Last Updated on January 17, 2021
Visiting the Florida Keys is a classic U.S. vacation, with beaches, clear blue waters, and adventurous activities like snorkeling, kayaking, and camping. One of the best ways to experience the Florida Keys is with a Miami to Key West road trip. Get tips on how to plan an itinerary that includes all the best of the Keys: quirky roadside stops, beautiful beaches, state and national parks, and waterfront bars and restaurants for sunset each night.
As far as road trips go, a Miami to Key West drive belongs on every bucket list. You’ll follow the Overseas Highway, a 113-mile stretch of U.S. Route 1 which spans the coral and limestone islands of the Keys and connects mainland Florida to Key West. Driving this route lets you discover all the best sights, eats, and adventures of the Keys along the way. Experience amazing snorkeling in Key Largo, hike and relax on the gorgeous beaches of Bahia Honda State Park, and watch the spectacular sunset in Key West – plus so many more things in between!
In this guide, I’ll share all the tips you need to plan a Florida Keys road trip, with drive tips, must-see sights, restaurants, and other fun stops along the way. I’ll also suggest how many days to spend in each location and advice on the best places to stay on your Miami to Key West drive.
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In This Guide to a Miami to Key West Drive
Must-See Sights: John Pennekamp State Park |Robbie’s | Sombrero Beach | Turtle Hospital | Bahia Honda State Park |Duval Street | Key West Beaches | Hemingway House |Southernmost Point | Dry Tortugas National Park
Miami to Key West Road Trip Planning
The Florida Keys is an archipelago of 800 tropical islands that stretches 120 miles off the coast of Florida. The Keys begin just south of Miami and continue to the uninhabited Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles from Cuba. These vacation planning tips will help you make the most of your road trip adventure from Miami to Key West!
The Best Time to Visit the Florida Keys
The Keys are one of the warmest and sunniest destinations in the U.S., with average high winter temperatures of 75-80 degrees. The best time to visit the Florida Keys is between March and May, after the busy tourist season is over and when hotel rates are more reasonable. It’s best to avoid the peak hurricane season of August and September.
The hottest months in the Florida Keys are July and August, with average high temperatures of 90 degrees. June, August, and September are the months with the most rainfall.
Check weather averages for your visit on Holiday-Weather.com.
Transportation: Airports & Car Rental
The best airports to begin a Florida Keys road trip are the Miami International Airport (MIA) or Fort Lauderdale (FLL), about 30 miles north.
Car rental is available at both airports. If you’re short on time, it’s usually possible to rent a car one-way for an extra fee. In this case, you would pick it up in Miami and return it at the airport in Key West (EYW), or vice-versa. When I last checked rates, this added around $100 to the weekly price with most of the major companies.
How Long to Stay for a Florida Keys Road Trip
How does a month sound? But seriously, I’d recommend at least a week to see the best of the Keys. You can save time by paying extra for your car rental and only making the drive one-way. If you have a little less time or a few extra days, I’ll include other options in the itinerary below.
Driving the Overseas Highway | U.S. Route 1
The Florida Overseas Highway spans 113 miles and 42 bridges, connecting the mainland of Florida from Miami to Key West. Actually the southernmost leg of U.S. Route 1, the Overseas Highway follows a trail which began in 1912 when Henry Flagler extended his Florida East Coast Railroad to Key West. This railroad route ran until 1935, when the Keys sustained extensive damage from the strongest hurricane to strike the U.S.
A new highway was built to replace it by the end of the 1930’s, which paved the way for the Keys to become the tourist destination they are today. In the 1980’s, 37 bridges were replaced with wider, heavier spans, including the most famous portion of the road: the Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon.
Known as the “Highway That Goes to Sea,” the Overseas Highway is a well-paved, pleasant drive. Straight through, it would take 4-5 hours to drive from Miami to Key West for the 160-mile trip. The total time depends on traffic, since parts of the road are still only two lanes. But there are many sights and stops along the way, making it a perfect leisurely road trip to spread over several days.
Overseas Highway Mile Markers
Mile markers along the Overseas Highway are often used as address locators. The highway ends in Key West at mile marker 0. Other stops: Key Largo is mile marker 102, Islamorada begins at 90, Marathon at mile 60, and the Seven Mile Bridge at 47.
Restrooms/Rest Stops on Your Road Trip
There aren’t any rest areas along the Miami to Key West road trip route, but there are many restaurants and convenience stores that have restrooms available. If you stop at any of the state parks, you might need to pay an entrance fee.
There is a visitor’s center run by the Chamber of Commerce on Key Largo, and a commercial visitor’s center for Key West located on Big Pine Key.
Miami to Key West Drive Map
The map below shows the best sights for your Miami to Key West drive. To see details, click the arrow on the top left to view the different layers. You can scroll to see the different categories – stops, beaches and parks, more top sights, and restaurants. You can also click each item on the map for more information. Save the map by clicking the star after the map name – this will save it to your own Google Maps folder.
Miami to Key West Road Trip Itinerary
Use this overview to get an idea of the suggested number of nights for each destination, as well as must-see sights. Keep reading for the full details on each step of the itinerary including more sights, restaurants, tours, and recommended hotels and Airbnbs.
Distance from Miami to Key West: 160 miles | Estimated Driving Time: 4 hours
Itinerary Length: 5-8 nights depending on selected sights & stays
Upper Florida Keys: Miami to Key Largo – 63 miles, 1 hour
Stay in Key Largo: 1-2 nights
Top Sights: Robert is Here | Alabama Jack’s | John Pennekamp State Park | Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen
Middle Keys: Key Largo to Marathon – 47 miles, 1 hour
Stay in Islamorada or Marathon: 2-3 nights
Top Sights: Diving Museum | Rain Barrel Village | Robbie’s | Turtle Hospital |Sombrero Beach | Bahia Honda State Park
Alternatively, you can combine the first two stops and use Islamorada as your base for exploring the Upper and Middle Keys. Islamorada is only about 30 minutes from Key Largo and 35 minutes from Marathon. I did this so that I could get a weekly vacation rental, and it worked out great.
Lower Florida Keys: Marathon to Key West – 50 miles, 1 hour
Stay in Key West: 2-3 nights
Top Sights: Key West Lighthouse | Hemingway Home | Key West Butterfly Conservatory | Duval Street | Smathers Beach | Mallory Square | Southernmost Point Marker | Dry Tortugas National Park
Key Largo | Miami to Key West First Stop
Key Largo is the first stop on a Miami to Key West road trip, and is most famous for its world-class diving and snorkeling. It’s accessible via U.S. Route 1 or the Card Sound Bridge – take the slightly longer Card Sound toll route if you want to stop at Alabama Jack’s bar.
Key Largo is also known for watersports like kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing. To the west on the mainland lies Everglades National Park. Read on for the best things to do in Key Largo for your Miami to Key West road trip!
Top Key Largo Sights
Robert is Here | Homestead, Florida (Mainland) Fruit Stand
This family owned fruit stand has been around since the 1950’s and is located on the mainland of Florida. It all began when Robert’s dad, a farmer, set him up with a roadside table to sell cucumbers and a sign declaring “Robert is here.” Well, Robert is still here, and from those humble beginnings has built a fruit mecca and tourist destination. In addition to hundreds of exotic fruit varieties, there’s an animal farm, kids’ play area, famous milkshakes (including key lime, of course), and a band on weekends.
Itinerary priority: Add if you have extra time and want a classic Florida experience. It’s the perfect place to pick up fresh produce and also a good stop if you’re on a longer road trip.
Alabama Jack’s | Classic Key Largo Biker Bar
This biker/tiki/dive bar (yes, that’s a lot of slashes!) is found in the town of Card Sound. It’s been around since the 1950’s and has become a traditional first stop in the Keys for many road trippers. Alabama Jack’s has the reputation of the best conch fritters in the Keys, cold beers, and friendly service. On the weekends the house band, Card Sound Machine, has played in the afternoons for over 30 years. Alabama Jack’s closes at sunset, so you’re not carried off by mosquitoes from the nearby swamps.
Itinerary priority: Add this if you have extra time and want a classic quirky Keys experience. Be sure to take the toll road headed out of Miami or Homestead.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park & Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a must-see as the first underwater state park in the U.S. It includes 70 nautical square miles of the Atlantic. The famous “Christ of the Deep” statue is here, an 8 foot tall sculpture sunk 25 feet deep. You can also snorkel from the shore at John Pennekamp, canoe or kayak, or take a glass-bottom boat tour.
The adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary extends 2,800 square nautical miles from Key Biscayne in the north down to Dry Tortugas. Experienced divers can take an excursion to the artificial reef of the sunken USS Spiegel Grove.
Itinerary priority: Must-see. Key Largo is a world-class snorkeling and diving destination and one of the top sights on a Miami to Key West road trip.
African Queen Canal Cruise | Key Largo Excursion
Yes, that African Queen – from the 1951 movie starring Humprey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn! Relocated from Africa and restored, the iconic boat now cruises the waters of Key largo offering canal and dinner cruises. There are several departures daily, and on weekends you can take a dinner cruise with roundtrip transportation to the Pilot House Marina.
Itinerary priority: A quirky addition for classic movie buffs.
Website | Address: 99701 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL 33037
Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center
The Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary in Tavernier is a center for wildlife rehabilitation, and is home to over one hundred resident birds who cannot be returned to the wild. See rescued hawks, owls, vultures, pelicans, gulls, songbirds, and more. Visitors can learn about the birds and the ecosystems of the Florida Keys.
Itinerary priority: This is a quick stop – less than an hour – interesting for nature and wildlife lovers.
Where to Eat & Drink in Key Largo
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen Iconic Key Largo favorite with kitschy decor, fresh seafood, and some of the best coconut shrimp and key lime pie in the Keys (try it yourself to see if you agree!). There are two locations on the Overseas Highway – the first is the original, the second is better for peak times or if you have a large group
Caribbean Club Classic dive bar and Key Largo tradition with amazing sunset views
Pilot House Restaurant Local favorite overlooking a marina with fresh seafood and a tiki bar vibe
Sundowner’s Key Largo Seafood eatery with a glass dining room and outdoor waterfront seating
Where to Stay in Key Largo
Check out these top picks in the Key Largo area for your first stop from Key West to Miami.
Best Key Largo Hotels
Key Largo Airbnbs
Looking for more space or a local stay? Check out these Key Largo area Airbnbs.
Islamorada | Second Keys Road Trip Stop
Islamorada is a village made up of 6 of the Middle Keys, and the halfway point between Miami and Key West. It’s known as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World,” thanks to its bounty of options for professional fishing charters with experienced captains. There are many choices of mid-range to luxury resorts in Islamorada, as well as shopping, restaurants, sights and eco-experiences.
During my Keys road trip, I stayed here as a base for exploring everything from Key Largo to Marathon. Read on for the best things to do around Islamorada on your Miami to Key West road trip!
Top Sights In the Islamorada Area
Rain Barrel Village
This quirky stop is a garden oasis with shops, galleries, and boutiques. Spend a few hours and grab a snack at the local eateries too. You’ll want to get a selfie with its iconic giant lobster named Betsy!
Itinerary priority: A fun stop, great for souvenirs and Instagram ops.
History of Diving Museum
For divers and adventurers, the History of Diving Museum is a cool stop for your itinerary. Explore more than 4,000 years of diving history (yes, really) from breath-holding divers to early diving machines and helmets to the revolutionary invention of SCUBA. Includes the world’s largest collection of diving memorabilia.
Itinerary priority: A well-done museum and a must-see for diving aficionados.
Robbie’s | Islamorada Restaurant, Bar & Activities
Robbie’s is a fun waterfront restaurant and bar with a bonus: from its dock, you can feed tarpon fish which grow up to 8 feet. The trick is avoiding aggressive pelicans and trying not to scream when the tarpons jump to snatch the fish! Robbie’s is also a spot for booking local fishing charters and other excursions.
Itinerary priority: A great photo spot and place to book local tours. If you’re afraid of fish bigger than you are, skip that part.
Holiday Isle Tiki Bar at the Postcard Inn
Calling tiki bar lovers and cocktail connoisseurs! You’ll want to make a stop at the Tiki Bar at the Postcard Inn to see where the Rum Runner was invented. Legend has it that in 1972, the bartender Tiki John was tasked with creating a cocktail to get rid of excess inventory. He mixed banana liqueur, Meyers rum, brandy, and grenadine. And behold – the Rum Runner was born!
Itinerary priority: A must-see for tiki and cocktail connoisseurs.
Website | Address: 84001 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036
Where to Eat & Drink in Islamorada
Florida Keys Brewing Company | Tasting room and beer garden with a fun vibe and pretty courtyard. Try a flight of local beers and get a growler to go. A must for beer lovers!
Morada Bay | Luxury dining at Pierre’s; casual fare at its Beach Cafe, perfect for drinks, dinner, and sunset on a white sand beach
Marker88 | This restaurant has been a Keys tradition since 1967, and offers beachfront dining and amazing sunsets
Lorelei Cabana Bar | Seafood Restaurant known for conch and stone crab chowders, mahi fish tacos, and gorgeous sunsets
Where to Stay in Islamorada
More Islamorada & Marathon StaysThese Airbnbs in the Middle Keys, from Islamorada to Marathon, will give you extra space and amenities for your Florida Keys Road trip stay.
Marathon | Miami to Key West Stop
The Florida Keys city of Marathon is made up of 13 islands, and is known for beaches, fishing, and a barrier reef. Find out the best things to do in Marathon for your itinerary, including turtle conservation, snorkeling and nature experiences.
Top Marathon Sights for Your Road Trip
Sombrero Beach in Marathon is a calm public beach perfect for swimming. There are restroom facilities here as well as picnic shelters with grills, and plenty of room to spread out on its long white sand beach. From April through October, loggerhead turtles nest here, so you might see some small areas roped off to protect the eggs.
Itinerary priority: This is a great option for a beach day if you stay at a hotel that isn’t beachfront – bring a cooler with what you’ll need for the day, and pick out a spot to relax. I think it’s also one of the nicer beaches in the Keys, which are known for rocky rather than sandy coastlines!
The Turtle Hospital
This small non-profit organization is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of endangered sea turtles. Visit on a guided tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at their hospital facilities and see their turtle rehabilitation tanks close-up! The entrance fee and gift shop support their rescue efforts. It’s very popular, so be sure to make a reservation.
Itinerary priority: This is a Florida Keys must-see. It’s a great family activity and unforgettable experience!
Seven Mile Bridge
The Seven Mile Bridge begins around mile marker 47 and connects Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. This is the most iconic portion of the Overseas Highway, and frequently gets featured in movies about the keys. (This is a must-see, obviously, as there’s no other road to Key West!)
Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda is one of the islands of the Keys, and is home to a namesake state park. It’s possible to visit here on the day that you drive to Key West, since it’s located past the Seven Mile Bridge around mile markers 38.5-36. Activities include visiting its two beaches, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, biking, and spotting birds and wildlife. Limited campsites are available.
The hiking trail on the southwest end of the island leads to the top of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, and has spectacular views of the island and the waters below.
Itinerary priority: This is a Florida Keys must-see for your road trip. Bring a picnic lunch and spend a few hours here.
National Key Deer Refuge
The endangered Key Deer is the smallest subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer. Poaching and habitat loss had reduced their numbers to only a few dozen animals by the 1950’s. Luckily, the establishment of this Refuge allowed for protection and a dramatic recovery. The deer now number close to a thousand, 75% of which are concentrated on Big Pine and No Name Keys. Stop at the visitor center for information and drive slowly through Big Pine Key or hike to spot them.
Itinerary priority: This is an interesting addition for nature lovers and photographers.
Where to Eat and Drink in Marathon
Florida Keys Steak & Lobster House | Fine dining favorite of tourists and locals
Fish Tales Market & Eatery | Seafood market and restaurant serving local seafood, burgers, sandwiches, salads
Lighthouse Grill | Waterfront restaurant and bar with a menu of fresh seafood and local favorites
Sweet Savannah’s | Bake shop and ice cream spot serving a variety of desserts including key lime pie with an outdoor garden
Irie Island Eats | Hidden local gem with carry out and outdoor seating past the Seven Mile Bridge
No Name Pub | Quirky, iconic Keys bar with pizza, chili and bar food on Big Pine Key
Square Grouper | Highly-rated foodie favorite with fresh seafood, small plates, desserts, and microbrews with a waterfront view on Cudjoe Key
Where to Stay in Marathon
Key West | Florida Keys Road Trip End
Although Key West might be the final stop on this Florida Keys road trip, the fun is just beginning! Famed for its beaches, water sports, nightlife, and pastel “conch-style” architecture, Key West packs a lot into its 7 square miles. It’s also at the southern end of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, which extends the Key West playground with adventurous snorkeling and diving opportunities.
Read on for the best things to do here and save time to visit Dry Tortugas National Park, the top day trip from Key West!
Top Sights and Things to Do in Key West
Duval Street, and specifically its 6-block stretch within the Key West Historic District, is the epicenter of Key West’s famous party atmosphere. You could spend your entire time in Key West exploring its galleries, shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars. Be sure to check out Sloppy Joe’s Bar, a hangout of Ernest Hemingway and host to the “Papa Look Alike Contest” in July.
Itinerary priority: This is a must-see in Key West!
Mallory Square is a waterfront plaza at the end of Duval Street, adjoining the seaport. With shopping, restaurants, bars, and the best place in Key West to see the sunset, be sure to save time in your itinerary for this spot!
Itinerary priority: This is an iconic place for sunset, so try to add it if you can.
Smathers Beach | Best Beach in Key West
Located on the south shore of Key West, Smathers Beach is the island’s longest and calmest beach, with nearly a mile of soft white sand and palm trees. It’s a public beach, with chair rental and food trucks available.
Itinerary priority: Add it to the list if you haven’t yet had enough beach time and won’t be able to see Dry Tortugas.
Google Maps | Address: 2601 S Roosevelt Blvd, Key West, FL 33040
This simple but iconic monument is located at the southernmost tip of the continental U.S., 90 miles north of Cuba.
Itinerary priority: If you don’t have a photo here, have you even been to Key West?
Google Maps | Address: Whitehead St &, South St, Key West, FL 33040
The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
The Hemingway Home was the residence of American writer Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s. Located across from the Key West Lighthouse, it’s the most popular tourist attraction on the island. Legend has it that its many celebrated polydactyl (6-toed) cats are descendants of one that Hemingway owned. The cats have the run of the home and gardens. If you have time, visit the lighthouse across the street for the best views of Key West.
Itinerary priority: A must-see for history and literature buffs, as well as cat lovers.
Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
Take a break from Duval Street and walk among hundreds of butterflies & birds including flamingos in this glass-enclosed conservatory. In the learning center, you can explore butterfly migration and science, then look for butterfly souvenirs in the adjoining gift shop. Be sure to wear bright colors if you want the butterflies to land on you!
Itinerary priority: It might sound nerdy but I loved it, so I’m going to rate this one a must-see.
Dry Tortugas National Park Day Trip
Almost 70 miles west of Key West lies the remote Dry Tortugas National Park. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park is the home of historic Fort Jefferson, crystal clear blue waters, coral and marine life, and a vast assortment of bird life. Get my detailed guide for a Dry Tortugas day trip or camping here.
Itinerary priority: Dry Tortugas is a bucket-list destination as one of the most remote U.S. National Parks. If you’re out of time or money on this trip, you’ll have to save it for your next Key West visit!
Last Updated on January 20, 2021 Planning a trip to Key West? Be sure to include a visit to Dry …
Where to Eat and Drink in Key West
Captain Tony’s Saloon| Old school pub dating to 1851
Blue Heaven | Quirky, iconic spot with Floridian-Caribbean cuisine & key lime pie. Located in a tropical plant-filled garden where Hemingway once officiated boxing matches
The Flaming Buoy Filet Co. | Steak & seafood spot in a funky tropical space
The Stoned Crab | Top Key West eatery specializing in fresh seafood including stone crab and lobster, plus cocktails
Key Best Pizza and Coffee | Affordable family-friendly spot with the best pizza on the island
Better Than Sex | Key West dessert restaurant with a speakeasy atmosphere
Where to Stay in Key West
Key West has a wealth of accommodation options for every traveler, from budget and luxury stays to clothing optional resorts. There are also Airbnb rental homes in the traditional Key West “conch-style” architecture. Old Town is the best place to stay for first-time travelers and for proximity to sights, restaurants, and nightlife. All of the resorts below offer parking; although most hotels in the historic district add an extra charge for this, since space is limited.
Don’t miss my guide to the best Airbnbs in Old Town Key West – from budget options to luxury stays for a group.
Planning a Florida vacation? Get tips on the best Key West Airbnb stays for solo travelers, couples or groups of any size: honeymoons, families, bachelorettes & more!
Ready to hit the road?
Have you decided to add a Miami to Key West road trip to your bucket list? Pin this guide for later, so you’ll have my updated tips when you’re ready to book!
Booking Resources & Tips for Your Trip
✈ Flights | Check routes with Skyscanner or Google Flights. I usually book direct with the airline for ease of seat selection as well as changes or cancellations.
🏨 Hotels | My favorite site for the best rates and flexible bookings is Booking.com. After just 2 stays in 2 years, you can get special perks with their Genius program.
🧳 Travel Gear | Check out my favorite gear and packing lists for resources for your trip.
🏡 Local Stays & Experiences | Airbnb is one of the best ways to stay like a local and have extra amenities for your trip. Their Experiences – tours led by locals – are one of my favorite ways to delve into local culture.
🧾 Travel Insurance | Travel insurance can protect you in case of illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. I use World Nomads for my trips, with coverage designed for adventurous travelers including overseas medical, evacuation, baggage, and a range of adventure sports and activities.
🌄 Group Adventure Tours | Small group adventure tours from G Adventures or Intrepid Travel are the perfect solution for traveling on a budget or with minimal planning. Read my reviews here.