The great Florida road trip from Orlando to Key West

  • Post last modified:October 7, 2021
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A road trip from Orlando to Key West along the west coast of Florida is a journey like no other. The west coast of Florida is often called the best coast for its beautiful sandy beaches and laid-back ambience. And the Orlando to Key West itinerary takes you from the capital of theme parks to dreamy beach destinations, Everglades and finally the end of the road in Florida Keys.

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Orlando to Key West guide

Highlights on the Orlando to Key West road trip are listed below. For even more great Florida road trip destinations you also find additional stops along the way.

  • Total distance: 587 mi / 943 km
  • Total driving time: 13 h

A. Orlando – The road trip to Key West begins with the theme park capital

In Orlando you start the spectacular Florida road trip to Key West in the best way possible. In the city in Central Florida you find entertainment for every traveler.

Most of all Orlando is a magic city dedicated to amusement. And the things to do in Orlando of course include the spectacular theme parks. The city’s famous theme parks including Disney World, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Sea World could keep you busy for week(s) before you begin the Orlando to Key West road trip.

In comparison, just Walt Disney World with its 43 square miles is as big as two Manhattan islands. The theme parks are so huge that you in Orlando always find a new attraction to try, or a new colorful character to meet.

But the days when Orlando was just about the theme parks are long gone. To the theme parks you can add great shopping and a fun nightlife. International Drive is Orlando’s main tourist strip and it’s lined with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, shops, attractions and nightlife.

Where to stay

There are many great places to stay in Orlando when you visit on the Orlando to Key West road trip. Lake Buena Vista keeps you closest to Disney but other options are International Drive, Kissimmee and if you don’t come for theme parks Downtown Orlando.

Start of Orlando to Key West road trip at Disney World
Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

B. Clearwater Beach – The first beach stop on the Orlando to Key West drive

  • Driving distance: 118 mi / 189 km
  • Driving time: 2.5 h

Clearwater Beach consistently wins the title as the best beach in Florida, and even so in the entire US. Visiting Clearwater Beach is without a question a very good choice on the road trip from Orlando to Key West.

The sand on Clearwater Beach is all white and fine. That it is so fine creates that special and wonderful crunch when you step on it and your feet push the sand together. Clearwater Beach is also very well taken care of and it feels as clean and spotless as a beach possibly could.

But the popularity of the beach also originates in its accessibility. Clearwater Beach is lined by a boardwalk, which makes it easy to reach your favorite spot on the beach. Especially the very hot and humid days the boardwalk is appreciated by beach-goers.

If you want to reach the centre of activity you can just continue on the boardwalk until you reach Pier 60, which extends out into the Gulf of Mexico. There you except for a magnificent view also frequently find street performers, musicians and other liveliness. More often than not something fun is going on at Pier 60.

Where to stay

Clearwater Beach South is the most popular area with places to stay in Clearwater Beach. There you have most dining options and attractions within walking distance. For a more peaceful stay away from the buzz Sand Key Park is located just a short drive south of Clearwater Beach.

Pier 60 at Clearwater Beach
Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach, FL.

C. Sanibel Island – Time to get closer to nature in South Florida

  • Driving distance: 166 mi / 267 km
  • Driving time: 3 h

Sanibel Island is just like Clearwater Beach a beach destination on the west coast of Florida. But don’t assume they are alike when you reach Sanibel Island on the Orlando to Key West drive. Life on Sanibel Island is a strong contrast to Clearwater Beach.

The trip from the hectic mainland to Sanibel Island on Sanibel Causeway takes you to a completely different place and mind-set. Sanibel Island is a great place for a relaxing getaway where you fully unwind without any distractions. The best things to do on Sanibel Island are about exploring nature.

High rises are not allowed on the island and the tallest building is said to not be any taller than the tallest palm tree. At night no lights should be visible from the beach because that would disturb the sea turtles. Life on Sanibel Island clearly is with the nature.

Sanibel Island possesses 15 miles (24 km) of great beaches and a wide variety of animal species. The conditions for biking are near optimal. There are 25 miles (40 km) of bike path for you to travel on as you explore Sanibel Island.

A highlight on Sanibel Island is J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. The area on the island is world-famous for its impressive bird populations. The tropical birds seem to enjoy Sanibel at least as much as the island’s human tourists.

Living side by side with nature on Sanibel Island is a fantastic experience. But for a more lively time on the Orlando to Key West road trip things to do in Fort Myers Beach is just a short drive away.

Where to stay

There are places to stay in Sanibel Island and vicinity for every traveler. Sanibel Island is all about nature and offers quiet times on the Florida road trip. In contrast you in Fort Myers Beach find more liveliness if you rather prefer that.

  • Island Inn – Dreamy and central on peaceful Sanibel Island.
The lighthouse on Sanibel Island
The lighthouse on Sanibel Island, FL.

D. Naples – A charming beach town on the Orlando to Key West road trip itinerary

  • Driving distance: 53 mi / 85 km
  • Driving time: 1.5 h

You just can’t have enough of the pristine Florida beaches on the Orlando to Key West itinerary. Naples is another dreamy beach destination on the drive from Orlando to Key West.

Naples is one of the most charming beach towns in the entire state of Florida. And Naples is located so far south that winter never really gets there. Because of that Naples is great for lazy days on the beach even in winter.

The beaches in Naples are alone good reasons to visit on the Orlando to Key West road trip. A South Florida beach vacation in Naples with crystal-clear water, white sand and relaxing palm trees is stunning.

A fun beach bonus also is that dolphins love to play in the shallow water near Naples Pier. So make sure that you have your camera ready at all times when you visit the beach in Naples on the Orlando to Florida Keys road trip.

Naples Pier is also the best spot in the South Florida town to watch sunsets. Every time the sun sets in front of you over the Gulf of Mexico is as spectacular.

Where to stay

Old Naples is the city’s historic area with places to stay in Naples that delivers time after time. In Old Naples you find the picturesque pier, an appreciated entertainment scene and a unique upscale ambience. Fifth Avenue South in Old Naples is regarded as one of the most exclusive addresses in the entire US.

  • Cove Inn – Cozy marina views in Old Naples.
The beautiful Naples Pier at sunset
The beautiful Naples Pier at sunset.

Additional stop: South Florida is gorgeous with more beautiful places than you can count. Marco Island is another gem with white sand, blue water and stunning sunsets that’s located 20 miles (32 km) south of Old Naples. Marco Island is smaller, quieter and offers less things to do than Naples. But maybe that’s exactly what you’re looking for?

E. Everglades – Visit the locals on the Florida road trip

  • Driving distance: 87 mi / 140 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

The ultimate Florida road trip must include great beaches like Clearwater Beach, Sanibel Island and Naples. But the Orlando to Key West road trip should also include the vastness and wildness of the Everglades. And now it’s finally time to say hello to the locals of the Everglades.

To really understand Florida a visit to Everglades is a must. It’s a subtropical wetland ecosystem that spans around two million acres in central and south Florida.

On this Florida road trip from Orlando you pass Everglades National Park when you cross the state to get to Key West. So it’s very convenient to spend some time there while you’re in the area on the Orlando to Florida Keys road trip.

Taking an airboat tour is a great way to see alligators in Everglades. The famous Florida alligators, exotic birds and lizards often show themselves as you travel the water. Just remember to bring your earplugs for the ride, the airboats can be louder than you think.

Where to stay

In Everglades City you find the places to stay near Everglades National Park with the best park access. Everglades City is located right where Everglades National Park begins and offers a taste of old Florida swamp life. In Everglades City you find the Gulf Coast Visitor Center and many airboat companies for going deep into the Everglades.

Road trip to the alligators in the Everglades
Gators of the Everglades, FL.

F. Islamorada – Laid-back island life in Florida Keys

  • Driving distance: 82 mi / 132 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

The road trip from Orlando to Key West has now reached Florida Keys. And the most unique stretch of the entire drive from Orlando to Key West is the Overseas Highway.

From Key Largo in the very upper part of the island chain Florida Keys you travel from key to key on the Overseas Highway. For every mile along the 113-mile (182 km) long highway you get closer and closer to the southernmost point of the continental United States in Key West.

The vibe gets more and more relaxed for every mile you travel through the Florida Keys. Islamorada is the halfway point between Miami and Key West and a great place to unwind. Water activities are a big part of life in the Florida Keys and the best things to do in Islamorada are connected to the water.

A very memorable thing to do in Islamorada is to paddle over to the very nearby Indian Key Historic State Park. The small and once inhabited Indian Key used to be a bubbling island community with a core of successful shipwreckers. Nowadays the key is abandoned but you can still see and explore traces of old structures on the tiny island.

Make sure that you bring your snorkel gear for the Orlando to Florida Keys drive to make the most of the water activities. Indian Key might be abandoned but the waters surrounding the island certainly aren’t. Exotic fish thrive in the blue and crystal-clear Florida Keys waters.

Where to stay

In Islamorada you find a great variety of Florida Keys places to stay. The area offers both luxury resorts and more humble yet satisfying Florida Keys lodging.

Blue water, white sand and green palm trees
Laid-back island life in Islamorada, Florida Keys.

Additional stops: Marathon a little deeper into the Keys than Islamorada is a great additional or alternative stop on the Orlando to Key West road trip. See the Miami to Key West road trip itinerary for more stops in the Florida Keys.

G. Key West – Finish the Florida road trip in the southernmost paradise

  • Driving distance: 81 mi / 130 km
  • Driving time: 2 h

When you reach the last island of the breathtaking Overseas Highway on the Orlando to Key West drive it’s not just the end of the road. You also reach the southernmost point of the continental US.

Key West is the perfect place to round off the amazing road trip. The island of Key West is a tropical paradise that lives at its own pace. Life on the island is laid-back and trouble-free. Winters don’t dare to intrude on the mighty endless summer here.

But lazy days in great weather is far from everything that Key West has to offer. The tropical key is packed with fun things for every traveler to enjoy. Hit the beach, take a boat tour, visit the Ernest Hemingway House and climb Key West Lighthouse. Enjoying Duval and Whitehead Street in Old Town is the perfect ending to the Orlando to Key West road trip.

Buoy standing at dock in Key West
The end of the continental US.

Find accommodation in Key West

Use the booking tool below to find the perfect places to stay in Key West. Browse the map for options in various areas, or click on the search button to get all options listed.

The great Florida road trip from Orlando to Key West FAQ

Here you find the answers to some frequently asked questions about the great Florida road trip from Orlando to Key West.

How far is it to drive from Orlando to Key West?

The road distance from Orlando all the way to Key West is 393 miles (632 km) if you drive the shortest possible route. The road trip route presented here is 587 miles (943 km).

How long does it take from Orlando to Key West by car?

Total Orlando to Key West driving time is estimated at 6.5 hours if you drive the shortest possible route. If you choose the route presented here the drive takes 13 hours. These numbers are excluding any stops along the way.

How long time do you need to make the Florida road trip?

The Florida road trip from Orlando to Key West can be done in just a few days. But to fully enjoy the entire Orlando to Key West itinerary it’s recommended to have two weeks. Add more if you want more time on the beach.

Should you make the road trip Orlando to Key West or drive Key West to Orlando?

Road tripping from Key West to Orlando could be as good as doing it Orlando to Key West. Ask yourself if you would prefer to end the trip with some laid-back Key West time or with theme park fun in Orlando.

Continue reading

Key West visitors guide >

Places to stay in Florida Keys >

Must see places in Florida >

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