A Miami to Key West Road Trip is something that should be on EVERYONE’S bucket list. With over 600 keys strung together by overwater bridges, this marks one of the most scenic road trips in the world.
On my road trip, I was cursed with very bad weather most of my trip (which is extremely rare in the Florida Keys). Even though I had an amazing trip and saw so much, I didn’t get to do everything on my itinerary.
Which just means I have to go back for round two 😉
In this Key West Road Trip travel guide, I detail my 3 recommended sleeping spots, a few must-pack items, common questions, an extremely detailed road trip from Miami to Key West itinerary, and a little bonus section incase you want to swap anything out!
I hope you love this little piece of the world as much as I do!! Let’s dive in…
There’s a chance this free guide contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase through one of these links I may make a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that goes towards little Rosie’s dog treats! Some of this trip was hosted by Florida Keys Tourism but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Miami to Key West Road Trip Overview
Day 1: Explore Miami
Day 2: Drive to Key Largo, Stopping in Everglades National Park
Day 3: Road Trip to Key West – One of the most Scenic Drives in the USA
Day 4: Key West Site Seeing + Catamaran Sunset Cruise
Day 5: Sand Bar Boat Tour + Farewell Dinner
3 Recommended Sleeping Stops
On your Florida Keys road trip, I would recommend stopping in three different spots to break up your drive. The spots I would recommend are Miami, somewhere in between Miami & Key West (like Key Largo), and Key West! Plan to pack and re-pack your bag a few times, but I promise it will be worth it! 🙂
I would HIGHLY recommend stopping at least once on your Road trip from Miami to Key West! There is a ton to see on that 165 mile stretch, so you will want to have time to explore. Here are my recommendations…
In Miami, I stayed in the Downtown Area, specifically the Brickell neighborhood. This is where all the best food is, much closer to the airport / start of the keys, and tons of rooftop bars! Many people probably think to stay in Miami Beach area, which is still a great area!
This was my thought process.. I knew I would be staying in beach front / water front areas and eating beach bar food for the remainder of this trip, so I decided to stay in the downtown area to get more of a variety! I did spend the day on Miami Beach, but I felt food and bars were better in the downtown Brickell area.
Key Largo or One of the Middle Keys
Like I said before, the 165+ mile stretch between Miami to Key West is scenic and has tons to see! I think it is a good idea to spend at least one night in between Miami and Key West to break up your drive. That way you can have more time to explore all the sites between Miami and Key West. 🙂
For me, I chose to stay in Key Largo, which was great! It is the first & biggest Key in the Florida Keys and is home to the first underwater state park in the USA!
What I loved the most about the few days I spent in Key Largo was that even though the Florida Keys is a popular tourist destination, they have done a great job at keeping their small town charm! It doesn’t feel overly touristy or overran by large chains like Best Westerns, Marriots, and Hyatts (nothing against those, but it’s nice to stay in a local, boutique hotel!).
For specifics, I stayed at the Kona Kai Resort! This small, boutique resort was right on the water, had an art gallery on site, pool / hot tub on the property, and each room was an individual cottage with tons of privacy! And on top of all that.. the staff was seriously the nicest people I have ever met. It’s rare when you go to a resort and they make you feel like they are welcoming you into their home.
Be sure to follow me along on Instagram @MyPerfectItinerary@MyPerfectItinerary!
In Key West, there are TONS of options for hotels. Whether you want to stay in an Old Victorian style bed and breakfast, Airbnb, or luxury resort.. there is an option for everyone!
One thing I was surprised about in Key West was how easy it was to get around! There are bike rental companies all over the island and most hotels have free bikes available for you. There is also an abundance of Uber / Lyfts (which I was really shocked about)! For this reason, you can pretty much stay anywhere on Key West without an issue.
The hotel I chose to stay in was the brand new Captiana Key West! It is an Opal property, which if you have never stayed at an Opal property before.. you can thank me later.
It was right on the water with it’s own private beach, the rooms were all HUGE with a couch area to hang out on, all of the balconies face the ocean, and they have so many nice details!
For example, they offer snacks and unlimited complimentary water bottles for their guests. It’s the little things, isn’t it? 🙂
Miami to Key West Road Trip Itinerary
Okay, now that you know where to stay to break up your road trip, let’s dive in! This itinerary is for 5 full days (not including travel days), but I will have a section at the bottom titled, “Bonus Ideas” if you plan on spending more time or want to swap something out! 🙂
If you want more details on everything Florida Keys, click here!
Day 1: Explore Miami
Miami was a city that completely surprised me, in a good way! I absolutely LOVED Miami and already want to go back to spend some more time exploring it. If you have the time to spare, I would consider extending your time in Miami and spending two days 🙂
If you are staying in the Brickell area of Miami like I recommended, catch an Uber / Lyft to Miami Beach for some site seeing during the day and then explore downtown Brickell at night! I would NOT recommend driving to the beach (even if you have a car) because the parking situation in Miami Beach is some of the worst I have ever seen. Save yourself the stress!!
Here are my top recommendations for a day in Miami:
- Get Cuban Coffee from any of the small Cuban stands around Miami!
- Eat the best Pizza EVER at MisterO1’s!
- Explore the shops, farmer’s markets, restaurants, and bars on Lincoln Road!
- Walk along the scenic Miami Beach Boardwalk, seeing all the uniquely shaped & colored Lifeguard Stands!
- Rent bikes to cruise along the bike path along the beach!
- Get delicious craft cocktails at the Betsy Hotel on Miami Beach!
- Have the most amazing sushi and Asian food at Komodo in downtown Miami!
- See downtown Miami from the best view possible at Sugar Rooftop Bar!
I dive into WAY more detail on my One Day in Miami Travel Guide, which includes a full walking tour of Miami Beach, restaurant recommendations, and tons of photos!
Day 2: Drive to Key Largo, Stopping at Everglades National Park
Day two is the first true day of your road trip! On the way from Miami to Key Largo, you will be passing right by one of the most unique and largest National Parks in the USA.. The Everglades!
I am not going to lie, I had completely false stereotypes about the Everglades. I assumed it would be miles of swamp land, it would smell, and be quite dangerous with all the Alligators.. but all of that is false!
The water in the everglades is actually a river that is very clean. There are tons of different species of fish, turtles, birds, manatees, snakes, panthers, and of course, Alligators! Only 30 minutes out of the way, you can do an airboat tour through the Everglades to see some gators & other amazing wildlife.
Most of the boat tours are just north of the town of Homestead, which there will be several tours to choose from. I price shopped and went based on reviews and decided to go with Coopertown Airboat Tours! They are one of the first companies to ever start offering airboat tours through the Everglades, the tour guides were entertaining & educating, was the lowest priced, had thousands of 5* reviews, and we saw TONS of Alligators!
TIP: I would plan to leave your hotel in Miami pretty early and get to the Everglades no later than 10am! That way you can spend about an hour at the Everglades and still get a good amount of the day to spend in Key Largo!
After exploring the Everglades, head onto Key Largo! The drive from Coopertown Airboat Tours to Key Largo is a little over an hour, so if you take my advice to by at the Everglades by 10am, you should arrive in Key Largo around 12pm – 12:30pm! 🙂
Grab yourself some lunch at The Fish House (which was featured on Drivers, Dive in’s and Dives, Food Network, and many other news stations!) and then head to the first ever underwater state park, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park!
After you’ve done plenty of adventuring, it’s time to reward yourself with comfort food, good drinks, and the best atmosphere in the Keys at the Florida Keys Brewery! When Joseph and I went to the Florida Keys Brewery, a famous country band (LoCash, heard of them?!) was there performing a free concert! Local’s said this happens ALL the time!
This brewery had amazing beer and the cutest beer garden in the back! Even on a Tuesday night when we went the place was packed, which always means the food & drinks are good!
Like how this photo was edited?! It was edited in ONE CLICK using my preset pack!
Day 3: Key Largo –> Key West, One of the most scenic drives in the world!
The drive from Key Largo to Key West is going to be where you will want to take your time and explore all the beautiful scenery!
Something that I wish I would have known is that the highway gets pretty backed up and the speed limit is quite slow. The keys are very narrow with everything being right off the highway (not a town that you get off the highway and can walk around). For this reason, people are constantly turning on and off the main highway, causing everyone to drive pretty slow.
I don’t think this is a big deal if you are aware, but just keep in mind that you can’t be in a rush for your Key West Road Trip!
There are endless things to do on this 100 mile stretch between Key Largo and Key West, and here are some of my must-see recommendations:
- Stop at Robbie’s Marina to explore the shops, eat at their yummy restaurant on the water, and feed the tarpons!
- Wander through the Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters where they have tons of touch tanks, lagoons filled with tarpons, shark tank, and a snorkeling excursion where you can get in a tank with Sting Rays & Fish!
- Have a drink or some food at Sunset Grille and Raw Bar, which overlooks the famous 7 mile bridge!
- Drive across the longest bridge in the Keys, 7 mile bridge!
- Visit Bahia Honda State Park to hang out at the beach. This area is known to have the best beaches in the Keys, especially Calusa Beach.
You can definitely see all of these things in one day, at a comfortable pace. I would not try to cram too much more into this day than this, or else you will feel pretty rushed! Plus, you will want to make sure you get to Key West in time for sunset (trust me on this one!!).
Overall, I would plan to take your time, have a few spots that are “must-see stops,” but try not to over plan! The best part of this Florida Keys road trip is the drive and exploring whatever looks inviting to you. 🙂
Once you arrive in Key West, check into your hotel and head to Mallory Square for their nightly Sunset Celebration! Every night you can expect crowds to form in Mallory Square to witness the best sunset in the keys.
For dinner, head to Half Shell Raw Bar which had the BEST stone crab I’ve ever had! This restaurant sits right on the water and is only a 15 minute walk from Mallory Square.
This restaurant has been around since 1972, which just shows how good their food is! They are situated right on a dock and bring in all their fresh catch daily. The food was DELICIOUS!
If you’re not exhausted from the day, you can end your night bar hopping along Duval Street! This street is filled with live music shows, bars of every shape and size, and easily the most lively area of Key West. There are over 43 bars on Duval Street, but here are some of my recommendations:
- Smallest Bar in Key West (literally so small!!)
- Sloppy Joes (open since 1933)
- Mangoes (really good cocktails!!)
- Flying Monkeys (colorful patio with frozen cocktails)
Day 4: Explore Key West
I’ve written a full Key West Itinerary listing everything you can do in Key West, but I will give you a quick run through here…
Key West is definitely where all the action is in the keys and you will want to make sure you give yourself at least a full day to explore all the sites! Are you ready to be the ultimate tourist?! 😉
Here are my top recommendations for visiting Key West:
- Explore the “Southernmost Point” where you can see the Southernmost Point sign, Southernmost hotel, Southernmost bar… you get the point don’t ya?! 😉
- Take your touristy photo at Mile Marker 0!
- Visit all the shops and museums in Mallory Square
- Get Cuban Coffee at Cuban Coffee Queen
- Spend the day at the most beautiful beach, Smathers Beach!
- Parasailing in Paradise – here is a great tour!
- Eat the best Key Lime Pie from Blue Heaven!
After you’ve played tourist all day, it’s time to unwind and see a famous Key West Sunset from another perspective… a sunset Catamaran Cruise!
There are several catamaran cruises in Key West, but the most popular one (that I feel is more of a fun, party vibe) is Fury Key West! They provide bottomless wine, beer, margaritas, food & have a live band on board!
Even though we had a really bad weather day (link sprinkling and no sunset), we still had SO much fun! We luckily got paired on board with, what Joseph and I think, were professional dancers. They were putting on a show during the cruise and putting everyone else to shame, ha! 🙂
Day 5: Sand Bar Boat Tour
On the last day of your Miami to Key West road trip, it’s time to end with a BANG! This is something that I plan on coming back to Key West to do because we ended up having a REALLY rainy day on our last day. All the local’s said it hasn’t rained like that day in over a year… so, just bad luck I guess? 🙂
Anyways, many local’s told us about their favorite activity in Key West which is taking a boat out to the sand bars! You can rent boats or go with a tour company, but their are many different sand bars a short boat ride away.
I would recommend packing some drinks and sandwiches and spending the day on your own little slice of paradise! Here is a fun private tour that takes you out to sand bars!
For dinner, it’s time to head to Joseph & I’s favorite restaurant on Key West, LL’s Test Kitchen! Like I mentioned before, it’s easy to get sick of “beach bar food” after a week of eating it for Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner. LL’s test kitchen has amazing, high quality food!
We opted in for the Pasta Carbonara and it was seriously to die for! And on top of that, the view from their wrap around deck is 10/10!!
TIP: Try to go at sunset to get the best view possible! 🙂
Okay, that’s a wrap! I hope you found this Miami to Key West Road Trip super useful and have the best time EVER! If you don’t like something I recommended OR want to extend your time in Key West, be sure to check out my bonus ideas section below. 🙂
Bonus Ideas for your Road Trip From Miami to Key West
Hey, no hard feelings if you didn’t like something I recommended! I know everyone travels differently, so here are a few ideas for swapping things out. OR if you just want to extend and spend some more time in Key West or Miami, you can add these to your itinerary!
- Snap your photo at the Art Murals in Wynwood District
- Little Havana Food Tour
- Rent a private boat for the day (great option for groups!)
- Get Cabana Rentals and relax on Miami Beach
- Speed Boat Tour
- Visit the Turtle Hospital in Marathon
- Rent Jet Skis for the day
- Go on a snorkeling tour in Key Largo
- Spend the day at the most popular sand bar in the keys off the coast of Islamorada! On weekends, it’s a huge party out there! Here’s a private tour that take you there 🙂
- Day trip to Dry Tortuga National Park – I would LOVE to see this if I ever go back!
- Do a tiki boat cruise! A tiki bar on a boat, looks like so much fun!!
- Explore all the beaches on Key West
- Do a guided bike tour of all the sites
- Hemmingway Home & Museum
What to Pack for a Miami to Key West Road Trip
I never want to bore you with a long packing list, especially when you came here to read an itinerary! BUT, I always like to recommend a few must-have’s for this specific trip…
If you plan on snorkeling in the Florida Keys, they have the only living coral reef in North America. AKA we need to protect it at all costs! Do your part by buying reef safe sunscreen, which my favorite is Sunbum! You can snag it right off Amazon or you can buy it at most stores.
2. Go Pro!
If you plan on being at the beach or doing any snorkeling tours, you will want the perfect camera to capture those memories! Go Pro is completely waterproof, durable, and is perfect for action shots! Click here for the one I have!
This one from ASOS is my FAVORITE! Literally so cute and is super durable for travel!! It’s not too big but also covers your face perfectly, highly recommend.
DUH, of course you need a good set of presets so you can quickly edit on the go! Lucky for you, I have a wide selection of presets that you can choose from starting at only $3.49 per pack!! Click here to check them out 🙂
5. Cute Swim Suits
Common Q & A’s
Is it worth driving from Miami to Key West?
YES, ABSOLUTELY YES! The drive from Miami to Key West is absolutely breathtaking and is one of the best road trips in the world! I do think you should drive from Miami to Key West, but then FLY out of Key West to go home! The small propeller planes that fly you above the keys let you see a completely different perspective 🙂
How long is the drive from Miami to Key West?
The drive time is roughly 3.5 hours if you drove straight through, but as you can tell from this itinerary.. there is much to see along this 165 mile stretch! Plus, there is sometimes traffic along the main highway, so depending on what time of year / day of the week / time of day… it might take you much longer!
Can you see Cuba from Key West?
Unfortunately, no! With Cuba being 90 miles from Key West, that is simply too far to spot. Even if you go up to the Key West Lighthouse, you will still be lucky if you see past 40 miles!
Do I need a car in Key West?
NO! I was shocked by how many UBers / Lyfts were available in Key West. I am not kidding when I say there was a maximum 2 minute wait for a car at any area of Key West. This is a great budget travel hack because you can return your rental car when you arrive in Key West instead of when you fly out. This can save you a few days worth of car rental payments!
Are beaches free in Key West?
Most beaches are free in Key West as long as they are not a state or National park. The most popular beach in Key West, Smathers Beach, is completely free other than the small parking fees for street parking.
How many days should I spend in Key West?
I would recommend a few days in Key West, especially if you plan on doing a few boat excursions! It is a fairly small area, so if you plan to just explore what is on the island, I do not think you would need more than two days. If you plan to do a boat tour out to sand bars, catamaran snorkel cruises, or other excursions, I would say three to four days!
What is the best time to go to Key West?
Florida is sunny and warm year round, but it will depend on what type of trip you want to do! If you want to do snorkel cruises and relax at the beach, you will want to go late spring / early fall. If you want perfect weather with no humidity and no rain, I would recommend the early spring / late fall & winter months. Summer is warm but VERY humid, so beware!
Okay, that wraps up my overly-detailed Miami to Key West Road trip guide! In this guide, you learned a perfect road trip itinerary, my recommended 3 stopping points, common questions about the Florida Keys, a few must-pack items, and a list of bonus ideas to swap out anything on the itinerary!
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