The ultimate Miami to Key West drive

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Thisultimate Miami to Key West drive takes you through some of the best parts of tropical Florida. After leaving Miami and passing Everglades, you exit the mainland and enter the Overseas Highway. The impressive highway takes you from key to key until you reach the Southernmost Point of the continental USA.

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  • Total distance: 164 mi / 264 km
  • Total driving time: 3.5 h

1. Miami

The starting point of the tropical South Florida drive delivers a beachy big city vibe. In Miami you can enjoy white beaches during daytime and party the night away on Ocean Drive until the morning arrives.

But Miami is also a lot more than beautiful beaches and a fun nightlife scene. Little Havana and Wynwood offer versatile cultural experiences, and Everglades is just a short trip away.

White beach and blue water in Miami
Miami Beach.

Enjoy culture in Little Havana and Wynwood

Little Havana is a great place to increase your understanding for the Cuban heritage in Florida. Maybe the neighborhood even is where the city’s real heart is.

In Little Havana, home to many Cuban exiles, you get a taste of old Cuba. Neighborhood highlights include trying Latin American food, listening to live music and, of course, watching games of outdoor domino.

Another Miami neighborhood with a lot of soul is Wynwood. Eye-popping in vivid colors, Wynwood’s murals is what once made the area famous.

Nowadays visitors come to Wynwood to stroll around, take in the street art and capture that perfect picture for their social media accounts. A top Instagram place in Miami, the Wynwood neighborhood certainly is a fun place to explore before you take off on the Miami to Key West road trip.

Alligator painted on wall
Mural art in Wynwood.

See alligators in the vast Everglades

A visit to South Florida is not complete without a stop to check out the unique wilderness in the Everglades. The area represents the wild and untamed side of Florida, and there are many reasons to visit Everglades.

In the incredibly large wetland you find birds, lizards and alligators. Nature lover or not, it’s a big experience.

Exploration of Everglades can be done as a day trip from Miami, or as a stop on the drive from Miami to Key West.

Ernest Coe Visitor Center of the Everglades is just a small detour away on the Miami to Key West road trip. Close by, the Anhinga Trail offers great chances to see alligators in the wild in the Everglades.

Sunset of the Everglades
Sunset in the Everglades.

Route info: Everglades National Park has as much as five different visitor centers. Among these, Ernest Coe Visitor Center is the most convenient one for this itinerary. The Ernest Coe section of the park, which is its southern portion, is famous for its alligator-lined trails.

2. Key Largo

  • Driving distance: 67 mi / 108 km
  • Driving time: 1.5 h

Key Largo is the first major upper island of the Florida Keys. As indicated by its name, the island is at 33 miles (53 km) long the largest segment of the Keys.

In Key Largo the famous Overseas Highway and the Florida Keys adventure begins. Water activities are very appreciated all over the Keys, and Key Largo is certainly no exception.

Enter the Overseas Highway

From Key Largo, the road trip continues on one of the most spectacular roads in the world, the Overseas Highway.

The Overseas Highway is a breathtaking road that takes you on bridges from key to key until you reach Key West. To enter it from the mainland, you can just continue on US Highway 1 until it becomes the Overseas Highway as you’re about to reach Key Largo.

As soon as you reach the first key, you feel that the stress of the mainland disappears. Instead you embrace the laid-back Florida Keys vibe.

Boat on blue water
Life on water in the Florida Keys.

Stop at the first undersea park in the US

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is known as the first undersea park in the United States. In the park, home to coral reefs and an impressive marine life, you really get to see how rich the Keys are in natural beauty.

At John Pennekamp you can explore the corals from a glass-bottom boat, or by diving and snorkeling. So it’s totally up to you how active you want to be when you visit. If you don’t want to, you don’t even need to dip your feet in the water when you explore John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

Enjoy peaceful times on quiet canals with the African Queen

Another nice way to explore the waters of the Florida Keys and to learn some movie history is to take the African Queen on the canals. The steamboat got famous through the 1951 movie with the same name with stars such as Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart.

The African Queen canal trip is extra interesting if you have seen the movie. But even if you haven’t seen it, the boat tour is a pleasant stop to make on the itinerary. The Key Largo canals are incredibly peaceful.

More info: Best Key Largo accommodation

Boat at dock in Key Largo
Quiet Key Largo canal.
A tropical road trip from Miami to Key West
A tropical road trip from Miami to Key West.

3. 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 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. The state park is located within sight of the Overseas Highway. However, it’s offshore and only accessible by boat.

Indian Key has an unexpectedly rich past: This humble island became the first county seat of Dade County in 1836. Wrecking ships was big business, and the founders wanted to compete with Key West.

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

Feed fish at Robbie’s

Another option on the drive from Miami to Key West is to go to Robbie’s.

People from all around the world go to Robbie’s for the opportunity to feed tarpons. The place has become like an institution along the Overseas Highway in Florida Keys.

The massive silver giants wait at Robbie’s dock for food. And they aren’t shy when you dangle fish on the surface. The tarpons love to snatch it out of your hands, and down in their stomachs it goes.

More info: Where to stay in Islamorada

Blue water, white sand and green palm trees
A relaxing vibe in Islamorada.

4. 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 the 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.

Houses and palm trees at sunset of Miami to Key West drive
Marathon in the Florida Keys.

Relax on Sombrero Beach

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

At Sombrero Beach you find a sandy shoreline, calm waters and palm trees that give shade for the moments when the direct sun feels too strong. The beach with its shallow water is ideal for a day of unwinding, sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling.

Visit a turtle sanctuary in the heart of the Keys

From April to October it’s nesting season in the Keys for loggerhead turtles. Turtles just love the warm Florida waters.

A great way to learn more about them is to visit 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 about turtles and the hospital’s efforts to save them. A visit is a rewarding experience both for adults and younger travelers on a family road trip.

The turtle hospital in Marathon
The turtle hospital in Marathon.
7 mile bridge to Key West
The Seven Mile Bridge west of Marathon.

5. Big Pine Key

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

Now the Miami 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. That includes every key from Bahia Honda Key and Big Pine Key until you reach Key West.

The old Seven Mile Bridge
The old Seven Mile Bridge.

Recline on Bahia Honda Key

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

Sombrero Beach higher up in the Keys is always mentioned as one of the best beaches in the Florida Keys. Another famous beach not to miss on the Miami 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 is beautiful with crystal clear water and lots of shoreline to explore. In addition its shallow water also makes it a great place to stop for families.

Bahia Honda State Park in Florida Keys
Bahia Honda State Park.

Check out a heaven for the tiny Key Deer on Big Pine Key

On Big Pine Key you find the National Key Deer Refuge. It has been established to protect the local Key Deer and other wildlife in the Florida Keys. It’s a fun place to visit for anyone who likes nature and animals.

The Key Deer is the tiniest member of the North American white-tailed deer family. So you might be surprised about how small it is. The refuge is about 9,000 acres and there the tiny deer lives side by side with other species, such as the Lower Key marsh rabbit and the silver rice rat.

6. Key West

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

After an impressive road trip on the Overseas Highway it’s time to round off the journey. In Key West not only does the Overseas Highway end but also the continental United States.

Ernest Hemingway called Key West his home for some of the most fruitful time of his writing career. When you visit the island, it’s easy to fall in love with it. It’s one of the most unique Florida Islands.

Key West is famous for its endless summer, sunset celebrations and unique quirky vibe. In Old Town of Key West you have the best of times. And most of the best things to do in Key West are centered around the two main streets, Duval and Whitehead Street.

Blue water and green palm trees in Key West
Key West at the end of the road.

Explore Duval and celebrate on Mallory Square

Duval Street is packed with fun stores, tasty restaurants and bars that can cool you off even on the hottest of Florida days. When you arrive at Duval, you are guaranteed to find something to do.

A popular place to visit is the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. There you are welcome to walk in a garden full of butterflies. It’s peaceful, fun and educational. It’s a great stop no matter if you travel solo, as a couple or take a family road trip.

And don’t forget that in Key West every day ends with sunset celebration on Mallory Square. As the sun starts to set on the horizon, hundreds of people gather and quirkily celebrate the sunset.

Finish with a slower pace on Whitehead Street

Next to Duval on Whitehead Street you find a much slower pace. There the setting is ideal to indulge in Key West history at the Ernest Hemingway Key West House and Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters Museum.

More iconic places and splendid photo opportunities on Whitehead Street are Mile Marker 0 and the Southernmost Point. The latter marks out the Southernmost Point of the continental United States. Both are perfect spots to round off your amazing drive.

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

Where to stay

After a scenic Miami 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.
Red sunset in Key West
Sunset in Key West.

Additional stops: If you want to extend the road trip, you can start in Orlando instead of Miami. That way you make it an Orlando to Key West road trip and get to see some more of the beautiful South Florida.

The ultimate Miami to Key West drive FAQ

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

It’s 164 miles (264 km) from Miami to Key West, which takes about 3.5 hours to drive. However, to fully enjoy the drive it should be taken over multiple days.

Where should I stop between Miami and Key West?

The main stops included on the ultimate Miami to Key West road trip are Miami, Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Lower Keys and Key West. In each area along the way you find several appreciated points of interest.

What is halfway between Miami and Key West?

Islamorada is located halfway between Miami and Key West. Therefore Islamorada is the ultimate location if you want to stop somewhere around the middle of the road trip from Miami to Key West.

Where is the midway point of the Overseas Highway?

Marathon is located midway between the start of the Overseas Highway and Key West. That’s also why the Marathon area is called the heart of the Keys.

How much time do I need to take the Miami to Key West road trip?

The relatively short driving time and distance means that you easily can take the entire Miami to Key West road trip in just a day. But to best experience all the stops and attractions on the itinerary, it’s recommended to spend at least a few nights on the way down to the southernmost Key West.

When should you do the road trip from Miami to Key West?

With an endless summer climate, the Miami to Key West drive can be done at any time of the year. However, in the middle of summer the temperature can be very hot and the conditions humid. So outdoor activities on the itinerary along the way to Key West are more comfortable in spring, autumn and winter.

What are fun stops if I start in Orlando instead of Miami?

Great additional stops on a road trip from Orlando to Key West are Clearwater Beach, Sanibel Island, Naples and the Everglades before you continue on the Miami to Key West itinerary.

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