The great Florida road trip from Orlando to Key West

  • Post last modified:January 7, 2021
  • Reading time:9 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.

Orlando to Key West itinerary

Stops along the way are Clearwater Beach, Sanibel Island, Naples and Everglades before you arrive to Florida Keys. 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, continue the trip on the Miami to Key West itinerary.

Total driving distance from Orlando to Key West is 587 miles (943 km) and the driving time is estimated at 13 hours. Now it’s time to begin the drive to the southernmost point in the continental US.

A. The theme park capital Orlando

Orlando has world class theme parks. Disney World, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Sea World among others could keep you busy for week(s). Add great shopping and a fun nightlife to that and you’re in for a treat.

But Orlando itself is not only a fun place. It’s also geographically a great starting base before you discover the rest of what Florida has to offer.

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 >>

The Florida road trip from Orlando to Key West continues on the west coast, or best coast, of Florida. Clearwater Beach is our second destination on the itinerary.

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 a very good choice for any Florida road trip.

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.

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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 blue Gulf of Mexico. There you except for a magnificent view also frequently find street performers, musicians and other liveliness. More often than not there is something fun going on.

Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach
Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach.

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

After Clearwater Beach we continue the Orlando to Key West drive south to Sanibel Island to reach another beach destination. But don’t assume they are alike. Life on Sanibel Island is a strong contrast to Clearwater Beach.

C. Feel closer to nature on Sanibel Island

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

The trip over the bridge to Sanibel takes you to a completely different place. 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 then 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 lighthouse on Sanibel Island
The lighthouse on Sanibel Island.

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 mile of bikes path for you to travel on.

Living side by side with nature is fantastic. But if you’re in for a more lively day or night, Fort Myers Beach is just a short drive away.

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

You just can’t have enough of the pristine Florida beaches. Next up on the Orlando to Key West itinerary is another beach town, Naples.

D. South Florida beach fun in Naples

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

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

Dolphins sightings are common from the beach. They like to play near the pier. The Naples Pier is also a beautiful spot to watch sunsets.

And Naples is so far south that winter never really gets there. Because of that Naples is great for outdoor activities even in the winter.

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

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

An ultimate Florida road trip must include great beaches like Clearwater Beach, Sanibel Island and Naples. But it must also include the vastness and wildness of the Everglades. Now it’s time to say hello to the locals of the Everglades.

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

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

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.

In this Florida road trip 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.

Taking an airboat tour is a great way to see the area. Usually alligators, interesting birds and lizards show themselves. Just remember to bring your earplugs, the airboat rides could be loud.

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

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

After a road trip with some of the best parts of Florida it’s now time to drive the last stretch down to Key West. And we saved the most unique road for the last, the Overseas Highway.

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

  • Driving time: 4 h
  • Distance: 163 miles (262 km)

The last stretch of the Orlando to Key West drive is probably the most breathtaking. After the Everglades we leave the mainland and travel on the Overseas Highway. Here we go from key to key on bridges that take us all the way to Key West.

To really make the most of the trip along the Overseas Highway, check the dedicated road trip itinerary for the stretch from Miami to Key West.

When you finally reach the last island of the road trip you also reach the southernmost point of the continental US. It’s the perfect place to round off an amazing road trip.

Key West is a tropical paradise that lives at its own pace. Life on the island is very laid back and trouble free. Winters don’t dare to intrude on the mighty endless summer here.

You have numerous things to see and do in Key West. Hit the beach, take a boat tour and visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. Both Duval Street and Whitehead Street in Old Town offer a lot to be discovered.

Read more: The ultimate guide for visiting Key West >>

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.

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 driving time from Orlando to Key West is estimated at 6.5 hours if you drive the shortest possible route. If you choose the route presented here it takes 13 hours. These numers 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 or more. 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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