The Florida Keys are a string of islands surrounded by turquoise waters and dotted with charming towns and cities, and the drive from Key Largo to Key West is a journey like no other. With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, the drive offers stunning views of the water, the bridges, and the mangrove forests that line the road. Here’s our ultimate guide to road tripping from Key Largo to Key West.
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Why the Drive from Key Largo to Key West is a Must-Do
The 113-mile stretch of US-1 that connects Key Largo to Key West, known as the Overseas Highway, is one of the most scenic drives in the country. The road passes over 42 bridges, including the famous Seven Mile Bridge, and offers breathtaking views of the ocean and the Florida Keys’ natural beauty. Driving the Overseas Highway is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should not be missed.
How Long Does It Take to Drive from Key Largo to Key West?
The 100 mile distance from Key Largo to Key West takes approximately 2.5 hours to drive, but you will want to stop and take in the sights along the way. Here are some of the best stops to include in your itinerary:
Top Things to See and Do in the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: This park is perfect for snorkeling, diving, and kayaking. The underwater world of the park is home to a variety of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and coral reefs.
- Hours: 8 a.m. until sunset, 365 days a year
- Fees: $8 per vehicle, plus 50 cents per person
- Location: Mile Marker 102.5 Overseas Highway
Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center: This sanctuary for injured birds is a must-visit for nature lovers. Visitors can see birds being rehabilitated and learn about the center’s conservation efforts.
- Hours: 365 days a year, from sunrise to sunset
- Fees: Free admission but $10/person donation requested
- Location: 93600 Overseas Highway Tavernier, FL 33070
Keys Meads: Try some local craft mead made from local ingredients. Taste any 10 flavors of mead for $10.
- Hours: Monday – Saturday: 12pm till 8pm; Sunday: 12pm till 6pm
- Location: 99411 Overseas Hwy. Unit 6
Best Places to Eat in Key Largo:
- Keys Bite (Mexican, Latin, Seafood) 99000 Overseas Hwy
- What The Fish Rolls & More (American, Seafood, Gluten Free Options) 90775 Old Hwy Unit #6, Tavernier
- Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen (American, Caribbean) 99336 Overseas Hwy
- Hobo’s Cafe (American, Bar, Seafood) Mile Marker 101- Oceanside
- Num Thai Restaurant and Sushi Bar (Japanese, Seafood, Sushi) 103200 Overseas Hwy
History of Diving Museum: This museum is dedicated to the history of diving, from ancient times to modern-day. Visitors can see antique diving equipment and learn about the evolution of underwater exploration.
- Hours: Open Daily 10-5
- Fees: Adults: $15, Seniors (62+): $13, Children 6-11: $7, Children 5 and Under: FREE
- Location: 82990 Overseas Hwy, MM83
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park: This state park features a unique fossilized coral reef, which is estimated to be over 125,000 years old. You can explore the park’s trails, view the fossil quarry, and learn about the geology and ecology of the area.
- Hours: Park is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday through Monday
- Fees: $2.50 per person
- Location: 84900 Overseas Highway
Best Places to Eat in Islamorada:
- Bayside Gourmet (Italian, Pizza, Vegetarian Friendly) 82758 Overseas Hwy
- Square Grouper – Islamorada (American, Seafood, Bar) 80460 Overseas Hwy
- MEAT Eatery And Taproom (American) 88005 Overseas Hwy
- Chef Michael’s (American, Vegetarian Friendly, Seafood) 81671 Overseas Highway
- Lazy Days (American, Caribbean, Bar) 79867 Overseas Hwy
Dolphin Research Center: This non-profit organization is dedicated to the research and conservation of dolphins and other marine life. Visitors can learn about the center’s work and interact with the dolphins in various programs.
- Hours: Open 7 days per week 9.00am to 4:30 p.m. Last admissions at 3:30 p.m. Closed on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day
- Fees: Adults: $28:00, Military/Veterans (present military ID): $25:00, Children 4-12: $23.00. Children 3 and under free admission.
- Location: 58901 Overseas Highway
Sombrero Beach: This beach is a favorite among locals and you alike. The white sand and crystal-clear water are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
- Hours: Monday through Sunday. Hours are from 7:00am to Dusk
- Fees: FREE
- Location: Sombrero Beach Rd
Pigeon Key: This small island was once a base camp for workers during the construction of the famous Overseas Highway in the early 1900s. Today, it offers visitors a glimpse into the history of the Florida Keys. You take the train from the visitor’s center to the island and explore the historic buildings, including the restored train depot.
- Hours: 7 Days a Week, DEPARTURE TIMES 10 am, 12 pm, 2 pm RETURN TIMES 12:20 pm, 2:20 pm, 4:00 pm
- Fees: Adults $25, Children 4 – 12 $20, Veterans $23
- Location: 1090 Overseas Highway
Best Places to Eat in Marathon:
- Butterfly Cafe (American, Seafood, Vegetarian Friendly) 2600 Overseas Hwy
- Frank’s Grill (Italian, Pizza) 11400 Overseas Hwy
- Upper Crust Pizza (Italian, Pizza, Vegetarian Friendly) 3740Overseas Hwy
- King Seafood- Market & Restaurant (American, Seafood, Cuban) 10925 Overseas Highway
- Burdines Waterfront (American, Bar, Seafood) 1200 Overseas Hwy
Mallory Square: This square is a popular gathering place for Sunset Celebration where you can see street performers and grab some dinner from one of the many food vendors.
- Hours: 10:00 AM – 11:00 PM
- Fees: FREE
- Location: 420 Wall St, Key West, FL 33040
Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum: This museum is located in the former home of writer Ernest Hemingway. Visitors can see Hemingway’s writing studio and learn about his life and work.
- Hours: 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
- Fees: Adults $18, Children 6 – 12 $7, Free for children under 5 (CASH Only)
- Location: 907 Whitehead Street
Duval Street: This street is the center of Key West’s nightlife scene, with many bars, restaurants, and shops.
- Location: Runs north and south from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, just over 1.25 miles in length.
Hemingway Rum -Papa’s Pilar Distillery: Take a tour, cocktail classes, or visit the Hemingway Library, or haunted ghost tour.
Best Places to Eat in Key West:
- The Breakfast Club, Too (American,Vegetarian Friendly) 610 Greene St
- Key West Cuban Coffee shop (Latin, Vegetarian Friendly) 517 Truman Ave
- Kaya island Eats (Caribbean, Seafood, Pub) 618 Duval St
- Moondog Cafe & Bakery (American, Cafe, Healthy) 823 Whitehead St
- Blue Heaven (American, Caribbean, Seafood) 729 Thomas St
Best Places to Stay in the Florida Keys
Playa Largo Resort & Spa: This luxury resort offers oceanfront rooms and suites, a private beach, a full-service spa, and multiple restaurants and bars. The resort also has a marina with boat rentals and water sports activities.
Hampton Inn Key Largo: This comfortable hotel offers a small beach, nice pool, and free breakfast.
Baker’s Cay Resort: This eco-friendly resort offers oceanfront rooms and suites, multiple pools, a private beach, a full-service spa, and several dining options. The resort also has a variety of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and snorkeling.
Cheeca Lodge & Spa: This iconic resort offers oceanfront rooms and suites, a private beach, multiple pools, a full-service spa, and several restaurants and bars. The resort also has a marina with fishing charters and water sports activities, as well as children’s activities.
Ragged Edge Resort & Marina: This quiet, ocean-view resort offers suites, peddle bikes, hammocks, and kayaks for exploring.
Islander Resort: This modern resort offers oceanfront rooms and suites, a private beach, yoga classes, and children’s activities.
Isla Bella Beach Resort: This contemporary, luxury resort offers oceanview rooms and suites, five swimming pools, a private beach, a full-service spa, and several dining options. The resort also has water sports and daily activities. It is surrounded by a mile of waterfront at the foot of the Seven Mile Bridge.
Tranquility Bay Beachfront Resort: This beachfront resort offers spacious villas with full kitchens, a private beach, multiple pools, and a restaurant serving fresh seafood. The resort also has a variety of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing.
Courtyard Faro Blanco Resort: This family-friendly resort offers oceanview rooms and suites, multiple pools, a private beach, live music, beach bonfires,
Hyatt Centric Key West Resort and Spa: This boutique style resort offers great views, a private beach, a pool, a full-service spa, and a bar/lounge. The resort also has a variety of outdoor activities.
The Perry Hotel Key West: This boutique hotel offers waterfront rooms and suites, a pool, a Tiki bar, and a restaurant serving fresh seafood. The hotel also has a marina with boat rentals and fishing charters.
Sunset Key Cottages: This private island resort offers beachfront cottages with full kitchens, a private beach, a pool, and a restaurant serving Caribbean-inspired cuisine.
Best Places to Stop for Key Lime Pie
When it comes to iconic Florida Keys desserts, there’s nothing quite like key lime pie. This tangy and sweet dessert has become a staple of the Florida Keys culinary scene, and there are plenty of great places to try it from Key Largo to Key West. Here are some of the best places to indulge in this classic dessert.
- Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen: This local favorite serves up a delicious homemade key lime pie with a buttery graham cracker crust and a creamy filling.
- Key Largo Conch House: This restaurant boasts an award-winning key lime pie that’s tart, tangy, and perfectly balanced with a dollop of whipped cream.
- Lazy Days Restaurant: This waterfront restaurant is known for its fresh seafood, but don’t skip their decadent key lime pie. The pie is topped with a tangy glaze that perfectly complements the creamy filling.
- Midway Cafe & Coffee Bar: This cozy cafe serves up a mean slice of key lime pie with a crumbly graham cracker crust and a tart filling that’s just sweet enough.
- Sweet Savannah’s: This bakery is a must-visit for key lime pie lovers. Their pies are made from scratch daily and feature a generous layer of whipped cream on top.
- The Island Fish Co.: This waterfront restaurant serves up a refreshing twist on the classic key lime pie with their frozen key lime pie slices. It’s the perfect dessert to cool you down on a hot day.
- Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe: This shop specializes in all things key lime, and their key lime pie is a must-try. They offer both classic and chocolate-dipped key lime pie slices, as well as frozen key lime pie on a stick.
- Blue Heaven: This iconic Key West restaurant is known for its funky atmosphere and delicious food, including their legendary key lime pie. The pie is topped with a fluffy meringue and features a tangy filling made from real key limes.
Best foods to try from Key Largo to Key West
When visiting the Florida Keys, be sure to indulge in the local cuisine. Here’s a list of the best foods to try from Key Largo to Key West:
- Conch Fritters: A popular local appetizer made with conch meat, peppers, and onions, deep-fried and served with a spicy dipping sauce.
- Key Lime Pie: A classic dessert made with Key lime juice, sweetened condensed milk, and a graham cracker crust. It’s a must-try when in the Keys.
- Cuban Sandwich: A delicious sandwich made with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread. You can find this popular sandwich throughout the Keys.
- Fish Tacos: Made with locally caught fish, fresh salsa, and a variety of toppings, fish tacos are a staple in the Keys.
- Lobster: The Florida Keys are known for their delicious spiny lobster, which can be found on many menus throughout the area.
- Key West Pink Shrimp: These sweet and succulent shrimp are a local specialty and can be found in many dishes, from shrimp cocktail to pasta dishes.
- Mahi Mahi: This delicious white fish is a popular catch in the Florida Keys and is often served grilled or blackened.
- Stone Crab: A local delicacy, stone crab claws are harvested during the winter months and are often served cold with mustard sauce.
- Yellowtail Snapper: Another popular local fish, yellowtail snapper is often grilled or fried and served with a variety of sauces and sides.
- Rum Cocktails: The Florida Keys are known for their rum cocktails, including the classic Key West Lime Margarita and the Hemingway Daiquiri.
Tips for the Best Times to Travel the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a popular travel destination, especially during the winter months when the weather is mild and sunny. However, this also means that crowds can be heavy, and prices can be higher. Here are some tips on the best time to travel and how to avoid crowds in the Florida Keys:
Off-Season: The best time to avoid crowds in the Florida Keys is during the off-season, which is typically from early June to early December. The summer months can be hot and humid, but this is also the time when crowds are the smallest, and prices are more affordable. This is also Hurricane season so be sure to pay attention to forecasts and weather alerts.
Shoulder Season: The shoulder season, which is from early January to late April, is another good time to visit the Florida Keys. The weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller than during the peak season, which is from mid-December to early January.
Mid-Week Travel: If you must travel during the peak season, consider visiting mid-week when crowds are smaller, and prices are lower. Avoid weekends and major holidays when hotels and attractions can be booked up in advance.
Off-The-Beaten-Path Attractions: Instead of sticking to the most popular tourist destinations like Key West and Islamorada, consider exploring lesser-known areas like Marathon, Big Pine Key, and the Lower Keys. These areas offer plenty of attractions and activities but are less crowded.
Book in Advance: If you must travel during the peak season, book hotels and activities well in advance to avoid disappointment. Prices can be higher during the peak season, but booking early (3 months or more) can help you find deals and specials.
What to Pack for Your Florida Keys Adventure
When planning a trip to the Florida Keys, it’s important to pack accordingly for the warm weather and outdoor activities. Here’s a list of essential items to pack for your Florida Keys adventure:
Sunscreen: The sun can be strong in the Florida Keys, so be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen with a high SPF rating and if possible, it’s always best to protect the reef and use a reef safe sunscreen.
Sunglasses and Hat: Protect your eyes and face from the sun by packing a pair of sunglasses and a hat.
Lightweight Clothing: Pack lightweight and breathable clothing, such as shorts, t-shirts, and sundresses, for the warm weather.
Swimsuit and Beach Gear: Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit and beach gear like a towel, beach bag, and sandals for days spent at the beach.
Insect Repellent: Mosquitoes can be a nuisance in the Florida Keys, so be sure to pack insect repellent.
Comfortable Shoes: Pack comfortable shoes for walking and hiking, such as sneakers or sandals with good support.
Waterproof Phone Case: Protect your phone from water damage by packing a waterproof phone case for water activities like snorkeling and kayaking.
Water Bottle: Stay hydrated during your Florida Keys adventure by packing a refillable water bottle.
Snacks and Drinks: Bring snacks and drinks for long car rides and outdoor activities.
Camera: Capture memories of your Florida Keys adventure by packing a camera or smartphone with a good camera.
By packing these essential items, you’ll be prepared for a fun and comfortable adventure in the Florida Keys. Don’t forget to check the weather forecast before you go and pack accordingly for any unexpected changes in weather.
Tips for a Successful Road Trip from Key Largo to Key West
Here are some final tips for making the most of your road trip from Key Largo to Key West:
- Plan your itinerary in advance and decide which stops you want to make.
- Check the weather and plan for appropriate clothing and gear.
- Bring plenty of snacks and drinks for the drive.
- Fill up your gas tank before you start the journey, as gas stations can be few and far between on some parts of the route.
- Consider renting a convertible to fully take in the scenic views and feel the ocean breeze.
- Bring a camera or a smartphone with a good camera to capture the stunning landscapes and memories of your trip.
- Be aware of the speed limits and traffic laws, as the Overseas Highway is heavily patrolled by police.
- Respect the natural environment and be mindful of the wildlife, especially when snorkeling, diving, or kayaking.
- Make sure to book any activities or tours in advance to ensure availability and save time.
By following these tips, you will be well prepared for an amazing Florida Keys road trip. You’ll be able to avoid crowds and enjoy a more relaxed and affordable visit to the Florida Keys. Whether you’re traveling during the off-season or the peak season, there’s plenty to see and do, so pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable vacation.