Even though I now consider myself an Arkansas girl I was actually born in south Florida. So when my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday I answered, “A Florida Keys road trip!”
Why? Because I wanted to share one of my favorite places in the world with him!
My Aunt says that when you are born in Florida you never get rid of the sand in your shoes.
I know that this is true for me. I get antsy when I haven’t seen the ocean in a while!
We hopped on a plane (free flights is my favorite perk of being a flight attendant) and before you know it we had landed, picked up our rental car, (unexpectedly upgraded to a convertible) and had begun our road trip in the Florida Keys!
What are the Florida Keys?
The Keys are a chain of hundreds of small islands off the southern tip of Florida that begin just south of Miami. Many of the islands are connected by an overseas highway that stretches 113 miles from the Miami Dade/Monroe County Line to Key West.
A road trip from Miami to Key West is a beautiful thing!
Climate of the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are the closest you can get to the equator while still being in the United States and yes, it is warm year round! The highs in January average about 75 degrees and by August the temperatures are well into the 90’s.
There is usually a nice ocean breeze but the sun is intense so be prepared with plenty of sunscreen! Also be prepared to experience tropical afternoon showers in the summer months.
Hurricane Season in the Keys
Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. Most of the biggest storms typically form in August, September, and October. Because the Florida Keys are islands in the middle of the ocean an oncoming hurricane often leads to a mandatory evacuation.
My family has actually been in the Keys when a hurricane was approaching and I have to say that those mandatory evacuations aren’t much fun. The traffic is pretty awful getting back to the mainland.
Because of this I don’t really recommend travel to the Florida Keys during the height of hurricane season. However, if you do decide to visit the keys during those months then you should consider buying travel insurance and definitely be checking the weather in the weeks before you go.
Driving the Florida Keys
The road through the Florida Keys is the southernmost leg of US Highway 1. The drive consists of 42 bridges connecting the various small islands.
It is a gorgeous drive! But be prepared to take your time. In addition to the stops that you are going to want to make you will discover that traffic can occasionally get backed up. There is only one main road through the keys!
When we picked up our rental car the employee talked us into upgrading to a convertible. We said no at first, walked away, and then changed our minds.
Next thing you know we were zipping along in a bright red mustang convertible. Y’all! Best decision ever!
I suggest getting a convertible for your road trip in the Florida Keys.
As you travel the Keys you will realize that locations are numbered by mile marker so you are going to want to pay attention to those. The mile markers start from approximately 113 all the way down to 0 in Key West.
Ready to Road Trip?
Of course you could make this drive in just two or three hours but why would you want to?! Road trips are all about the stops along the way. So put the top down, turn on some Jimmy Buffet and let’s get to the good stuff…
Here are my favorite stops on a Florida Keys road trip!
Robert is Here Fruit Stand
This is not actually located in the Keys, but Robert is here fruit stand and tourist attraction is definitely worth a stop if you are driving to the Keys from Miami. It has been called the “Disneyland of fruit stands.”
Robert is Here is a family-owned and operated fruit stand in Homestead, Florida. Almost all of the fruits and vegetables are grown right on their farm including many rare and exotic varieties. We had a delicious smoothie here on our Florida Keys road trip.
Visit the Florida Everglades
You are going to be near the Everglades on your Florida Keys road trip…so…It is thrilling to learn more about this unique habitat. The Anhinga Trail in the Everglades National Park is a great way to experience the quieter side of the Everglades. If you want more of a thrill you can take an airboat ride. Check out the highly rated Wild Lime Adventures.
Alabama Jacks is an iconic Florida Keys restaurant located in Key Largo. Alabama Jacks is off the beaten path, a little hard to find, and not much to look at…but they have delicious food, a water view and, on occasion, live music. Isn’t that the way all hole in the wall places should be?
Plus they are known for having the best conch fritters in the keys.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp is in Key Largo and was the first undersea park in the US. The park extends 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean and is approximately 25 miles in length. It was established to protect a portion of the only living coral reef in the continental United States.
They offer snorkeling and SCUBA tours at John Pennekamp, but if you want to do something a little more relaxing you can even go out in a glass bottom boat. There are campsites and picnic areas as well as a nice swimming beach, Canon Beach, that features remnants of an early Spanish shipwreck only 100 feet off-shore.
Key Largo Chocolates
You might be surprised to discover an excellent chocolate maker in Key Largo! Stop at mile marker 100.5 and step into the shop and kitchen of Key Largo Chocolates where a master chocolatier creates amazing concoctions. You will find delicious homemade ice cream here as well.
TIP: Try the famous key lime pie on a stick.
Florida Keys Wild Bird Center
The Florida Keys Wild Bird Center is a short but lovely stop on Tavernier Key. They rescue, rehabilitate and release wild birds who have been injured or displaced. There are two facilities near one another. One is the bird hospital that also houses the gift shop and educational center. The other is the sanctuary that houses the healing birds and provides a humane home for those who have been too badly injured to be released back into the wild.
Key Lime Pie Factory
At Mile Marker 92 you will find the Key Lime Pie Factory. This place has won multiple awards as well as being featured on several Food Channel shows and The Travel Channel. You really should stop and try the key lime pie here.
Theirs is made with a graham cracker crust, a tangy and creamy filling, and topped with meringue. I know that there is some debate about meringue vs whipped cream but even if you think you don’t like meringue you need to have a piece of this pie. It is something special!
Rain Barrel Village
The Rain Barrel Village at mile marker 86.7 is a tropical garden oasis lined with a collection of shops and galleries that offer a variety of local art, handmade crafts, custom jewelry, fashionable resort wear, and unique souvenirs.
Most of all the Rain Barrel Village is the home of Betsy the lobster! Betsy is a 30-foot-tall, 40-foot-long sculpture of a Florida Keys spiny Lobster that stands at the entrance of the property. She is believed to be the world’s largest lobster sculpture and is one of the most photograhed landmarks in the Florida Keys.
History of Diving Museum
At mile marker 83 you will find the History of Diving Museum. This is a small non profit museum that is dedicated to the preservation, education and exhibition of the history of diving, with emphasis on the contributions of South Florida and The Florida Keys. It is a small museum that won’t take long to view, but if you are interested in diving you will really enjoy a stop here.
Florida Keys Brewing Company
Ready for a beer? Stop at the Florida Keys Brewing Company! It is located in Islamorada at mile marker 81.6 in the Morada Way Arts and Cultural Distict. They have a tasting room as well as a lovely beer garden that is pet friendly and has games like cornhole and giant Jenga. Try a flight of their Florida Keys brewed beer!
Morada Way Arts and Cultural District
The Morada Way Arts and Cultural District is a 6-block area in Islamorada anchored by the iconic Green Turtle Inn on one end and the Hurricane Monument on the other. It is a non-profit organization with the goal of establishing a place where the public can gather to enjoy a lively, beautiful and bustling corridor with galleries, restaurants, art and studio spaces.
The famous Robbies is located at mile marker 77.5. It is consistently voted the number 1 place in the keys that tourists should visit. One of the main things that people come to do here is feed the tarpon. It is quite a thrill to watch these large fish with massive jaws come charging out of the water to grab a fish from your hand.
In addition to feeding the tarpon you can rent boats and jet skis at Robbies, enjoy their restaurant, take a fishing charter, or do a little shopping. Be sure and read the story Scarface, the original tarpon at Robbies.
Want to put your toes in the sand? Stop at Anne’s Beach at mile marker 73.5. Anne’s Beach is a rare thing in the Keys – a sandy beach. There is a nice boardwalk here, some picnic areas, and bathrooms. Of course the water is clear and calm like most places in the Keys.
Dolphin Research Center
The Dolphin Research Center is on Grassy Key at mile marker 59. This is a non-profit research and education facility. They host a wide variety of programs and educational opportunities from meeting a dolphin to swimming with dolphins and even their ultimate “trainer for a day” experience.
Turn off US 1 at mile marker 50 and head towards the Atlantic Ocean on Sombrero Beach Road and you will discover a hidden gem. Sombrero Beach is mostly a locals spot with a beautiful park and a sandy beach.
This is a non-profit organization located at mile marker 48.5 in Marathon. It is dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of Florida’s endangered sea turtles. Because it is an actual turtle hospital you will need to be a part of one of their guided programs in order to visit the turtles.
Reservations are highly recommended. I realize that this stop takes a little more planning than many of the others but it is so worth it. You will love learning about the work they are doing with these amazing sea creatures.
Seven Mile Bridge
Seven Mile Bridge begins at mile marker 47 and ends at mile marker 40.
I’ve heard people say, “Oh, it’s just a bridge.” I disagree! The seven mile bridge is unique.
Not only are the views gorgeous but you can also see the remnants of the old bridge. Crossing the seven mile bridge can make you feel that you are a part of history and a part of nature. On a clear day with the blue skies above and turquoise water below it almost feels as if you are soaring.
It really is a special bridge and an amazing part of a road trip in the Florida Keys.
Old Seven Mile Bridge and Pigeon Key
Today the Old Seven Mile Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has served as a world-famous fishing pier, jogging, and walking route, and of course the major path to Pigeon Key.
It is currently closed for restoration but you can still go to Pigeon Key, which is the historic island in the middle of the bridge. The Pigeon Key Foundation offers ferry boat rides to the small key and guided tours of its 11 historic building where you will learn about the history of the bridge and the Florida Keys.
Be sure and check out the ferry schedule and tour times!
Bahia Honda State Park
If you only make one beach stop on your Florida Keys road trip…this is the one…Bahia Honda State Park. The beauty here is iconic Florida. The scenery consists of crystal clear waters, white sands, and palm trees. You can bask in the sun or float in the calm waters and enjoy the balmy sea breezes. This is a great place to snorkel and do some bird watching or just…do nothing.
Sadly, the park was very damaged during Hurricane Irma but has been reopened for day use. You will find the entrance at mile marker 36.8.
National Key Deer Refuge
The National Key Deer Refuge is located on Big Pine Key at mile marker 30. It was established in 1957 to protect the endangered Key deer which are found in the lower Florida Keys and nowhere else in the world.
The deer are much smaller than those you might have seen in other parts of the US and so darn cute. They are not only found in the refuge but are also frequently seen on the roads so the speed limit is lower in this part of the keys. Be careful as you are driving!
In the refuge you will find trails with interpretive signs. Be sure and check out the blue hole which is a fresh water lake that you can hike to in order to see even more wildlife.
No Name Pub
The same road that leads to the refuge will also take you to No Name Pub – if you can find it.
It is worth finding.
No Name Pub is an 80 year old bar that looks like an old cottage from the outside. On the inside the walls are covered with fluttering, autographed dollar bills. The atmosphere is wonderful and very old Florida and the food is great, too. Zagat rated it the, “Best casual dining experience in the Florida Keys.” I would agree!
We took a kayak tour through the mangroves around Key West and it was one of my favorite things that we did on our trip. We went with Lazy Dog Adventures and I highly recommend them. We took their Eco-tour which was wonderful.
It was so fun paddling through the shallow blue green waters in the shade of the mangrove tunnels. We learned about the various habitats and got to see marine life in the mangroves up close and personal. I definitely suggest an adventure with Lazy Dog.
Mile Marker 0
Mile marker 0 on US 1 is the last stop on our Florida Keys road trip! It is super touristy, and you might have to wait in line to get a photo, but it is also the end (or beginning) of an iconic US highway that stretches from Key West all the way to Maine. That gives me happy vibes to think about!
The southernmost point buoy isn’t too far away so you can check off two touristy items at once.
We had a wonderful time on our road trip in the Florida Keys. I hope that you do too! I’ll be writing another post soon about things to do in Key West!
For some more information about the gulf coast of Florida you can check out our posts about Anna Maria Island! We have written about the best beaches on Anna Maria Island, our favorite restaurants and the things we love to do there.
You can also check out the items that I think are essential for a day on the beach!
Thanks so much for stopping by!