The great Florida road trip from Orlando to Key West

  • Post last modified:July 19, 2021
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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 laid-back beach 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

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 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 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.

When visiting the city there are many great options for where to stay in Orlando. 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. It was named the best beach in the country in TripAdvisor’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice Awards. So visiting Clearwater Beach is 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 accommodation 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, 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. And 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. 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.

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 is fantastic. But things to do in Fort Myers Beach is just a short drive away if you’re in for a more lively time on the Orlando to Key West road trip.

If you on the other hand want to be even further away from the mainland buzz another option is to go to the remoter Captiva Island. There are great options for where to stay in Fort Myers Beach and vicinity for every traveler.

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. 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 on the beach even in winter.

And 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. A South Florida beach vacation in Naples is stunning.

As a bonus 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 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 visit on the drive from Orlando to Key West.

A great option for where to stay in Naples to be near both Naples Pier and entertainment is the city’s Old Town area. In Old Naples you find the famous Fifth Avenue South that is regarded as one of the most exclusive addresses in the entire country.

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

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. 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 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.

A great place for Everglades National Park accommodation 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. 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 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. 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 is to paddle over from the Islamorada key 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.

Alternative stop: An alternative to Islamorada or an additional stop on the Orlando to Key West road trip is Marathon a little deeper into Florida Keys. 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.

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.

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.

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