Julie United States 49 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.

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.

If you drove directly from Key Largo to Key West, it would take you roughly 2.5 hours, traveling 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 Road Trip

Tim and I spent several days road tripping along the Florida Keys and visiting Key West. This list 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.

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

Have a drink at Sharkey’s Pub & Galley

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

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.

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

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: 7 days a week, 9 am to 9 pm

Go Shopping at the Rain Barrel Sculpture Gallery

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

History of Diving Museum

If you have any 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

Morada Bay

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.

Islamorada Beach Florida Keys


Morada Bay Florida Keys

Tim and I had an early afternoon snack with tropical drinks. The setting is awesome and the food is just as good. This was our favorite spot in the Florida Keys.

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

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: Daily, 12 pm to 10 pm

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

Turtle Hospital

Turtle Hospital

We didn’t do this, but I am including it because I wish we did. We just simply ran out of time. The Turtle Hospital rescues and rehabilitates sick and injured sea turtles so they can be returned to the wild. Guests can take a 90-minute tour of the hospital facilities. It sounds like a wonderful program and I am very sorry we missed it.

Learn more on their website.

Location: Marathon, Mile Marker 24
Hours: 9 am to 6 pm, final tour is at 4 pm
Cost: Adults $27, children 4 to 12 years $13

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.

Seven Mile Bridge

Pedestrian Bridge

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 2021.

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 to lower keys to avoid hitting one of these little guys with your car.

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 10 am to midnight

Our 5 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
  • Have a drink at No Name Pub
  • Try a flight of beer at the Florida Brewing Company
  • Try a slice of Key Lime Pie at the Blond Giraffe

Best time for a 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.

We did this in February. Temperatures were in the low 80’s, unusually warm for this time of year, and most days were extremely windy. It was generally dry, with just a brief, occasional rain shower.

Where We Stayed

Tim and I visited Key West for a family wedding. My mother rented a house in Key West for the weekend, and we joined her along with several other family members. Six of us shared an amazing house in downtown Key West that was conveniently located near most of the hot spots. In just 15 minutes, we could walk to the bars on Duval Street, the Southernmost Point, and a handful of great restaurants.

The property we stayed in is called Absolutely Paradise and offered through Key West Hideaways. This is a three bedroom, 2.5 bath house with a kitchen, living room, laundry room, and deck with a small swimming pool. It was wonderful and we would definitely stay here again.

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 49

  1. Nice article, but I think you mean it takes going from Key Largo to Key West 2 hours and 5 mins., not “2.5,” which is 2 &1/2 hours.

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  2. You really only mentioned the top 2/3 of the keys… there are still a lot of places below Big Pine (where No Name is!). There are also places of interest like the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key just above Marathon.\

  3. We were thinking of driving from Bradenton, FL (where we will be for a month) which is about a 4 hr drive to the Keys. Would 2 days in the Keys be enough?

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      We did everything on this list in about 1.5 days, so yes, two days is enough. However, that doesn’t leave you much time for Key West. If you want more time in Key West, you can pick a few things off this list. You will still get to enjoy the drive and hit the highlights. Cheers, Julie

      1. We are possibly heading to key west next week from miami. Wondering if you would recommend staying in marathon on the way down or would somewhere else be better on our way to the keys? We have 2 kids age 11 and 13. Also will the roads be packed as it is during spring break time?

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          With it being Spring Break, there is a good chance that it will be crowded. But sometimes, you have to travel on your kids’ school schedule, so avoiding the crowds can be very difficult this time of year. We are in the same situation, traveling when Tyler and Kara are out of school, but our kids have spring break at Easter. Marathon is a good place to stay on the drive down, since it is roughly at the midpoint. If you don’t mind a long day, you can do the entire drive in one day. Cheers, Julie

  4. Kudos Dear Julie in giving your precious time and effort into putting together this article on your road trip experience of the Florida Keys. We are planning to go on a family trip and this article is not only a helpful guide but it also creates an excitement and anticipation of what we can look forward to during the trip. Thank you and all those who have shared their valuable feedback as comments in this article.

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  5. Really glad to come across this. Planning a family trip in August 2020 and don’t know where to start. Will fly in to Miami then head to the Keys, then back up to the Everglades and then somewhere on the Gulf Coast. Any ideas??? Kids will be 11, 17 and 19

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      Tim and I did something very similar. I don’t know how much time you have, but here is a basic itinerary. When you arrive in Miami, you can spend 1 to a few days here, visiting Miami and South Beach. Then, road trip down the Keys. You can do a lot of what is on this list on the way down to Key West in one day. Spend several days in Key West. As you drive back up through the Keys, visit the places that you did not get to on the first drive. Sleep in or near Homestead and then one full day is all you need to visit the eastern section of the Everglades. From the Everglades, drive to the Gulf Coast of Florida and finish your vacation here. You can also add on visits to the Dry Tortugas and Biscayne National Parks, if you want to see more national parks. I have not done much on the Gulf Coast, other than some visits to Clearwater as a kid, but I know that there are some great beach towns and some islands to visit (I have heard great things about Sanibel Island). Cheers, Julie

    2. Take Hwy 41 west from Miami through the Everglades. Take the southern loop road right off of Hwy 41. It is a gravel road that takes you deeper into the Everglades. Drive slow and stop at the culverts. You will see lots of alligators and birds. Keep a look out for pythons, but chances are you won’t see any that time of year. We live in Fort Myers and go to the Everglades a couple times a year. You can find the loop road on Google maps. There is a northern one too, but didn’t see much when we drove it. As you drive along hwy 41, be sure and stop at the rest areas where you will see lots of gators also.

      We are driving to key west Thursday. Lots to do. If you like the water you can take jet ski tours that circumvent the island. Did that several years ago and had a blast. We always take the old town trolly. It is a hop on and hop off trolley that we use as our transportation on the island, at least for the first day to get familiar with the island. August is a good time to go. It will be hot, but should not be too crowded. I’m sure you know about Duval St. Kinda cool to walk at night and people watch.

  6. A drive through the Florida Key’s has been on my bucket list for a long time. I finally got to do it last weekend, and can’t imagine having done it without this fabulous guide! Thank you very much for posting it, it made for a fantastic trip. Cheers

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  7. So sorry to see that you missed the Turtle Rehab. They are doing a great job with the area’s turtles in need. It is an educational stop just like the dolphin rehab.

  8. Omg! We followed this blog almost to a tee. Flew into MIA , rented a car and hit the road. Stayed a day/night in Key Largo. Stops at Blond Giraffe, Macs Kichen, Morada Bay, Rain Barrel, Robbies to feed the tarpon and pelicans with stops in Islamarada, Marathon, and 2 nights in Key West. On the way back we found the no name pub and it was really tasty. Thanks so much for the tips. We want to go bsck with friends next time.

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  9. This is very helpful. We are planning a trip in Mrch 2020 – hopefully not so busy and not so hot?

    How many days would you give to this road trip? We have a week but want to do the Everglades and Miami.


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      With a week you have plenty of time! 1 day to drive from Miami to Key West. 3 days in Key West is nice. While you are there, consider making the trip to Dry Tortuga National Park. On day 4, you could leave Key West early and visit the Everglades. We have a one day in the Everglades article that might interest you. You could spend a day at the Gulf Coast portion of the Everglades on day 5 if like that idea. And end with 2 days in Miami/South Beach. In March, it shouldn’t be too hot yet. Recently, we were there in early February and it was very nice. Cheers, Julie

  10. Greetings from Melbourne Australia. I love our tropics up north around Cairns and Port Douglas, and have always thought about doing The Keys. Many thanks….you have just talked me in to it!!

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      It would be hard to do all of this in one day, especially if you went snorkeling in Key Largo. It’s a list of things to do along the way, to give you ideas how to spend your time. Cheers, Julie

      1. Hello! I really enjoyed your article and I’m hoping to bring my family down next spring (including a toddler). Would you recommend getting a hotel in key west and do Day trips to different keys Or a few days on one key and then move to the next? Does that make sense?? Lol. Any advice is appreciated!

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          Hello Katie. I think Key West is too far from some of the northern Keys to do day trips. You could spend a few days in Key Largo and day trip from here, and then do the same from Key West. Or, you could spend 1 or 2 nights in Key Largo, 1 or 2 nights in Islamorada, and end in Key West. If you have lots of time, a leisurely road trip down the Keys would be nice. If you are limited in time, 1 night in Key Largo with the rest of your time in Key West would work fine. Cheers, Julie

  11. Thanks to your list, we were able to hit up 5 of your suggestions in our one night trip to the Florida Keys! Thanks for making our quick trip enjoyable by helping us find the cool spots quickly 👌🏻

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  12. Hi Earth Trekkers ,

    I am planning to visit Florida this year for Christmas for 4 days , would love to get your suggestion/help in planning the trip
    I am interested in Everglades , miami and keywest . This is first time we are visiting Florida , although going in a peak season can you also suggest some reasonable accomodation for these places


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      Hello Harshita. As for timing, you will need one full day in the Everglades, one full day for Miami, and that leaves you with two full days to drive down to Key West and back again to Miami. More time for Key West would be ideal but you would have to decide if it’s worth giving up some of your Miami or Everglades time.

      You could stay in Homestead, like we did, and it will be a whole lot cheaper than staying in Miami. You won’t get the experience of staying in downtown, but you will be close to the Everglades. Key West tends to be a very expensive destination, especially at the time you are visiting. We use Booking.com to find our hotels and apartments so you could start here.

      Cheers, Julie

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      Not exactly sure. We were there in February and it was very busy…many places in Key West had full occupancy. To be on the safe side I’d book your hotel in advance if you can. Cheers, Julie

  13. Making the drive in november from MIA to EYW…. your tips are incredibly helpful. Thank you very much for the suggestions!
    Keep exploring,

  14. I agree with everything except Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen . It more like a fancy Denny’s and one can eat that type of food just about anywhere outside of the Keys. I would choose most any dock or bay side restaurant and some even have an ocean view like Lazy Days in Islamorada. There’s also Black Siren, Snook’s, or Fish House. Surprisingly, World Wide Sportsman’s Islamorada Fish Company is really good and the sunsets are amazing. Morada Bay, Marker 88…. there are many the represent the Keys. The important thing to remember while here is to relax and enjoy our slower paced lifestyle – nothing here comes in a hurry. Also, be safe; wear your life jackets, dive with a buddy, and slow down on the highway. I am fortunate to be able to live here – it’s a wonderful and unique place.

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