Miami to Key West Drive: Best Places to Stop on a Florida Keys Road Trip! (2024)

miami to key west road trip

The Miami to Key West drive was one of the coolest road trips I’ve ever taken. With its tropical weather, beautiful waters, and ocean-view bridges, this part of the country is so different from the rest of America.

Though it’s less than 200 miles, the Florida Keys road trip packs a lot into its short distance.

This guide will provide you with a list of all the coolest places to stop on the drive from Miami to Key West, including three national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, snorkeling opportunities, beaches, and places to get your drink on!

Most of this road trip takes place on Route 1, aka the Overseas Highway. It’s named that because it features 42 bridges, including the famous Seven-Mile Bridge in which you drive across 7 miles of open ocean!

Here’s everything you need to plan your Florida Keys drive.

Need a rental car? I recommend DiscoverCars.com, which allows you to compare prices and availability for all the top rental companies to find the best possible deal. And they offer free cancellation!

Miami to Key West Drive: Distance, Time, Planning Tips

how far miami to key west drive map

How far is Key West from Miami and how long is the drive? The most direct route is about 166 miles and 3.5 hours. That’s if you make no stops along the way.

This itinerary includes stops at Biscayne and Everglades National Parks, and therefore covers 183 miles and 4.5 hours drive time. Add in all the other stops on the list, and I’d suggest giving yourself a minimum of two full days for the drive.

An ideal Miami to Key West road trip would take 6 days. That’s two days for the drive down to Key West, two days in Key West itself, one day in Dry Tortugas National Park, and one day for the return drive back from Key West to Miami.

Key Largo and Marathon are good places to spend the night on your drive down to Key West.

florida keys state parks - miami to key west road trip
A Miami to Key West road trip will take you to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

Map of Attractions Between Miami and Key West

We’ve got a detailed list of places to stop below. But if you want the shortcut, just click on this map, which highlights all our recommended stops on the Miami to Key West road trip.

We’re including state parks, popular restaurants, museums, beaches, nature centers, and the like. Most of these are right on the Overseas Highway, but a few require short detours.

Places to Stop on a Drive from Miami to Key West

Our Miami to Key West drive guide contains numerous places to stop, ranging from nature preserves and outdoor activities to breweries and bars.

Pick and choose the types of activities that most interest you!

While driving on Route 1, notice the mile markers along the road. These markers count down from 127 in Florida City to 0 in Key West. We’ll note the mile markers for most of these attractions.

little havana roosters
Calle Ocho in Little Havana is a must-visit in Miami.

Miami

If you’re not local to south Florida, we’re assuming that you’ll want to spend some time in Miami before hitting the road.

Take some time to visit Miami’s beaches and have fun in the Atlantic Ocean (wear lots of sunscreen!)

Also explore the Cuban community Little Havana and its famed street Calle Ocho; the haunting Holocaust Memorial; fun neighborhoods like Wynwood; and the nightlife of South Beach.

If you have more time, consider a boat rental in Miami to spend a day on the water.

Get your rental car, get a good night’s sleep, and start your Miami to Key West road trip in the morning!

Coral Castle

Imagine spending 28 years to carve a limestone coral structure. An eccentric Latvian immigrant did just that, creating a private tourist attraction just south of Miami known as Coral Castle.

This structure has a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. Adult admission costs $18 as of 2023.

Website: Coral Castle Museum
Address: 28655 S Dixie Hwy, Homestead, FL 33033

Biscayne National Park – Dante Fascell Visitor Center

Way too many Miami to Key West road trippers overlook Biscayne National Park. There are only 63 national parks in America – why overlook one when you’re so close?

There’s only one mile of roadway in Biscayne NP, so you won’t be able to see much from the vehicle.

The rest is open water and a couple of keys that are accessible only by boat or kayak. You’d need a few hours if you want to explore these areas.

Otherwise, just stop by Dante Fascell Visitor Center, which is conveniently located on the mainland, 9 miles from Route 1.

Check out the exhibits, get your National Parks Passport stamped, follow the short walking trail, and get back on the road!

Website: Fascell Visitor Center – Biscayne National Park
Address: 9700 SW 328th St, Homestead, FL 33033

Everglades National Park

everglades alligator - places to stop on drive from miami to key west
See gators this close in the Everglades!

Next, head over to Everglades National Park. As with Biscayne, you could spend a full day or two at Everglades, so your itinerary will depend on how much time you have.

For an efficient, quick visit, stop by Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center (have mosquito repellent handy!)

Then head to nearby Anhinga Trail. The short boardwalk through marshy land is the best places to see alligators in the Everglades!

In less than an hour, you can walk through mangrove swamps, get eaten alive by mosquitoes, and see gators up close. In other words, the full Everglades experience! Beware of the vultures that like to attack cars.

everglades welcome sign

In the Everglades, you can take an airboat tour through the swamps to see gators. Or try an eco-friendly kayak tour. This kind of tour is a bit more expensive, but it’s much better for the environment.

Website: Everglades National Park
Address: 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, FL 33034

Mile 102.5: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

After the Everglades, head south on Route 1 and you’re finally on the Overseas Highway.

At mile 102.5, as you approach Key Largo, visit John Pennekamp State Park – one of the most exciting places to stop on the drive from Miami to Key West.

This park is renowned as one of the best snorkeling coral reefs in the world. Rent a kayak or scuba/snorkel gear to get up close with the aquatic life.

Or take a glass-bottom boat tour. This truly is an “underwater playground.” Entry fee is $8 per vehicle.

Website: John Pennenkamp Coral Reef State Park
Address: 102601 Overseas Highway, Key Largo FL 33037

Where to Stay in Key Largo:
Budget: Key Largo Inn
Upscale: Waterside Suites and Marina

Mile 93.6: Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

Find the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center together with the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary in Tavernier. It’s located at mile 93.6 on the Overseas Highway.

The center requests a $10 donation from visitors. It’s open 9 to 5 on weekdays, with daily pelican feedings at 2:30. Unfortunately, the center is closed on weekends.

Website: Florida Keys Wild Bird Center
Address: 92080 Overseas Hwy, Tavernier, FL 33070

Mile 88: Marker 88 Restaurant

Gobble up steak or seafood at Marker 88 on Plantation Key. Relax with a fruity cocktail and hang out at one of the only natural beaches in the Keys.

This restaurant has been open since 1967 and is one of the best places to stop for food on the drive to Key West. Entrees include ceviche, sushi, lobster linguini, and mahi mahi fajitas.

President George Bush Sr. (#41) used to dine at Marker 88 when he was in town for fishing vacations.

Website: Marker 88
Address: 88000 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

Mile 86.7: Rain Barrel Artisan Village & Lobster Statue

lobster statue florida keys
Don’t miss the lobster statue in Islamorada on the Miami to Key West drive!

At mile 86.7, pull over at the Rain Barrel Artisan Village in Islamorada. The village has shops and galleries with local artists selling their wares. It’s easy to spot – just look for the giant lobster statue!

Betsy the Lobster is around 40 feet long and has been watching over the place for four decades now. She’s the second-most photographed statue in the Florida Keys, behind only the Southernmost Point in Key West.

Website: Rain Barrel Village
Address: 86700 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

Mile 84.9: Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

That title is a mouthful, isn’t it? Windley Key Park (mile 84.9) features educational exhibits about the history of fossilized coral in the Florida Keys.

The site was used as a quarry until the 1960s and pieces of machinery remain on display. The state park is open during daylight hours and admission is $2.50 per person.

Strangely for a state park, Windley Key Park is actually closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Website: Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park
Address: 84900 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

Mile 83.0: History of Diving Museum

At mile 83.0, see the History of Diving Museum. The Keys have more diving than just about anywhere else in the U.S., so this is the perfect setting for such a museum!

Open 10-5 daily, the museum is ideal for scuba divers. Or for people like me, who will never scuba dive but would like to learn something about it. Tickets currently cost $15 per person.

Website: History Of Diving Museum
Address: 82990 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

Mile 82: Islamorada Craft Breweries

Ready for a drink yet? Find two craft breweries close together in Islamorada. There’s Islamorada Brewery & Distillery at mile 82.2, and the Florida Keys Brewing Company at mile 81.6.

The latter is a bit more spacious, but both are popular. Try a flight to give your taste buds and your liver a good time!

Website: Islamorada Brewery & Distillery / Florida Keys Brewing Company
Address: 82229 Overseas Highway Islamorada, FL 33036 / 81611 Old Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

Where to Stay in Islamorada:
Budget: Sunset Inn
Upscale: Islander Resort

Mile 77: Robbie’s Marina of Islamorada

The big draw at Robbie’s Marina at mile 77.0 is the chance to hand feed some massive tarpon fish. Tarpon can grow several feet long – in fact, I saw four of them while snorkeling in Dry Tortugas.

Here at Robbie’s, you can pay a few bucks to visit their dock and get a bowl of fish parts.

Feeding them to the group of tarpon that hang around the dock is one of the most exciting activities during the drive from Miami to Key West!

Just watch for pelicans that will try to steal away your fish parts. Keep an eye open for manatees and small sharks, too! Robbie’s also offers three daily “partyboat fishing” voyages, in case that’s your thing.

Website: Robbie’s of Islamorada
Address: 77522 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, FL 33036

Mile 59: Dolphin Research Center

At mile 59.0 on the Key West to Miami road trip, on Grassy Key, comes the Dolphin Research Center. At this sanctuary, guests pay $28 for basic admission to see interactive dolphin programs from the docks.

If you’ve got extra cash, book one of the extra programs where you can meet dolphins up close, like “Paint With a Dolphin” or “Family Dolphin Splash.”

Note: Google Maps shows two different Dolphin Research Centers six miles apart. Be sure to check the address to end up at the right one!

Website: Dolphin Research Center
Address: 58901 Overseas Hwy, Grassy Key, FL 33050

Near Mile 50: Snorkeling Adventure at Sombrero Reef

The Marathon, Florida area has some of the best reef snorkeling in the state, so why not set aside some time to experience it?

The Marathon Key Snorkeling Adventure is a three-hour guided tour that takes guests to one of the most scenic reefs in the area.

Guests are given snorkel gear and taken on a pontoon boat to a protected reef, where they can swim and observe the colorful fish and coral reefs.

You’ll likely see parrotfish, trumpetfish, and more. It’s truly a “Florida Keys” experience! Book the tour in advance here.

Website: 3-Hour Snorkeling Adventure Tour
Address: 19 Sombrero Blvd, Marathon, FL 33050 (tour meeting point)

Near Mile 50: Sombrero Beach

If you’re down for another short detour to experience one of the top beaches in the Keys, head down to Sombrero Beach in Marathon. This beautiful, sandy beach has volleyball courts and picnic pavilions.

miami to key west road trip drive

From April to October, Loggerhead turtles nest here, coming ashore at night to lay eggs. The park closes off the area where the turtles nest, which represents a small portion of the total beach area.

So you can visit and possibly see the turtles, without actually disturbing them.

Website: Sombrero Beach
Address: Sombrero Beach Rd, Marathon, FL 33050

Mile 48.5: The Sea Turtle Hospital

An old motel at mile 48.5 is now the Turtle Hospital, or Sea Turtle Center. For $27 (yeah, it’s steep), you can join one of the hourly guided tours to see the sea turtles.

You’ll get a chance to feed the turtles at the end of the hour. The Turtle Hospital has released more than 1500 turtles into the wild in their 35 years of operation. Families and kids will enjoy the experience!

Website: The Turtle Hospital
Address: 2396 Overseas Hwy, Marathon, FL 33050

Where to Stay in Marathon:
Budget: Coconut Cay Resort
Upscale: Isla Bella Beach Resort & Spa

Miles 47-40: Seven Mile Bridge

The name says it all. It’s a two-lane bridge that literally runs for seven miles (miles 40-47) surrounded by ocean. Driving Seven Mile Bridge is a unique experience.

About halfway through, you’ll really start to appreciate what an ambitious idea it was to create such a long bridge. This one opened to traffic in 1982.

seven mile bridge
Behold Seven Mile Bridge, the most famous place on the Key West road trip!

You can park in the pullouts on either end of the bridge to get out and take pics of the bridge and try to stare far off in the distance to try to see the other end of the bridge (you won’t be able to!)

When you see pictures of this bridge, you’ll notice another smaller bridge next to it. That’s “Old Seven Mile Bridge.” It provides access to tiny Pigeon Key.

A lot of Florida Keys road trip itineraries will tell you that the old bridge is closed while it undergoes repairs. But as of last year, Old Seven Mile Bridge has re-opened to pedestrians and bicyclists!

After a five-year wait, the bridge can once again be enjoyed by the public. Stay updated on the state of the bridge here.

Mile 36.8: Bahia Honda State Park

The next must-visit on our Florida Keys drive is Bahia Honda State Park at mile 36.8. It has the best white sand beaches in the Keys, although they’re still pretty modest compared to the beaches in the rest of Florida.

This park charges $8 per vehicle and stays open everyday from 8 am to sundown. It’s another popular spot for kayaking and snorkeling.

You can also walk a short trail that provides cool views of Bahia Honda Bridge, a two-tiered former railroad and vehicle bridge.

Sections of this bridge are missing, which creates cool photo opportunities – especially if you catch it at sunset.

Website: Bahia Honda State Park
Address: 36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key FL 33043

Mile 30.3: National Key Deer Refuge

key deer refuge

The endangered Key Deer is found only in the Florida Keys. It’s an unusual place for deer, since there’s more water than land! Yet these critters endure. Their small size probably helps.

In the 1950s, only a few dozen of these deer remained, but thanks to the National Key Deer Refuge, there are now an estimated 1000 or so Key Deer living here. You can visit the refuge at mile 30.3 and walk the trails to try to see some of them.

The refuge is found on Big Pine Key, one of the larger Florida Keys that you’ll find on this drive to Key West. This island has a few B&Bs, resorts, grocery stores, hardware stores, and other useful businesses.

Website: National Key Deer Refuge
Address: 30587 Overseas Hwy, Big Pine Key, FL 33043

Near Mile 30: No Name Pub

Immediately after the refuge, briefly leave the Overseas Highway on Big Pine Key to find No Name Pub. This colorful bar and restaurant is another of the most fun places to stop on the drive from Miami to Key West.

It has its own unique character, starting with the thousands of dollar bills previous visitors have left hanging from the ceiling!

Expect a lengthy menu of pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and beer.

Website: No Name Pub
Address: 30813 Watson Blvd, Big Pine Key, FL 33043

Near Mile 30: Blue Hole Observation Platform

You may also want to detour to the Blue Hole Observation Platform, a short drive from No Name Pub. It’s a short, paved trail to a freshwater sinkhole, essentially a pond filled with rain, native plants, and fish.

Visitors to this boardwalk often see alligators, deer, turtles, and more. Try your luck and maybe you’ll have some cool wildlife sightings!

Website: Blue Hole
Address: Key Deer Blvd & Big Pine Street, Big Pine Key, FL 33043

Mile 27: Boondocks Grille & Draft House

Billing itself as the largest tiki bar in the Florida Keys, Boondocks Grille & Draft House on Ramrod Key is another good option for food. Or miniature golf. Or live music.

Boondocks has live performances every night, so this is the place to stop for some entertainment. They have a bunch of tvs showing the sports games, and an 18-hole mini golf course.

Website: Boondocks Florida Keys
Address: 27205 Overseas Hwy, Ramrod Key, FL 33042

Mile 20: Mangrove Mama’s

This section of the drive from Miami to Key West doesn’t have a lot of major attractions. It’s mostly restaurants, tiki bars, RV resorts, and campgrounds.

Mangrove Mama’s is the most popular restaurant on Upper Sugarloaf Key. Try the coconut shrimp or plantain-encrusted grouper.

Website: Mangrove Mama’s on Facebook
Address: 19991 Overseas Hwy, Summerland Key, FL 33042

Mile 10: Bobalu’s Restaurant and Bar

Here’s one more restaurant recommendation before reaching Key West. Located on Big Coppitt Key, Bobalu’s offers live music every night, plus New York- and New Haven-style pizzas, and loads of seafood.

Big Coppitt Key also has a Circle K gas station and convenience store, so it’s one of the few places to fill your gas tank and pick up snacks on this stretch of the highway.

Website: Bobalus Restaurant and Bar
Address: 301 US-1, Key West, FL 33040

Mile 0: Key West

mile marker zero - route 1 key west

After driving the final several miles, you’ll arrive in Key West! Look around for all the attractions, including Mile Marker Zero, indicating the end of the Overseas Highway.

The Hemingway House is one of Key West’s most popular attractions. It’s the home where famed author Ernest Hemingway lived in the 1930s.

You can tour the lavish property and see the 50-plus cats on the premises, many of which are descended from Ernie’s own felines.

hemingway house key west

Of course, you’ve got to visit the Southernmost Point as well. This painted concrete buoy is the number one photo opportunity in Key West. It’s free to get your selfie here, but beware the lines of tourists waiting.

I highly recommend coming as early as possible to avoid the rush. In fact, I have a whole article describing things to do in Key West in the morning.

southernmost point - places to stop in key west

Key West has so many water sports options. You can go parasailing here. That’s where you’re attached to a harness and a parachute, so you’re basically “flying” in the air above a boat. Here’s the top-rated parasailing tour we recommend!

Another great outdoor option is renting a boat in Key West. You can charter a yacht or catamaran for a day of fishing or just taking in the sunset.

key west hostel
The courtyard at Seashell Hostel in Key West.

Where to Stay in Key West:
Budget: Seashell Motel Hostel
Mid-Range: Silver Palms Inn
Upscale: Margaritaville Key West Resort

Other worthwhile places to stop in Key West include Duval Street, which is home to many of the big party bars that give the city its reputation; Mallory Square, a great place to catch the sunset; the Key West Lighthouse, which has great views; and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.

Don’t forget to grab a slice of key lime pie while you’re here too! You can find it in numerous cafes and eateries.

RECOMMENDED TOURS IN KEY WEST:

 

Bonus: Visit Dry Tortugas National Park

Just because you’ve made it to Key West doesn’t mean your journey should end! I highly recommend taking a day trip to remote Dry Tortugas National Park, a chain of islands located 67 miles west of Key West.

fort jefferson tortugas
Walk right up on the roof of Fort Jefferson to see the ocean views!

You can take the Yankee Freedom ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas. It’s expensive and you may need to book weeks in advance. But it’s worth it!

The ferry takes a few hours, and it gives visitors around 4-5 hours to explore the main island. That’s enough time to walk around historic Civil War-era Fort Jefferson and do some snorkeling in the clear waters.

If you have a few days to spare, you can go camping at Dry Tortugas. I spent three nights there and loved it. It’s so far from civilization that it’s isolated and peaceful.

Miami to Key West Shuttle Details

A quick word on transportation. Car rental is obviously the preferred method to travel through the Florida Keys. If you’ve got a vehicle, you’re all set.

You can take a one-day bus tour of Key West from Miami. You meet the bus at 7 am in Miami, and you’ll have 6 hours in Key West before returning back to Miami in the evening.

key west shuttle houses
Walk around to see the colorful houses in Key West.

There are a few Miami to Key West shuttle options. Keys Shuttle, for instance, transports passengers between Key West and Miami or Ft. Lauderdale airports. But that means you still have to find your way from the airport to the city, which isn’t ideal.

As for other options, Megabus does not offer service to Key West, but Greyhound and Flixbus have offered service. There’s a route that runs between these cities, with one stop in Islamorada on the way. Here’s a helpful bus guide detailing the current Miami to Key West bus options.

One other note: It seems a lot of people are wondering about a Key West road trip that starts in the Orlando area. That’s going to take a bit longer.

The distance from Orlando to Key West is about 400 miles, or 6.5 hours. That’s still totally doable in one day, but you’d have to skip most of the attractions in this article.

Btw, if you’re in Orlando, I also have a drive guide for the trip from Orlando to Savannah, Georgia. There’s so much to do on that drive as well!

Best Time to Visit Key West and the Florida Keys

The weather is gorgeous all year, so you can come anytime. The main season to avoid would be hurricane season. Officially, hurricane season runs June through November.

But typically, the highest odds for hurricanes occur from August through October.

key west aerial view
The city of Key West as seen from a plane.

South Florida becomes a huge tourist destination starting around Christmas. Peak tourist season in this part of Florida continues into January.

While Florida is a popular destination for families and spring break college kids during March and April, most of them visit Miami or other areas of the state, rather than Key West.

So what’s the best time to visit the Florida Keys? Personally, I like March through May to avoid crowds. The family summer road trips don’t start until school is out in June, so spring is ideal if you can do it then.

My May visit a few years back was perfect in terms of weather and a smaller number of tourists.

Have you ever done the Key West to Miami road trip drive? Got any other tips for places to stop between Miami and Key West?