Heading straight from Miami to Key West only takes a few hours. However, to get the full flavor of the Overseas Highway, you should take your time and make plenty of stops along the way. After all, it is one of only 30 highways in the nation designated as an All-American Road; the highest honor awarded by the National Scenic Byways Program. Island hopping through the Florida Keys offers plenty to do, see and eat. From snorkeling and deep-sea fishing to historic ship wrecks and tropical landscapes, the drive from Miami to Key West is filled with adventure in the sun. Be prepared for the open road by visiting our checklist of road trip essentials.
Drive Time from Miami to Key West: approximately 4 hours
Distance from Miami to Key West: approximately 166 miles
Best Car for This Road Trip: Convertible
Miami is a city unlike any other. The prominence of Caribbean cultures gives the city a feeling of stepping into a different country; there’s a reason locals call themselves Floribbean. The diversity of cultures makes this a must-see city, just make sure you give yourself enough time to explore its best parts.
Drive out to Key Biscayne for relaxation on the beach without the crowds of Miami Beach. You can also check out the Miami Seaquarium or drive to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park for an afternoon of hiking, canoeing and bicycling. Before leaving the park, venture to the Cape Florida Light, a historical lighthouse at the tip of the key.
Any road trip should start with a good breakfast and coffee. When in Miami, Cuban food reigns supreme which is why you should eat at Havana Harry’s in Coral Gables. Devour a sweet plantain omelet and pick up some guava and cheese empanadas for the road. Breakfast would not be complete without a cortadito, an espresso shot sweetened with sugar during the brewing process and topped with a little steamed milk. It’s delicious and will give you the punch of caffeine necessary to get an early start on the road.
Don’t get too full because only 30 miles south of Miami is Homestead, where you’ll want to pull over to check out the tropical fruit stand Robert Is Here. You’ll see fruits you didn’t even know existed such as Asian guavas, black sapote, guanabana, mamey sapote and sapodilla. Best of all, you can select any of the fruit in the store and they’ll make a delicious milkshake with it for you to enjoy the rest of the drive.
Less than 70 miles south of Miami, you'll find Key Largo, the first major stop on your journey to Key West. This spectacular island is a hotspot among travelers, and you could easily spend an entire vacation here.
The best things to do in Key Largo are under the water. Dive to Spiegel Grove and check out a historic shipwreck, or marvel at the wonders of Molasses Reef. You can even see the famous Christ of the Deep, a 9-foot bronze sculpture that occupies the underwater realm.
If you decide to stay for a night in Key Largo, you can book a room in the world's first underwater hotel, Jules' Undersea Lodge; you'll have to dive over eight meters to get to your room! How would you like to have pizza delivered to your room by a scuba diver? Of course, Key Largo has plenty of hotels on land if you would rather not sleep with the fish.
With an afternoon of diving, you’ll have worked up an appetite. Enjoy local specialties at Sundowners. With conch fritters, grilled wahoo and gulf oysters with key lime hollandaise, Sundowners will give you a literal taste of the keys.
Travel the 17 miles to Islamorada, which is known as the "sport fishing capital of the world." Set up a half day, deep-sea fishing excursion for early in the morning and wrangle sailfish, marlin, tuna, wahoo, barracuda, mutton snapper, African pompano, tiger and hammerhead sharks, king mackerel, grouper, yellowtail snapper and dolphin fish (also known as mahi mahi). Be sure to book in advance and speak to the boat captain about what you should bring along with what they will provide.
Whether your fishing excursion was successful or not, time in the sun out on the water is a wonderful way to spend the morning in Islamorada. You’ll want to grab some lunch before hitting the road again. Think about grabbing a meal at Islamorada Fish Company. They will take your fresh catch from the morning and even ship it anywhere in the country. The menu offers plenty of Florida Keys staples, but the star is their Key Lime Pie. Satisfy your sweet tooth with this tart, creamy classic.
From Islamorada, traverse the 30 miles to Marathon, and check out the city's Turtle Hospital, which is a rehabilitation center for sea turtles. It is a favorite spot for children, but adults will love it, too! If you’re doing well on time, swing by the Dolphin Research Center. The whole family can interact with dolphins from simple meet and greets to swimming with the porpoises.
After Marathon, you have one more stop to make before you arrive at Key West. Just 29 miles away from Key West, you'll find Big Pine Key. Here, you’ll grab dinner at No Name Pub, which has been one of the key's favorite restaurants since the 1930s.
Finish the drive to Key West and settle into your hotel for the night.
Explore Key West by spending part of the day at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, which has one of the cleanest beaches on the island. Work on your tan at the beach, go hiking or fishing, or take a bike ride. Smathers Beach, which is in the park, has tons of grills, so bring some charcoal and enjoy a delicious outdoor meal. If you packed some of the fish you caught the previous day on ice, you can grill it up here for a fresh catch meal. There is also a historic fort in the park that is worth a gander.
Continue to take in the wonders of Key West with a visit to the Harry S. Truman Little White House, the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, and the Audubon House and Tropical Gardens. Be sure to snap a photo or two at Southernmost Point, which, as its name implies, is one of the southernmost points in the United States. It's only 90 miles away from Cuba!
Anyone who loves a beautiful drive should take the road trip from Miami to Key West. The Overseas Highway is an iconic stretch of road that offers beautiful views and tons of amazing stops along the way. Just be sure to bring your camera, your sunscreen, and your adventurous spirit. What are you waiting for?