The ultimate Miami to Key West drive

  • Post last modified:March 31, 2021
  • Reading time:13 mins read
The ultimate Miami to Key West drive

The ultimate Miami to Key West drive takes you through some of the best parts of tropical Florida. After leaving Miami and passing by Everglades you exit the mainland and enter the Overseas Highway that takes you all the way to Key West.

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Miami to Key West guide

Stops along the way are Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and Lower Keys before Key West is reached.

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

  • Total driving time: 3.5 hours
  • Total distance: 164 miles (264 km)

The trip starts in Miami

In Miami you get a beach vacation with a big city pulse. Here you can enjoy the white beaches during daytime, and party the night away at Ocean Drive until the early 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 drive away.

White beach and blue water in Miami
Miami Beach.

Culture in Little Havana and Wynwood

Little Havana is a great place to increase your understanding for the Cuban heritage in Florida. Maybe this is even where the city’s real heart is. In the neighborhood, which is home to many Cuban exiles, you get a taste of old Cuba. Here you can taste Latin American food, listen to live music and of course watch a game of outdoor domino.

Another interesting neighborhood with a lot of soul is Wynwood. The murals here is what once made the area famous. Here you come to stroll around, take in the street art and capture the perfect picture for your social media accounts. Wynwood has become known as the top instagram place in Miami.

Alligator painted on wall
Mural art in Wynwood.

The vast Everglades

A visit to South Florida is not complete without a stop to check out the unique wilderness in the Everglades. Everglades represents the untamed side of Florida. The incredibly large wetland is home to birds, lizards and alligators.

Exploration of Everglades can be done as a day trip from Miami, or as a detour on the Miami to Key West drive. Ernest Coe visitor center of the Everglades is just a small detour away on the drive from Miami to Key West. And the nearby Anhinga Trail offers a great chance to see alligators in the wild in the Everglades.

For a more complete Everglades experience you can make the longer drive to Everglades City. The small city sits right where the huge wetland begins on the western end. And there you can even stay at an Everglades hotel with waterfront view.

Sunset of the Everglades
Sunset in the Everglades.

Read more: 7 reasons to visit the Everglades >>

The Overseas Highway begins with Key Largo

Now the Miami to Key West road trip continues on one of the most spectacular roads in the world, the Overseas Highway.

Key Largo is an upper island of the Florida Keys, and a gateway to the entire chain of islands. It’s also at 33 miles (53 km) long the largest segment of the Keys, as indicated by its name. Here, the famous Overseas Highway and the Florida Keys adventure begins.

Entering the Overseas Highway

To enter Key Largo from the mainland it’s popular to directly take the southernmost part of US Highway 1, the Overseas Highway. The Overseas Highway is a spectacular road that takes you on bridges from key to key until you reach Key West.

As an alternative entrance point, you can also enter the Keys a few miles further north on Card Sound Road and enter the Overseas Highway on the island of Key Largo instead.

As soon as you enter the Keys you can feel that the stress of the mainland disappears, and you embrace the laid-back island vibe. Water activities are very appreciated all over the Keys, and Key Largo is certainly no exception.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park which was declared the first undersea park in the US is found in Key Largo. And here as a fun activity for the Miami to Key West drive itinerary you also find the African Queen Canal Cruise.

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

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 you get a taste of how rich the Keys are in natural beauty by viewing the coral reefs and their marine life.

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.

Quiet canals and movie history

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 canal trip is better if you have seen the movie, but even if you haven’t it’s a fun and pleasant activity on the Miami to Key West itinerary.

Boat at dock in Key Largo
A canal in Key Largo.

Traveling deeper into the Keys in Islamorada

After a first taste of the Florida Keys in Key Largo the road trip from Miami to Key West continues further down in the Keys. It’s time to explore 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 an abundance.

Discovering a forgotten key

The Indian Key Historic State Park is a unique state park located within sight of the Overseas Highway. However, it’s offshore and only accessible by boat. Indian Key in 1836 became the first county seat of Dade County.

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 there. But a visit to the island is both historically interesting and a great chance to see some exceptional marine life.

Fish feeding at Robbie’s

Another of all the fun things to do in Islamorada on the drive from Miami to Key West is to go to Robbie’s. It has become like an institution in the Keys. People from all around the world come for the opportunity to feed the tarpons.

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

Blue water, white sand and green palm trees
Islamorada in Florida Keys.

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

Exploring the heart of Florida Keys in Marathon

When leaving Islamorada you have passed the halfway point between Miami and Key West. It’s time to explore the heart of the keys in Marathon.

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 fo finish the project on schedule. As they worked the workers said that “this is getting to be a real marathon”. Hence the name for the local station and later the city was born.

In Marathon you are about halfway to Key West from the start of the Overseas Highway. Here, in the heart of the Keys, you can enjoy one of the best beaches of the island chain and an educational experience at the Florida Keys Turtle Hospital.

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

Relax on Sombrero Beach in Marathon

When you travel in the endless summer season of Florida Keys, it’s impossible to not long for a beach to relax on. And in Marathon you find one of the most popular beaches in the Florida Keys, Sombrero Beach.

Here you find a sandy shoreline, calm waters and palm trees that give shade for the moments when the direct sun feels too strong. This beach is ideal for a day of unwinding, sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling in the shallow waters.

A turtle sanctuary in the heart of the Keys

From April to October it’s nesting season in the Keys for loggerhead turtles. And in Marathon the Florida Keys Turtle Hospital is located.

The hospital rehabilitates injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat again. If you book their guided tour you can learn more about turtles and the rehabilitating efforts that the hospital puts in to save them.

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

The drive from Miami to Key West continues in the Lower Keys

Now the Miami to Key West road trip is getting really deep into the Florida Keys. The spectacular drive continues in what’s called the Lower Keys.

Lower Keys is the area of the Keys after the Seven Mile Bridge. That means every key from Bahia Honda Key and Big Pine Key until you reach Key West.

The Lower Keys is the perfect place on the drive from Miami to Key West to make acquaintance with the Key deer. And for some more beach time, Bahia Honda Key has one of the most famous beaches in the Keys.

The old Seven Mile Bridge
The old Seven Mile Bridge, connecting the Middle and Upper Keys.

A heaven for tiny deer

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.

The Key deer is the tiniest member of the North American white-tailed deer family. The refuge is about 9 200 acres and here the deer lives with other species such as the Lower Key marsh rabbit and the silver rice rat.

Lazy beach time on Bahia Honda Beach

But spending time in Florida Keys is as much about unwinding as it is about seeing things. And in the Lower Keys one of the top beaches of the Florida Keys is located, Bahia Honda Beach.

In Bahia Honda State Park you find a picturesque beach for a perfect day in the sun. Here you can enjoy a relaxing day on the beach and in the calm and warm water before the Miami to Key West drive continues.

The beautiful Bahia beach on the drive to Key West
Bahia Honda State Park.

End of the Overseas Highway in Key West

Key after key we have moved closer and closer to the end goal of this road trip, Key West. And now we’re finally there on the Miami to Key West road trip itinerary. 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. And when you visit on the Miami to Key West road trip it’s easy to see why you would want to live there.

In Old Town of Key West you can have the best of times. Key West is famous for endless summer, sunset celebrations and a unique quirky vibe. 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 Street 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. On Duval you always find something to do.

A popular place to visit is the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Here you can walk in a garden full of butterflies. It’s peaceful, fun and educational. It’s a great place for the whole family to include on the Miami to Key West drive itinerary.

And don’t forget that in Key West every day ends with sunset celebration on Mallory Square. Gather together with hundreds other people and quirkily celebrate as the sun starts to set on the horizon.

Find a slower pace on Whitehead Street

Next to Duval on Whitehead Street you find a much slower pace. Here you can indulge in Key West History when you visit the Ernest Hemingway Key West House and Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters Museum.

More iconic places and great 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 Key West to Miami drive.

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

Find a hotel 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 ultimate drive from Miami to Key West FAQ

Here you find the answers to some frequently asked questions about the drive from Miami to Key West.

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

Endless summer in Florida Keys means that the Miami to Key West drive can be done at any time of the year. However, in the middle of the summer the temperature can be very hot and humid. With that said, outdoor activities on the itinerary along the way to Key West are more comfortable in spring, autumn and winter.

How long time do you need to make the road trip from Miami to Key West?

The estimated time on the road for the 164 miles (264 km) is roughly 3.5 hours. That means that you can easily make the entire Miami to Key West drive as a one day trip. But make sure that you fit in time for everything you want to see along the way. To see all stops and attractions on the Miami to Key West itinerary and make the most of the drive, it’s wise to spend some nights on the way down to Key West.

What is halfway between Miami and Key West?

Islamorada is about halfway between Miami and Key West. So this is it if you want to stop somewhere around the middle on the itinerary for the road trip from Miami to Key West.

Where is the midway point of the Overseas Highway?

Marathon is about 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.

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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