Miami to Key West road trip – best things to do in 3 itineraries
This guide includes 3 itineraries for a Miami to Key West road trip, to drive in 1, 2 or 3 days with the best things to do for adults and/or families and kids.
This is one of the most beautiful drive in the world, to enjoy every single km, especially once you enter the Florida Keys.
I have highlight for each itinerary activities that work better with kids, and things for adults and grown up.
There is not much point suggesting a stop at a diving center if you are traveling with two small kids, you get the point.
Without further ado, let’s have a start
Table of Contents
- 1 Miami to Key West road trip – In a nutshell
- 2 Miami to Key West road trip – Drive it in 1 day
- 2.1 Morning – Early start to the Everglades National Park
- 2.2 Morning – Keep driving to Key Largo (mile marker 106) for lunch
- 2.3 Afternoon – visit to Dolphins Plus Bayside or the Theater of the Sea
- 2.4 Afternoon – Relaxing at Sombrero Beach
- 2.5 Afternoon – Turtle Hospital or Pigeon Key
- 2.6 Afternoon – 7 miles bridge
- 2.7 Afternoon – Bahia Honda for a walk and a quick swim
- 2.8 Afternoon – Sunset paddling or at Mallory Square
- 2.9 Time in Key West
- 3 Miami to Key West road trip – Drive it in 2 days
- 3.1 Morning – Start at the Everglades National Park
- 3.2 Lunch – Florida City
- 3.3 Afternoon – Key Largo stop
- 3.4 Afternoon – Relax at the beach
- 3.5 Afternoon – good time for a walk
- 3.6 Late afternoon – Accommodation and dinner on Marathon Island
- 3.7 Morning Day 2 – Early walk
- 3.8 Morning – Turtle Hospital
- 3.9 Morning – Pigeon Key
- 3.10 Lunch/Afternoon – Food & Adrenaline at Keys Cable Park
- 3.11 Afternoon – Dolphin Research Center or Marathon Air Museum
- 3.12 Afternoon – 7 Miles Bridge
- 3.13 Afternoon – Chill out at the beach
- 3.14 Afternoon – Sunset paddling or at Mallory Square in Key West
- 4 Miami to Key West road trip in 3 days drive
- 5 Miami to Key West drive pictures
You can read also
- The ultimate guide to a Florida Keys road trip
- 5 great itineraries in Key West
- Best districts to stay in Miami City for families, couples, art or nightlife
- Where to stay in Miami Beach (the best 3 areas)
- 19 great things to do in Miami (beach, downtown and nearby)
Miami to Key West road trip – In a nutshell
Below is a map of the Miami to Key West drive with the primary destinations in blue and the attractions along the road trip in red, all places to have a good time.
I organized the map in a horizontal format for readability, with the left side representing the north (Miami) and the right side the south (Key West)
The words key and islands are used interchangeably. The word key (also spelled cay) comes from the Spanish cayo and the old French kai
In my daily plans below, I assume that you have already seen the most out of Miami, including the Zoo, south of the city.
And if still undecided on what to do in the city, check out my 12 Miami itineraries based on the length of your stay and type of vacation (family, couples, art & culture, etc), including of course South Beach as well as other city attractions
Out of Miami, you will forget about the busy city, and you will start enjoying the beautiful scenery from the Everglades National Park and Florida City (mile marker 127), to Key West (mile marker 0).
I have added in this guide, wherever possible, the mile marker number, to give you an idea of how many miles are left to the final destination, Key West.
Here are a few quick points for a Miami to Key West road trip, however, keep reading for more detailed information.
- Miami to Key West drive time: one of the most common questions I receive is “how long is the drive from Miami to Key West”. To make it short, with no stops or unexpected traffic, it takes around 3.5-4 hours to make the 160-170 miles. In saying that, the best way to enjoy the drive is by avoiding any rush. Take at least the full day to enjoy the Miami to Key West Road trip and stop at the few attractions as listed below. Take 2 days, or even better, 3 days to experience more of the Florida Keys, one of the most beautiful parts of the USA.
- Best things to do from Miami to Key West: I have written extensively about the experiences, attractions and places to see in the Florida Keys. At the end, I have counted 35 things to do in the archipelago only, and that’s not including all that Key West offers as well. There are even other attractions between Miami and the Keys, like the Everglades National Park, one of the best national parks in the country, where you can see dolphins, alligators and crocodiles in the same ecosystem. This is why I suggest spending at least 2 days on this drive, if possible.
- Miami to Key West road trip in 1 day: Start early in the morning and make it to the Everglades National Park that you can also visit with an airboat or with a kayak. Drive next to Key Largo for lunch and a few attractions in the area. In the afternoon, drive down to Islamorada and Marathon Island, stopping by a beach, the iconic Seven Miles Bridge and possibly for a sport activity or a museum. Keep driving to your final destination, Key West, where you will spend the night. Check out below the detailed morning/afternoon plan, with all the attractions that you can do along the route.
- Road trip in 2 days: I have already anticipated that there are so many things to do from Miami to Key West. Having two days for the road trip will open up so many options. After spending the morning of the first day at the Everglades National Park, head to Florida City for lunch. Here you will find the mile marker 127, indicating the official start of the 127 miles long itinerary. Next, head to Key Largo for a swim with the dolphins. Then keep riding on the overseas highway through Islamorada where you can stop for some beach time and a visit to an attraction. Keep driving south to Marathon Island where you will spend the night. Start the second day with a visit to the Pigeon Key, the Turtle Hospital and go to the Keys Cable Park for lunch and some wakeboarding. After you lunch, head to the Dolphin Research Center and enjoy some time off at either at the beautiful Bahia Honda State Park Beach or the more secluded Long Beach. Try to drive to Key West still in the mid afternoon, so that you can enjoy a sunset at the popular Mallory Square, on a paddleboard (SUP) with Madeleine or on a sunset cruise by catamaran. Check out below the detailed daily plan, with all the attractions that you can do along the route.
- Miami to Key West road trip in 3 days: with 3 days, you can even spend 2 nights in the Florida Keys, a unique experience. Stay the first night in Key Largo and the second night in Marathon Island or Big Pine Key for a more secluded stay, a great place for couples. You will have the possibility to experience so much. Check out below the detailed daily plan, with all the best stops on the Miami to Key West road trip
- Miami to Key West day trip: from Miami you can also take an organize guided tour to Key West. As you can imagine, it is going to be a very long trip (around 15 hours return). In saying that, it is an exceptional value guided tour which works perfectly if you need to be back in Miami on the same day.
- Best time of the year to drive from Miami to Key West: you can have a good time most months of the year, just be aware that June to November is hurricane season. Check out the weather forecast before taking this trip. You do not want to be there during a hurricane, which is unfortunately not as uncommon.
- Where to eat on the drive from Miami to Key West: You will mostly end up eating in the Florida Keys, doesn’t matter if you do the road trip in 1, 2 or more days. In my guide to the Keys, I have dedicated a section to the best restaurants and eateries in the main islands, including a description of the available food. There are some amazing options, you will be surprised.
- What time is sunset in Key West and the Florida Keys: it depends on the time of the year of course. On the shortest days in December, the sun will set around 5:30pm, meanwhile on the longest days in June, around 8:15pm.
- Best places to stay on the Miami to Key West Road trip: I would recommend sleeping in the Florida Keys archipelago if you decide to do the drive in two or more days. There are many accommodations along the way, of course. In saying that, Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon Island are the keys where you will have a greater choice of both hotels/units and bars/restaurants/cafes. Big Pine Key is the perfect place if you are looking for a more secluded spot, with the isolated Long Beach and the famous Bahia Honda Beach just a stone away. You can read more about the top 5 islands of the Florida Keys on my dedicated guide, including a few suggested hotels and Airbnb.
- Can you Uber from Miami to Key West: yes, you can, however it is going to be very expensive for a 170 miles drive. Moreover, you will have difficulties finding a driver available for the full day for you (it is an 8 hours round trip). Take the bus instead, slightly slower but much easier to organize.
- Can you take a bus from Miami to Key West: FLiXBUS runs busses from Miami Downtown and Miami Beach to Key West. You can also stop in Islamorada or Marathon Island to spend the night.
- Where can I rent a car? You can rent a vehicle in the city of Miami or bypass the metropolis and rent your car in the Miami International Airport, usually better value, besides having more options too. I usually book my car on DiscoverCars.com, an online price comparison website where I usually shop for my vehicles. It offers the most competitive prices (read the cheapest)
- Suggestions on where to stay and what to do in Key West: this is a destination that offers so much, especially water activities. I wrote extensively about different itineraries of Key West based on the type of trip: family, couples, action&sport, beaches, etc. You can read also more about the different areas of Key West where you can book your accommodation, close to the action or more secluded, next to the beach or right in the old centre.
- Hotel and Airbnb in Key West
- Hotel: Simonton Court Historic Inn (in the heart of Key West), The Mermaid & The Alligator (a little paradise and great value for money)
- Airbnb: Barbary Beach House (1BR right in front of one the best beaches in Florida Keys, Smathers Beach), The Laureate (1BR, great value), Casa Key West(massive 3BR house in the old town that can host up to 8 people)
- Camping: Leo’s Campground and RV Park(next to the gold clubhouse), Boyd’s Key West Campground (with pool and boat ramp)
Morning – Early start to the Everglades National Park
Get up early and drive to the Everglades National Park, 50 miles south or around 1 hour based on traffic.
This is the best way to start the trip, avoiding the peak hour traffic.
The Everglades is the only stop you should really do before reaching the Florida Keys.
There is no other subtropical wilderness in the USA as large as the Everglades, one of the best national parks in the country.
This area is home to hundreds of different species of birds, fish, and reptiles.
You’ll see sea turtles and alligators along the way as you hike through the Mahogany Hammock, Pinelands, and Anhinga Trails.
You can also take an airboat ride to spot dolphins, crocodiles, manatees and possibly a panther while exploring the islands.
However, keep in mind that you will need a little detour because the airboats leave from a spot 30 miles west of Miami (50 minutes) and around 30 miles north (50 minutes) of the Anhinga Trails area.
Budget about 2 hours for the visit to the park. Much more for the airboat which is probably better to do when you stay in Miami or just plan 2 days for the drive.
Morning – Keep driving to Key Largo (mile marker 106) for lunch
Once you leave the Everglades National Park, drive back to Florida City and take the US Hway 1, direction south, to the Florida Keys.
Stop for lunch on Key Largo (around 35 miles or 40 minutes from the Everglades), one of the best places along the Miami to Key West road trip.
There are a few restaurant options.
You may want to check out Lolo’s Kitchen, for a quick and tasty Mexican bite at a taco track.
Another possibility is Keys Bite, with a nice patio area where you can enjoy local food with a Mexican influence at a great price, especially considering the size of the portions.
For the more active people, why not swapping the lunch time with an experience at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, where you can rent a kayak or take a glass-bottom boat tour to see the beautiful underwater park.
Afternoon – visit to Dolphins Plus Bayside or the Theater of the Sea
After lunch, drive to the nearby Dolphins Plus, one of the best stops along the road trip to swim with the dolphins.
This is a unique experience, guided by the local instructors, beloved by both adults and children.
It is not going to be a cheap swim, though, and if you are on a budget, you may want to skip this experience.
Drive instead south to Islamorada (15 miles or 25 minutes, mile marker 90) to the Theater of the Sea.
This is a marine park with dolphins and sea lions shows that run throughout the day.
It is set in a lush park where you will get to see also sea turtles, alligators and parrots.
You will end up spending 1.5 hours in one or the other attraction.
One sweet tip, when you leave Key Largo, direction south, have a stop at Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory. Surely one of the best places to experience the quintessential Key Lime Pie, a must try on this route.
Afternoon – Relaxing at Sombrero Beach
Time to relax at a beach, and what a better option than Sombrero Beach, one of the best in the Florida Keys, 35 miles or 45 minutes south of the Theater of the Sea (add 25 minutes if travelling from Dolphin Plus).
Soft white sand, turquoise clear water and free access. Basically, a little paradise.
It’s gonna be super easy to chill out for too long, but there is still a long way to Key West (50 miles) and a few stops on the way.
Aim to spend 1-2 hours at the beach based on the season you are doing the Miami to Key West road trip.
Keep always in mind that sunset is around 5:30pm on the shortest days of December and 8pm on the longest days of June.
Afternoon – Turtle Hospital or Pigeon Key
Minutes from Sombrero Beach, you will find the Turtle Hospital, a rescue and rehabilitation center for the sea turtles.
This is a no-profit clinic, mainly financed by the tickets sales.
You will experience how the rehabilitation works and, most importantly, how the turtles go back to the sea.
A visit takes around 1-1.5 hours
You will get to know the history of the small island and the 7 miles bridge, probably the most iconic bridge on the way to Key West.
You can then visit on your own the historic buildings, enjoy some snorkeling or just chill out by the water.
A visit takes around 2.5-3 hours with boat transportation and everything.
Afternoon – 7 miles bridge
The 7 miles Bridge (mile marker 47) is probably the bridge with the best view over the Florida Keys, left and right.
It starts in Marathon Island to finish in Little Duck Key.
Unfortunately, there is no place or viewpoint to stop along the way.
You can, however, stop at the small Little Duck Key, where you can have a short walk over the narrow Heritage Trail, on the side of the 7 miles bridge.
Allow 10 minutes for the drive over the bridge and 30 minutes for Little Duck Key.
Afternoon – Bahia Honda for a walk and a quick swim
Keep driving from Little Duck Key to the Bahia Honda State Park (5-10 minutes, mile marker 37)
This is where you will find one of the most beautiful beaches in the Florida Keys.
Take a swim or just a walk based on how much time you have left.
You can even go down to the southernmost point where you can see the old bridge (access is not allowed, though)
You can spend from 30 minute to 2 hours in this little paradise
Afternoon – Sunset paddling or at Mallory Square
All the activities suggested till now should take you near Key West just before sunset time.
If you are not interested in one or more of the above experiences, you can always swap them with another one that you can find in my guide to 35 things to do in the Keys.
One of the most beautiful things to do is paddling the west coast around sunset time.
You can do that at the SUP center just outside Key West.
Madeleine, the owner, will guide you through a 2 hours trip along the coast, with the sun setting on the horizon, giving the most amazing orange light to the coastline.
If the Stand Up Paddle is not your thing, drive to the old centre of Key West, park your car and walk down to Mallory Square, the most popular spot for sunset in the island.
Dinner in Key West at Ingrid’s Kitchen, the final stop of this day trip, famous for its very tasty food and affordable price. Located a couple of blocks from Duval Street.
Time in Key West
I highly suggest spending at least 2 days in Key West.
It’s a beautiful island with lots of things to do, besides enjoying the lovely calm beaches thanks to the coral reef around 7 miles from the coast.
You should check out my guide to 2 or 3 days in Key West with 5 itineraries based on the type of holiday: family, couples, action, beaches, or just a bit of everything.
And don’t forget to pay a visit to Key West Key Lime Pie Co., of course for its amazing key lime pie, probably the best in Key West.
In 2 days you will experience and discover so much more of the Miami to Key West drive.
But let’s get straight into the first stop, same as in the 1-day itinerary, but with a twist.
Morning – Start at the Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park is America’s largest subtropical wilderness with many points where you can start your exploration from.
Drive first 30 miles west (1 hour depending on traffic) to the SW 8th Street, the starting port to experience the Everglades with an airboat ride.
You will be able to spot alligators, crocodiles, dolphins, and so much more.
And at the end of the trip, there is a wildlife and alligator show (included with the boat ticket).
The boat and the show take around 1.5 hours.
Once you have finished, drive south (30 miles or around 50 minutes) to the hiking area.
Take a walk through the Mahogany Hammock, Pinelands, and Anhinga Trails for its unmissable fauna and flora.
Budget another 1 hour at least for the walk.
Lunch – Florida City
Drive back to the US Hway 1 where you can have your lunch at Texas Roadhouse, just 20 minutes from the Everglades National Park, on the way to Florida Keys.
They are famous for cooking perfect steaks in a typical roadhouse environment. So characteristic.
Afternoon – Key Largo stop
Drive south 30 miles (45 minutes) to Key Largo to visit the Dolphins Plus Bayside where you will be able to swim with the dolphins.
This is a unique experience, however, it comes at a price.
If you are traveling more on a budget, or it’s not really your kind of attraction, stop instead at the Theater of the Sea, a marine park with dolphins and sea lions.
Have a walk in the lush park to experience more tropical animals.
Either way, budget 1.5 hours in one or the other stop.
Afternoon – Relax at the beach
Take some time off to enjoy the beach.
For families, drive to Founders Park Beach in Islamorada (close to the Theater of the Sea and around 20 minutes from the Dolphins Plus),
This is the perfect place to take your kids, so beautiful, with white sand and turquoise water.
What makes it ideal for children is the shallow clear water and the playground, so plenty of entertainment for the little ones.
For couples and adults, drive instead to Sombrero Beach in Marathon Island (45 minutes from the Theater of the Sea and around 1 hour from the Dolphins Plus)
This is one of the best beaches in the entire Florida Keys, a must visit for everyone.
Afternoon – good time for a walk
You can decide to close your day 1 at the beach or, if you still have some energy, you can have a walk in the Curry Hammock State Park.
Follow the trail along the beach and enjoy the day ending in one of the best spots in Marathon island for sunset.
Unfortunately, there are often seaweeds in the water which makes it impossible to have a swim.
Late afternoon – Accommodation and dinner on Marathon Island
Time to check in at your accommodation and experience the local food.
- Hotel: Courtyard by Marriott, amazing view from the room window and fantastic pool to have a relaxing time, one of the best places in Marathon Island
- Hotel: Seascape Resort & Marina, one of the best value for money accommodations in Marathon, with free kayaks and a pool too
- Airbnb: Skipjack Marina, 1Br to host up to 4 people
- Airbnb: Indigo Reef, massive 3BR to host up to 7 people
- Camping: Jolly Roger RV Resort, a resort dedicated to the RV travelers
There are a few restaurants on Marathon Island that cater for every taste.
- Irie Island Eats, tropical garden, easygoing, a must stop
- Takeria La Palapa, super fresh tacos and burritos in a relaxing environment
- Frank’s Grill, surely the place is not as fancy, but the food and the service make up for that, another hidden gem of the Florida Keys
Morning Day 2 – Early walk
Start the morning with a nice walk at the Marathon Community Park where you can find also a great skate park.
This is a place that you should check out also for the night because there are quite often local events as well as movies in the open-air cinema located in the amphitheatre.
Morning – Turtle Hospital
Pay a visit to the Turtle Hospital, a clinic dedicated to saving and rehabilitating sea turtles.
I personally consider the hospital one of the best stops in the Florida Keys.
You will learn all about sea turtles, the hospitalization and how they go back to the Ocean
Budget around 1-1.5 hours
Morning – Pigeon Key
Pigeon Key, a small island lying under the old road, is another great and unique destination in the area.
It is accessible only by boat that you need to book at the local office.
You’ll learn about the history of the small island and the iconic 7 Miles Bridge.
Afterwards, you can explore the historic buildings on your own, indulge in some snorkeling, or simply relax by the sea.
With boat transportation and everything, a visit takes around 2.5-3 hours.
Lunch/Afternoon – Food & Adrenaline at Keys Cable Park
For lunch, head to the Keys Cable Park where you could easily spend the entire afternoon having food, beers, enjoying some live music and, more importantly, doing some wakeboarding.
This is one of the best fun places in Florida Keys.
This park is located in a little lagoon where you can practice or try wakeboarding, pulled by cables. A unique fun.
You can book a 1 hour session, 2 hours or more. Honestly, unless you are fit and used to the sport, 1 hour is going to be enough.
You can also think to take a lesson which will help a lot, especially for beginners.
Afternoon – Dolphin Research Center or Marathon Air Museum
There are so many things to do on Marathon Island and these destinations are both great options.
Dolphin lovers will enjoy the Dolphin Research Center, where you will get close to them, prioritizing however the animals’ welfare.
You will also experience more of the local wildlife, with sea lions, iguanas, and tropical birds.
Profits from the tickets sales go towards the center maintenance.
The Air Museum is also an interesting place to visit, where you can listen to stories and facts from volunteer pilots.
You can even use a flight simulator, which is a great fun, besides walking through the planes and other displays.
The museum is free but donations are always welcome
Budget 1-1.5 hours for one or the other attraction.
Afternoon – 7 Miles Bridge
Time to leave Marathon Island and take probably the most spectacular of all bridges, the 7 Miles Bridge, direction Key West.
There are no stops on the way, however, you can have a break in Little Duck Key, where you can park the car and walk up a bit of the old narrow Heritage Trail that follows the 7 Miles Bridge.
The drive takes 10 minutes meanwhile the stop 20-30 minutes
Afternoon – Chill out at the beach
It has been a busy day. It’s time for some chill out time and what a better place than Bahia Honda State Park (just 5-10 minutes from Little Duck Key)
This is another famous beach that you will enjoy so much.
Get to explore the southern part of the park, with the old bridge as well (closed at the moment)
It is a popular beach and you will not be alone.
If you are looking for some seclusion then keep driving another 5 miles into Big Pine Key and stop by the Long Beach.
This is mostly a private beach, however there are few still hidden areas where you can access it.
You can spend from 1 to 2 hours in either of these two paradises.
Afternoon – Sunset paddling or at Mallory Square in Key West
Big Pine Key has other attractions like the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center, however you will be limited with the time and it’s a better idea to keep driving towards Key West for the sunset time.
You have two options before reaching the final stop, Key West:
- are you an active person/couple/family? stop by the SUP center just a few miles before Key West where Madeleine will guide you on a two hours sunset guided tour along the coast and the many islands
- enough done for today? Check in at your accommodation and have a walk to Mallory Square, the happening centre of Key West for the last hours of the day.
Looking for a place to dine? Check out Ingrid’s Kitchen, a favorite of the locals.
And for your time in Key West, check out my guide for 2 or 3 days in Key West with 5 great itineraries
With 3 days for the Miami to Key West road trip, you will get an amazing inside of the Florida Keys.
But before arriving in the Florida Keys, explore the Everglades National Park of course.
As explained in the 2-days itinerary , drive first 30 miles west of Miami to take an airboat ride inside the park (including a wildlife show too).
Then drive 30 miles south for the trails area. After that, you are off to Key Largo, in the Florida Keys.
You can even think of taking a 2 hours kayak eco-tour, which is going to be an exceptional experience.
However, it requires a longer detour as it leaves from Everglades City, 85 miles west of Miami (1.5 hours).
You will be spending almost 72 hours in the Florida Keys, from Key Largo to Key West.
I wrote a dedicated guide with 5 itineraries for 3 days in the Florida Keys including some of the above mentioned activities as well as diving, snorkeling and so much more.
Have a read and decide what works best for you. Leave a comment below if you have any question. I usually reply in no time.
And if you are planning for a longer drive, you should check out all my itineraries in the Keys, from 3 to 7 days.
Miami to Key West drive pictures