Driving from Miami to Key West is one of the most beautiful drives in the USA you can do. 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.
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
1. 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 1.5-mile 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!
2. 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.
3. 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?
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.
4. 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 visit The Hemingway House & Museum where Ernest himself once lived, 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 a bit of a comical exercise.
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.
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.
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.
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.
9. Kayak at Big Pine Key
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.
Pin for later
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. 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!