Julie United States 56 Comments

The Florida Keys is one of the best spots in the US to go on a road trip. In just 100 miles, hop from key to key, go snorkeling, dine at seafood restaurants, try key lime pie, go shopping, and enjoy endless views of brilliant aquamarine water. It’s a gorgeous drive with lots to do.

There are several ways to plan your Florida Keys road trip. With one day, drive from Miami to Key West, visiting the highlights along the way. For those with more time, spend several days in the Florida Keys, spending the night in Islamorada, Marathon, or one of the other keys.

In this guide, we cover the best things to do on a Florida Keys road trip, when to go, and how to plan your time. We also have a detailed 7 to 10-day itinerary that includes Miami, Key West, the Florida Keys, Biscayne, Everglades, and Dry Tortugas National Parks.
 

Quick Facts about the Florida Keys Overseas Highway

The Florida Keys Overseas Highway is 113 miles in length, joining the mainland of Florida (starting in Florida City, just south of Homestead) to Key West.

To drive directly from Key Largo to Key West, it takes roughly 2.5 hours to travel a distance of 100 miles.

There are hundreds of islands, also called “keys,” that make up the archipelago of the Florida Keys. These small islands are joined by a series of bridges. The longest bridge is Seven Mile Bridge, which joins Knights Key in the Middle Keys with Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys.

Before the construction of the Overseas Highway, the Keys were linked by the Overseas Railway. Portions of this railway were destroyed a powerful hurricane that made a direct hit on the Florida Keys in 1935. The railroad bridges were then transformed into roadways. In the 1980’s, new highways were constructed but the old railway bridges can still be seen today. Some of these have been converted into fishing bridges.

Florida Keys

Florida Keys Road Trip

We have visited the Florida Keys multiple times. Most recently, Tim and I road tripped along the Florida Keys in February 2018 and December 2021.

There is A LOT to do from Key Largo to Key West, so don’t expect to do everything we list in this guide in just one day. You will have to choose the things the look the most interesting to you or split the drive into two or more days.

This list is only includes things to do from Key Largo through Big Pine Key (one of the last major Keys before you reach Key West). We have a separate article about the best things to do in Key West that you can read here.

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers. You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
 
If you click the star, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

Best Things to Do on a Florida Keys Road Trip

This list is ordered geographically, starting in Key Largo and ending in Key West.

#1 Go Snorkeling or Diving in Key Largo

Key Largo is world famous for its diving and snorkeling. The best place to go is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. There are numerous dive companies and snorkel companies that will take you out for a few hours or longer.

We hired Keys Diver to take us on a 4-hour snorkel trip to the John Pennekamp reef. We were extremely lucky that our excursion went on schedule. Boats did not leave Key Largo for 6 consecutive days before our trip due to high winds and rough water. For our scheduled tour, we could go out on the water, but the crew was limited where to take us because of the rough conditions.

We booked this excursion because you have the opportunity to visit multiple reefs as well as a famous statue called “Christ of the Deep.” Because of the rough seas, the crew could only take us out to one snorkel spot.

John Pennekamp Snorkeling Florida Keys

Tim and I had a good time, but not a great time. The snorkeling did not live up to our expectations. Either the rough waters impacted the quality of the snorkeling, or we have just done this at too many other spots around the world for Key Largo snorkeling to thrill us. We saw lots of barracuda and assorted tropical fish, but nothing “Wowed!” us. For a four hour trip, with half of that a boat ride to and from the reef, we were honestly disappointed.

However, I want you to know that this was in no way any fault of Keys Diver. They were wonderful, offering a safe, fun, comfortable experience. We have no complaints about their service and highly recommend them. However, it’s the quality of the snorkeling that left Tim and I disappointed.

If you have never been snorkeling before, and the waters aren’t too rough, this is still a very worthwhile experience. Keys Diver also offers shorter 2-hour snorkel trips that give you a good intro into snorkeling.

For more information, visit the Keys Diver website here.

#2 Caribbean Club

The Caribbean Club’s claim to fame is that it was a filming site for the movie Key Largo (starring Humphrey Bogart) in 1947. It is the oldest bar in the Upper Keys.

Caribbean Club

This bar and restaurant sit on Florida Bay. Chairs and tables sit on the sand under the shade of palm trees and the sunsets are unbeatable. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, there is live music on their waterfront stage.

Location: 104080 Overseas Highway, mile marker 104.1
Hours: 7 days a week, 7 am to 1 am

#3 Have a drink at Sharkey’s Sharkbite Grill

Located in the marina in Key Largo, Sharkey’s Pub serves pub food and great drinks. If your day is ending in Key Largo, consider ordering one of their jumbo sized rum buckets.

Julie in Key Largo

Location: 522 Caribbean Drive, just east of Mile Marker 99.7
Hours: 7 days a week, 7 am to 2 am

#4 Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen

Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen is one of the most popular places to eat in Key Largo. This is a small restaurant serving brunch, lunch and dinner. The walls are covered with license plates from the US and around the world and the ceiling is stuffed with dollar bills.

Mrs Macs Kitchen

Inside Macs Kitchen

This was our first stop in the Keys, arriving here in time for brunch. I had the fish and grits and Tim ate the caramel bacon waffle (yum…sweet and salty!) with a side of alligator sausage.

Note: There is a second Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen (Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen II). If you want the quirky, original restaurant, visit Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen at mile post 99.3.

Location: 99336 Overseas Highway, Mile Post 99.3
Important Note: Closed on Sundays

#5 Harriette’s Restaurant

If the wait is too long for Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, or if you want to eat at a restaurant that is a little less touristy, it’s a quick drive down Overseas Highway to get to Harriette’s Restaurant.

Harriettes

This small restaurant serves breakfast and lunch. They are known for their Key Lime muffins.

Location: 95710 Overseas Highway, mile marker 95.8
Hours: 7 days a week, 6 am to 3 pm

#6 Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary

This sanctuary is home to more than 100 birds that cannot be released back into the wild. Owls, pelicans, vultures, hawks, and other species native and migratory to the Florida Keys have a home here. The sanctuary is free to visit but donations are appreciated.

Bird Sanctuary Florida Keys road trip

Location: 93600 Overseas Highway, Tavernier, mile marker 93.6
Hours: 7 days a week, 7 am to 7:30 pm
Cost: Free but donations are appreciated

#7 Have a Slice of Key Lime Pie

There are numerous restaurants claiming to have the best Key Lime Pie in the world. Tim and I sampled Key Lime Pie at several restaurants in the Keys (our waistlines got a bit bigger on this trip…we pretty much ate our way through the Keys and Key West) and our favorite spot is the Blond Giraffe Key Lime Factory.

Key Lime Pie Factory

Blond Giraffe Florida Keys road trip

Buy just a slice or a whole pie to go and enjoy one of the Florida Key’s tastiest dishes. The Blond Giraffe has a wonderful outdoor seating area, with tables and Adirondack chairs in the shade of giant trees. They also serve coffee and lots of Key Lime flavored delicacies. Enjoy!

Location: Tavernier, Mile Marker 92.2
Hours: Sunday 9:30 am to 9:30 pm; Monday through Saturday 9 am to 8:30 pm

#8 Marker 88

You will see several beachfront restaurants and bars on this list. Dining al fresco on the beach, under the shade of palm trees, is one of the best things to do in a Florida Keys road trip.

Marker 88

Marker 88 Restaurant Florida Keys road trip

Located on Plantation Key, Marker 88 serves hand-crafted cocktails, fresh seafood, local beer, and, you guessed it, key lime pie. The mojitos are great, and I really liked the blackened tuna sashimi.

We had a table right on the beach with swings as chairs. This would be a great place to spend the afternoon and evening.

Location: Islamorada, mile marker 88
Hours: Hours vary by day, but in general they are open from 11 am to 9 pm, later on weekends. Get updated hours on the official website

#9 Go Shopping at the Rain Barrel Village

For another quirky spot in the Keys, make a quick stop at the Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery. You know you are in the right spot when you see the gigantic lobster out front.

Rain Barrel Lobster

Shits Creek Paddle

This gallery is a collection of small shops selling everything from wind chimes to Tiki heads to clothing and jewelry and arts and crafts. It’s a fun place to browse, go souvenir shopping, or to simply buy something strange and unusual. This was our favorite weird place to go shopping in the Florida Keys.

Location: Plantation Key, Mile Marker 86.7
Hours: Open daily 9 am to 5 pm

#10 History of Diving Museum

If you have an interest in scuba diving, this is a cool museum to visit. Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer have spent the last 40 years assembling the largest collection of dive helmets, scuba gear, armored suits, and diving memorabilia in the world. Immerse yourself in diving history in this very well designed and informative museum.

Diving Museum

Location: Islamorada, Mile Marker 83
Hours: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm
Admission: Adults $15; children 6 – 11 $7
Website:  www.divingmuseum.org

#11 Morada Bay Beach Café

When you think of the Florida Keys, what comes to mind? White sandy beaches, palm trees, crystal clear aquamarine water, and maybe even tropical drinks? If you are looking for those things, you can find them all at Morada Bay Beach Café.

Islamorada Beach Florida Keys

Paradise

Morada Bay Florida Keys

Fish Tacos Florida Keys road trip

This bay front restaurant is one of our favorite spots along the Florida Keys. The setting is awesome, the food is delicious, and the drinks are even better. Put this café high on your list for lunch or dinner as you road trip through the Keys.

Location: Islamorada, Mile Marker 81.6
Hours: Daily 11:30 am to 10 pm

#12 Florida Keys Brewing Company

Just across Overseas Highway from Morada Bay is the Florida Keys Brewing Company. This is a great spot to sample some local beer.

Florida Keys Brewing Company

Brewing Company

We ordered a flight of beer and I drank most of it (and the drinks at Morada Bay!) since Tim was our driver.

Location: Islamorada, 200 Morada Way, Mile Marker 81.6
Hours: 7 days a week, 11 am to 10 pm, open until 11 pm on weekends

#13 Midway Café & Coffee Bar

Midway Cafe Florida Keys road trip

This small restaurant is a great place to stop for coffee, baked goods, snacks, and breakfast or lunch.

Location: Islamorada, mile marker 80.5
Hours: 7 days a week, 7 am to 2 pm 

#14 Feed a Tarpon at Robbie’s

This is a must do in the Florida Keys…if you dare!

A tarpon is a large fish that can grow up to 8 feet in length. At Robbie’s you can hand feed these big guys.

It sounds simple…hold a small, dead fish in your hand, dangle it just above the surface of the water, and drop it into the mouth of a tarpon when it comes charging up out of the water.

But it’s not so easy.

First of all, there are the pelicans. If you’re not careful, those darn pelicans will eat your bucket of fish before you get a chance to even try to feed a tarpon. The pelicans surrounded us, getting very close and even a little aggressive, trying to steal our fish. We quickly learned that if you stomp your feet and advance on them, they will fly away.

Pelicans Florida Keys

Cornered by Pelicans

I really was not trying to feed the pelicans. They just had me cornered!!

The pelicans also linger in the water and they will steal your fish out of your hand before the tarpon does. The trick is finding a spot of open water that is pelican-free. The enclosed “pool” on the deck of Robbie’s is the perfect spot for this.

Now, you have your chance to feed the tarpon. Dangling your hand over the water the first time can feel a little alarming. In a blink of an eye, the tarpon rushes out of the water, snatching the fish from your hand. If you don’t let go of it quick enough, you will feel their tiny, sharp teeth.

Feeding Tarpon

But it’s tons of fun and Tim and I loved every minute of it, even chasing away those pesky pelicans!

Just as a side note, Islamorada is known as the “sport fishing capital of the world.” Robbie’s also offers numerous fishing excursions if you are interested.

Location: Islamorada, Mile Marker 77.5
Hours: 7 am to 8 pm

#15 Long Key State Park

Long Key State Park is one of several state parks that you can visit on a Florida Keys road trip.

Activities include kayaking, swimming, and relaxing on the beach. You can also hike the Golden Orb Trail, a 1.1-mile loop that goes through mangroves, the coastline, and hammock trees. We did this in 2021 and part of the mangroves have died, from damaged sustained during Hurricane Irma in 2017.

Golden Orb Trail

Golden Orb Trail

 

Long Key State Park

Location: Long Key, mile marker 67.5
Hours: 8 am until sunset
Cost: $5.50 for two or more people, 50 cents for each additional person

#16 Dolphin Research Center

Rather than hosting dolphin shows, this research center focuses on education, research, and rescue of marine animals. The animals at the Dolphin Research Center come from rescue centers or are born here.

General admission tickets ($28) allow you to walk around the facility, observe dolphins and sea lions in training sessions, and attend the educational programs. You can also swim with dolphins or spend the day with the trainers and researchers, all for an additional fee.

Learn about the tour options and pricing on the official website.

Location: Grassy Key, mile marker 59
Hours: 7 days a week, 9 am to 4:30 pm
Website: dolphins.org

#17 Curry Hammock State Park

Curry Hammock is a beautiful park in the Florida Keys. This makes a great spot for a picnic lunch, but you can also kayak through mangrove swamps and go kite boarding and snorkeling. Kayak and SUP rentals are available at the ranger station.

Curry Hammock State Park

Location: Mile marker 56
Hours: 8 am to sunset
Cost: $4.50 for one person, $6 for two people, 50 cents for each additional person

#18 Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters

If you are traveling with kids, this is a great place to add to your Florida Keys road trip.

In various aquariums and touch tanks, visitors can see starfish, turtles, tortoises, sting rays, horseshoe crabs, moray eels, sharks, alligators, and tropical fish. You can also feed and interact with stingrays and nurse sharks.

Location: Marathon, mile marker 53
Hours: 7 days a week, 9 am to 5 pm
Cost: $24.50 for adults, $17.50 for children 4 to 12; click here for updated pricing

#19 Sombrero Beach

Sombrero Beach

Sombrero Beach

This gorgeous stretch of beach is a short detour off Overseas Highway. It makes a great place to spend an afternoon. From April through October, you might get to see Loggerhead turtles nesting on the beach (do not approach sea turtles if you see them on the beach).

Location: Marathon, mile marker 50.5

#20 Turtle Hospital

The Turtle Hospital rescues and rehabilitates sick and injured sea turtles so they can be returned to the wild. Some turtles are now permanent residents, since they have conditions that do not allow them to return to the wild. But most turtles that enter the Turtle Hospital are rehabilitated and returned to sea.

Turtle Hospital Florida Keys road trip

Sea Turtle Hospital

The Turtle Hospital rescues turtles that have fibropapillomatosis, a disease that causes large tumors. These tumors are removed and the sea turtles spend several months at the hospital before being returned to the ocean.

 

Sea Turtle Physical Therapy

Physical therapy session.

Guests can take a 90-minute tour of the hospital facilities. It’s one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys and great for all ages. I recommend making your reservation in advance, because tour times do fill up, particularly those midday.

Learn more on their website.

Location: Marathon, Mile Marker 24
Hours: 9 am to 6 pm, final tour is at 4 pm
Cost: Adults $30, children 4 to 12 years $15

#21 Seven Mile Bridge

Seven Mile Bridge is the longest bridge in the Florida Keys, joining Knights Key in the Middle Keys with Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. This is the one thing you can enjoy without leaving your car.

The water in the Florida Keys is a vibrant aquamarine color. It really is beautiful to see. As you drive over this long bridge, enjoy the views of this technicolor water and keep a lookout for Fred the Tree, a small tree that is growing on the old Seven Mile Bridge. In December, he is decorated for Christmas.

Seven Mile Bridge

Drone photo of Seven Mile Bridge.

 

Seven Mile Bridge

Pedestrian Bridge Florida Keys road trip

As you head south you will see the old bridge to your right. This was the original railway bridge that was later converted into a road and more recently is a bridge for pedestrians and fisherman. The old bridge does not continuously span the seven miles so you cannot walk one way along this entire distance.

Portions of the Old Seven Mile Bridge are currently closed for renovation. We were able to walk out onto the southern portion from Little Duck Key, although you cannot walk too far because you reach a large gap in the bridge. The northern section of Old Seven Mile Bridge is expected to reopen for pedestrians in 2022.

#22 Bahia Honda State Park

Bahia Honda State Park is a gem of a state park in the Florida Keys. Home to three beautiful beaches and a short but sweet walking trail, this is one of the best places to visit on a Florida Keys road trip.

Sandspur Beach is the longest natural sandy beach in the Florida Keys. It was wiped out by Hurricane Irma in 2017 but is currently undergoing a renovation project. Visit the official website for projected dates of when it will reopen.

In the meantime, you can also visit Calusa Beach (a small beach on Florida Bay) and Loggerhead Beach (a thin strip of sand with a large sandbar on the Atlantic Ocean).

Calusa Bridge

Calusa Beach and the Old Bahia Honda Bridge

 

Loggerhead Beach

Loggerhead Beach

One of the best things to do in Bahia Honda State Park is to walk to the end of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge. This trail was once part of the Overseas Railway. In 1938, the railway was converted into a road, and this was used as part of the Overseas Highway until 1972, when a replacement bridge was constructed.

Old Bahia Honda Bridge

 

Here is the view from the top.

Bahia Honda State Park

Location: Big Pine Key, mile marker 36.8
Cost: $8 per vehicle
Hours: 8 am to sunset

#23 See the Key Deer in Big Pine Key

Big Pine Key is a large island, at least for the Florida Keys. It was also hit hard by Hurricane Irma. In February 2018, we still saw extensive hurricane damage here, including piles of rubble, flattened buildings, and trees that are leaning and dangerously close to falling over.

Key Deer call Big Pine Key home. The population of these tiny deer are endangered due to poaching and habitat destruction. Drive slowly while you are on the Lower Keys to avoid hitting them with your car.

Key Deer

You can also visit the National Key Deer Refuge, an 8,000+ acre refuge that is home to the Key Deer. 

#24 No Name Pub

This is the coolest bar in the Florida Keys, at least out of the ones we visited. Located in what feels like the middle of nowhere on Big Pine Key, this pub has the slogan, “a nice place if you can find it.”

Just put “No Name Pub” into Google Maps and follow the directions. How did we ever get around before Google Maps?

No Name Pub dates back to 1931 and started off as a bar and a brothel. It’s no longer a brothel, but since the 1980’s visitors have been adding their dollar bills to the walls and ceiling of the pub. Now it looks like every square inch of the No Name Pub is covered with the faces of George Washington, with a few bills from other countries thrown into the mix here and there. We have never seen so many dollar bills in one place. On some spots the walls are covered with 40 layers of bills!

No Name Pub

Just out of curiosity, we asked the staff how many dollar bills they think are stuck to their walls. Their answer: a half million dollars!! That’s a lot of money, but every single bill is written on with permanent ink: names, quotes, dreams, and wishes. It’s controversial if all of these bills are actually worth anything. But what an awesome thing to see.

And the nachos are pretty good, too!

Location: 30813 Watson Blvd, Big Pine Key
Hours: Daily 11 am to 10 pm

#25 Bike the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail

The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail (FKOHT) is a bicycle and pedestrian trail that is over 90 miles long and runs through the Florida Keys. You can bike the entire length or one or two sections. Learn more here. 

Key West

The Florida Keys road trip ends in Key West. For ideas on things to do in Key West, take a look at these articles:

Our 10 Favorite Things to do in the Florida Keys

If you are limited on time and want some help narrowing this list down, here are our five favorite things to do in the Florida Keys (aside from Key West):

  •  
  • Feed a tarpon at Robbie’s
  • Have lunch or dinner at Morada Bay Beach Cafe
  • Visit Bahia Honda State Park
  • Try a slice of Key Lime Pie at the Blond Giraffe
  • Visit the Turtle Hospital
  • Have breakfast at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen
  • Have a drink at No Name Pub
  • Try a flight of beer at the Florida Brewing Company
  • Go shopping at Rain Barrel Village
  • Visit Sombrero Beach

Best time for a Florida Keys Road Trip

The months between December and May have pleasant temperatures and low rainfall. December through February is peak season for visitors, so expect larger crowds and more expensive prices, but you also get the best weather. The summer months, from June through October, are hot, humid, and wet, and you have the chance of a hurricane.

Recently, we did this in February and December. On both trips, temperatures were in the low 80’s, which is unusually warm for this time of year. In February, it was very windy. But the weather was sunny and dry on both of our visits.

How Much Time Do You Need in the Florida Keys?

If you want to see the highlights of the Florida Keys from Key Largo to Key West, you will need a minimum of two days. And even then, it will be a very busy two days.

Most people tend to spend one day road tripping from Key Largo to Key West, visiting a few places along the way. From Key West, you can either fly home or road trip back through the Florida Keys, ending your trip in Miami or Ft. Lauderdale.

By doing this road trip out and back, you get to spend more time in the Florida Keys and rental car prices tend to be cheaper, since you do not have a one-way drop fee.

For more information on how to plan a Florida Keys road trip itinerary, click here to read our 7 to 10-day itinerary. The 10-day itinerary is done out-and-back and also includes Miami, Biscayne, Everglades, and Dry Tortugas National Parks, as well as several days in Key West. The 7-day itinerary is a shorter, point-to-point Florida Keys road trip.


Do you have plans to go on a Florida Keys road trip? Comment below if you have any questions!

More Information for Your Trip to Florida:

Read all of our articles about the United States in our United States Travel Guide.

You Might Also Like:

 

Florida Keys Road Trip Itinerary

Florida Road Trip Itinerary Key West

 

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Comments 56

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, they can get very busy because of Spring Break. If you want to avoid Spring Break, February is a great time to go. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
      Author

      You’re welcome! I plan to give this post a major update in the next week or two, since we just here (again) and have new info to add. I will also be publishing an itinerary for a Miami to Key West road trip so if that interests you, check back too. Cheers, Julie

    1. Post
      Author

      Yes, I think so. Have brunch at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, go snorkeling from Key Largo, have some Key Lime Pie, maybe go to the History of Diving Museum, feed the tarpon at Robbie’s, and visit the Turtle Hospital. There is lots to do with kids on this drive. Cheers, Julie

  1. Sounds amazing! Did you stay anywhere during your drive from Key largo to Key West? I am looking for a great place to stay in Key Largo and then keep moving south to Key West.

    1. Post
      Author

      No, we did not stay anywhere along the drive. We did some of these things on the drive down to Key West, spent several nights in Key West, and then did the rest of the list on the way back, ending in Homestead. I don’t have any hotel recommendations along the keys but we use Booking.com to find and book our hotels when we travel. Cheers, Julie

  2. Great blog — informative and entertaining. It’s been 40 years since I was in the Keys. Your article really piqued my interest for a latter-life re-do. Even for only “vicarious travel,” your descriptions were charming and engrossing. Thank you for 20 minutes of true pleasure.

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      Author
  3. This is great information! I have been a long time lover of Key West, but always take the puddle jumper in from Miami. My husband and I have talked about doing the drive many times, so this article may have sealed the deal for us! Thanks for the recommendations!

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      Author
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      Author
  4. Great article! This helps out my girlfriend and me enormously. We plan on going to MIA first for a day and then renting a car. Any suggestions on car type? I was thinking Jeep or a convertible. Of course with a Jeep there isn’t a way to secure your luggage. Any concerns with that? Other than that we plan to follow your advice and stop by those destinations!

    Mitch Taragos

    1. Post
      Author

      A convertible sounds like a great idea!! We just had a standard car for this trip, which was sufficient, but spending a little extra for a Jeep or a convertible or even a sports car would be nice. We drove a Jeep Wrangler on our last trip to Utah, not a convertible type, and there was plenty of storage space. Have a great trip in Florida! Cheers, Julie

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