The Miami to Key West Drive: An Unforgettable Road Trip
Are you planning on taking a Miami to Key West road trip? If so, you probably understand that this drive takes you right through the Florida Keys, which have some of the most beautiful spots in the entire country.
You will pass along an overseas highway, go by a handful of famous mile markers, and eventually reach the iconic buoy marker as the southernmost point of the United States. You might even want to check out one of the historic old towns, try some water sports, and swing up north by Fort Lauderdale before your road trip really gets underway.
Now that you're excited and ready to enjoy this unforgettable road trip, here's what you really need to know to maximize your holiday and take full advantage of a variety of beautiful stops along the way.
The Basics of the Drive: What To Know
The exact amount of time the drive is going to take will vary depending on your exact starting and ending points as well as local traffic conditions and how many times you stop along the way.
In general, you should expect the drive to take approximately three and a half hours. The drive will also take you along Route 1. Along the way, you will pass Everglades National Park, and see some beautiful water views. You should also take a look at your gas tank, and make sure you understand where to find a few gas stations along the way. You may also want to have a few snacks with you for the journey.
Then, be sure to take a look at a few of these beautiful locations you should check out during your drive, even if you have a car rental!
Must-Visit Stops Along the Way
1. Downtown Miami
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If you aren't from the Miami area, you may as well start your drive by taking a look at everything downtown Miami has to offer. It is possible for you to spend multiple days in Miami, but if you're trying to visit the city quickly, there are a few locations you should check out.
If you are looking for delicious food and music, be sure to check out the Spanish way and grab some delicious Cuban food. If you are in need of some sunlight, swing by South Beach or Miami Beach and do some people-watching. Don't hesitate to go for a dip in the ocean, it'll feel so refreshing after a day of walking around the sun.
I'd also suggest checking out Little Havana and the Miami Art District before you head out. Due to the close proximity to Cuba, Little Havana is a cool neighborhood that you won't believe in the U.S.
2. Visit Homestead
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If you are a fan of racing, then you may want to check out Homestead Miami Speedway. Even if you are not a fan of NASCAR, this is a major landmark you should check out.
This is a Speedway that regularly hosts races from the NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Infinity Series. Therefore, there is a good chance something awesome is going on.
If you planned your drive carefully, you might even be able to purchase a few tickets to a race. Don't hesitate to ask for a tour of the track and you may want to purchase something at the gift shop.
3. Everglades National Park
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Without a doubt, one of the best stops you need to check out on your journey is to the Everglades National Park. It is located in Southern Florida, and you don't even need to take a giant detour to check out this beautiful park.
Just keep in mind that the Everglades is on mainland Florida, not part of the Florida Keys, so if you plan to visit this unique area, you'll need to make the time to do that at the start or end of your trip.
You will see a wide variety of plants and animals, and you will spot some wildlife that you will not see anywhere else. You should bring the camera with you to take pictures. You might catch a few dolphins, some Florida panthers, or even a few alligators along the way!
4. The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
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As the drive continues, you will eventually reach Key Largo, which is one of the most famous islands off the coast of Florida. This is home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It is actually the first undersea Park in the country, and it is home to some absolutely beautiful coral reefs.
Now, keep in mind that you will have to get into the water to take advantage of everything this park has to offer. You can go kayaking, canoeing, or scuba diving. If you really want to see everything, then make sure you rent some scuba gear. At the very least, you can sign up for a glass bottom boat tour!
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During the drive, you will also pass by a wide variety of beach towns. Islamorada is arguably the most popular beach town and it has beautiful white sand that you'll be eager to wiggle your toes in.
If you need to take a pit stop, this is the perfect place to do so. Step out of the car, take off your socks and shoes, and let the whites and blues recharge your batteries! Islamorada is only seven miles long, the same distance as the seven-mile bridge, but be sure to take your time going through it!
You may want to grab your camera and snap a few pictures along the way. You can also grab a quick bite to eat at one of the amazing restaurants.
You may also want to take a few minutes to swing by the Morada Way Arts District. You will find everything from art studios to beautiful sculptures and more. If you plan your drive carefully, you might be able to take advantage of the Art Walk, which takes place on the third Thursday of every month!
6. The History of Diving Museum
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Also on Islamorada, you might also want to check out the History of Diving Museum. This is a great place to learn more about scuba diving and how it started. If you're a diving enthusiast, you won't want to miss out on this unique museum.
You can even sign up for a guided tour if you want to learn more about the exhibits. You don't have to venture far from the main road to hit this museum, so consider working it into your trip, since it's such a quick detour.
7. The Dolphin Research Center
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You can find the Dolphin Research Center located in Grassy Key, nearly in the exact center of the Florida Keys. This research center rescues injured dolphins and makes sure they have a home. In some cases, the dolphins are even able to be returned to the wild. In other cases, the dolphins might not be able to go back to the wild, so they find another home.
This is a great opportunity for you to watch some dolphins, play with them, and learn as much as you can about them. You might even want to consider donating to this nonprofit organization so they can continue the amazing work they do.
Nearby Grassy Key, Duck Key is a fantastic place to stay the night and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the Florida Keys.
8. The Turtle Hospital
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By this point, you may have noticed that there are a lot of amazing sea creatures you will see along your journey. You might want to swing by The Turtle Hospital as well! Turtles really need your help, and you can find this Hospital located in Marathon.
This hospital rescues, provides therapy, and then releases loggerhead sea turtles that have been injured. There are a number of reasons why these turtles might get hurt. Some of them are from standby fishing lines while others might have been attacked by other animals.
This is one of the most popular locations along your journey, so you may want to book a tour in advance if you really want to see everything that's hospital has to offer.
If you decided not to stay the night on Duck Key, there are a wider variety of vacation homes and condos in Marathon. There's no doubt you'll find a great place to stay the night here.
9. The National Key Deer Refuge Center
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Outside of Marathon, Florida is the National Key Deer Refuge Center. Many people think about aquatic creatures when they come to Florida, but there are a number of endangered species in the area.
One example is the Florida Key Deer. This is an endangered species, and you can only see it in the Florida Keys. The National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center, located on Big Pine Key, is dedicated to helping these deer survive. You may want to take a closer look at the refuge center as you pass through, and you can learn about some of the other animals in the area as well, such as pelicans!
10. Robbie’s Marina
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If you are looking for something a bit different, then you may want to swing by Robbie's Marina. Robbie's Marina is towards the end of your road trip, located in Key West. It is located at mile marker 77, and this is a great spot to check out some pretty incredible fish.
There are a few hundred tarpon that frequently join up in the area, and you’ll see them looking for something to eat.
Robbie's Marina frequently feeds the fish in the area in an effort to take care of them, so you may want to join the fun as well! Consider stopping to check out a few fish as you stroll along the beachfront!
11. Seven Mile Bridge
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This isn't so much a particular stop but it's the road you'll be taking for part of the drive. A lot of people agree, the most gorgeous scenery you will see along the way is from the Seven-Mile Bridge. This is a gorgeous bridge that joins many of the Southern islands of Florida together.
The bridge connects Duck Key to Knight’s Key, Bahia Honda key to Big Pine Key, and numerous other islands along the way. You might spot a few mangrove trees, breath-taking views of the gorgeous water, and even spot a few fishing piers along the way.
This is an amazing feat of engineering, and you should take the time to soak in the unparalleled views. While driving, you might also want to stop by Bahia Honda State Park.
12. Dry Tortugas National Park
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Even though it might be a bit of a challenge for you to access during the drive, this is definitely a stop you should check out. You can't drive here but instead it is only accessible by boat.
While you're traversing the incredibly clear water, you'll quickly understand why this is a necessary day trip to add to your trip.
You can swim in a historic area, check out Fort Jefferson, and go for a snorkeling trip! As the name suggests, you will also see a variety of turtles along the way.
If you are a history buff, you may want to take some time to review a few plaques and statues as well. There is a lot that this beautiful park has to offer so, in my opinion, it is well worth the hassle of getting there.
Big Tips for An Amazing Florida Keys Road Trip
If you are getting ready for your Key West Drive, make sure you hit a few of the above mentioned spots along the way.
Tip 1. Go Slow and Take Your Time
At the fastest pace, you can complete the drive from Miami to Key West in 3.5 hours but I highly suggest you spend at least an entire day to complete it. Best case scenario, you spend a couple of days, really soaking up the sights and lesser visited areas of the Keys.
Tip 2. Try the Local Cuisine
You can check out a Cuban restaurant, try some conch, and get a bite of some delicious Key Lime Pie as you check out some of the best beaches in the area.
Once you reach the Lower Keys, be sure to check out some live music as a part of the nightlife. Don't miss the Florida Keys Brewing Company or any of the other island breweries either! Some of the most fun and definitely entertaining places in Key West is on Duval Street.
Duval Street is the downtown of Key West and will be your hub for a night out on the town. Another option in Key West is to eat and drink your way through Mallory Square. You won't lack for dining and shopping options in this waterfront square.
Tip 3. Be Cautious in Hurricane Season
Since Key West really boasts fantastic, warm weather year round, I would be cautious to embark on a road trip in the heart of Atlantic hurricane season. If you decide to go for anyways, just be sure to check the weather before and during the trip to ensure no surprise storms will be hitting the islands.
The Gulf of Mexico is a beautiful place and one you should really take your time to explore. Be sure to use this road trip itinerary to develop a road trip guide during your adventure through South Florida, USA!