Last Updated on March 9, 2021
One of the most famous scenic routes in Florida is the Miami to Key West drive. With stops like the Everglades, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Seven Mile Bridge, and of course Key West, there’s no question of why this 166-mile drive has garnered so much popularity.
While you might be tempted to try to make this Miami to Key West road trip a single-day adventure, I highly recommend taking your time!
In order to fully appreciate all the stops, I personally recommend taking at least three days to do this drive, although there are some people who take a week or more to explore all that this part of Florida has to offer.
To make sure you don’t miss any of the locations that are worth your time, this guide has 17 of the best stops on the famous Miami to Key West drive.
Why You Should Do a Miami to Key West Drive
The Miami to Key West drive is undoubtedly one of the best road trips in the States and you’ll be able to see for yourself why.
First of all, this road trip gives you an opportunity to explore Florida a little deeper. After all, it’s the land of beautiful white sand beaches and a lovely tropical climate.
Plus, this road trip is packed with quirky stops, delicious restaurants, and heaps of roadside attractions.
Be prepared to ooh and ahh over the picturesque views of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. If I had a dollar for every time I gasped in amazement, I could have paid for my gasoline.
Lastly, the Florida Keys are famous for their diving and snorkeling opportunities. With clear blue water and colorful coral and marine life, it’s no wonder that the Keys are regarded as one of the best dive and snorkeling spots in the world. In fact, the Florida Reef is the only living coral reef system in the continental States and the third-largest system in the world!
Best Time to Do the Miami to Key West Drive
Basically, any time besides hurricane season is the best time to do the Miami to Key West Drive. Hurricane season is from June to November so you’ll want to do this road trip during the winter or spring.
If you’re feeling brave, you can certainly try to have a go at this Miami to Key West road trip during hurricane season. You’ll pay less for your hotels and flights since it’s the off-season. However, I don’t entirely recommend this especially if you’re visiting from outside of Florida.
Another thing you should keep in mind is that the winter months are the busiest in Florida since people from the North and other colder areas come down to escape winter. Consequently, hotels are more expensive.
Where to Stay on Your Miami to Key West Drive
There are so many accommodation options in the Florida Keys that are perfect for any traveler. You’ll find budget-friendly options, luxurious options, resorts, hotels, Airbnbs, and more! You can stay in Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, and Key West.
If you’re spending a few days doing this road trip, you can opt in to spend the night in Key Largo. It’s a laidback town and there are several fun things to do here from snorkeling, diving, fishing, kayaking, swimming with dolphins, and more. Spend the evening watching the gorgeous sunset with a tropical cocktail in hand.
Islamorada encompasses six of the Florida Keys. Islamorada means “purple island” and legend has it that Spanish explorers gave it this name because they saw a purple sky at sunset. It’s also known as the Sport-Fishing Capital of the World. Here, you can explore hiking trails and shipwrecks. You can also learn about the history of the Florida Keys at the Florida Keys History and Discovery Center.
Marathon is the halfway point between Miami and Key West which makes it a popular place to stop. There are several things to do in Marathon such as deep-sea fishing, kayaking, jet-ski tours, paddleboarding, and more. Marathon is spread out over thirteen Keys so island hopping is also a fun thing to do.
Known for the infamous Duval Street, Key West is one of the most lively and biggest party cities in Florida. It has a New Orleans vibe to it and it’s brimming with things to do. Make sure you visit Southernmost Point, Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park, Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, and more. Make sure you grab a coffee from Cuban Coffee Queen and try some seafood at Key West Fish & Chips.
Whatever you decide to do in Key West, be sure to have dinner at Seaside Cafe at the Mansion. You’ll catch epic views of the sunset here as it’s perched just a few steps away from the Atlantic Ocean. Their lobster pizza is out of this world and I think about it all the time. You’ll also want to get a mojito and have them add an extra shot of rum. You won’t regret this Key West gem!
The Ultimate Miami to Key West Drive
Are you ready to start your Miami to Key West drive? Let’s go! Here are 17 amazing stops on this road trip!
Since you’ll be starting your Miami to Key West drive in the amazing town of Miami, you should definitely take some time to experience what the area has to offer before you set off on your adventure.
While I personally find it difficult to leave Miami (mainly because of the amazing food scene), try to get through your list of things to see in town quickly in order to make it to the Florida Keys.
In other words, you’ll want to see the highlights like Little Havana, South Beach, the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, and Bayfront Park.
2. Coral Castle Museum
The Coral Castle Museum is definitely one of the most unique stops on the Miami to Key West drive. Part castle and part sculpture garden, this Florida attraction’s story is actually the most memorable part.
The construction of this structure was started in the 1940s by a man named Edward Leedskalin, known to the local community as simply Ed. At barely 100 pounds and just five-feet tall, Ed was a small man, but he managed to move the huge pieces of limestone to build the Coral Castle Museum all by himself. Many people have wondered how he managed to do so.
While the project did take Ed nearly 30 years to complete, it still seems impossible – so much so that the construction of the Coral Castle Museum has actually been compared to the Pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge!
3. Homestead-Miami Speedway
Calling all car aficionados! The Homestead-Miami Speedway is a fantastic stop for you!
The best thing to do at the Homestead-Miami Speedway is to watch a race. The NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Cup Series are both hosted here. But, of course, whether or not you can see a race all depends on timing. If there aren’t any races when you plan to visit, you can still take a tour of the track and buy a souvenir from the gift shop.
4. Everglades National Park
As one of the best national parks on the East Coast, the Everglades National Park is one of the most popular stops on a Miami to Key West road trip.
This unique marshy landscape is filled with loads of Florida wildlife, including alligators, manatees, and Florida panthers. If you’d like to have a good chance of seeing these wild creatures, you should take a wildlife and nature tour by boat.
5. Alabama Jack’s
Alabama Jack’s is a laidback, rundown seafood shack that you’ll see right as you leave mainland Florida and head to the Florida Keys. While the conch fritters are worth a try, you want to stop at Alabama Jack’s more for the tradition of it. Just about every first-time visitor to the Florida Keys makes a stop at this historic establishment – and you definitely should too!
6. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Located on Key Largo, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park holds the title special title of being the first undersea park in the United States. And with so much underwater beauty, it’s really no surprise that this state park holds such a prestigious title.
To experience the best parts of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, you’ll need to dive below the surface. While you can stay dry by canoeing and kayaking, I highly recommend snorkeling or scuba diving instead. Or if you’d like an option that requires less physical exertion, you can take a glass-bottom boat tour.
While diving, you’ll also see the nine-foot-tall bronze statue of Christ of the Abyss.
7. Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center
The Florida Keys is home to all sorts of wild birds – from pelicans to owls to shorebirds to hawks. And the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center provides a home for sick and injured birds until they’re ready to head out on their own again. Or, if they’re too injured to do so, the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center becomes their permanent home.
While at this non-profit center, you can say hello to the magical birds, take an educational tour, and snap a few photos. If you’d like to help the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center continue its work, you can even make a donation while you’re there.
8. Key Largo
While John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Crocodile, and the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center are the main attractions of Key Largo, there are other things to do on Key Largo too.
After all, after Key West, Key Largo may be one of the most famous islands in the Florida Keys. You can keep an eye out for dolphins, dive to the Spiegel Grove Shipwreck, suntan at Harry Harris Beach and Park, or admire one of Florida’s awe-inspiring sunsets.
Despite the fact that the tiny island of Islamorada is only seven miles long, it is packed with ocean-inspired excursions and artsy activities. If you’d like to embrace the ocean-inspired side of things, you can say hello to the marine animals at the Theater of the Sea or try your hand at fishing.
As for the artsy side of the island, Islamorada boasts the amazing Morada Way Arts District. While in the area, you can peruse everything from art studios to sculpture gardens. But the most exciting event in the Morada Way Arts District is the Art Walk. Once every month, the local musicians and artists perform, showcase their pieces, and just have a great time. And you can join in on the excitement too! Listen to the live music, talk to the local artists, and maybe even purchase an art piece to take home with you.
10. Robbie’s Marina
Like the Coral Castle Museum, Robbie’s Marina is one of the quirkiest stops on the Miami to Key West drive. While at this one-of-a-kind stop, you can feed a handful of the hundreds of five-foot-long tarpons that have made their home in the area.
But the tarpon didn’t always live at Robbie’s Marina. As a matter of fact, the story behind the school of tarpon may be even more exciting than the fish feeding frenzy.
A few decades ago, Robbie, the owner of Robbie’s Marina, came across a tarpon that had its jaw ripped open. Out of the goodness of his heart, Robbie decided to help the injured fish, who he named Scarface. Robbie stitched up and handfed Scarface for months until finally releasing him back out into the ocean.
Robbie thought that was the end of the story – until Scarface came back day after day to see his human companion. And Scarface decided to bring some of his fish friends along with him too! Long story short, now Robbie’s Marina is filled with friendly tarpon.
11. Dolphin Research Center
If you’re an animal lover, this stretch of the Miami to Key West drive will be your favorite. After feeding the fish at Robbie’s Marina, there’s the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key. This non-profit establishment rescues injured dolphins and provides a home for them if they can’t go back to the wild.
While at the Dolphin Research Center, you can learn so much about these friendly animals. Watch the dolphins play together, enjoy an educational presentation, and perhaps donate a few dollars to the center so they can continue their amazing work.
12. Turtle Hospital
After you finish up at the Dolphin Research Center, you can continue on to the final stop of the animal lover’s dream drive: The Turtle Hospital in Marathon.
Similar to the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon rescues, rehabilitates, and releases injured sea turtles. You can learn all about these majestic, endangered creatures by taking a tour of the facility. But you’ll definitely want to book a tour in advance because the spots fill up very quickly!
13. Seven Mile Bridge
There are so many gorgeous stops on the Miami to Key West drive, but the Seven Mile Bridge may be the most scenic of them all. As you wind your way along the Seven Mile Bridge, you can take in the beautiful views of the turquoise waters, thriving mangrove trees, and charming fishing piers.
This lengthy bridge doesn’t just offer just stunning views though! Starting from Knight’s Key and ending at Duck Key, it also connects some of the most underrated islands in the Florida Keys, including Big Pine Key and Bahia Honda Key.
14. Bahia Honda State Park
While most people think that they’ll find the most beautiful beaches on the popular islands of Key West and Key Largo, the hidden gem of Bahia Honda State Park on Bahia Honda Key is actually where you want to go. As a matter of fact, those who visit Bahia Honda State Park believe that it has some of the best beaches in the country!
There are quite a few stunning beaches at Bahia Honda State Park, including Old Bahia Honda Bridge, Sandspur Beach, and Loggerhead Beach. But with its pristine white sand and sparkling blue waters, Calusa Beach may be the best of the bunch.
15. National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center
The southernmost Florida Keys are actually home to an endangered species of deer called the Florida Key deer. Like its name implies, this dog-sized deer species can actually only be found in this small part of the world!
Since the Florida Key deer are endangered, you’d be hard-pressed to find one in the wild. But if you’d like to see one in person, you can head to the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center on Big Pine Key.
This center helps to rehabilitate sick or injured Florida Key deer. During your time there, you can say hello to the adorable deer, learn about how they survive, and maybe even donate a few dollars to support the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center.
16. Dry Tortugas National Park
While you can access most of the stops on this Miami to Key West drive by car, you’ll need to hop on a boat or a seaplane to get to Dry Tortugas National Park. And while that might seem like too much effort, this national park is certainly worth it.
Once you reach this awesome island, you can pop by the historic Fort Jefferson, snorkel and swim among colorful schools of fish, and even camp overnight on the island. And, as the name of the national park implies (“tortugas” translates to “turtle”), there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to see quite a few turtles while at the amazing Dry Tortugas National Park.
17. Key West
As the last of the Florida Keys and the southernmost point in the continental U.S., Key West is a very popular destination and you’ll see exactly why. It is undoubtedly the most famous stop on any Miami to Key West drive.
While on Key West, there is so much for you to do. You can take a few pictures with the “Southernmost Point” buoy, say hello to the butterflies at Nature Conservatory, stroll along Duval Street, enjoy a slice of key lime pie from Old Town Bakery, and watch the brightly colored sunset from Mallory Square.
Do you have any stops to add to this Miami to Key West drive? Let me know in the comments below!
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