Florida Keys Road Trip
There’s many ways to get to the Florida Keys but we think the BEST way is by car! This allows you to go at your own pace and take in all the exciting sights and stops. So pack up and let’s hit the road in our Florida Keys road trip.. first up, Key Largo!
Getting to Key Largo is a whole adventure on its own. The experience of entering the island chain and its tropical environment is something that every avid traveler should do at least once.
Taking US-1 all the way to the Keys is the most preferred route by travelers who want to enjoy the scenery and the change in the environment as you approach the southern tip of the Florida peninsula.
The first island in our Florida Keys Road Trip
Right after you pass Florida City you will reach a crossroad. There, you can either take the famous 20 mile stretch to Key Largo or the less known and wilder Card Sound Road. If you opt for the “stretch,” you will be in a 2 lane road for 26 miles and the first signs of civilization will be Gilbert’s Resort and Marina on Jewfish Creek. At that point, you will also have arrived at the first of the 42 bridges connecting the more of 100 islands that conform the Florida Keys and the first island in our Florida Keys road trip.
If you opt to take Card Sound Road, you will be able to enjoy your ride with views of the ocean and mangroves until you reach the Card Sound Road toll. At the first bridge you will be able to spot a large crowd of fishermen and diving tours on the water.
Just a few more miles down the road further south, you will encounter one of the most picturesque sites on this road: Downtown Card Sound Road and its very own Alabama Jacks. An iconic bar frequented by locals and tourists alike. This ‘hole-in-the-wall’ offers cheap yet delicious, local food and drinks, served daily! After your mandatory stop for the Alabama Jacks photo you’ll drive a few miles South through nothing but tropical foliage and you’ll get to Key Largo – ready to start your unforgettable trip through The Florida Keys! If you have the extra time, we recommend taking Card Sound Road for an ‘off the beaten path’ adventure!
Another must-stop in Key Largo is Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. Famous for their Key Lime Pie and delicious home cooked meals, this iconic restaurant is a favorite stop for many passing through, and locals alike, since 1976.Try their world-famous homemade chili or a fresh coconut shrimp basket among many fantastic options and the best Key Lime Pie in the Florida Keys.
After you’ve entered The Florida Keys and went trough Key Largo, you’ll get to Tavernier. This is where the famous pirate Jean Lafitte supposedly rested on Tavernier Key. Rumor has it that Tavernier got its name from the thirsty sailors on nearby Plantation Key.
After you pass Tavernier you will get to Plantation key, history has that this was a favorite hideout for Rum Runners, and now house the new building of the Coral Shores School.
After a short ride you will see The Theater of the Sea and the Holiday Isle Resort and Marina. It’s then you know you’ve arrived in Islamorada so get ready to have the best vacation of your life if this is your final destination!
A trip to Islamorada is not complete without a stop at Robbie’s Marina
This iconic restaurant and marina offers hands-on tarpon feeding, delicious open-air dining, sunset cruises, and daily fishing charters – they’ll even cook the fish you caught when you get back to the dock!
Sit back and relax on the waterside deck after a long day out on the ocean and enjoy the local seafood cuisine, speciality drinks, and tropical atmosphere.
You can also spend the afternoon strolling through the shops under the shaded trees for local artisan finds. It’s truly an all day experience, so plan ahead and spend a full day at this awesome spot in Islamorada.
Whether you’re just stopping for lunch or staying awhile, there are plenty of cheap yet fun options in Islamorada! Lazy Days restaurant is a must. The name speaks for itself – this casual oceanfront restaurant is a local favorite for its fantastic food and drinks. Try their coconut shrimp and a cold key lime mojito and you’re in for the perfect afternoon.
After lunch, check out Rain Barrel Village for cheap and inexpensive, local artisan gifts. And Betsy the giant lobster is perfect for a fun photo opp! This top Florida Keys destination features arts, crafts, resort wear, souvenir’s and more. It’s a great place to spend a hot afternoon in Islamorada!
Best Islamorada attraction on your Florida Keys Road Trip
If you’re looking for something to splurge on, head to Theatre of the Sea to see some exciting marine life. This iconic park is perfect for a family-friendly afternoon in the Keys and has an array of exciting animals. Visitors can swim with bottlenose dolphins and see other marine life like California sea lions, sting rays, sea turtles, and more. Tickets are $45 for adults and $30 for kids ages 3-10. This is a great family-friendly activity!
As you can see there’s a lot of things to do in Islamorada, but that’s not all. Let’s hit the road and continue our journey down the Keys!
After a great tour of Islamorada, the next island you’ll hit is Marathon, located in the heart of The Florida Keys. Marathon is one of the more populated keys and has a lot to offer visitors.
For the perfect, casual and cheap lunch or dinner you must stop at the Keys Fisheries located at 502 Gulfview Ave, Marathon, FL. This local restaurant and fish market features FRESH seafood (just caught!) and a variety of refreshing beers on tap. It’s a chill spot for conch fritters and other Keys specialties in an open-air fish house overlooking the bay. You just order at the counter and enjoy your meal at a casual picnic table overlooking the water.
After lunch, head to Sombrero Beach. This beautiful park features a gorgeous sandy beach and a shady area with restrooms, showers and picnic pavilions. Beach is open from Monday through Sunday. Hours are from 7:00am to Dusk. To get there turn South on Sombrero Beach Road and drive to the end of the road. You are there!
If you’re looking for an exciting family-friendly activity in Marathon, you must check out The Turtle Hospital. This small non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles. Adult admission is $30, children (4-12 years old) are $15, and children under 4 are free. Education Center and Gift Shop is open daily from 9 am – 6 pm.
Now, let’s get back on the road and cross over the Seven Mile Bridge!
BIG PINE KEY & LOWER KEYS
Big Pine Key and The Lower Keys are located between Marathon (south end of Seven Mile Bridge) and Key West. Getting to this area is a whole adventure on its own.
As soon as you cross over the iconic bridge, you’ll see Bahia Honda State Park. This wonderful park is one of our favorites and a must-see when traveling through the lower Keys.
Spend the day hopping between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, both offering stunning, private beaches. Or enjoy the day kayaking or snorkeling with rentable gear available. Snacks, merchandise, and essentials like water and sunscreen are also available at the onsite store for your convenience.
If you’re spending the night at the Bahia Honda cabins or campground you’ll be able to enjoy the best stargazing in the Keys once night falls and dream about your next visit to this iconic Florida Keys location.
If you’re just staying for the day, let’s get back on the road and head to our final destination – Key West!
Key West is located at the end of the overseas highway in The Florida Keys.
After you pass Big Pine Key, a short drive will lead you to Summerland Key and Cudjoe Key Most of these little islands have only residential homes. On Sugarloaf Key you will find Sugarloaf Key/Key West KOA Campground with full RV facilities.
Boca Chica Key is the next island with a Naval Air Base Station , and the next and last island before Key West is stock island. Congratulations, you’ve made it through the whole island chain, now you are a true Florida Keys expert!
The end of our Florida Keys Road Trip
Get to your hotel or campground, relax for a few and get ready to enjoy the town. You are in the southernmost city in the continental US., Key West is only 90 miles to Cuba (closer to Cuba than closer to Miami). Hit the town and get ready for that Duval Crawl.
Before dinner head Mallory Square for a free show in the sky. The sunsets here draw crowds from afar. Artists and jugglers gather to put on a show to provide a unique and unforgettable experience.
For a delicious, casual, and cheap dining option head to Schooners Wharf in the Historic Seaport. This local bar and restaurant has ben serving locals and island visitors alike, for many years. Our favorite menu items are the coconut shrimp and conch fritters, the best on the island!
For our guide in Spanish read more here!