For my 40th Birthday, we planned an epic road trip from Miami to Key West with my best friend and her husband. Like many others, 2020 was full of canceled vacations and this was one of them. I had a Pinterest board full of ideas for our Miami to Key West drive, but alas, it never happened. We hope to resurrect this vacation plan someday as it’s a bucket list-worthy American road trip. Once the trip gets rescheduled, I’ll be adding in all these fab ideas from my fellow travel bloggers. I hope it provides inspiration and ideas for your trip too!
Why Do a Miami to Key West Drive?
We actually have a direct flight from our international airport directly into Key West, but we wanted to do this epic Florida Keys road trip. We had a fun convertible all reserved, a shortlist of places to stop on our round trip Miami to Key West drive. I already pictured us, top-down, driving over the Seven Mile Bridge Overseas Highway blasting music.
Another bonus to doing the Miami to Key West drive is that flights are significantly cheaper into Miami International Airport, and frequent flyer award trips are easier to find. We were able to score low mile American Airlines award tickets into Miami as it is one of their large hub airports. So while this frugal fannie was happy, we chose to do a Miami to Key West road trip for fun, not for frugalness.
“The Miami to Key West drive is so much more fun than flying into the island! The reason is simple: the drive through the Florida Keys is one of the most beautiful and scenic road trips there are, says Cami from Travel Cami. “During the 166-mile trip, you will get to drive across the iconic Seven Mile Bridge and even make all these fun stops along the way. If you flew directly into Key West you’d miss the chance to see all these amazing places.”
“Even though flying direct into Key West might be more convenient, doing the Miami to Key West drive shouldn’t be missed. It’s such a unique road trip with all the bridges, It’s a Florida road trip that’s very much about the journey. It can be slow going but just sit back and enjoy the views,” says Kylie from Between England and Iowa. “When in Key West, choose accommodations that are within walking distance or have a free shuttle to the Downtown area and Duval Street. All the main sights are quite close together, parking is hard to come by, and it’s easier to walk everywhere!”
For our canceled trip, our group talked about making a playlist for the Miami to Key West drive as we have a lot of favorite bands in common. We are all children of the 80s so mixtapes is also how we show we care 😉 We didn’t think to do a Key West theme, but you certainly can!
“To make your road trip even more epic, why not create a playlist with four complete hours of music? Don’t forget to add Key West-related music to help you get in the island mood,” said Camila from Travel Cami. “Sing your heart out to classic Key West songs like ‘Margaritaville’, ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise ‘and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.”
The Miami to Key West Drive: 12 Stops
1.Coral Castle in Homestead Florida
If you’re looking for a last-minute add-on during your Key West road trip return drive, Coral Castle is a great back-up plan. Located 40 minutes from Miami Airport, if you find yourself having a little extra time before your return flight home check it out. Right off Route 1 and 5 blocks from the turnpike exit ramp is Coral Castle, a unique local destination.
“Edward Leedskalnin carved over 1,100 tons of coral rock by hand into various tables, benches, walls, a sundial, and more. Edward created this site as a monument to his true love, Agnes, who canceled their wedding the day before they were to be married. Opened to the public in 1920, admission is now $18 and includes a guided tour,” says Tiffany from Pennies, Places and Paws.
2.The Fish House in Key Largo
Whether it’s time to eat on your Miami to Key West drive or you’re going to spend a good part of your day at nearby John Pennekamp State Park put the highly rated, yet casual, Fish House on your list.
“The Fish House has incredible seafood dishes, including a local favorite: conch chowder! This tomato-based soup tastes delicious and is the perfect appetizer before digging into heartier dishes. For lunch or dinner, dine on fresh local seafood, including mahi-mahi, yellowtail snapper, crab, shrimp, scallops and so much more,” says McKenna of One More Step Travels. “
3. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is located approximately 60 miles south of Miami. It was established in 1963 to preserve the only living coral reef in the continental United States, becoming the very first underwater park in the country. There are a lot of amazing places to stop during your Miami to Key West drive, but if you’re a diver, this is a must-do!
“If seeing or diving to a coral reef is on your bucket list, you actually do that in the continental United States. While Australia and Belize have the two biggest coral reefs in the world, there’s one in the United States not too far off the mainland in Key Largo,” says Sanjana at The Female Professional.
“Visitors can enjoy a variety of water activities such as boating, paddling, fishing, snorkeling, swimming, and scuba diving. You can also book a glass boat tour to experience the park’s coral reef system says Rachel & Dana of Traveling Found Love. “The most popular feature, “Christ of the Deep”, an underwater Jesus statue, is located at the Key Largo Dry Rock reef.
“John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is one of many great places to stop during a Miami to Key West drive. The park is surrounded by mangrove swamps, vivid coral reefs, and various marine life. You can kayak around the park, go snorkeling, and more. But, I agree the best thing for divers is seeing the infamous Christ of the Abyss statue,” says Disha from Disha Discovers.
4. Parasailing in Key Largo
“Key Largo, the first island in the Florida Keys is known for its adventure sports. It is an amazing experience to be able to fly like a bird with scintillating views of blue waters,” says Neha from Travel Melodies. “Key Largo Parasail is a great adventure company located at the Mile marker 104. There is an option to go on a tandem ride or even a triple ride attached to a parachute. The motorboat takes you into the middle of the water and there you go like a bird.”
5. Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada
“Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada has been voted one of the top places to visit on a Key West road trip. It’s a restaurant, bar, shopping area, excursion center, and offers activities for the entire family,” says Nicole from The Abroad Blog. “The most well-known activity to do at Robbie’s is to feed the tarpons. Tarpons are giant, prehistoric, Atlantic fish that are found throughout the Keys. Most people enjoy feeding them at Robbie’s, but if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can also snorkel with them here! Aside from snorkeling, Robbie’s also offers fishing excursions, parasailing, and sunset cruises. Lastly, be sure to load up on souvenirs here before resuming your Miami to Key West drive.”
6. Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon
Located about halfway through the Miami to Key West drive is Curry Hammock State Park deemed “uninhabited, untouched and unrivaled.” This 1,000-acre park is a tranquil place to get up close and personal with this protected land’s inhabitants.
“One of the best places to kayak in the Florida Keys is Curry Hammock State Park. The mangrove tunnels and quiet bays are perfect for seeing wildlife and having a unique experience on the water,” said Rob from 2 Travel Dads.
7. Porky’s Bayside BBQ in Marathon
“When doing the Miami to Key West drive, you must stop at Porky’s Bayside BBQ to try their scrumptious Fried Key Lime Pie,” says Jenessa from Destination Daydreamer. “Porky’s is a casual and fun BBQ restaurant located at mile marker 47.5 with funky decor and open-air seating.
“The restaurant sits right on Porky’s Marina and serves BBQ smoked daily, fresh seafood and one of the most unique Key Lime Pies you’ll find in the Florida Keys. Even if you’ve just eaten, make sure you swing by Porky’s to try their Fried Key Lime Pie for dessert-it’s one of the best things to do in the Keys!”
8. Bahia Honda State Park in Big Pine Key
I’ve learned from a friend whose family had a beach house in The Florida Keys, that while Key West is amazing, the resorts don’t have the best beaches. If you’re looking to get your beach fix, make sure you stop and enjoy the award-winning beaches at Bahia Honda State Park during your Miami to Key West drive.
Henry Flagler’s 1900’s railroad to Key West turned the remote island of Bahia Honda Key into a tropical destination within reach for people. The elevated train tracks were damaged in a hurricane and now the easternmost section is a walking bridge for visitors. Bahia Honda State Park covers 500 acres and an offshore island and is a family-friendly spot for snorkeling and beachcombing. It has conveniences like a snack bar, kayak rentals, and snorkeling tours to the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.
9. National Key Deer Refuge Center in Big Pine Key
If doing The Miami to Key West Drive with kids, this sounds like one of the best stops. My kids love animals and seeing these miniature deer in Key West sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“One of the most unique things to do in the Florida Keys is seeing Key Deer, the smallest deer in North America,” said Charles from McCool Travel. “Learn about them at the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center on Big Pine Key (MM 30.5). From there drive on Key Deer Blvd about three miles to two wilderness areas—Blue Hole and Fred C. Manilo Wildlife Trail. If you have not yet seen any of the dog-sized deer, drive onto No Name Key, which is much less crowded than Big Pine Key and offers a better chance of seeing key deer.”
10. Ernest Hemingway House in Key West
“Located on Whitehead Street in Old Town Key West across from the Key West Lighthouse, a visit to the Ernest Hemingway House is one of Key West’s top things to do,” said Lori of Travlin Mad. “Many of his works and collected objects from the 10 years he lived and wrote here in the 1930s are on full display. But they aren’t the only remaining artifacts of the home — look for the polydactyl (6 toed) cats — as many as 40-50 remain on the property, who descended from Hemingway’s cat, Snow White.”
11. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West
“At mile zero from Miami to Key West, is the US’s most southernmost state park and beach, Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West Florida. This 54-acre park is a must-see swim stop. The spectacular white-sand beach with its lapping turquoise waves is perfect for swimming, snorkeling, paddling, and picnicking,” says Emma from Journey Of A Nomadic Family.
“Combining US history with a beautiful nature spot, the beach is open 8-5 all year round and costs $4 to enter with a car. The red-brick site predates the Civil War and houses the largest cache of armament in the world. If you snorkel here you can expect to see rich tropical marine life such as parrotfish, yellowtail snapper, lobster, and various corals. Once you’ve dried off take a walk around the wooded nature trails to discover more.”
12. Dry Tortugas National Park in Key West
“Nestled about 70 miles from Florida’s Key West coastline, Dry Tortugas National Park consists of a series of tiny islands perfect for a day trip. The majority of people visiting Dry Tortugas enjoy a day trip from Key West into the park on the Yankee Freedom III ferry,” said Ellie from Ellie’s Travel Tips.
“This beautiful natural attraction is one of the top National Parks in the United States and is frequently visited by history-buffs, snorkelers, and fishermen alike. You can happily stroll the beautiful historic fort, snorkel the surrounding reef, and enjoy excellent fishing conditions. “
“Its remote location makes it one of the least visited national parks in the US. If you get seasick, you can also take a seaplane or a private charter from Key West. It can be done as a day trip, or camping is allowed on one of the islands. While there tour historic Fort Jefferson, the massive brick fortification that was never finished because it was too heavy for the sandy island,” says Kris from Nomad by Trade.
Hope this list inspires your itinerary for a Miami to Key West drive. I personally can’t wait to cross this Key West road trip off my bucket list!
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Monica Fish helps her fellow adventurers live a financially savvy life so they can travel and explore our beautiful world no matter their budget. She writes about smart timeshare ownership, vacation tips and tricks, NYC Metro Area trips and activities, and frugal, yet rich, living at PlannerAtHeart.com.