Home USAFlorida Florida Keys Road Trip – A Spectacular Drive from Miami to Key West

Florida Keys Road Trip – A Spectacular Drive from Miami to Key West

by Andy Vanr

Enjoy the breathtaking turquoise waters around the islands of the Florida Keys on this fun-in-the-sun road trip.

Our Florida Keys road trip has all the best places to stop on a drive to Key West.  Experience the huge variety of outdoor activities in this tropical paradise.

Florida Keys Road Trip Itinerary: 5 to 7 Days 

We recommend a one week trip to visit the major attractions of the Florida Keys.  To shorten your trip, remove the optional days.

Florida Keys Road Trip Map

The Florida Keys are made up of 5 regions. Click on any of the colored regions on the map to see our detailed articles.

20 Best Things To Do in the Florida Keys

Key Largo

  1. Explore John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the US.
  2. Enjoy a nostalgic voyage aboard The African Queen.

Islamorada

  1. Experience the thrill of hand-feeding tarpon at Robbie’s of Islamorada.
  2. Photograph ‘Betsy’ and see the vibrant arts and crafts at Rain Barrel Village.

Marathon

  1. Enjoy the natural beauty and history of Crane Point Museum and Nature Center.
  2. Learn about sea turtle rehabilitation and conservation efforts at the Turtle Hospital.
  3. Take a tram ride and explore the history of Pigeon Key’s Historic District.

Big Pine and the Lower Keys

  1. Snorkel at Looe Key Reef, which teems with marine life.
  2. Explore the mangroves on a backcountry kayak adventure.
  3. Relax on the beaches of Bahia Honda State Park and walk the trail to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge

Key West

  1. Wander through the charming streets of the Key West’s Old Town.
  2. Step into the literary history of Hemingway at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.
  3. Discover more of Key West’s rich heritage in the many fascinating Key West Museums.
  4. Pose and snap a photo at the Southernmost Point of the Continental US.
  5. Witness the energy of street performers and breathtaking sunsets at Mallory Square.
  6. Experience the eerie tales on the Key West Ghosts & Gravestones Tour.
  7. Climb to new heights at the Key West Lighthouse & Keepers’ Quarters.
  8. Immerse yourself in the enchanting world of butterflies at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory.
  9. Discover history and enjoy the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
  10. Sail into a stunning sunset on a Key West Sunset Cruise.

Key Largo

The first stop on your Florida Keys road trip is Key Largo.

Key Largo is known as the “Diving Capital of the World”.  John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park protects part of the only living coral reef system in the continental United States, teeming with colorful marine life.  Explore the reef on diving, snorkeling, or glass-bottom boat tours.

Inland waterway and boat from deck of boat underway
Climb aboard the glass-bottom boat and navigate through the mangroves at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

The African Queen, the actual vessel used in the classic film, offers a nostalgic cruise through Key Largo’s canals and near-Atlantic waters.  Enjoy recreating scenes from the film and the Captain’s entertaining commentary.

At the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary, walk the boardwalk surrounded by native vegetation and wetlands to see a variety of bird species.  The birds are housed in large enclosures with natural perching areas and are fed an appropriate diet. The sanctuary is dedicated to the care and rehabilitation of non-releasable birds.  Don’t miss the daily pelican feeding sessions.

For more details on Key Largo’s natural wonders and attractions, see our complete article, Key Largo in One Day.

Marina foreground green space mid-ground houses and water behind

Islamorada

Islamorada is a great destination to explore unique tropical attractions, or just to unwind and relax.  This village-like area, spread over six islands, offering activities for every interest.

Stop at the Rain Barrel Village and take your photo with ‘Betsy’, the giant lobster sculpture.  Inside this artisan village, find an eclectic collection of crafts and art galleries and fun shops showcasing local artists. 

For a get-up-close interaction with marine life, visit Theater of the Sea.  Experience the thrill of wading or snorkeling with dolphins, sea lions or sharks.  This marine park is a great family destination.  Everyone, parents and kids alike, enjoy the dolphin, sea lion and parrot shows.

Andy laying on dock with hand in air after tarpon leapt out of water for food - Robbie's of Islamorada.
Before we visited Robbie’s we had no idea how large a tarpon was or how high they could leap out of the water.

Robbie’s of Islamorada is a must-visit attraction. Witness the tarpon feeding frenzy while enjoying a delicious seafood sandwich and local beer at the Hungry Tarpon Restaurant.  After your meal, buy a bucket of fish and feed the tarpon from the dock.  Be careful, they have a good jump as they grab the food from your hand.  Robbie’s is truly a unique experience.

For more details on visiting the Big Pine Key area, see our complete article, 9 Best Things To Do in Islamorada.

Aerial shot of highway through Islamorada - thin ribbon of road with offshoots of settlement surrounded by water

Marathon, Florida

At the half-way point on a Florida Keys road trip, Marathon offers a ton of recreational, fun activities.

For those wanting to have intimate encounters with marine life but in controlled environments, there are several top quality locations.  Interact with marine creatures in touch tanks at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters.  At the Dolphin Research Center, there are up-close encounters, swimming and wading with the dolphins.  Learn about dolphins and sea lions at this interesting facility.

The Turtle Hospital in Marathon is dedicated to rehabilitating injured sea turtles.  Enjoy a guided public tour through the facility.  See the different tanks where they rehabilitate the turtles for their eventual release back to ocean.

The Pigeon Key Historic District is the former work camp where workers constructing Henry Flagler’s Overseas Railroad lived.   The island’s museum and buildings showcase the story of these workers and the railway they built.

Steam engine-styled tram and car Old Seven Mile Bridge
Ride the Pigeon Key Express train along the old Seven Mile Bridge to the historic district.

Located at the end of the restored eastern section of the Old Seven Mile Bridge, Pigeon Key is accessible by walking, biking or taking a tram from the Visitor Center.  On the island, enjoy a guided tour and explore the public buildings before returning on the tram. Visitors have the option of snorkeling or fishing from the dock and beach area as well.

For more details on visiting the Marathon area, see our complete article, 8 Best Things To Do in Marathon Florida.

Sea turtle head front fins above water Turtle Hospital Marathon Florida

Big Pine and the Lower Keys

The Big Pine Key and the islands of the Lower Keys offer a variety of outdoor activities which showcase their natural beauty.

Learn about the endangered Key deer at the National Key Deer Refuge.  Drop into the visitor center of the refuge, located on Big Pine Key.  There are several hiking trails on Big Pine and Upper Sugarloaf Keys to explore the area and maybe see the small deer.

Kayaking is the best way to explore the untouched mangroves of the Lower Keys.  Book a guided kayak tour to get the most out of this adventure through the pristine waters of a natural paradise.

Val grabbing mangrove branch from kayak pulling kayak through forest
We enjoyed kayaking through the mangroves on No Name Key. It was great to have a guide who knew the route to the inner lake and out again.

Looe Key Reef, part of the only coral reef in the continental United States, is a popular snorkeling and diving spot known for its diverse marine species.  Book a chartered boat tour to explore this amazing coral reef.

For beach lovers Bahia Honda State Park is paradise, offering three beautiful sand beaches, snorkeling opportunities, as well as kayak and paddle board rentals. Walk the trail to see the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, once part of the Overseas Railroad.

For more details on visiting the Big Pine Key area, see our complete article, Big Pine and the Lower Keys.

Two-lane highway on thin strips of land surrounded by water

Key West

While the road trip ends at the lively and historic city of Key West, the fun certainly keeps going.

Take a stroll in Key West’s Old Town and see the beautiful architecture, restaurants and art galleries of the area.  At night, Key West becomes even more animated with live music pouring out of the many bars along Duval Street.

Conch Tour Train of 4 cars with engine through treed neighbourhood
Since 1958, the Conch Tour Train has taken passengers on a 75-minute tour of Old Town Key West telling stories of the city’s most popular places.

The city’s rich history is on display in Key West’s many museums.  The most popular museum is the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.

Be sure to get your photo beside the Southernmost Point Monument, a huge, colorful buoy.

Finally, no trip to the Florida Keys is complete without witnessing a breathtaking Key West sunset at Mallory Square.

For more incredible things to see in Key West, see our complete article, A Weekend in Key West – The Best Things to Do.

Sun setting behind island in bay in front of pier

Florida Keys Activities

With its spectacular natural beauty, the Florida Keys offer a variety of outdoor activities for everyone from kids to adults and the thrill-seeker to the lay-on-the-beacher.

Best Beaches in the Florida Keys

All beaches in the Keys offer stunning turquoise water.  Beyond that there is a wide range of water depth, stillness, beach types (sandy, rocky, natural) and nearby amenities.

Beach with swimmers in the turquoise water
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park Beach in Key West

Here are the 6 most popular beaches in the Florida Keys, each offering something a little different.

Beach NameLocationKnown for
Bahia Honda State ParkBig Pine KeyPristine beaches, turquoise waters, Old Bahia Honda Bridge
Smathers BeachKey WestLong stretch of sandy shoreline, water sports
Anne’s BeachIslamoradaSecluded and tranquil atmosphere, mangrove boardwalk
Higgs BeachKey WestSerene atmosphere, fishing pier, adjacent garden
Sombrero BeachMarathonFamily-friendly, calm waters, nature trails
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park BeachKey WestBlend of history and natural beauty, snorkeling

Snorkeling and Diving in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are renowned for incredible diving and snorkeling locations.  With vibrant coral reefs, abundant marine life and crystal-clear waters, the area is paradise for underwater enthusiasts.  Whether you’re an experienced diver or a novice snorkeler, there are lots of awe-inspiring spots to explore.

Andy underwater snorkeling
Snorkeling Looe Key Reef

Here are the 6 most popular places to go snorkeling and diving in the Florida Keys.

NameLocationKnown for
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State ParkKey LargoColorful coral reefs, Christ of the Abyss statue
Sombrero ReefMarathonDiverse marine life, vibrant coral gardens
Molasses ReefKey LargoExceptional visibility, diverse marine biodiversity
Looe Key ReefBig Pine KeyPristine marine sanctuary, abundance of marine life
Alligator ReefIslamoradaTowering lighthouse, vibrant coral formations, sea turtles
Dry Tortugas National ParkApproximately 70 miles west of Key WestRemote and pristine marine wilderness, historic Fort Jefferson

Birding in the Florida Keys

With its strategic location along bird migration routes and tropical marine climate, there are a wide range of bird species to see in the Florida Keys.  See waders, shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors, songbirds and thousands of birds flying over during migrations.

Two shorebirds on sand in Florida Keys
The Florida Keys have a vast array of bird species making it a great place for bird watchers.

Here are the 5 most popular places to go bird watching in the Florida Keys.

NameLocationKnown for
Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical GardenKey WestDiverse bird species, tropical habitats
National Key Deer RefugeLower KeysEndangered Key deer, wading birds, migratory birds
Curry Hammock State ParkMarathonCoastal habitats, mangrove forests, white-crowned pigeon
Great White Heron National Wildlife RefugeLower KeysWading birds, nesting grounds, salt marshes
Long Key State ParkBetween Islamorada and MarathonCoastal birds, shorebirds, migratory species

Biking in the Florida Keys

No matter your cycling level, the Florida Keys have a cycling experience for you.  Ride along the ocean and by mangrove forests on bridges whose supports were laid over a century ago for the Overseas Railway.  Florida State Parks allow bikes on the main park roads.  Old Town Key West is a great place to explore by bike. 

Andy bicycle road white building garden background
We enjoyed our day of touring Key West by bicycle.

Here are the most popular places to go cycling in the Florida Keys.

Biking AreaLocationKnown for
Overseas Heritage TrailKey Largo to Key WestScenic route along historic railroad.  Note: Cycling the whole route involves some riding with vehicles on the Overseas Highway.  Parking areas are plentiful so it is easy to find short stretches to cycle without having to hit the highway.
Old Seven Mile BridgeMarathonCycle above the sparkling Atlantic Ocean to Pigeon Key.  Note: there is an admission fee to visit Pigeon Key but not to cycle the bridge.
Key West Historic DistrictKey WestCharming streets, Victorian homes, vibrant atmosphere
National Key Deer RefugeUpper Sugarloaf KeyEncounter endangered Key deer on the route.  Biking is allowed on most rustic trails/fireroads, but not at Blue Hole, the Nature Trails or Long Beach.

Best Florida Keys Fishing Charters

The waters of the Keys are home to many different fish species in a variety of marine ecosystems.  The area is known to have some of the best fishing opportunities in the world.  Book a fishing charter with experienced local fishing experts and get the most out of your fishing adventure, regardless of whether you are a rookie or a pro.

Islamorada is called the “Sport fishing Capital of the World”, so it’s a great place to start. 

White fishing boat moored at Florida Keys dock
There are lots of excellent fishing charters available in the Florida Keys.

Here are some of the most popular fishing charters in the Florida Keys.

NameLocationKnown for
Bud N’ Mary’s MarinaIslamoradaDeep-sea and backcountry fishing
Drop Back Fishing ChartersIslamoradaCaptain Jon takes you out to reefs.
Sea Horse Private ChartersIslamoradaSportfishing in area reefs and Gulf Stream.
Captain Hooks MarinaMarathonDiverse fishing charters for all skill levels
Gulf Stream FishingKey WestGreat for beginners.  60 passenger boat.
Key Largo Fishing AdventuresKey LargoSpecialize in family fishing.

Florida Keys – Know Before You Go

The following are a few things to know it is best to know before you head to the Florida Keys to get the most out of your visit.

How far is it from Miami to Key West?

The distance from Miami Airport to Key West is 160 miles (255 km).
The distance from Key Largo to Key West is 105 miles (170 km).

Can you drive from Miami to Key West?

Yes, drive US#1 south from Miami to Key West.  The portion of US#1 from the southern limit of Florida City to Key West is called the Overseas Highway.

How long will it take to drive from Miami to Key West?

The drive from Miami Airport to Key West is about 3.5 hours non-stop.  Just the portion from Key Largo to Key West takes about 2.5 hours.

Best time to visit the Florida Keys

The best time to visit the Florida Keys is between March and May.  The Florida Keys are always a busy travel destination.  These months are considered the shoulder season, and less busy.  They are also still in the dry season with milder temperatures and lower humidity.

Another consideration is mosquitoes.  November through May is considered the dry season.  Outdoor activities are much more pleasant with many fewer of those pesky mosquitoes.

We have been to the Keys in both the summer and the winter seasons.  In June we definitely noticed an increase in the number of mosquitoes when we were out in the mangroves.

Andy leaning on rail below sailboat beam sunset behind
Andy enjoying a great Florida Keys sunset.


Interested in more Itineraries? Sign up here.

Thanks to the Florida Keys for hosting portions of our stay.