Are you interested in taking one of the most beautiful road trips in the United States? You’re in luck. Nestled at the southernmost tip of Florida, Key West is a tropical paradise famous for its tropical waters, white sandy beaches, and vibrant atmosphere. While many visitors fly directly to the island, there’s an alternative so you can experience the true essence of Florida on a unique drive: a road trip from Miami to Key West.
This scenic drive along the Overseas Highway takes you through the stunning Florida Keys, offering breathtaking views and inspiring stops. We’ll explore the logistics of driving to Key West, the best time to embark on this journey, and the must-visit attractions along the route. Buckle up as we hit the road to paradise!
Can You Drive to Key West?
Driving to Key West from Miami is not only possible but also highly recommended for travelers who want to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Florida Keys. The drive spans the Overseas Highway connecting the mainland to the series of islands stretching toward Key West. This iconic 113-mile route is an adventure, offering travelers picturesque views of the ocean, small islands, and various bridges.
Can You Drive An RV to Key West?
You can absolutely drive an RV to Key West. The Overseas Highway is extremely RV-friendly, making it a trendy route for RVers seeking an unforgettable journey. Traveling this route in your RV allows you to enjoy the road trip at your pace, giving you the freedom to stop and explore charming spots along the way.
There are also several stunning campgrounds you can visit, like Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon and Bahia Honda State Park in Big Pine Key. If you’re interested in staying at these picturesque campsites during your travels, it’s best to reserve your spot as far in advance as possible. One of the best times to visit is in the spring, just after the snowbirds have “flown” north. While September and October is also a less-popular time to visit, be aware that this is because it’s hurricane season. Inclement weather can ravage Southern Florida, and it’s best to avoid the area during that time of year.
Pro Tip: On our roadtrip to Key West, we opted to leave the RV at home. Find out how we did the Florida Keys for free. (Disclaimer: we would probably not do it again!)
How Long Does It Take to Drive From Miami to Key West?
The driving distance from Miami to Key West is approximately 160 miles, with most spanning the Overseas Highway. The driving time can vary depending on traffic conditions and your driving speed. However, it takes around 3.5 to 4.5 hours to drive without making any stops.
The point of a Miami to Key West road trip, however, is to stop and explore all the amazing sights. For this reason, we recommend taking three days minimum to enjoy all that this area offers; one day to explore The Key Largo area, one day for Marathon Key, and another day to explore Key West.
Keep in mind that during peak travel times, like holidays or weekends, the drive may take longer due to increased traffic. It’s a good idea to plan your trip accordingly and check for any potential road closures or construction updates.
Pro Tip: Rest up for your road trip adventures at one of these 7 Best Miami Beach RV Parks for Year-Round Camping Near the Ocean..
What Is the Best Time of Year to Drive to Key West?
The best time for a road trip from Miami to Key West is during the dry season, which typically runs from November to April. During these months, you’ll experience milder temperatures, lower humidity, and minimal chances of rain, making it ideal for a comfortable journey.
The Florida Keys can be busy during peak tourist season between December and April. This is why we recommend planning your trip during the shoulder season around November and May. Not only will the weather still be mild, but you’ll also likely enjoy your time without the hustle and bustle of crowds. It’s essential to avoid peak hurricane season, which runs from August through October.
Is the Overseas Highway to Key West Floating?
Contrary to a common misconception, the Overseas Highway is not entirely floating. While several bridges span the gaps between the islands, most of the highway is on elevated roadways and embankments. The highway also incorporates remnants of the historic Florida East Coast Railway, making it an engineering marvel that seamlessly blends with the surrounding waters.
One of the most iconic sections of the Overseas Highway is the Seven Mile Bridge. It is a series of bridges that connect Knight’s Key to Little Duck Key. Another notable bridge is the Bahia Honda Bridge, which provides a connection to Bahia Honda Key. These bridges are often associated with the concept of a “floating highway” due to their elevated design over the water. However, the Overseas Highway is a combination of regular highway stretches on land and elevated bridge sections over the water. This makes it one of the most scenic drives in the United States.
5 Fun Stops Between Miami and Key West
Where should you stop on your epic trip from Miami to Key West? Keep reading to learn all about three fascinating destinations in southern Florida.
1. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
As you begin your journey, a must-see stop is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. Known as the first underwater park in the United States, this state park boasts breathtaking coral reefs and a diverse array of marine life. Snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts will be thrilled to explore the colorful underwater world. Glass-bottom boat tours offer an opportunity for everyone to view the marine life without getting wet.
2. Betsy the Spiny Lobster
For nearly three decades, Betsy the Spiny Lobster sculpture has captivated tourists and photography enthusiasts alike. The tale of Betsy is as colorful as the vibrant marine life in the Florida Keys, a region where the spiny lobster is among the most cherished native species. Each year, throngs of people descend upon the Keys for the Lobster Mini Season that takes place on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July. Unlike their clawed cousins from Maine, Florida’s Spiny Lobsters are coveted for their succulent tail meat and colloquially referred to as “bugs.”
The sculpture of Betsy was the brainchild of Richard Blaze, an artist commissioned by a local restaurant owner. Crafted from fiberglass, this monumental artwork stands at an imposing 30 feet in height and stretches 40 feet in length, providing an anatomically accurate representation of a Florida Spiny Lobster.
Today, she resides at her permanent location at Rain Barrel Village, situated right by the Overseas Highway at Mile Marker 86.7. Recognized as possibly the world’s largest lobster sculpture, Betsy holds her own as one of the United States’ most iconic roadside attractions.
3. Turtle Hospital, Marathon
Continuing your drive, stop by the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, a rescue and rehabilitation center protecting endangered sea turtles. Learn about the hospital’s efforts to treat injured turtles and how they work toward their release into the wild. The hospital also provides educational tours. Visitors can gain insight into the challenges these fascinating creatures face and what we can do to protect them.
4. Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Key West
When you finally arrive in Key West, please visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum. This historic house where the renowned writer Ernest Hemingway lived during the 1930s is now a fascinating museum. It features personal belongings, memorabilia, and a beautiful garden. Discover the intriguing stories behind Hemingway’s life and writing. Also, don’t forget to say hello to the descendants of his beloved six-toed cats which still roam the property.
Pro Tip: Make sure to book one of these 10 Awesome Florida Keys Fishing Charters for Your Vacation.
5. The Southernmost Point Buoy of the Contiguous United States
The Southernmost Point Buoy in Key West is a popular tourist attraction and is widely referred to as the southernmost point of the continental United States. While it is not technically the southernmost point, nor an actual functioning buoy, it is a highly photographed spot that most Key West visitors add to their itinerary.
The true southernmost point in the continental U.S. is on the Truman Annex property of the Naval Air Station Key West. This area is off-limits to the general public, as it is part of a military installation, so the buoy is a good stand-in. The buoy is actually a concrete marker that has been painted to resemble a buoy and is one of the most photographed spots in the United States. The marker sits at the corner of South Street and Whitehead Street and proclaims to be just 90 miles from Cuba (although the actual distance is slightly more than that.)
The structure itself was originally a sewer junction. It’s been repainted and refurbished several times, often to repair vandalism or damage from weather events like hurricanes. Regardless of its origins, it serves as a popular, if not entirely accurate, marker of the southernmost point of the continental United States and draws countless visitors each year. Us included!
Is it Worth Driving from Miami to Key West?
Undoubtedly, the road trip from Miami to Key West is an adventure with breathtaking scenery and memorable experiences. The drive along the Overseas Highway provides stunning ocean views, picturesque bridges, and the chance to explore some of Florida’s most captivating attractions. From the enchanting coral reefs at John Pennekamp State Park, the heartwarming efforts of the Turtle Hospital, and the literary charm of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, every stop has something unique to add to the road trip.
So, pack your bags, fuel up your car or RV, and set out on this sunny road trip to paradise. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or seeking relaxation under swaying palm trees, the Miami to Key West drive is worth it.
What excites you the most about Southern Florida? Let us know in the comments below!
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