Can You Drive to the Florida Keys

Can You Drive to the Florida Keys? Routes and Tips

Yes. You can drive to the Florida Keys. Not only that, it is actually one of America’s most iconic and scenic road trips.

The Overseas Highway is a 113-mile highway that runs through the Florida Keys and offers stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding islands. The drive is a popular tourist attraction, and it’s not hard to see why. You’ll pass through charming towns and villages, cross over dozens of bridges, and see some of the most beautiful scenery in the United States. The drive is also relatively easy, with well-maintained roads and plenty of places to stop along the way.

Planning Your Trip

The drive from Miami to Key West through the Florida Keys is approximately 160 miles, and the estimated driving time is about 3 to 4 hours without making any extended stops. However, the actual time it takes can vary based on factors such as traffic conditions, the time of day, and the number of stops you choose to make along the way

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the Florida Keys is from November to April. During this time, the weather is pleasant, and the humidity is low. However, this is also the peak tourist season, so expect higher prices and crowds. If you prefer a quieter trip, consider visiting during the summer months, but be prepared for higher temperatures and humidity.

Choosing Your Route

There are two main routes to the Florida Keys: the Florida Turnpike and the Overseas Highway. If you’re driving from Miami, the Florida Turnpike is the quickest route, but it bypasses most of the Keys. The Overseas Highway, on the other hand, is a scenic route that takes you through the heart of the Keys.

The Route

  1. Start in Miami: Your journey begins in the vibrant city of Miami, located on the southeastern coast of Florida. Miami is renowned for its diverse culture, beautiful beaches, and lively atmosphere. Take a moment to explore some of Miami’s iconic landmarks, such as South Beach, the Art Deco Historic District in Miami Beach, or the vibrant neighborhoods of Little Havana and Wynwood. Once you’ve soaked in the energy of Miami, head south to embark on the scenic drive to the Florida Keys.
  2. Take U.S. Route 1: Departing from Miami, you’ll join U.S. Route 1, the highway that connects the mainland to the Keys. As you leave the city behind, you’ll traverse the southern suburbs of Miami, enjoying views of the tropical landscape. The journey on U.S. Route 1 provides glimpses of Florida’s unique flora and fauna, setting the stage for the natural beauty you’ll encounter on the Keys. Keep an eye out for signs directing you to Key West, your ultimate destination.
  3. Cross the Rickenbacker Causeway: One of the early highlights of your drive is the Rickenbacker Causeway, a picturesque bridge that spans Biscayne Bay and connects the mainland to Key Biscayne. As you drive across this causeway, the shimmering waters on either side offer a preview of the stunning ocean views you’ll experience throughout your journey. Take a moment to appreciate the Miami skyline behind you and the vast expanse of the bay as you make your way to the first leg of the Florida Keys adventure.
  4. Continue on U.S. Route 1: Leaving Key Biscayne, you’ll continue on U.S. Route 1, passing through the towns of Homestead and Florida City. This portion of the drive takes you through the mainland areas before transitioning into the island-hopping experience that defines the Keys. The anticipation builds as you approach the entrance to the Overseas Highway, marking the official start of your journey into the archipelago of the Florida Keys.
  5. Enter the Florida Keys: Crossing the Jewfish Creek Bridge signifies your entry into the enchanting realm of the Florida Keys. The landscape changes as you leave the mainland behind and enter a world of turquoise waters, swaying palm trees, and a laid-back tropical ambiance. The sense of adventure intensifies as you traverse the first few keys, each offering its own unique charm and attractions. The transformation is palpable, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the distinct island culture that defines the Florida Keys.
  6. Drive through Key Largo: Your first major Key is Key Largo, renowned for its spectacular coral reefs and the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Take the opportunity to explore the underwater wonders or simply relax on the beaches. Key Largo sets the tone for the natural beauty that characterizes the Keys, and you may want to make a stop to appreciate the scenic vistas and maybe indulge in some local cuisine.
  7. Islamorada: Continuing south, you’ll reach Islamorada, a cluster of islands known for its laid-back atmosphere and world-class fishing. Islamorada is often referred to as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World,” making it a paradise for anglers. In addition to its fishing prowess, the area offers opportunities for water sports, nature trails, and relaxation. Take your time to explore the local attractions and savor the tropical surroundings before continuing your journey.
  8. Marathon: As you travel further along U.S. Route 1, you’ll approach Marathon, a 10-mile-long key that features the iconic Seven Mile Bridge. Marathon is an excellent place to stretch your legs, enjoy the ocean views, and perhaps visit the Crane Point Museum and Nature Center. The Seven Mile Bridge, with its breathtaking panoramic views, is a highlight of the drive, providing a sense of exhilaration as you traverse this engineering marvel suspended over the sparkling waters of the Atlantic.
  9. Seven Mile Bridge: The Seven Mile Bridge is a symbolic and visual centerpiece of the journey, offering an awe-inspiring experience as you drive along its elevated expanse. This bridge spans the turquoise waters between Marathon and the Lower Keys, providing uninterrupted views of the ocean and the horizon. Take your time crossing the bridge, perhaps stopping at the scenic overlooks to capture photos of the expansive seascape. The Seven Mile Bridge is not just a means of transportation but a destination in itself, showcasing the natural beauty that makes the Florida Keys a sought-after destination.
  10. Lower Keys: As you exit the Seven Mile Bridge, you’ll find yourself in the Lower Keys, including Big Pine Key and Summerland Key. The Lower Keys offer a more relaxed and less developed atmosphere, providing a glimpse into the untouched beauty of the Florida Keys. Consider exploring the National Key Deer Refuge on Big Pine Key, where you may encounter the unique and endangered Key deer, a species native to the region.
  11. Reach Key West: The final stretch of your journey leads you to Key West, the southernmost point of the continental United States. Key West is a vibrant and eclectic destination known for its historic architecture, lively Duval Street, and the famous Southernmost Point Buoy. Explore the charming Old Town, visit landmarks like the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere of this tropical paradise. Key West is not just the end of the road; it’s a destination that invites you to unwind, enjoy the sunset at Mallory Square, and celebrate the completion of your memorable drive through the Florida Keys.

Exploring the Upper Keys