Driving from Miami to Key West is one of the most beautiful drives in the USA you can do. Here’s where to stop along the way.
Taking you from the glitz and glamour of Miami to the natural beauty of the Florida Keys, the Miami to Key West drive is definitely one to do in daylight.
Like any trip to Florida, you’re safe in the knowledge that this Miami to Key West road trip will give you plenty of time to enjoy the clear water and breathtaking beaches, but what you may not expect, is the fact that you can drive through it over the ‘Overseas Highway’ bridge. You’ll be surrounded by azure waters as you cruise across.
The drive to Key West from Miami is stunning.
Rather than doing the 3-4 hour drive all in one, I’d recommend breaking up the 164-mile distance from Miami to Key West with some of these top attractions.
I was a passenger on this trip a few years ago, squished in to the back seat of a 16-seater van.
I need to do this again, with me in the driving seat, and of a Mustang if possible. The good news is, renting a car in Miami is easy!
Your Miami to Key West Road Trip
Here are all the best stops if you want to drive from Miami to Key West. Make sure you plan enough time at the start of your trip, there are lots of great things to do in Miami to keep you busy.
This map of the Miami to Key West road trip will make it easier to envisage. Route seems pretty straight forward right? BUT, where to stop?
1. Explore Miami
You need at least a few days in Miami to start off your Miami to Key West road trip. It’s such a cool city, and there are loads of great things to do in Miami too – you definitely won’t run out!
My top recommendations would be to chill out on South Beach, go to Little Havana and do a food tour, and to book some sweet accommodation to get you out of the intense Miami heat. Also, you need to go out in the evening and experience the Miami nightlife.
WHERE TO STAY IN MIAMI: Hotel East Miami
Hotel East Miami is a wonderful accommodation with an onsite restaurant, fitness centre, retail shops, spas and bars. Each house has a modern walk in rain shower, Wi-Fi and floor to ceiling windows. Rooms have a spacious balcony, 50-inch flat screen TVs and coffee making services. There’s even an outdoor pool with four unique pool experiences; spa pool, cold plunge, hot tub and lap pool. You’ll thank me for it in the Miami heat!
ANOTHER MIAMI ACCOMMODATION: Mandarin Oriental Miami
The Mandarin Oriental has a balcony, flat-screen cable TV and a music docking station included in all guest rooms. Mandarin Oriental, Miami also offers an infinity-edge outdoor pool with butler service as well as a state-of-the-art fitness centre. After a yoga class or personal training session, guests can relax with a massage in the full-service spa. If you want a luxury experience to start off your Miami to Key West road trip, this is the hotel for you!
2. Take a boat trip in the Everglades
Rather than immediately going south from Miami to Key Largo, head west when you leave the city and come 30 minutes stop at the Everglades, one of the most unique and beautiful spots in the country.
The Everglades are a 20,202 km² area of wetlands made up of marshes, swamps, rivers, lakes and mangroves that, because of its unique tropical ecosystem, are home to loads of different species.
You could easily spend days here, but if you’re keen to keep on with the Miami to Key West drive, opt for just one activity like a boat tour, bird watching session or alligator farm visit. I went for the alligator airboat ride – it was wonderfully nervewracking!
You can prebook your Everglades alligator and airboat tour with GetYourGuide to get the best price, and know you have a space before you set off.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE EVERGLADES: Everglades Adventures Hotel Suites by Ivey House
The Everglades Adventures Hotel features huge family rooms and is in a great location. Every room is fitted with a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom. All units at Everglades Adventures Hotel Suites are equipped with a seating area too. If you want a spacious place to stay, near all the action and with good parking, then this is the hotel for you.
3. Snorkel at Key Largo
Another hour in the car and you’ll hit the first of the Florida Keys. Key Largo is known as the dive capital of the keys partly because it’s home to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the world’s largest artificial reef.
How can you drive by that and not take a peek?
Spend an afternoon swimming, snorkelling and scuba diving in amongst the reef as well as a Spanish shipwreck before refuelling somewhere like the Waffle House Diner, Mrs Mac’s Kitchen or Sundowners.
If you’re short on time this incredible 1 hour scenic flight over Key Largo will give you a good idea of the area, and a new perspective!
“Embark on the adventure of a lifetime and discover the wonders of Key Largo from above. Fly over the largest of the fabulous Florida Keys and soak up spectacular views of Biscayne Bay, Biscayne National Park, the Southern Glades, Miami Zoo, and more.”
WHERE TO STAY IN KEY LARGO: Kawama Yacht Club Apartment
The Kawama Yacht Club Apartment features beachfront accommodations with an outdoor swimming pool, a garden, a private beach area and free Wi-Fi. With free private parking, the apartment is in a great area for activities like snorkelling, diving and fishing.
The apartments have 2 bedrooms, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 2 bathrooms with a shower.
4. Eat at the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Factory
Just another 20 minutes on the Overseas Highway in your rental car and you can sample the official dessert of the Keys, key lime pie.
Made from the island-grown key limes, diners, cafes and bakeries across the coral cay archipelago say that they serve the perfect pie. But how will you know if you’ve never tried one before?
One of the best things about driving from Miami to Key West is all the foodie possibilities along the way.
Start your sweet pie journey in the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Factory so you can carry onto the rest of the keys with a benchmark in mind. Located in Tavernier off Mile Marker 92.2, you can enjoy a piece roadside in the secret garden or else take a pie to go.
5. Relax in Islamorada
Another 15 minutes into the Florida road trip and you’ll reach Islamorada, which ticks all the compulsory Key boxes of white sands and turquoise waters. But there’s way more to do here than simply beach nap and swim.
You can check out the History of Diving Museum or, if you’re playing passenger, swing by the Florida Brewing Company.
The favourite spot here though is a waterfront restaurant called Robbie’s. Aside from serving up great fish, it offers a bunch of activities including tarpon feeding which, given the huge pelicans waiting to catch the feed, can be pretty funny.
WHERE TO STAY IN ISLAMORADA: Islander Resort
The Islander Resort is a tranquil and relaxing retreat directly on the beach in the Florida Keys. This property offers spacious accommodation equipped with microwaves and refrigerators and easy access to attractions and activities. A variety of activities are found only minutes from the Islander Resort, including snorkelling and scuba diving.
6. See the animals in Marathon
Once you’ve pulled yourself away from Islamorada keep running down the miles from Miami to Key West before making another stop in the city of Marathon.
Spanning 13 islands, again it’s got the beaches, barrier reef and waters, but it’s also the home to loggerhead turtles living on the likes of Coco Plum and Sombrero beaches.
For $25, you can learn more about them by taking a tour of The Turtle Hospital, which rescues sea turtles and returns them to the waters once they’re well enough.
As if this place wasn’t hitting the cuteness factor hard enough, there’s then the Dolphin Research Center, Marathon Wild Bird Center and the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters too.
Make the effort to pop into some of these animal experiences on your drive from Miami to Key West and you can help contribute to the funding of the sanctuaries too.
WHERE TO STAY IN MARATHON: Key Breeze Hideaway LLC
Featuring garden views, Key Breeze Hideaway has a private beach area and barbecue facilities. The villa features 3 bedrooms, a flat-screen TV with cable channels, an equipped kitchen with a microwave and a fridge, a washing machine, and 2 bathrooms with a shower.
7. Enjoy cruising Seven Mile Bridge
Head out of Marathon and you’ll quickly reach the Seven Mile (6.8 miles in fact) Bridge, which is not technically a stop but something to take in. If you watch the video I made below, you can see me cycling across this.
This updated version of the historical bridge was completed back in 1982 to connect Marathon with the Lower Keys and, as one of the longest bridges in the world, it’s a big part of getting you from Miami to Key West.
The bridge runs across the Florida Strait and Gulf of Mexico with the old bridge for pedestrians running parallel. This is the perfect opportunity to crank up the radio and enjoy nothing but the open road, beautiful views and your favourite tunes as you drive the Florida Keys.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR THE 7-MILE BRIDGE: Tranquility Bay Resort
Every charming guestroom at the Tranquility Bay Resort includes a flat-screen TV, small refrigerator, and coffee-making facilities. The beach homes feature an en-suite kitchen, 42-inch flat-screen TV, and private laundry facilities.
Relax with in-room spa services or workout in the on-site fitness room. Water sports, such as kayaking and paddle boarding, are available.
8. Relax at the Bahia Honda State Park
At the end of the bridge you’ll reach this ‘beach haven and marine sanctuary’. For $8 a vehicle you can cruise on into paradise, aka the Bahia Honda State Park, and spend a few hours lapping up some relaxation.
Sunbathe, swim, snorkel or kayak, birdwatch, boat or bike, and if you end up staying until sunset, it’s the perfect place to do a bit of stargazing.
WHERE TO STAY AT BAHIA HONDA STATE PARK: Sunshine Key King Travel Trailer 6
The Sunshine Key King Travel Trailer 6 offers unique accommodation in Big Pine Key, free private parking and a great kitchen. This air-conditioned holiday home comes with a seating area, a kitchen with a microwave, and a cable flat-screen TV. A children’s playground can be found at the holiday home, along with a shared lounge. If you want to be right by the beach at the Bahia Honda State Park, then this is the holiday home for you.
9. Kayak at Big Pine Key
Drive to Key West from Miami and up next is the quieter Key of Big Pine. Kayak the calm waters here, explore the Blue Hole for alligators or else spot the island’s resident deer. The National Key Deer Refuge is in fact the top rated activity followed by a Key West eco tour, which involves dolphin spotting.
Before you get back in the car for the final stretch onto Key West, wet your whistle with a quick drink in No Name Pub. Since the eighties, patrons have been pinning currency onto every wall making it a place where money literally falls from the sky.
10. Have fun in Key West
You’ve made it!
Well done, you’ve driven from Miami to Key West, enjoying the best of the best stops along the way. Now, all you need to do is enjoy the delights of Key West. Make sure to visit The Hemingway House & Museum where Ernest himself once lived.
Here are a few of my favourite things about Key West, and a look at the plane trip I did out to Dry Tortugas National Park too. I got to sit up front with the pilot, it was amazing!
WHERE TO STAY IN KEY WEST: KEY LIME CALYPSO
Key Lime Calypso apartments come with a kitchen, an oven, a microwave and coffee machine, as well as a SWIMMING POOL. It’s in a great location right in the centre of Key West. Southernmost Point is half a km from Key Lime Calypso, and Key West Aquarium is 1 km from the property. If you want a central location, with a pool to cool off and some Key West flair, this is a great option for you.
ANOTHER HOTEL in KEY WEST: Parrot Key Hotel & Villas
Parrot Key Hotel & Villas is one of the best accommodation options in Key West, featuring a casual café, outdoor pool and a huge variety of activities. Guest can enjoy swimming and walks in the gardens. Rooms here are furnished with a 55-inch flat screen and a fridge. Guests can enjoy beautiful ocean and landscape views from their private terrace.
More Key West trips for a day trip
If you’re looking for ideas of what to do for day trips in Key West, take a look at these excursions.
Key West day trips
- Key West: Catamaran Tour with Snorkelling & Water Activities
- Key West: Glass-Bottom Boat Sunset Cruise and Reef Tour
- Key West: Rum and Reggae Afternoon Snorkel and Sunset
- Ghosts & Gravestones Tour of Key West
- Key West: Jet Ski Island Tour with Free Second Rider
Few ideas for what to do in the Florida Keys
You’ve done the drive from Miami to Key West – time to celebrate!
Best time to visit Florida
“Rainfall is quite heavy in the summer with 155mm spread over July that increases to 203mm in September. Thunderstorms are more likely in the summer, but they are usually brief.
If you prefer cooler weather, the best time to visit Florida is in low season. December has an average temperature of 16°C, but you can expect highs of up to 23°C.”– THOMAS COOK
Your Miami to Key West road trip
If you need anymore advice on taking a road trip in the USA, I have articles!
I’ve done quite a few road trips in Florida now, and the Miami to Key West one is definitely one of the most impressive. I hope you enjoy your trip, and let me know if this Miami Key West itinerary has helped you plan in the comments below.
Questions about driving from Miami to Key West
If you have any questions about the Miami to Key West road trip, just let me know in the comments below.
Is the Miami to Key West road trip worth it?
Oh, absolutely! I mean, you could just drive it in 4 hours, but where’s the fun in that?
Plan you drive from Miami to Key West to include at least a few of these road trip stops and it’ll be one to remember.
How many days do you need in Key West?
I was in Key West for three days, and I’d recommend anything up to 5, unless you really like beaches.
How far is the drive from Miami to Key West?
The journey from Miami to Key West is 159 miles, which takes around four hours direct along the Overseas Highway. Drive to Key West from Miami and you definitely won’t forget it!
Is Key Largo or Key West better?
Hmmm, difficult question. If you want more activities and attractions, then Key West is a good shout. If your idea of fun is in more ‘natural’ surroundings, then go to Key Largo.
The distance from Key Largo to Key West is only 2 hours. You can definitely have a good amount of time in both with this Miami to Key West road trip itinerary.
Check out these top tips on saving money on a USA road trip to ensure you can do all the more.
Accommodation in Key West
Need to book somewhere to stay in Key West? How about checking out the apartments on Booking.com? They have some beautiful beachside homes you can book for just you and your friends, or you can book a room in a Key West home. Either way it’s a bit more personal and exciting than a hotel.
Take a look at the best apartments in Key West on this link.
PIN THIS MIAMI TO KEY WEST ROAD TRIP FOR LATER