The ultimate Miami to Key West drive

  • Post last modified:July 26, 2021
  • Reading time:15 mins read
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The ultimate 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 on the spectacular Miami to Key West road trip.

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Miami to Key West road trip guide

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

  • Driving distance: 164 mi / 264 km
  • Driving time: 3.5 h

Miami – The stunning Miami to Key West drive begins

The starting point of the tropical South Florida drive delivers a beachy big city vibe. In Miami 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 trip 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 the neighborhood even is where the city’s real heart is. In Little Havana, which is home to many Cuban exiles, you get a taste of old Cuba. It’s a very interesting place to visit before starting the Miami to Key West drive. In the neighborhood can try Latin American food, listen to live music and of course watch a game of outdoor domino.

Another interesting Miami neighborhood with a lot of soul is Wynwood. The murals in Wynwood is what once made the area famous. Nowadays visitors come to the neighborhood to stroll around, take in the street art and capture the perfect picture for their social media accounts. Wynwood has become known as the top instagram place in Miami and the area is a fun place to explore before you begin the Miami to Key West road trip.

Alligator painted on wall
Mural art in Wynwood.

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 reasons to visit Everglades are many and the area represents the wild and untamed side of Florida. The incredibly large wetland that is home to birds, lizards and alligators is a must to see as you make the Miami to Key West trip.

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 drive. 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 of the national park. And there you can even stay at an Everglades hotel with waterfront view.

Sunset of the Everglades
Sunset in the Everglades.

Key Largo – The first miles on the famous Overseas Highway

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

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. And in Key Largo the famous Overseas Highway and the Florida Keys adventure begins.

Key Largo offers many fun stops on the drive from Miami to Key West. 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 a fun Miami to Key West stop. And another interesting activity for the Miami to Key West drive itinerary is the African Queen Canal Cruise.

Entering the Overseas Highway on the Miami to Key West drive

From Key Largo the Miami to Key West 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 on the Miami to Key West drive you can feel that the stress of the mainland disappears, and that you embrace the laid-back island vibe.

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

A Miami to Key West 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. It’s a fun and interesting place to stop on the drive from Miami to Key West. 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.

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 on the Miami to Key West road trip. 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.

Peaceful time on quiet canals with the African Queen

Another nice way to explore the waters of the Florida Keys and to learn some movie history on the Miami to Key West trip 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 Miami to Key West itinerary. The Key Largo canals are incredibly peaceful.

Boat at dock in Key Largo
Key Largo canal.

Islamorada – Going deeper into the Florida Keys on the Miami to Key West drive

  • Driving distance: 17 mi / 27 km
  • Driving time: 0.5 h

After a first taste of 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 as you travel from Miami to Key West.

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. In Islamorada two beautiful Miami to Key West stops to include on the itinerary are exploring Indian Key and fish feeding at Robbie’s.

Explore the forgotten Indian Key

The Indian Key Historic State Park is a unique stop on the drive from Miami to Key West. The state park is located within sight of the Overseas Highway. However, it’s offshore and only accessible by boat when visiting on the Miami to Key West journey.

Indian Key has a rich past and it in 1836 even 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 on the key. But a visit to the island is both historically interesting and a great chance to see some exceptional marine life on the Miami to Key West road trip.

Fish feeding at Robbie’s when driving from Miami to KW

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

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.

Marathon – The Miami to Key West road trip reaches the heart of Florida Keys

  • Driving distance: 30 mi / 48 km
  • Driving time: 0.5 h

When leaving Islamorada you have passed the halfway point between Miami and Key West. And in Marathon you are 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 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.

Marathon is a gem in the Florida Keys with many great stops on the drive from Miami to Key West. In the heart of the Keys a very wished-for stop on the Miami to Key West itinerary is Sombrero Beach. Another more educational experience to include on the Miami to Key West road trip itinerary is 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 on the Miami to KW road trip

When you travel from Miami to Key West in the endless summer season of Florida Keys it’s almost 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.

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 on the Miami to Key West road trip.

A turtle sanctuary in the heart of the Keys

From April to October it’s nesting season in the Keys for loggerhead turtles. Turtles love the warm Florida waters. A great way to learn more about them while you’re in the area is to visit Florida Keys Turtle Hospital in Marathon.

Florida Keys Turtle Hospital rehabilitates injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat again. If you book their guided tour you get to learn more about turtles and the rehabilitating efforts that the hospital puts in to save them. A visit is a rewarding experience both for adults and younger travelers on a Miami to Key West family road trip.

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

Big Pine Key – Lazy days in the Lower Keys on the Miami to Key West drive

  • 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. 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.

Bahia Honda Key and the famous Bahia Honda Beach is another great beach stop on the Miami to Key West drive. For another type of experience Big Pine Key is the perfect place on the Miami to Key West road trip to make acquaintance with the Key Deer.

The old Seven Mile Bridge
The old Seven Mile Bridge.

Another great beach stop on the drive from Miami to Key West

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 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. And the shallow water makes it a perfect place to stop for families on the Miami to Key West drive.

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

A heaven for the tiny Key Deer in 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 on the Miami to Key West road trip 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 9 200 acres and here the tiny deer lives side by side with other species such as the Lower Key marsh rabbit and the silver rice rat.

Key West – The quirky end of the spectacular Overseas Highway

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

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. On the island you find many charming Key West places to stay.

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. In Old Town of Key West you have the best of times.

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 to Duval on the Miami to Key West road trip you are guaranteed to 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 stop no matter if you travel solo, as a couple or make a family road trip from Miami to Key West.

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.

Finish the Miami to Key West drive with slower pace on Whitehead Street

Next to Duval on Whitehead Street you find a much slower pace. On Duval you can indulge in Key West History if 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 Miami to Key West drive.

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

Miami to Key West drive hotel search

Use the booking tool below to find the perfect accommodation for your road trip from Miami to Key West. Browse the map for options in various areas, or click on the search button to start with hotels in Miami.

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The ultimate Miami to Key West drive FAQ

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

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

The 164 miles (264 km) from Miami to Key West takes about 3.5 hours to drive.

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

The relatively short driving time means that you easily can make the entire Miami to Key West road trip as a one day trip. But to see the stops and attractions on the Miami to Key West itinerary it’s recommended to spend at least a few nights on the way down.

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 summer the temperature can be very hot and the conditions humid. With that said, 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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