you will be camping beachside at Long Key State Park.
Stop 6: Key Largo Chocolates
After leaving John Pennekamp and getting some breakfast, we stopped at Key Largo Chocolates. This eatery is located at mile marker 100.5 and is one of the best Miami to Key West things to do / pitstop for foodies.
Key Largo Chocolates has everything from fudges, truffles, chocolates, pies, cakes, and ice-creams. They have an assortment of flavors for everything plus lots of treats in key lime flavor.
We tasted some of their key lime fudge (too tart for me), bought a few key lime truffles, and my husband tried key lime ice-cream.
My personal favorite by far was the frozen chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick – dreamy, delicious, and tart!
Did I mention I love everything that is dipped in chocolate and served on a stick? Ice-creams, Dilly bar from DQs, frozen cheesecake from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, etc. I’m a huge fan!
We also bought a lot of chocolates and truffles to go. Key Largo Chocolates is not inexpensive but you do get your money’s worth.
Their frozen key lime pie was excellent and one of the best I have ever tasted on the Key West from Miami drive!
Key Largo Chocolates is located at 100470 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL
Stop 7: Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center
Another of Key Largo highlights!
The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center is a great place to hike short, easy trails and look at rescued birds. The center is located at Mile Marker 93.6 in Tavernier.
If you use the official address online, the GPAS may lead you past the center – it did that for us. We had to backtrack a bit to find the entrance.
Fortunately, there are a few road signs leading to this place and if you are really looking for it, you can’t miss it.
The Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center has free entry and is staffed and run by volunteers.
When we visited, the birds seemed really well-cared for and the facility was clean. The center atmosphere was quite informal. The place was excellent for our toddler to stretch his legs and practice his new walking skills.
We walked many trails around the center. The most popular one is that which goes past the bird cages. Our toddler loved seeing the many birds including pelicans, hawks, and owls.
Another trail went through mangrove forests and around the coast – this one had great views of the Florida Bay.
All of the trails are short – less than a mile or two and we would have spent a total of 1.5-2 hours at the center. If in a hurry to drive Miami to Key Largo, you can also easily see the facility in an hour.
Florida Keys Wild Bird Center is located at 93600 Overseas Hwy MM 93.6, Tavernier FL
Leaving Key Largo and the city of Tavernier behind, we soon reached Islamorada.
Islamorada comprises of 5 of the middle Florida Keys and is located exactly midway between the Miami Key West scenic drive.
It is about 1.5 hours from Miami and 2 hours from Key West and makes a perfect mid-way stop on the Miami Beach to Key West drive.
Islamorada has a vibrant community with many hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, and attractions. We loved Islamorada’s island vibe and liked knowing that in Spanish the name of this town means ‘Island Home’.
Stop 8: The Rain Barrel Artisans Village And Betsy the Lobster
For your first stop in Islamorada, visit the Rain Barrel Artisans Village. This is actually an artists colony and has an eclectic collection of art galleries and artisans shops.
Here you will find a variety of artwork including sculptures, glass pieces, paintings, and other artwork.
We suggest stepping inside the galleries to have a look and talk with the local artists. You can also buy artwork and souvenirs for the home; however, be prepared for high prices – more like an upscale free market!
A major attraction of the Rain Barrel Artisans Village is Betsy, a giant lobster sculpture.
You can actually see the sculpture from the Overseas Highway, the road from Miami to Key West.
The sculpture is an exact large-scale replica of the Florida Keys spiny lobster, which is a type of warm water lobster.
Betsy is truly an enormous lobster, about 100 times the original size of the spiny lobster. The sculpture is 30 feet tall and 40 feet long and has 12 big legs – it was created in the 1980s.
As one of the Overseas Highway’s most photographed icons, Betsy the Lobster is one of the most popular things to do driving from Miami to Key West.
The Rain Barrel Artisans Village is located at 86700 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL
Stop 9: Morada Way Arts District And Florida Keys Brewing Company
Morada Way Arts and Cultural District in Islamorada is a vibrant area teeming with art galleries, studios, boutiques, and stores selling pottery and sculptures.
The Arts and Cultural district has a monthly Art Walk on third Thursdays with live music and artists. If you can happen to be in Islamorada during the Art Walk, then we definitely recommend it. You will have a great time visiting the galleries.
When we went, I loved checking them out and seeing the unique art pieces – many of the galleries had water, fishing and other Florida themed pieces.
After checking out the Morada Way Arts District, we stopped at the Florida Keys Brewing Company, one of the most popular microbreweries on the road trip from Miami to Key West.
Since its opening in 2015, the brewery has been in the news both for its excellent brews and for its unique colorful wall decor.
The walls are decorated with caps of beer bottles from around the world and are Instagram-perfect! While we visited they were in their old location but have since moved and the new location has a great beer garden.
We ordered a couple of beer tasting rounds/beer flights and loved their craft brews. We recommend this as a must-stop for all craft beer enthusiasts.
Stop 10: Feed The Tarpon At Robbie’s Marina
Tarpons like to flock to the Florida Keys during spring and summer. They grow to be quite big and tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys is best in the world.
At many places along the road trip to Key West from Miami, we heard tales of fishermen catching 100 pounds and 8 feet long tarpons!
However, the best place to see tarpon fish on the drive to the Florida Keys from Miami is at Robbie’s Marina.
At Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada, about 50-100 giant resident tarpons live all year long and feeding them is a favorite tourist activity.
We could easily see the tarpons from the dock, swimming right below us. We paid about $5 for the dock entry; you can also buy a bucketful of fish to feed the tarpons for $5.
While we chose not to get too close to the giant tarpons because of our toddler, we saw many other visitors hand-feeding the tarpons.
The sight of tourists tossing baitfish for the tarpons and the huge fish lunging to catch them is quite impressive. We do recommend not trying to actually ‘hand-feed’ the fish or getting too close to them as the tarpons have sharp teeth.
Since we were camping that night as well, we set up camp at Long Key State Park first (see below) then went to Robbie’s Marina.
After feeding the tarpons at Robbie’s, we visited Habanos for dinner. This restaurant is located at Mile Marker 73.5 right by the beach and has excellent water views.
We loved their Cuban food plus the restaurant was located close to Long Key State Park, making it an ideal choice for us. We would recommend dining at Habanos if you are looking to dine in the area while driving the Overseas Highway.
Robbie’s Marina is located at 77522 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL
What if you have less time?
If you have less time and need suggestions for a shorter Key West road trip itinerary, then we would recommend combining the first two days and stopping at Islamorada for the night.
If you have to cancel stops, then the Nascar speedway and John Pennekamp can be skipped. Go directly from Coral Castle to Robert is Here / Alabama Jacks and then visit the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center.
Reach Islamorada, see Betsy the Lobster and drink beer at the Florida Keys Brewing Company before calling it a night. Check accommodations in Islamorada here.
Stop 11: Long Key State Park
As we mentioned, we were camping at Long Key State Park for the night. We set up our tent early in the afternoon and were looking forward to exploring the state park as we had heard many beautiful things about it.
Long Key State Park definitely lived up to our expectations. Our campsite was in a beautiful location overlooking the beach. In fact, it was one of our best beach camping experiences.
We were right by the ocean and in the morning, woke up to the sound of seabirds and lapping waves. It was a memorable experience.
The ocean was tranquil in the morning – surprisingly calm considering that the wind had bellowed for the better part of the night and a hurricane was expected to hit Miami in the next couple of days.
There were many other campers in the park and we swapped news about the hurricane and discussed our travel plans. Nothing like a hurricane to quickly make new friends!
We had a great time exploring Long Key State Park and its attractions.
The park has excellent swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Many campers snorkeled right alongside their campsites and saw many fish as well as sea turtles.
The park also has excellent nature hiking and biking trails along with kayaking, paddling and fishing opportunities.
The hiking trail that we went on had excellent wildlife viewing opportunities but required some wading. Our toddler enjoyed looking at the seabirds but wasn’t particularly keen to get into the water – so we didn’t complete it.
But we would recommend it for older kids and families.
Update: Since Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys in September 2017, the campground has all but disappeared. The park is open for day use with campsites expected to stay closed until the end of 2020.
However, that timeline may change and we recommend checking the park website before planning your trip.
If you are looking for alternatives, Islamorada has many hotels, resorts, and inns catering to tourists. There are also many RV camps in the area. Book your hotel in Islamorada now.
Long Key State Park is located at 67400 Overseas Highway, Long Key, FL
Day 3 of Miami and Key West Itinerary
The stops on this day will definitely be the highlight of your Florida Keys driving itinerary.
Start your day by reaching Marathon Key and having amazing wildlife encounters with dolphins and turtles. If you have time, visit the beautiful Sombrero Beach.
Then drive the famous Seven Mile Bridge on the Overseas Highway.
End your day at the beautiful Bahia Honda State Park and its white sand beaches which are counted among the best in America.
Marathon Key primarily comprises of Knight’s Key, Boot Key, Key Vaca, Fat Deer Key, Long Point Key, Crawl Key, and Grassy Key. It is located in the Middle Keys and just like Islamorada, is a major fishing destination.
The coral reef around Marathon also makes it popular for diving and snorkeling.
The island hosts many food festivals and other family-friendly events and is a great stop on the Overseas Highway route from Miami to Key West.
Stop 12: Dolphin Research Center
The Marathon Dolphin Research Center is a non-profit research facility and houses dolphins and sea-lions. On a tour of the facility, visitors get to know cool information about the animals, including their social skills, abilities, and natural habitat.
Apart from the introductory tour, the center also offers many interactive programs including swimming with the dolphins geared specifically towards children and teens.
The staff is extremely knowledgeable, friendly and attentive towards the animals. The dolphins and sea lions are well-treated and loved; the center is a fun stop for the entire family and is one of the best things to do from Miami to Key West.
Dolphin Research Center is located at 58901 Overseas Hwy, Grassy Key, FL
Stop 13: Curry Hammock State Park
Curry Hammock State Park is another fun of the Overseas Highway stops. We stopped at the state park for a bit to let our son play in the sand and stretch his legs. We saw many kayakers, campers, and hikers.
The beach was nice and clean and the park had a good play area for kids. The views of the water from the park were beautiful and we also saw a lot of birds while in the park.
The stop was worth the Miami to the Keys driving trip.
Update: Curry Hammock State Park was also affected due to Hurricane Irma in 2017 but the staff has done a great job of cleaning up the park and most amenities including the campsites have been restored and are back to a working basis.
If we were to do the Houston to Miami drive again, we would definitely stop here instead of the Long Key State Park.
Curry Hammock State Park is located at Mile Marker 56.2, Little Crawl Key, Marathon, FL
Stop 14: The Turtle Hospital
The Turtle Hospital is a sea turtle rehabilitation center at Marathon, approximately midway on the drive to Key West.
It carries out the work of rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing injured sea turtles back into the open ocean.
The sea turtles are well looked after and the hospital offers tours to visitors for $25 per person. The hospital relies on public donations and the money goes directly to support the work done by the hospital.
The tours often get sold out so we recommend advance bookings if you wish to visit the hospital. The tours are a great opportunity to see the operating room, turtle tanks, etc and get up close with recovering sea turtles.
Kids especially love visiting the Turtle Hospital and it is a great family-friendly attraction on the drive from Miami to Florida keys. To know more about sea turtles conservation and rescue in Florida, read this guide.
The Turtle Hospital is located at 2396 Overseas Hwy, Marathon, FL
Stop 15: Sunset Grille And Raw Bar
Sunset Grille and Raw Bar is a restaurant just before the Seven Mile Bridge. The food and ambiance are great while the views of the Gulf and the Seven Bridge Mile are very pretty.
When we went they also had live music. They have a dock into the ocean from where we could see a lot of marine life including fish and manatees.
While we weren’t there for sunset, the sunset view is supposed to be really breathtaking. An equally good option to enjoy the view and have lunch or dinner is the Seven Mile Grille.
We stopped here on the way back and I really liked their Key Lime Pie.
Sunset Grille and Raw Bar is located at 7 Knights Key Blvd, Mm 47, Marathon, FL while the Seven Mile Grille is located at 1240 Overseas Hwy, Mm 47. 5, Marathon, FL
Stop 16: Seven Mile Bridge
Seven Mile Bridge is one of the main reasons to make the epic Miami to Key West Drive. The scenic view here is just amazing.
The bridge connects Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys and is the longest bridge in the Florida Keys.
The drive over the bridge is highly scenic with turquoise water views over the Gulf and the Atlantic on both sides.
The bridge also has great views of the mangrove islands. There are pull-offs at both ends of the bridge where visitors can walk to the fishing piers to admire the views.
Driving the Overseas Highway in a top-down convertible car is one of the best things to do on the drive to Key West. Just put on great music and cruise along to the amazing views – incomparable!
We suggest driving carefully on the bridge as there is just one lane without the shoulder for the traffic.
While we definitely do not recommend slowing down the traffic, we also do not encourage speeding in this stretch. The views here are meant to be savored and not rushed through.
After all, you are in Florida, just chill and let life take its course.
While the Seven Mile Bridge is open only to vehicular traffic and stopping on the bridge itself is not allowed, the older bridge is part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail and is open to bikers and pedestrians.
The bridge is currently being restored and has many lookout points where you can park and look down into the water.
The water is unbelievably clear and we could see all the way down to the Gulf bed.
We saw quite a few fish of various colors and sizes swimming below. While I couldn’t identify all the fish we saw, sightings of stingrays, manta rays, starfish, tarpons, snappers, sea turtles, and sharks are quite common.
Bird sightings on the bridge are also common with seagulls, pelicans, and blue herons being seen in particular.
We were really interested in learning about the history of the Seven Mile Bridge and Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West and learned quite a lot in Key West museums.
Prior to 1900, the Keys were accessible only by water. In the early 1900s Henry Flagler, the tycoon founder of the Florida East Coast Railway, decided to build a railroad out to Key West from Miami called the Overseas Railroad.
Construction of the old Seven Mile Bridge was completed using state of the art technology in 1912 to carry the railroad track over the Keys.
At the time of its completion, the bridge was known as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ due to the scale and ambitiousness of the project.
Just imagine – how grand it must have been to travel down to Key West in a splendid old coach pulled by a chugging engine! I certainly admire Flagler’s vision for the Overseas Railroad.
The Labor Day hurricane that hit the Florida Keys hard in 1935 washed out the rail tracks and Flagler’s rail company sold the defunct railroad to the United States government.
The government replaced the tracks and began the construction of the Overseas Highway over the old railroad and its bridges. The old Seven Mile Bridge then came to be used for vehicular traffic.
In 1982, it was then replaced by the current Seven Mile Bridge which stands proudly to this day. The Overseas Highway consists of exactly 42 bridges and the old Seven Mile Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places as ‘Overseas Highway and Railway Bridges’.
Optional: Detour To Pigeon Key
Pigeon Key is an island in the middle of the Overseas Highway over which the old Seven Mile Bridge passes.
While we didn’t visit Pigeon Key, you can reach there easily by ferry from the Visitor Center located at Marathon Key. For ferry timings, check here on the official website of the Pigeon Keys.
Earlier, it was possible to access Pigeon Key from the old Seven Mile Bridge. However, the entrance is currently closed due to the restoration of the old bridge and the only way to currently reach Pigeon Key is by ferry.
While it’s not actually one of the things to do driving to Key West, Pigeon Key is definitely worth the extra time!
Many of the original buildings built by the Florida East Coast Railway are preserved as part of the Historic District of Pigeon Key.
There is also a small museum whose collection features artifacts and photos of the island’s heydey when over 400 workers lived on the island.
The Pigeon Key Foundation runs daily historical tours which include ferry tickets and tour costs. Tour guides show visitors around the island and point out bunkhouses originally built for the construction crew of the old bridge.
Visitors can also explore the island on their own and snorkel after the tour is over. Pigeon Key is definitely one of the unique things to see on the drive to Key West.
Pigeon Key ferries depart from the Pigeon Key Visitor Center and Gift Shop located at Mile Marker 47.52010 Overseas Highway Marathon, FL 33050.
Stop 17: Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park is located on Bahia Honda Key in the Lower Keys. The park entrance is located immediately after you cross the Seven Mile Bridge.
The beaches in this park are said to be amongst the best in the country and we were looking forward to visiting them.
Our first stop was the Calusa Beach, a beautiful white sand beach with stunningly clear water. We had a great time swimming and playing in the water while our son had fun splashing around.
It was a great way to spend an afternoon while the strong Florida sun beat down upon us.
The other beach in Bahia Honda, Sandspur Beach, is also equally pretty. Bahia Honda is definitely an unmissable attraction while driving to the Keys from Miami.
Bahia Honda State Park has many things to do for its visitors and is a great stop on the Overseas Highway road trip. The state park has many hiking trails. We hiked the old Bahia Honda Bridge Trail and the Butterfly Garden trail.
The bridge trail was my favorite as you can climb on the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, which was a part of Flagler’s railroad, and look into the crystal clear waters below.
From up there, we could easily spot fishes including stingrays and much smaller coral fish.
The view from the top of this bridge was mind-blowing: the turquoise water extended as far as our eyes could see and the swaying palm trees completed the tropical island feel.
The Butterfly Garden trail was also pretty and we saw lots of butterflies.
We also saw many snorkelers and bikers in Bahia Honda State Park. The state park also has excellent fishing. The Sand and Sea Nature Center had great information about the local flora and fauna.
Bahia Honda State Park has many great campsites with amazing water views. The sites at Bahia Honda get booked as much as a year in advance and if you can’t score one, we suggest looking for cancellations every morning for a month.
We strongly recommend booking far in advance of your trip. If you can score a site, camping at Bahia Honda Key is one of the highlights when you travel to Key West from Miami.
If you don’t want to camp, there are many accommodation options available near Bahia Honda State Park including inns, hotels, and resorts.
The park itself has 3 cabins which provide accommodation for up to 6 people but these also get booked early on in the season.
Update: Bahia Honda State Park also suffered a lot of damage during Hurricane Irma. Sandspur Beach and Calusa beach are now open but may have limited amenities.
Some activities like snorkeling tours have resumed and some of the campgrounds are open. However, we urge everyone to do their research before visiting the state park.
Bahia Honda State Park is located at 36850 Overseas Hwy, Big Pine Key, FL
Day 4 of Florida Keys Roadtrip
On this day, leave Bahia Honda and continue on the Miami to Key West highway.
See the endangered Key Deer on Big Pine Key. Have a beer in the No Name Pub on No Name Key and then drive to Key West.
Once you reach the city visit the Southernmost Point buoy and attend the sunset celebration at Mallory Square followed by bar hopping on Duval Street.
Reaching Big Pine Key
An hour away from the destination while driving to the Keys from Miami, you will reach Big Pine Key. This island is home to the protected key deer.
As soon as you enter Big Pine Key, you are in the Key Deer’s natural habitat and speed restrictions (45 MPH during the day, 35 MPH at night) are strictly enforced.
Visitors should drive carefully and keep an eye out for crossing wildlife including key deer, rabbits, and alligators on the island. We also strictly recommend not feeding wildlife.
Stop 18: National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge
The National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge is located on Big Pine Key and No Name Key. It carries out important work of protection and conservation of Key Deer, an endangered species.
The Key Deer have an interesting history; they have evolved from the white-tailed deer that migrated from the mainland to the Keys nearly a hundred thousand years ago (100,000 years ago) when a land bridge connected the Keys to the rest of the country.
The deer are said to be all over the Big Pine Key island with an estimated population of 800 animals.
While driving around the island, we saw a couple near the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge. This was definitely one of the best wildlife encounters on our road trip through the Florida Keys.
We visited the Visitor Center first and from there went to the Blue Hole Observation Platform located just a few miles away based on the staff’s suggestion.
At the Visitor Center, we learned invaluable information about the endangered Key Deer while at the observation platform we saw turtles, alligators, fish, ospreys, and frigate birds.
The observation platform was a big hit with our son and he was happy to see his first alligator out in nature – hence for us, it ranks quite high among things to do on the drive to Key West.
The National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is located at 179 Key Deer Blvd, Big Pine Key, FL
Stop 19: No Name Pub
No Name Pub is located near the bridge to No Name Key and is a must stop while driving the Florida Keys from Miami. This unique off the beaten track pub was established in 1936 and is one of the oldest bars in the Florida Keys.
The interior and walls of the Pub are covered with thousands and thousands of dollar bills left by visitors. The bills are covered with messages and doodles of every variety and no surface of the pub is left uncovered by the bills.
It was fascinating to see the fluttering dollar bills everywhere we looked.
The food here, especially conch fritters, is also great and we hope you can visit this unique roadside attraction during your Miami to Key West drive.
No Name Pub is located at 30813 Watson Blvd, Big Pine Key, FL
Reaching Key West
Key West is the legendary end of the road trip the Florida Keys.
Known by many names including the Conch Republic and Cigar City USA, Key West is a vibrant and diverse city that represents the very best of the Florida Keys.
Key West is located 90 miles off the coast of Cuba and is home to many Cubans who fled the country during the Cuban Revolution.
The city is also a cultural hub, has a strong literary connection, and has been home to many famous writers, including Ernest Hemingway.
To all of its visitors, Key West promises year-round sunshine, delicious Cuban coffee, fresh seafood, pristine beaches, and an exciting end to the Miami Florida Keys road trip.
The city is also great for enjoying water sports. You can jet ski or swim or take a sunset sail or charter fishing trip.
Stop 20: Southernmost Point Buoy And Key West Mile Marker 0
The red, black, and yellow concrete buoy is the #1 most Instagrammable spot in Key West as well as on road trip from Miami to Key West.
The marker has achieved much fame as the ‘Southernmost Point of the Continental United States’. As the buoy mentions, it is just 90 miles to Cuba from this point.
You’d be surprised to know that there are quite a few inconsistencies about the buoy.
Its location is not the actual southernmost point. The real southernmost point is located on private land at Ballast Key and is inaccessible. Hence, the city erected the buoy in its current location.
Similarly, the accurate distance to the coast of Cuba is 94 miles from the point but has been rounded off to 90 miles.
The point has held various inscriptions at previous times including a small wooden sign that said ‘The Southernmost Point, of Southernmost City, Key West Fla.’
We walked along the buoy and on the roads leading up to it and there I found a beautiful, poignant poem etched on the sidewalk along with the Key West city motto of ‘One Human Family’.
The sunset from here is spectacular, in fact, one of the best in Key West, but we would instead recommend visiting Mallory Square for the sunset celebration during your Miami and Florida Keys itinerary.
The US1 Key West Mile Marker Zero sign is however not at the buoy. The Overseas Highway stops just up the road from the Green Parrot Bar and is easy to miss if you are not looking for it.
However, this is the real end of the road and we recommend coming here, even if it’s just for a photo op.
We just rolled down our windows and I could easily capture a snap while we cruised by – another advantage of doing the ultimate Florida Keys road trip in a convertible.
Southernmost Point Buoy is located at Whitehead St & South Street, Key West, FL while the Mile Marker 0 sign is located at 501 Whitehead St, Key West, FL
Stop 21: Sunset At Mallory Square
Watching the sunset at Mallory Square is a long-held Key West tradition.
At Mallory Square a sunset is not just a sunset; it’s a toast to the day that went exceedingly well and is in anticipation of the incredible day to come.
There is an underlying assumption that there is no bad day in Key West and every sunset is the reason for celebration.
It feels exciting to be a part of the celebration and see the setting sun.
We saw many buskers and street performers including acrobats, jugglers, fire eaters, and street musicians performing entertaining acts and events. We also saw vendors selling souvenirs, decorative license plates, and other Florida themed decor, cotton candy, hot dogs, and ice-cream.
We saw people enjoying the sunset from restaurant patios, some were on sailboats out in the sea, while others just gathered around the square.
I really loved the idea of a sunset sail and would recommend it if you have enough time to plan Florida Keys itinerary of 7 days.
Make the most of your time in Key West by checking out these adventurous tours:
Key West Sunset Sail on Schooner with Drinks
Key West Sunset Cataraman Cruise
Key West 3 hour Snorkeling Trip
Key West Dolphin Watching Tour
Key West Old Town Trolley Hop-on Hop-off Tour
Key West Parasailing Tour
Stop 22: Duval Street
The mile-long Duval Street is where all the action lies in Key West. It is an essential experience of the Florida Keys road trip itinerary. The street is perfect for a pub crawl.
Many of Duval Street’s popular nightspots are on the National Register of Historic Places. Apart from pubs and nightclubs, Duval Street also has some of Key West’s most popular restaurants and boutique shops.
The north end of Duval Street may always feel like its hosting a giant block party but the south end of the street is very family-friendly and has plenty of old-world charm.
The south end of Duval Street has unique architecture. You will find Victorian-style mansions with distinct Spanish and Bahama influences. Art galleries and bodegas jostle with each other for space and small boutique stores sell unique, locally produced items.
You won’t find souvenir shops that are common in the northern end neither will you find hungover tourists. Walking along this side of Duval Street during the day is a perfect way to explore it for families with children.
Day 5 of Miami to Key West Drive
On this day, explore the Old Town of Key West in a self-guided tour. Then visit the Historic Key West Seaport. End the evening with a romantic sunset sail.
Stop 23: Key West Old Town Walking Tour
A walking tour of Key West is one of the best ways to explore the Old Town area. Better known as the Key West Historic District, Old Town comprises of Mallory Square, Duval Street, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, and few other nearby attractions.
Walking in the Old Town is a pleasure, the roads are lined with classic bungalows and prominent buildings including Ernest Hemingway House and Harry Truman Winter White House while hens, roosters, and chickens accompany you throughout the walk.
I was really fascinated by all that free-range poultry just roaming the streets – listening to a rooster crow at dawn was even more surprising. You can find a great walking tour here.
You can also tour the Old Town on a bus tour via the Key West Trolley Hop On Hop Off tour – the tour guide is excellent and it is a great hit with kids. The bus ride will take you to all important stops.
Stop 24: Key West Historic Seaport
Key West Historic Seaport is a bustling activity hub of docked fishing ships, yachts, sailboats, and the base for all kinds of water-based excursions.
Home to Key West’s finest restaurants, this is the place to get the finest and freshest seafood and enjoy some shopping. The seaport area also has many other attractions including museums and art galleries.
The seaport was formerly known as Key West Bight and has been used as a harbor since the 1820s.
The seaport was responsible for the rise of the sea turtle fishing industry, sea sponge industry, fishing, and shrimping industries that dominated Key West’s economy at various times.
Visitors can view this information related to the seaport’s history in the various museums located in the area.
We loved walking along the harbor waterfront and seeing small and large ships bob on the water. It had just rained and a rainbow brightened the day.
We also saw a few docked historic ships including the tall ships and schooners. We could peer into the water and see fish swimming below us.
We stepped into various eateries including the Half Shell Raw Bar at happy hour and ate some freshly shucked oysters.
We also drank oyster shooters and tried other fresh seafood. I really enjoyed walking along the seaport and breathing in its fresh vibe with live music and beautiful views.
We had planned a sunset sail to end this day, but it was canceled as Hurricane Matthew was barrelling straight towards Miami and southern Florida as a Category 4 hurricane.
If you can go on the sunset sail, do go! We highly recommend it, especially for couples, as the private sail tours are romantic and the views at sunset are gorgeous. Click here to book the sunset cruise now.
Day 6 in the Dry Tortugas
On this day board the Dry Tortugas National Park ferry and visit one of the most remote national parks in the country. Did you know that Key West is not the last of Florida Keys but that honor goes to the Dry Tortugas?
Stop 25: Dry Tortugas National Park
The Dry Tortugas are a group of 7 uninhabited islands that lie about 70 miles west of Key West. The islands are home to Fort Jefferson and preserved as a part of the Dry Tortugas National Park.
Tourists can visit the Dry Tortugas National Park as a day trip or on an overnight camping excursion aboard the Yankee Freedom III ferry.
We recommend booking the ferry early as spots get filled soon. Dry Tortugas is the #1 off the beaten track places to see on the way to Key West.
Dry Tortugas once served as a naval base for the United States Government. Construction of historic Fort Jefferson was started prior to the Civil War but abandoned and remains incomplete to this day. The fort was used as a prison during the Civil War and as a seaplane base during World Wars.
The Dry Tortugas was then home to the Marine Biology Laboratory until it was established as a National Park in 1935.
Dry Tortugas can be accessed only by ferry or seaplane making it one of the most remote and least visited national parks in the country.
There are plenty of things to do on Dry Tortugas including touring the historic Fort Jefferson, walking on the moat built around the castle, snorkeling in its crystal clear waters, and watching a variety of seabirds including sooty tern, brown pelican, and frigatebirds.
If you are visiting the Dry Tortugas, we have written a detailed Dry Tortugas National Park visitor’s guide which has all the practical travel information.
Whether you go by ferry or seaplane, visiting the Dry Tortugas is a full day activity.
If you don’t have a day to spare, we recommend visiting the Fort Jefferson Museum located at Key West Historic Seaport. This free museum has a lot of information on Dry Tortugas National Park and visitors can view maps, photos, and a scaled model of Fort Jefferson.
Yankee Freedom III Ferry departs from the ferry terminal located at 100 Grinnell St, Key West, FL; Fort Jefferson Museum is located at 240 Margaret Street, Key West, FL
Day 7 of Miami to Florida Keys road trip
Eat Some More Key Lime Pie And Return To Miami! In our case, we headed to Miami right after we returned to Key West from Dry Tortugas due to the hurricane. However, the trip back is also worth a leisurely trip.
You can use this day to check out other attractions in Key West, Marathon or Key Largo. Key West has many other attractions including Ernest Hemingway or Papa’s house, Harry Truman Winter White House, and the Tennessee Williams House.
I recommend tasting more key lime pie on the return journey and purchasing art at the Rain Barrel Artisans Village. You can use the return trip to return to your favorite places or check out new points of interest.
Alternatively, you can reach Miami early and utilize the day to explore Miami and lounge on Miami beach.
Downtown Miami has some great tourist attractions for the entire family including Vizcaya Gardens, Key Biscayne, and the murals at Wynwood Walls.
Miami Beach is also famous for its great parties and of course, you need to taste some great Cuban food while you are there. Check out the Art Deco architecture on Ocean Drive.
If you have more time, you can add a trip to Everglades National Park. We had originally intended to visit Everglades at the tail end of our trip but the impending hurricane made us evacuate Miami-Dade county and hightail it to the west coast of Florida.
So instead of camping at Everglades and taking an airboat tour, we saw crocs on the Tamiami Trail and relaxed on the beach at Sanibel Island.
We also checked the Greek touristy town of Tarpon Springs and their famous Sponge Docks, which are certainly worth a visit. You can read our guide on things to do in Tarpon Springs here.
Planning a trip to the Florida Keys In hurricane season
While the approaching hurricanes are a big deterrent, one can’t argue the fact that rates wise this is a great time to visit the Florida Keys. Hotel rooms are cheaper and you will find low crowds at most attractions.
This season is also one of the best times to visit Dry Tortugas since the ocean is choppy in winter and your ferry ride will be less pleasant. So how do you prepare for travel during hurricane season?
First, know when the hurricane season is. The Atlantic hurricane season starts in June and ends in November with the peak season – when most devastating hurricanes can occur – is between mid-August to mid-October.
We would recommend getting travel insurance. We were lucky enough to have to cancel just a part of our trip (Miami and the Everglades) but it could have turned out a lot worse.
Since then, I have decided to purchase some sort of trip insurance or trip protection for all my trips. Better safe than sorry, right?
Secondly, if there seems to be the chance of a hurricane closer to your trip, keep your eyes glued to the weather channel.
We checked the news and weather forecasts at every opportunity, talked to park rangers about weather conditions, and finally follow all evacuation notices immediately.
You also need to understand the difference between a hurricane watch and a warning. I didn’t know the difference when we moved to the United States and thought that warnings mean a hurricane *might* come.
However, now I know better: a watch means that storm or hurricane is expected within 48 hours and a warning means a hurricane will make landfall within 36 hours and strong winds will begin soon.
Being prepared is the only way to visit the Florida Keys and nearby areas during hurricane season.
Resources to plan your Miami to Key West drive
We used our Lonely Planet Miami and the Keys extensively to plan our Miami Key West road trip.
Another resource we found really useful is the mile by mile guide of the Overseas Highway.
I can’t really begin to explain how detailed it is; it actually enlists each and every attraction and places of interest on the Overseas Highway and is a fun Florida Keys road trip guide.
The Florida Keys, a journey of a lifetime
I would urge everyone to go on this ultimate American road trip at least once, not just for the thrill of being on the road but to get a different perspective on life.
For as long as I live I will never forget the sunset at Mallory Square. It was a normal day of a normal week. Not even a weekend. A Category 4 hurricane loomed on the horizon, black clouds were already partly visible in the sky and there was nothing much to be extravagantly excited about.
And yet – everyone alongside us was watching the sunset with a tremendous sense of excitement, akin to watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve.
I felt as if the sun was performing a feat for the crowd rather than simply sinking into the ocean.
As it vanished out of sight, the crowd broke out into collective applause and there was contentment all around us.
And that’s when I realized that’s what Florida Keys lifestyle is all about – appreciating the simpler things in life! Eat fresh seafood and relax under a palm tree. Greet the locals. Savor the moment.
The Miami to Key West road trip was one of the best road trips we have been on and we had great fun on the route.
If we have the time, we would like to do the complete road trip from Houston to Miami followed by the driving to Key West in the future.
We can’t recommend this ultimate US road trip enough; there is so much to do and see that you will fall in love with the Florida Keys and Miami Key West attractions.
The long, narrow upper keys have rich marine life, plenty of state parks and protected areas, and beautiful turquoise beaches.
Key West proudly bears the flag of the last (southernmost) US City and is a rainbow of colors, flavors, and characters.
Dry Tortugas, the last of the Keys, promise, and adventure that will delight you. Laidback life in the Florida Keys is something to be experienced on this beautiful road trip of a lifetime.
Did you like our itinerary for the drive from Miami to Key West and things to do on the road while driving to Key West, Florida? Which of these stops in South Florida do you like the best?
Did we miss on any important stops? Hopefully, we answered all your questions on what to see on the way to Key West. Let us know in the comments!