The great Florida road trip from Orlando to Key West

  • Post last modified:April 12, 2021
  • Reading time:12 mins read
The great Florida road trip from Orlando to Key West

This road trip itinerary takes you from Orlando to Key West along the west coast of Florida. The west coast of Florida is often called the best coast for its beautiful beaches and the laid-back beach ambience. And the itinerary takes you from the capital of theme parks to dreamy beach destinations, Everglades and finally the end of the road in the southernmost point in the continental US.

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Orlando to Key West guide

Stops along the way are Clearwater Beach, Sanibel Island, Naples, Everglades and Islamorada before you arrive to Key West.

You find the stops on the itinerary listed and marked out on the Orlando to Key West road trip map below.

For more stops in the Florida Keys, add stops on the Miami to Key West itinerary.

  • Total driving time: 13 hours
  • Total distance: 587 miles (943 km)

A. The theme park capital Orlando

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

Orlando is a magic city dedicated to amusement. 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. It’s so huge that in Orlando you 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.

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

Read more: Amazing places to visit in Orlando where dreams come true >>

B. Stunning beaches in Clearwater Beach

  • Driving time: 2.5 h
  • Distance: 118 miles (189 km)

Clearwater Beach consistently wins the title as the best beach in Florida, and even so in the entire US. It was named the best beach in the country in TripAdvisor’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice Awards. So it’s without a question a very good choice for the road trip from Orlando to Key West.

The sand on the 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. And the beach is very well taken care of. 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.

If you want to reach the centre of activity you can just continue on the boardwalk along the beach until you reach Pier 60, which extends out into the blue 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.

The Clearwater Beach South and Pier 60 area is a great option for where to stay in Clearwater Beach when visiting on the Orlando to Key West drive. Then you have most dining options and attractions within walking distance. For a more peaceful stay away from the buzz strong alternatives are Clearwater Beach North or Sand Key Park just a short drive south of Clearwater Beach.

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

Read more: A wonderful beachy escape to Clearwater Beach, Florida >>

C. Feel closer to nature on Sanibel Island

  • Driving time: 3 h
  • Distance: 166 miles (267 km)

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 over the bridge from the hectic mainland to Sanibel takes you to a completely different place and mind-set. Sanibel is a great place for a relaxing getaway where you get to feel closer to 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. And 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.

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

Living side by side with nature is fantastic. But if you’re in for a more lively time on the Orlando to Key West road trip, all the action and fun things to do in Fort Myers Beach is just a short drive away.

The lighthouse on Sanibel Island
The lighthouse on Sanibel Island.

Read more: Fun things to do on Sanibel Island, Florida >>

D. South Florida beach fun in Naples

  • Driving time: 1.5 h
  • Distance: 53 miles (85 km)

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

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

The beach in Naples is alone a good reason to visit on the Orlando to Key West road trip. The crystal-clear water, white sand and palm trees that grow near the edge of the water makes it as picturesque as beaches get.

As a beautiful bonus dolphin sightings are common from the shore of the beach. The dolphins love to play in the shallow water near the pier. So make sure that you have your camera ready at all times when you visit Naples on the Orlando to Florida Keys road trip.

But Naples Pier is not only good for dolphin sightings. It’s also the best spot in town to watch sunsets. Every time the sun sets in front of you over the Gulf of Mexico is as spectacular. Don’t miss it when you make the Orlando to Key West drive.

The beautiful Naples Pier at sunset
The beautiful Naples Pier at sunset.

Read more: A dreamy vacation in Naples, Florida >>

E. Visit alligators in Everglades on the Orlando to Key West trip

  • Driving time: 2 h
  • Distance: 87 miles (140 km)

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. Now it’s 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 the Everglades when you cross the state to get to Key West. So it’s convenient to spend some time there while you’re in the area.

A great place to stay near Everglades National Park to make the most of a visit is Everglades City. In Everglades City you have amazing access to old Florida swamp life as you stay right where Everglades National Park begins. Here you find the Gulf Coast Visitor Center and many airboat companies for going deep into the Everglades.

And taking an airboat tour is a great way to see Everglades. Alligators, exotic birds and lizards often show themselves as you travel the water. Just remember to bring your earplugs, the airboat rides can be louder than you think.

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

Read more: The best way to see alligators in the Everglades, Florida >>

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

  • Driving time: 2 h
  • Distance: 82 miles (132 km)

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 long highway you get closer and closer to the Southernmost point of the continental United States in Key West. And for every mile you travel through the Florida Keys the more relaxed the vibe gets.

Islamorada is the halfway point between Miami and Key West and one of the best places along the Overseas Highway to spend some extra time. Water activities are a big part of life in the Florida Keys and few other places are as great for exploring life on water as Islamorada.

When you visit Islamorada on the road trip from Orlando to Florida Keys you can paddle yourself to get to the very nearby Indian Key Historic State Park. The small and once inhabited Indian Key was once a bubbling island community with a core of successeful shipwreckers. Nowadays the key is abandoned but you can still see traces of old structures if you make the short paddle over.

And even though Indian Key is abandoned the waters around it are certainly not. So bring snorkel gear for the Orlando to Florida Keys drive to get a good view of all the exotic fish that thrive in the blue and crystal-clear Florida Keys waters.

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

Read more: The best things to do in Islamorada, Florida >>

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

  • Driving time: 2 h
  • Distance: 81 miles (130 km)

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. Duval and Whitehead Street in Old Town is the perfect ending to the Orlando to Key West road trip.

The southernmost point represents the end of the road trip
The end or the beginning of the continental US.

Find accommodation in Key West

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

Booking.com

Read more: Where to stay in Key West >>

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?

As one of the shorter road trips this trip could be made in just a few days. But to fully enjoy the entire itinerary it’s recommended to have two weeks. Add more if you want more beach time!

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.

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