Key Largo to Key West road trip

  • Post last modified:November 19, 2023
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Driving from Key Largo to Key West is a bucket list experience. The Overseas Highway, which takes you from key to key all the way down to Key West, is one of the truly great American roads. Also capturing all the highlights along the way, this ultimate Key Largo to Key West road trip itinerary ensures that you make the most of the splendid occasion.

Some road trips give you multiple route options. The Key Largo to Key West road trip isn’t one of them.

The Overseas Highway, beautifully extending from mainland Florida to Key West, is the only route from Key Largo to Key West. But when you see it, that’s the only road you want to drive anyway.

Framed by some of the clearest waters in North America, the Overseas Highway is a drive like no other. The way it reaches out from the mainland is mind-bending — have a close look at the map before you begin the spectacular drive through the Florida Keys.

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  • Total distance: 97 mi / 156 km
  • Total driving time: 2 h

Key guide: Elevate your experience with the help of our elaborate guide on where to stay in Key West.

1. Key Largo

Key West, the capital of the Florida Keys, tries to pull you towards its bustling attractions. Yet don’t miss out on the best things to do in Key Largo before you turn your attention south.

As indicated by its name, Key Largo is at 33 miles (53 km) long the largest segment of the Keys. This island, where the Overseas Highway begins, is a great place to make acquaintance with the Florida Keys’ love for water.

Go underwater at America’s first undersea park

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, located at the start of the Overseas Highway, is known as the first undersea park in the United States. It’s an exciting first place to check out on the Key Largo to Key West itinerary.

Home to stunning coral reefs and an impressive marine life, the park really shows how rich the Keys are in natural beauty.

You can explore John Pennekamp’s corals by diving and snorkeling or from a glass-bottom boat. So it’s totally up to you how active you want to be when visiting.

If you don’t want to, you don’t even need to dip your feet in the water when exploring John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Recline aboard the African Queen

Another nice way to explore the waters of the Florida Keys and to learn some movie history is by taking the African Queen on the Key Largo canals. This steamboat got famous through the 1951 movie, starring Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, with the same name.

An African Queen canal trip is, of course, extra interesting if you have seen the movie. But even if you haven’t seen it, the boat tour is a pleasant stop on the Key Largo to Key West itinerary.

Where to stay

You find quintessential lodging already at the start of the Overseas Highway. Stunning Key Largo resorts show that you don’t need to go deep into the Florida Keys to find some real gems.

Overseas Highway sign in Key Largo, Florida, USA
From Key Largo to Key West on the Overseas Highway.

2. Islamorada

  • Driving distance: 17 mi / 27 km
  • Driving time: 0.5 h

After a first taste of Florida Keys in Key Largo, the road trip from Key Largo to Key West continues further down in the Keys. It’s time to explore the fun things to do in Islamorada.

Islamorada is packed with opportunities to fully take in the beautiful environment of the Florida Keys. The area is known as the sport-fishing capital of the world, and water activities are in abundance.

Explore the forgotten Indian Key

The Indian Key Historic State Park is a unique stop on the drive from Key Largo to Key West. The state park is located within sight of the Overseas Highway. However, it’s offshore and only accessible by boat.

Boasting a surprisingly rich past, Indian Key became the first county seat of Dade County in 1836. Wrecking ships was big business, and the first Indian Key inhabitants even wanted to compete with Key West.

In the end it didn’t work out, and a long time has passed since anyone lived on Indian Key. But a visit to the island is both historically interesting and a great chance to see some exceptional marine life on the Key Largo to Key West road trip.

Feed fish at Robbie’s

Waterfront in Islamorada, Robbie’s is both a fun and tasty stop on the Key Largo to Key West road trip.

Experience wise, people from all around the world go to Robbie’s for the opportunity to feed tarpons. In fact, the place has become an institution along the Overseas Highway.

Massive silver giants wait at Robbie’s dock for food. They love to snatch it right out of your hands — those tarpons certainly aren’t shy when you dangle fish on the surface — and down in their stomachs it goes.

While you’re here, neither miss out on Robbie’s Hungry Tarpon Restaurant and Thirsty Tarpon Bar. No matter if you’re after breakfast, lunch, dinner or cocktails, Robbie’s is a great place to be.

Where to stay

Islamorada is a superb base on the Key Largo to Key West road trip. You can’t stay on Indian Key nowadays, but there’s still plenty of tempting Islamorada lodging to choose from.

Clear waters, white sand and swaying palm trees in Islamorada, Florida
Islamorada’s world-class setting.

3. Marathon

  • Driving distance: 30 mi / 48 km
  • Driving time: 0.5 h

As you leave Islamorada, you have passed the halfway point between Miami and Key West. In Marathon you’re instead about halfway to Key West from the start of the Overseas Highway.

When the Florida Keys Overseas Railroad was built in the early 1900s, the stakes were high and efforts put in by the workers enormous. They worked day and night to finish the project on schedule.

As they worked, the men said that “this is getting to be a real marathon”. Hence the name for the local station and later city was born.

Relax on sandy Sombrero Beach

It’s almost impossible to not long for a beach to relax on when you, in the endless summer season of Florida Keys, travel from Key Largo to Key West. And in Marathon you find one of the most popular beaches in the Florida Keys, Sombrero Beach.

Sombrero Beach appeals with a sandy shoreline, calm waters and palm trees that give shade for when the direct sun feels too strong. Its shallow water is ideal for a day of unwinding, sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling on the Key Largo to Key West road trip.

Discover a Florida Keys turtle sanctuary

From April to October it’s nesting season for the Florida Keys’ population of loggerhead turtles. That’s great, but how can you get close to and learn more about them as you drive from Key Largo to Key West?

For a beautiful learning experience, head to the Florida Keys Turtle Hospital in Marathon. The turtle hospital rehabilitates injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat.

If you book a guided tour, you get to learn everything there’s to know about turtles and the hospital’s efforts to save them. A visit is rewarding both for adults and younger travelers on a Key Largo to Key West family road trip.

Where to stay

The heart of Florida Keys is a true island oasis. Marathon has a lot of great places to stay to really make the most of the time in the central Florida Keys area.

Aerial view of iconic Seven Mile Bridge spanning the clear blue waters of the Florida Keys
The iconic Seven Mile Bridge, just west of Marathon.

4. Lower Keys

  • Driving distance: 21 mi / 34 km
  • Driving time: 0.5 h

Now the Key Largo to Key West road trip is getting really deep into the Florida Keys. The Lower Keys is the area of the Keys after the Seven Mile Bridge, which includes every key from Bahia Honda Key and Big Pine Key until Key West.

Unwind on Bahia Honda Beach

Spending time in Florida Keys is as much about unwinding as it is about seeing things.

Sombrero Beach, situated higher up in the Florida Keys, is always mentioned as one of the best beaches in the region. Another renowned beach not to miss on the Key Largo to Key West road trip is located in the Lower Keys, Bahia Honda Beach.

In Bahia Honda State Park you find a picturesque beach for perfect days in the sun. The beach, overlooking the historic Bahia Honda Rail Bridge, has crystal-clear water and lots of shoreline to explore. Its shallow water makes it a great stop for families on the Key Largo to Key West drive.

Unload all your beach gear, and preferably a tasty picnic, for this one.

Gaze at the tiny Key deer

Big Pine Key is the place of the National Key Deer Refuge. It has been established to protect Florida Keys wildlife, most famously the Key deer.

The Key deer is the tiniest member of the North American white-tailed deer family. So you might be surprised about how small it really is.

Covering 9,000 acres, the refuge is also home to the Lower Key marsh rabbit and the silver rice rat.

This is a fun place to visit on the Key Largo to Key West road trip for anyone who likes nature and animals.

Impress co-travelers: Bucks (males) reach 30 inches (76 cm) at the shoulders and weigh around 80 pounds (36 kg). Does (females) are even smaller, reaching 26 inches (66 cm) at shoulders and weighing 65 pounds (29 kg). That’s certainly tiny, isn’t it?

Where to stay

The Lower Keys area is quiet and certainly far away from the buzz. But that just makes it the the most perfect place to unwind before you reach the quirky Key West.

Bahia Honda State Park in Florida Keys,  overlooking the historic Bahia Honda Rail Bridge
View from Bahia Honda Beach.

5. Key West

  • Driving distance: 29 mi / 47 km
  • Driving time: 0.5 h

After a spectacular road trip from Key Largo to Key West, you’re finally there. In Key West not only does the Overseas Highway end but also the continental United States.

Let’s make the most of our time in this unique city.

Enter the Hemingway Home

If just one thing to do is mandatory in Key West, it’s probably the Ernest Hemingway Home. Here, on Whitehead Street and surrounded by Key West tranquility, the celebrated American writer and Nobel Prize winner spent a majority of the 1930s.

As you tour Hemingway’s former home and workplace, dotted with descendants of the writer’s own cats, the many colorful stories fascinate you. From the wives, he was married four times, to the of the time cutting-edge swimming pool, there’s so much to indulge in.

Have a good time on Duval

Key West locals with a sense of humor, which includes most of them, say Duval Street is the longest street in the world. After all, it runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean.

But distances aren’t long in the island city Key West. Duval Street is, in fact, just a little over one mile long. However, lined by one quirky attraction after another, one mile is more than enough.

Check out Duval’s many cute souvenir shops, enjoy a slice of key lime pie or sit down at Sloppy Joe’s, once Hemingway’s favorite bar, for one of the most iconic nightlife experiences in America.

Mallory Square, known for its nightly sunset celebration, is located at the northern end of Duval Street. At Duval’s southern conclusion, the family-friendly Butterfly Garden shows that Duval is a street for all ages.

Where to stay

After a scenic Key Largo to Key West road trip, it’s nice to not have to rely on your car for a while. From Key West hotels in Old Town you have most attractions and things to do within walking distance.
Statue depicting railroad tycoon Henry Flagler sitting on bench outside Flagler Station in Key West
You have arrived in Key West.

Summary of Key Largo to Key West drive

That was such a sweet ride, wasn’t it? From north to south, here you have all the best Key Largo to Key West stops one more time.

  1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
  2. African Queen
  3. Indian Key Historic State Park
  4. Robbie’s
  5. Sombrero Beach
  6. Florida Keys Turtle Hospital
  7. Bahia Honda Beach
  8. National Key Deer Refuge
  9. Ernest Hemingway Home
  10. Duval Street

Road trip from Key Largo to Key West FAQ

How long does it take to drive the ultimate Key Largo to Key West road trip?

This ultimate Key Largo to Key West road trip is 97 miles (156 km) long. Driving it takes roughly 2 hours, not including any stops along the way. If you start at the southern tip of Florida’s mainland, where the Overseas Highway technically begins, the drive is 113 miles (182 km).

There’s only one route from Key Largo to Key West, the scenic Overseas Highway.

Where should I stop between Key Largo and Key West?

The main stops included on the ultimate Key Largo to Key West road trip are Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Lower Keys and Key West.

How many days do I need to take the Key Largo to Key West road trip?

Because the Key Largo to Key West road trip is such a short drive, you can easily take it in just a day, or even an afternoon. However, that’s not how the Overseas Highway best is experienced. To make the most of the drive, it’s strongly recommended that you spend at least a few days on the way down to Key West.

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