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Miami to Key West Road Trip

Miami to Key West Road Trip Itinerary: 17 Best Stops (2023)

Are you looking for an adventurous, fun-filled road trip in 2023? Look no further than a Miami to Key West road trip! From iconic beaches, exciting nightlife options and plenty of other opportunities to explore and experience a unique culture— this drive takes it all!

You’ll see views ranging from crystal blue waters along South Beach to stunning keys off the coast of Florida, but you’ll also enjoy a taste of some of the must-try cuisines found throughout south Florida and the Keys.

Follow my Miami to Key West road trip itinerary and I’ll show you what stops not to miss out on while taking your dreamy Miami to Key West road trip journey. Explore little known gems like Big Pine Key Resort, where you can tent camp, RV camp, or stay in one of their rental airstreams. it’s going be one wild ride full of fun and adventure on a Florida Keys road trip!

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Miami to Key West Road Trip Drive

It is absolutely a great decision to take a Miami to Key West road trip! Roadtripping down the Florida Keys is an unforgettable experience. From Miami, you’ll take US-1 South over miles of stunning coastline all the way to Key West. It takes approximately four hours to reach Key West, so plan to stay at least two days in the Keys..

Along the way, you can stop at various points of interest like Bahia Honda State Park, and John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. I’ve shared 17 best sites on a Miami to Key West drive.

Once you arrive in Key West and settle in, plan a trip over to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Not only will you get to soak up some sun on a beautiful beach, but you will also have an opportunity to snorkel a historic fort, and explore it on foot. All in all, it’s definitely worth taking a drive from Miami to Key West for an unforgettable adventure

Miami to Key West Day Trip

The short answer is, yes, that is possible. If you don’t want to drive all the way down to Key West, we suggest a short 2-hour drive over to Fort Myers for the Miami to Key West ferry.

Plan to stay overnight in Fort Myers or Naples the evening prior, as the Key West Express fast ferry leaves Fort Myers Beach at 7 am and boards for the return at 5 pm (these times are subject to change, so check the website). The journey takes about 3.5-4 hours from port to port.

How many days is enough for a Miami to Key West Road Trip?

You should ideally plan for three days or more for a Miami to Key West road. This will give you ample time to stop along the way and explore, spend time in Key West and experience some of the cool things to do in the Florida Keys.

You’ll see incredible water scenery as you take a Miami to Key West road trip

How much time would it take for a Miami to Key West road trip?

A Miami to Key West road trip typically takes around 4-5 hours, depending on traffic and the route you take.

Miami to Key West Road Trip Distance

It’s approximately 160 miles of highway driving with no stops, but many people prefer to make more frequent stops along the way for sightseeing or dining. If you do decide to stop, make sure you factor in that additional time when planning your trip.

For the quintessential Florida Keys experience, the best route to take from Miami to Key West is US-1 South. One of the first stops on a Miami to Key West road trip is Key Largo to explore its stunning coral reefs and enjoy some beachside fun. Then continue south until you reach Islamorada, where you can soak up some sun at Anne’s Beach or grab a bite at one of the local restaurants. Then it’s on to Marathon.

Once in Marathon, you can check out the Dolphin Research Center for an interactive educational experience. Finally, make your way down to Key West for a relaxing day on Duval Street or an adventure along Smathers Beach.

Overseas Highway Mile Markers from Miami to Key West

The Overseas Highway Mile Markers from Miami to Key West are 0, 4.5, 8, 10.5, 17, 31.5, 35, 41.5, 47, 50.5, 52.5, 55.5, and 106 for the entire route. Each marker identifies how far you have traveled on the road—so it can be a helpful way to know when you’re approaching Key West! The halfway point between Miami and Key West is Islamorada.

When is the best time to drive from Miami to Key West?

Generally, mid-morning or mid-week is a great time to plan a Miami to Key West road trip. Avoid traveling during peak hours, such as morning and evening rush hour, and on weekends when traffic can be heavy and roads can be congested.

Weekends and holidays tend to be the busiest times of the year in South Florida and the Florida Keys. If possible, plan your trip for an off-season time as well, when there is less tourist activity and you may have an easier time with traffic. I also highly suggest avoiding Key West during Fantasy Fest (unless you love Fantasy Fest and all the crowds). Fantasy fest kicks off Friday, October 20 and ends Sunday, October 29, 2023.

A good time to plan a Miami to Key West road trip would during the off-season, which is typically early April to late May, late August to mid-October, and the month of January. These are the times when there are fewer tourists visit the area, giving locals more opportunities to explore their surroundings.

View from a car on a bridge over the water in the Florida Keys
Driving over the 7-Mile Bridge on the drive from Miami to Key West road trip offers stunning views in every direction

During off-season times, you’ll find lower prices for hotels and activities like snorkeling tours, as well as less traffic on the roads, and fewer crowds at some of the more popular destinations.

The off-season is also a great time for outdoor activities such as beach days, snorkeling, diving, or fishing trips since weather conditions tend to be milder than during peak seasons. Planning your Miami to Key West road trip during these off-season times offers a good time for everyone, and lower rates for hotels and tours.

The peak season for tourist destinations near Miami and Key West includes spring break, the summer months (June to September), the Christmas holiday season, and the annual Fantasy Fest in Key West. During these times, the area tends to be more crowded with tourists and prices tend to rise, making it more challenging to find deals on activities or hotels.

Traffic can also be much heavier during these times of the year as well, so if you’re trying to get somewhere quickly then this may not be a good time for your trip.

Miami

Start your Miami to Key West road trip with a visit to South Beach, Miami. This hip, energetic Miami district is full of gorgeous art deco architecture, amazing restaurants, and is one of the best Florida areas for nightlife. There is always something happening in South Beach!

A rock jetty on a beach with high rise condos, on the edge of a white sand beach and turquoise water, South Beach, Miami
South Beach Miami, with its vibrant nightlife and art deco architecture, is a great place to begin any Miami to Key West road trip.

Where to Stay on Your Road Trip to Key West From Miami

Key Largo - Where to Stay

Key Largo Vacation Rentals

When I travel with Jim or with my gal pals, I am choosing to stay in more vacation rentals. They offer much more flexibility, and room to spread out and just relax. After all, isn’t relaxation why we love to travel? Planning your Miami to Key West road trip, depending whether you are planning for a multi-generational trip or not, a vacation rental may be the perfection solution!

Choosing to stay in a Key Largo vacation rental versus a resort is becoming an increasingly popular choice for travelers looking to explore the Florida Keys. With a vacation rental, guests have the freedom to choose from a variety of options and can enjoy more space and amenities than with a resort.

Vacation rentals provide more privacy, which allows guests to relax and soak up their surroundings without feeling like they’re staying in a crowded hotel. Additionally, they offer better value for money when compared to resorts as they often feature fully equipped kitchens and living rooms, enabling guests to save money on meals by cooking at home. Finally, they can often provide access to a private beach or other outdoor activities such as fishing or kayaking.

All in all, if you’re looking for the perfect place to stay on your next trip to the Florida Keys, then you should definitely consider booking a Key Largo vacation rental!

Key Largo Resorts

Key Largo is home to a variety of acclaimed resorts which offer visitors the perfect combination of style, comfort, and convenience. Largo Resort & Marina is one of the most popular resorts on the island, boasting luxurious accommodations with breathtaking views of the Florida Bay. For an even more exclusive experience, guests can stay at The Ocean Reef Club, which features its own marina and world-class dining options. These are just a few of the amazing options available when it comes to reserving a stay in the beautiful Florida Keys!

Largo Resort & Marina

Considered one of the more breathtaking resort venues in the Florida Keys, Largo Resort is truly a sanctuary on the water. Its solitude is enhanced by 200 feet of beach, and authentic art pieces from Bali, all designed to evoke a feeling of peace and tranquility.

Resort Amenities include an infinity swimming pool, private beach and boat dockage, tiki hut, pier, a bar, pool floats, beach games, a meditation garden, and wallk-in bay access. If you are seeking world class amenities coupled with a complete tranquility, you’ve found it at Largo Resort.

Pro Tip: If you are planning a destination wedding, Largo Resort is an ideal spot for a destination beachfront wedding!

Holiday Day Inn Key Largo

The Holiday Inn Key Largo is centrally located on the Overseas Highway and right next to the Key Largo Marina. Amenities include free parking, pool, fitness center, and wifi. The rooms are clean and comfortable and have a mini fridge and flat-screen TV.

multi-story buildings line a canal as a rusty white steel boat is steered down the deep blue water canal
Don't miss a visit to the African Queen, and book a tour while in Key Largo on a Miami to Key West road trip. (photo credit: Jim Hill)

The hotel is adjacent to the Marina Del Mar, which is home to what I think is one of the coolest things you can do on a Miami to Key West road trip ~ the restored ORIGINAL African Queen featured in the Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart movie of the same name. This is something you will not find anywhere else, so plan a stop here on your Miami to Key West road trip.

Islamorada - Where to Stay

When visiting Islamorada, one of the best resorts to stay at is the Postcard Inn Resort & Marina.

Postcard Inn Resort & Marina

The Postcard Inn is a full-service resort includes an outdoor pool, marina, private beach, and bar. It’s located right on the waterfront and has direct access to the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay. A huge plus for the Post Card Inn Resort & Marina is they are pet friendly.

The Islander Resort

The Islander Resort is another popular option in Islamorada that provides easy access to boat ramps, marinas, and fishing charters. The property is beachside. Other great options include Hawks Cay Resort, Cheeca Lodge & Spa and Coral Lagoon Resort & Marina.

The Islander resort has two on-site dining options, Tides Beachside Bar & Grill and Elements Lounge and Restaurant. There are two pools and a hot tub as well on the property. There are 114 rooms and suites with tropical decor.

Checca Lodge and Spa

Cheeca Lodge and Spa is an award-winning resort located in the heart of Islamorada, Florida. The large and luxurious property sits on 27 acres of beautiful grounds with a white sand beach, crystal clear blue waters, lush gardens and championship golf course. Guests will find plenty of activities to enjoy such as snorkeling, paddle boarding and fishing. In addition to numerous amenities available onsite, guests can also take advantage of the various services offered like bike rentals, dining and spa treatments.

Islamorada Beer Company

For beer lovers, don’t miss a stop at Islamorada Beer Company. Islamorada Beer Company (Mile Marker 82) is a tropical oasis located in the heart of the Florida Keys. First, let’s say that a visit to Islamorada Beer Company will definitely help to put you in an “island frame of mind.”

The beer company offers an unforgettable experience with a variety of exceptional craft beers, live music, and outdoor seating. Once inside the tasting room, visitors can sample classic styles like pale ales and IPAs, or try some of their bolder offerings such as their barrel-aged sours and hazy IPAs. For non-beer drinkers, they have cocktails. The cocktails are created using spirits distilled on site (Islamorada Distilling Company). Try a flight of beer or flightable cocktails and you’re sure to catch the laid-back island vibe that the Keys are known for.

Grab a bite from the food truck, and be sure to bring your four-legged friends – the beer and cocktail garden is pet-friendly, and one of Mr. Zach’s favorite places in the Florida Keys on a Miami to Key West drive.

Next stop, Duck Key on the Miami to Key West road trip!

Duck Key

Duck Key is home to one of the most iconic resorts in the Florida Keys – Hawks Cay Resort.

Hawks Cay Resort

Hawks Cay takes advantage of the gorgeous natural setting that surrounds it, blending into the natural setting. This creates a tranquil and peaceful feeling as soon as you set foot on the resort property. It’s all about immersing yourself into the island frame of mind – slow and relaxed, taking time to enjoy the gorgeous nature all around you.

Lounge by the amazing saltwater lagoon or one of the resort pools, take a fishing charter, snorkeling, or diving trip, or plan a day of wellness at Calm Waters Spa.

For dining, guests have the option of 7 dining options on the property. Hawks Cay Resort is one of the Keys’ top-rated resorts and our favorite choice in the middle keys.

Once you leave Duck Key, you’ll hit Marathon, and then you are in Key West!

Where to Stay on Marathon

Isla Bella Beach Resort

At the beginning of the Seven Mile Bridge lies Isla Bella Beach Resort, a gorgeous luxury resort in the Florida Keys. A curving drive off the famed Overseas Highway brings guests to this stellar property, filled with native plants and tropical greenery.

Arriving at the stately lobby, visitors are greeted by their first view of the azure sea. Gleaming white architecture and sandy beaches abound, providing guests a tranquil respite from the world beyond.

The rooms are large and spectacular, with soaking tubs, walk-out balconies or verandas, and beachfront…this is blissful luxury in the heart of the Florida Keys!

There are three dining options on the property and a spa! I’m almost ready to pack my bags and head to the Keys as I write this!

Banana Bay Resort & Marina – located near the heart of Marathon, this picturesque resort offers direct access to both the Gulf and Atlantic sides of the island. The bonus is the resort has a marina, private pool, on-site dining options, and bike rentals, and they are pet friendly! There is a freshwater pool, complimentary breakfast every morning, and resort-wide wifi.

Upper Florida Keys: Miami to Islamorada – 84 miles, 2 hours

Driving from Miami to Key Largo is an incredibly scenic journey. Along the way, you will be able to take in beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Bay.

There are plenty of stops and activities you can enjoy on your trip, including a stop to visit John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park where you can go snorkeling and taking a tour of Everglades National Park.

After your day of exploring, you can enjoy all the delicious seafood that the Florida Keys have to offer at one of the many restaurants or beachside bars throughout the area. No matter how long or short your stay in Key Largo may be, it’s sure to be an adventure packed with unique experiences!

Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is an incredible destination for visitors of all ages. With over 1.5 million acres of unique landscape, there is something new to explore every day. From hiking along trails full of wildlife sightings and bird watching to taking a boat tour in search of alligators and Florida Panthers, the possibilities are endless.

Visitors should plan on spending at least one day exploring the park. After making your way through mangroves and swamps, take time to relax by canoeing or fishing on one of the many clear lakes. Experience the beauty of Florida’s wilderness with a trip to Everglades National Park!

November to April is Everglades National Park’s dry season, and it is a great time to visit this national park. First, temperatures are more comfortable and there is little to no precipitation.

This makes exploring the park much more enjoyable since you won’t have to worry about getting wet and it also reduces the risk of dangerous storms. Additionally, wildlife is more active during this time of year, so you can expect to come across some fascinating wildlife in the park.

Finally, most areas of the park will be accessible, allowing visitors to explore them fully. All in all, visiting Everglades National Park during November-April is an experience that will stay with you for years to come!

Popular activities include bird watching, fishing, canoeing and kayaking, nature walks, and scenic drives. You can also take a boat tour to explore the deeper waters of Florida’s wilderness.

Other attractions include taking a ranger-guided tram tour around the park or a visit to the Anhinga Trail where you can observe birds up close from an observation tower. For more adventurous types, many airboat tours are available for those wanting to get up close and personal with local wildlife.

From Everglades National Park, head to Key Largo on the Upper Florida Keys.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – (Mile Marker 102.5)

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is located in Key Largo, Florida, and covers approximately 178 nautical miles of offshore coral reef. It is the first underwater park in the US and offers many activities for visitors, including snorkeling, scuba diving, glass-bottom boat tours, kayaking, and fishing. To explore the nearby coral formations and wrecks beneath the surface of the water, guided diving and snorkeling tours are available. The park also has an on-site visitor center to learn more about its history and wildlife. Hours of operation vary depending on the season but are typically from 8 am-sunset.

There are guided tours available at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Visitors can book a snorkeling or diving tour to explore the coral formations and wrecks beneath the surface of the water. These guided tours are led by experienced professionals and provide an opportunity to view fish, sponges, coral, and other wildlife up close.

There are a number of local guided tour companies that offer tours at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Some of the popular tour companies include SunDiver Snorkeling ToursIsland Venture Tours, and Blue Water Divers.

These companies provide snorkeling and diving tours to explore the nearby coral formations, wrecks, and other underwater wildlife. They also provide equipment rentals, such as snorkels, fins, dive masks, and more.

Top 17 Places to Stop on the drive from Miami to Key West

As you drive through the islands of the Keys on your Florida Keys road trip, you see have lots of opportunities to stop and explore. Here are our top 17 things to see on your Florida Keys road trip.

Caribbean Club

Bahia Honda State Park: Enjoy picturesque views of nature with red mangroves, white sand beaches, osprey nests, and a historic bridge. Take a beach stroll and take a dip in the ocean, or snorkel close to the beach. The Bahia Honda Bridge is one of the most photographed and iconic sites in the Florida Keys. Dating back to railroad aristocrat, Henry Flagler, it was damaged in the massive 1935 hurricane.

Sparkling white sand with a tall palm tree, edged by turquoise water. In the background is a broken bridge.
Plan a stop at Bahia Honda State Park on a Miami to Key West drive, and spend some time on the beach, and snorkel the warm waters

Lignumvitae Key Botanical State Park: Get up close to rare tropical plants like the strange-looking Lignum Vitae trees as you explore this park found in swamplands near Big Pine Key.

No Name Pub: This Zagat rated rustic historical bar has been drawing customers through it’s doors since the 1930s when it was a general store. Today there is no general store, just a great casual dining experience in the Keys.

BIG PINE KEY, FL - CIRCA 2012: Patrons on famous No Name Pub circa 2012. The pub is a landmark in the Florida Keys, a popular tourist destination with over 2 million yearly visitors.

One of the coolest things about No Name Pub are the thousands of dollar bills, autographed and unautographed that decorate every square inch of the walls and ceiling of No Name Pub. Tip: Order the pizza – you won’t be disappointed!

Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary: Explore one of world’s most unique marine ecosystems with vibrant coral reefs and abundant fish species. No matter where you are the Florida Keys, you are never far from the National Marine Sanctuary.

Brown and silver striped fish swimming in clear turquoise water in the Florida Keys
Atlantic Spadefish swim along Molasses Reef in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: Go diving or snorkeling over miles of coral reef sites brimming with brilliantly colored young fish and other aquatic creatures.

Seven Mile Bridge: Marvel at one of the longest bridges in the world on your Key West drive. You’ll see sparkling turquoise waters that glisten under the Florida sun on either side of the bridge. The bridge begins in Marathon and ends at Little Duck Key. It is a spectacular way to finish the last leg of a Miami to Key West road trip!

Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key: Interact with wild dolphins and learn about their behaviors in this interactive center for research and education on Grassy Key, in Marathon.

The Blue Hole in the Florida Keys Wildlife Refuge: The Blue Hole is an abandoned quarry, is the only fresh water in the Florida Keys. Key deer drink from the hole, and you may spot alligators, turtles, snakes, fish, and a variety of birds.

a close up of a small deer, in the Florida Keys

Indian Key Historic State Park: This 11-acre deserted island was home to wreckers in the 1800s. After the historic hurricane of 1935, the island ceased being used or inhabited. In 1971, the State of Florida bought the Key and designated it a historic site.

The Turtle Hospital: Located in a former hotel in Marathon, the Turtle Hospital rehabilitates injured sea turtles. Visitors can tour the facility and see some of the rehabilition of turtles.

Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center: Visit injured birds as they heal here before being released back into the wild.

Curry Hammock State Park is another recommended stop on a roadtrip through the Florida Keys

Curry Hammock State Park: Unwind on white sand beaches fringed by shimmering waters where you can spot turtles paddling around in serene bays or mangroves swaying in coastal winds.

Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada: Spot tarpon fish jumping out of crystal clear water, or better yet, for a show you’ll never forget, buy some of the fish food and hand feed these massive creatures.

Feeding Tarpon at Famous tourist attraction in Islamorada, Florida Keys, USA summer travel tourism holiday.

Key West: Take a stroll along the iconic Duval Street and explore the unique culture of this lively city.

Visit the Ernest Hemingway House & Museum: Tour the former home of the writer and learn about his life and achievements. You might even spot a few of the famous six-toed cats that call the property home.

Ernest Hemingway's home in Key West is worth the stop on your Florida Keys road trip - and don't miss seeing the many 6-toed cats who live on the property.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historical State Park: Explore age-old stone walls from days gone by during the Civil War era then take a dip in beautiful blue waters afterward.

Southernmost Point: Set foot on what is arguably one of America’s most popular tourist attractions – The Southernmost Point Buoy – which marks the continental United States’ southernmost point!

Don't miss a photo opportunity at the Southernmost Point of the Continental USA on a Florida Keys road trip

Dry Tortugas National Park: Journey to an offshore archipelago and enjoy camping, kayaking, snorkeling, and bird watching. We love taking a seaplane over to the Dry Tortugas and touring Fort Jefferson. You can also arrive via boat.

Where to Eat on Drive From Miami to Key West

Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen is a great choice for a filling breakfast in Key Largo. The portions are a good size, and the food is delicious!

Stop in and visit Kermit’s Key Lime Pie Shoppe to get you in the Florida Keys mood. This is a Florida staple, but Kermit’s is the BEST key lime pie we’ve tried. Over the years Kermits has expanded, and they have multiple locations across Florida, and best of all? You can have Key Lime pies, cookies, jellies….you name it, all year long thanks to their online shop!

No Miami to Key West drive is complete without a stop at the historic icon, Sloppy Joe’s. In 1933, the day that Prohibition was repealed, the doors to Sloppy Joe’s were opened, and they are still open. This historic bar was one of Ernest Hemingway’s hangouts, and it’s worth a stop to grab an order of conch fritters and a cold cocktail.

Mangoes, located on Duval Street, one of the most famous streets in Key West, is a good choice for dinner. Ask to sit on their patio, so you can people watch as you dine. Jim and I can make a meal out of just sharing 3 or 4 of their appetizers!

Better Than Sex is hands down the most decadent, delicious dessert-only restaurant I have experienced! The name says it all, and it IS A MUST DO when in Key West. I guarantee you’ll have a sugar high afterward, but this is a place that can be as fun or as evocatively romantic as you choose. Think massive slices of cake married to decandently delightful chocolate cocktails….oh my!

Check out our Ultimate Florida Vacation Travel Planner to help you plan the perfect Florida vacation Miami to Key West road trip!

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