This thin strand of pavement skipping along bridges through the Florida Keys is one of the best road trips in the country. If you are thinking about making the drive from Miami to Key West, this guide is for you. Here is everything you need to know from the best stops between Miami to Key West.
The first thing to understand is that most of the attractions on a Miami to Key West Road Trip are referenced by what Mile Marker they are located near.
At Mile Marker 118 you are officially in the Florida Keys! At this point, you are just over 100 miles from Key West with lots of fun adventures ahead of you. At the southwestern end of Key West, lies the end of the road at Mile Marker 0. In between those mile markers, there are plenty of amazing stop-offs with lots of fun and adventures to be had.
On your way to Key West, You’ll pass through hundreds of small islands that make up the Florida Keys. The islands you’ll pass are all connected by Highway 1 or “The Overseas Highway.”
Miami to Key West Road Trip FAQs
Q: How long does it take to drive from Miami to Key West Florida?
A: There are 165 miles between Miami and Key West, and if you drove it straight it would take you just 3 hours and 20 minutes, but then you’d miss this great road trip. We suggest a 2-3 day road trip driving through the Florida Keys to hit most of the highlights with a few nights at Key West at the end. Most of the time will be spent outside the car exploring all of the great things to do in the Florida Keys and fun stops.
Q: How is the drive from Miami to Key West is it Worth it?
A: YES! Stop thinking about a Miami to Key West road trip and start planning. Keep reading to see all of the best stops between Miami and Key West.
Q: Is it safe to drive from Miami to Key West?
A: The road from Miami to Key West is a popular drive with tourists and is very safe. Drive safely and take your time and get ready for a great road trip!
Top Places to Stop on the drive from Miami to Key West
Every good road trip needs a destination, but many times the things to see along the way are what really make the trip, and the drive from Miami to Key West is no different. The Overseas Highway is full of fun and sometimes quirky stops to break up the drive on the way down to Key West. Here’s a collection of some of our favorites organized from north to south as you’d find them on the way to Key West, labeled by the nearest mile marker on HWY 1.
Everglades National Park
On your way down to the Florida Keys on Highway 1, there is a turn off just south of Florida City that will take you into a portion of the Everglades National Park. In this guide, we are going to focus more on the Florida Keys portion of the road trip, but if you have more time, this is definitely worth a stop.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – (Mile Marker 102.5)
This Florida State Park was the first underwater park in the United States and covers about 70 square nautical miles. There are mangrove swamps to kayak and hammocks to lounge in, but the main draw to the park is what lies beneath the surface. Under the waves, you’ll find beautiful coral reefs, plenty of sea life, and even an underwater sculpture. In addition to the natural wonders, the visitor center also has a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium filled with some of the same sea life you’ll find in the park.
Spiegel Grove Ship Wreck (about 6 miles offshore from Mile Marker 102)
This massive Navy ship sits about 6 miles from the shore of Key Largo and is one of the top dive sites in the Florida Keys. In 2002 it was intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef and home for marine life. At the time of sinking the 512 ft ship was the largest ship ever to be intentionally sunk for use as an artificial reef. It is a must for divers visiting the Florida Keys.
Cruise on the Africa Queen (Mile Marker 100)
Movie buffs will surely want to pull over to take a scenic ride through the canals of Key Largo aboard the ship from the movie, The African Queen. Featured in the 1951 movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, this boat was built in 1912 and worked in East Africa building railroads before it became a star.
Mile 88 Beach & MM88 Tiki Bar (Mile Marker 88)
Soak in the tiki vibes at Plantation Key’s Mile Marker 88 Beach and Bar. With an unobstructed view to the west, this is also a great spot for sunset and a few sundowners.
Rain Barrel Artisan’s Village & Lobster Statue (Mile Marker 86)
This road trip stop in the Florida Keys is easy to spot with a statue of a giant lobster sitting out front. Many people stop for a selfie with the lobster and then realize there is a fun artist village here as well.
Islamorada Sandbar Island Party (Near Mile Marker 84)
The sandbar located right offshore from Islamorada is the perfect place to spend an afternoon in the Florida Keys! You’ll find boats parked here just about every day, but on Sundays – this is the place to be. On the weekends’ hundreds of boats gather for an informal party in the crystal clear waist-deep water! You can charter a boat of the day and enjoy this unique local party.
History of Diving Museum (Mile Marker 83)
Whether you are a diving enthusiast or not, the history of Diving Museum should be a part of anyone’s Key West road trip itinerary. Inside there is a fascinating collection of diving equipment dating back hundreds of years – and YES, you can even put on an old school diving helmet!
Islamorada Beer Company (Mile Marker 82)
You can’t miss the bright yellow building that makeup Islamorada Beer Company and their adjoining distillery. Pull up a seat at the bar and grab a flight of tasty beers from the long list of brews. Their IPAs were pretty solid, and it was fun to try some of the beers that included regional ingredients and local flare.
Cheeca Lodge & Spa (Near Mile Marker 82)
After a long day of driving nothing works out the kinks like a good massage. Here at Cheeca Lodge, they have one of the top spas in the Keys. Indulge in a massage on your way to Key West and make time to have lunch at the Atlantic Edge restaurant on the property with great views of the sea.
Florida Keys Brewing Company (Mile Marker 81.5)
You don’t have to go very far between stops on a road trip from Miami to Key West to find fun places to grab a drink. Also, one Islamorada is the Florida Keys Brewing Company which is one of the top breweries in the area. Their bottle cap tiled beer garden and taproom are surely worth pulling over for in your voyage down the Keys.
Feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s Restaurant (Mile Marker 77)
One of our favorite stops on our Florida Keys road trip was Robbie’s Restaurant. Where else in the world can you have a 5 foot long fish jump out of the water to grab a fish from your hand where they also make some great brunch. Robbie’s because famous for their terrapin feeding that started after trying to nurse an injured fish back to health.
Dolphin Research Center (Mile Marker 59)
The Dolphin Research Center provides a forever home for animals that have been recused and rehabilitated but can’t be released back into the wild. The research center was established in 1984 Jayne & Armando Rodriguez as a non-profit to provide a habit for dolphins and educational experiences for visitors.
Turtle Hospital (Mile Marker 48.5)
The Turtle Hospital started helping everyone’s favorite sea creatures back in 1986. Since then they have rehabbed and released more than 1,500 turtles back into the water surrounding the Florida Keys. On your road trip in the Keys, you can stop in and see the turtles that are currently being treated on one of their 90-minute tours that start on the hour from 9am-4pm daily.
Seven Mile Bridge (Mile Marker 47-40)
One of the most impressive bridges you’ll ever drive across is located on the west end of Marathon in the Middle Keys. As the name implies, this bridge spans 7 miles across the sea and in some spots, it’s so long and straight you can’t see the end of it.
Here you’ll also find a walking bridge that was once railway – it spans this stretch too, however, in 2019 it’s under construction and not open the entire length.
No Name Pub (Near Mile Marker 30)
This pub with no name is worth the short detour off of the Overseas Highway near the key that shares the “No Name,” name. This place is full of kitsch with the walls and ceilings covered in dollar bills. It’s one of those old-time places that they just don’t make anymore. If this sounds like your kind of place, be sure to build it into your road trip itinerary for a drink or a bite to eat.
Where to Stay Between Miami and Key West
Most people rush their way down to Key West, which is deserving of your time, but there are lots of things to see in the Northern and Middle Keys too. We suggest staying at least a night or two in the Northern or Middle Keys, and if you have time on your road trip, both.
Where to Eat in the Upper & Middle Keys
Sol by the Sea
Fine dining with unobstructed sunset views in Key Largo at the Playa Largo Resort & Spa. It’s an excellent place for a special dinner or just to celebrate being in the Keys! Many of the dishes here take hints from Caribbean Influences.
An upper keys icon serving up classic dishes with an easy-going flare that made the Keys what they are. This place is a must for breakfast or brunch before continuing your Key West Road Trip.
Located at the Cheeca Lodge, Atlantic’s Edge is the perfect place for lunch or dinner with fantastic ocean views. We highly suggest the fresh fish tacos and salad if you are looking for a lighter lunch.
Chef Michaels is one of the best upscale restaurants in the Upper Keys if you can get a reservation we highly recommend it. Chef Michaels is known for its fresh seafood and steaks.
Hungry Tarpon Restaurant
The Hungry Tarpon Restaurant is located at the famous Robbies of Islamorada for feeding the tarpon. It’s a great place to grab a bite to eat or drink before or after feeding the tarpon. We stopped in for breakfast. Portions are large, food is tasty, and it’s a great value.
The Lower Keys
As you make your way further south, the Keys become less populated and more natural until you get to the final few islands like Key West. While there may not be as many pull-offs with signposts, there are still many natural places to explore in this more rugged and wild stretch of the Florida Keys. Keep your eye out for nice beaches like on Bahia Honda and many places to put a kayak in the water.
Best Things to do in Key West on a Road Trip
Once you reach Key West, you’ll have enough things to do to fill a few days and then some. We put together our shortlist of our favorites things to do in Key West to help you make the most out of your next road trip.
Sunset Sail in Key West
One of the best things to do after a road trip down the Florida Keys is to sit back and let someone else do the driving, or sailing rather aborad a sunset catamaran cruise. We sailed with Sebago Key West and highly recommend them.
Explore Duval Street at Night (and Day)
Duval Street is to Key West as Bourbon Street is to New Orleans. While only slightly tamer (certain festivals excluded) Duval street has a reputation for great nightlife. Just about any night of the year, you can find great live music along with fun and entertainment. The weekends are when the real parties are while regional visitors are coming down to partake in the parties too.
However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t anything to see on Duval street while the sun is out. This historic street is home to a number of great art galleries, shops, and attractions – plus you’re on vacation, and the bars are open during the day too!
Kayaking with Lazy Dog
Grab a paddle and head out into the mangroves. You can rent kayaks here or take a guided tour which will bring you to the beautiful backwaters of Key West. On one of their tours, you’ll paddle through mangrove creeks with blueish-green water, at some points only a few inches deep. You’ll have a chance to spot all sorts of wildlife above and below the surface. Nurse sharks, jellyfish, and sea birds are frequently seen while kayaking in the lower keys. As a bonus, on some tours, you can even bring your dog!
The world-renowned author Ernest Hemmingway called Key West home from most of the 1930s, and it was during this time his most successful books were published. While visiting Key West, you can visit the home he shared with his wife of the time Pauline. The Hemmingways no longer live here, but
Stop in for a Drink at Sloppy Joe’s
Made famous by one of Key West’s most memorable residents, Ernest Hemmingway, who frequented the bar and allegedly had a hand in naming the place. Today you won’t find Hemmingway, but you will find a big open lively bar with live music and food. However, if you visit in July, you might just see Hemmingway or at least a really good doppelganger at the annual Hemmingway Lookalike contest held at Sloppy Joe’s.
Key Lime Pie at Kermit’s
While every storefront from Mile Marker 118 to the furthest piers in Key West all claim to have the best Key Lime Pie, Kermit’s is the real deal. Don’t miss this Key West institution on your road trip! For a mid-day snack, be sure to grad a chocolate-dipped frozen slice of Key Lime pie on a stick, YES – it’s as good as it sounds.
This deep sandy beach located on the southern shoreline of Key West is arguably the best beach on the island. Despite its stunning white sand, it’s not bursting at the seams with visitors, during most times of the year you’ll have no problem finding a spot to lay your beach towel.
Southernmost Point Marker
This painted concrete buoy is a popular photo spot that marks the piece of land furthest south in the Continental United States. From here it’s said only to be a short 90 miles to Cuba. Snapping a selfie here is a must on a Florida Keys road trip.
Dolphin Watch and Snorkel with Honest Eco on their Electric Boat
Set sail about Key West’s first electric catamaran for a truely memorable eco-friendly experience with local wildlife. Dolphins are regularly spotted in the water just offshore of Key West, and the snorkeling is good with clear waters.
Mile Marker Zero
This spot here ceremoniously marks the end of your Miami to Key West drive. This is the end of the road – Mile Marker Zero. There are actually two signs, one on each side of the road – one for the end of the road, but also one for the beginning.
Romantic Dinner at Latitudes on Sunset Key
Finish off any good road trip in style with dinner at Latitudes vote one of the most romantic dinner spots in the country. If you want to get a table here, you should put your name on the list before you even start planning your road trip because they book up months in advance. If you have less time you can also dine here for lunch too, but you just won’t get the full effect without the sunset, but still some great food.
Where to Eat in Key West
There’s no shortage of great food in Key West. We were really surprised at all the good food we had while visiting – we didn’t have a plate that we weren’t impressed with. In a city full of top-notch restaurants, it can be hard to pick where to go. Here’s a list of some of our standout meals from our recent trip to Key West.
Cuban Coffee Queen
Start your day off right with a cup of classic Cuban coffee. This tasty little shop has two locations one in downtown and another by the waterfront. In addition to coffee, the Cuban Coffee Queen serves up smoothies, Cuban inspired sandwiches, breakfast favorites, and even desserts. Don’t miss the giant Key West postcard painted on the side of their waterfront location.
Our favorite meal in Key West was at Cafe Marquesa. We enjoyed everything we had, the menu changes often as everything is fresh. We opted to go with the daily specials. We highly recommend the shrimp & grits appetizer and beignets as a dessert.
The restaurant is one of Zagat’s highest-rated restaurants in Key West. The chef Graham Dailey, has been on Iron Chef and trained under Anthony Bourdain.
Matt’s Stock Island
If you love brunch, you have to go to Matt’s Stock Island for their Sunday brunch. Every Sunday from 10:30 am – 2 pm includes 3 buffets (including a raw bar), unlimited small plates, and bottomless Bloody Marys & Mimosa’s.
We dined for dinner one evening as we weren’t in town on a Sunday morning. We started our meal with the crab beignets and scallops & bacon, and each got today’s catch blackened. Make sure to save room for dessert too, the Tahitian Vanilla Ice Cream Sammich is where it’s at!
Kermit Key Lime Pie shop
In addition to the pies, Kermit’s is a local’s favorite lunch spot with nice wraps and awesome fries for reasonable prices. Of course, save room for pie, because leaving without trying a slice would be a sin!
Latitudes at Sunset Key
If you only have one splurge meal, it should probably be Latitues out on Sunset Key, and it should be dinner at sunset. As the name of the island suggests, the sunsets here are pretty amazing and make for the perfect for a special night. Make your reservations well in advance.