Travel

Miami to Key West Drive: The 20 Best Stops!

This Miami to Key West Drive is a beautiful road trip with several fun and unique stops along the way! Also check out these Things to do in Key West.

Miami to Key West Drive

What is the Distance from Miami to Key West?

It is 167 miles from South Miami Beach to Key West. Depending on the stops you make along this Miami to Key West road trip, you may add a few more miles.

How long does it take to drive from Miami to Key West?

If you were to drive straight through, it would take about 4 hours. With the stops we made, it took us about 8 hours and 30 minutes, and we did the drive in a single day.

Should we make the drive in one day or take multiple days?

We did the drive in a single day. You can certainly add more stops and longer stops and enjoy more of the Florida Keys. We will include a few other options to consider at the end of this article. Also, you can make this a one-way trip and fly into Miami and out of Key West, or you can fly in and out of Miami and drive back to Miami at the end of your stay and do a few more things on your drive back.

Where to stay in Miami Beach?

We stayed here and enjoyed it:

Hilton Bentley Miami/South Beach
101 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, Florida, 33139, USA

However, there are many other hotels in the area, click here to view them.

Hilton Bentley Hotel - South Beach Miami

Before your drive, spend a little time enjoying a little of Miami. Here is what we did and we highly recommend.

1. Enjoy the South Miami Beach

Enjoy South Miami Beach during the day.

The beaches are nice for getting a little sun and enjoying the water.

South Miami Beach

2. Walk Around South Beach

Enjoy walking around South Beach. You can easily walk up and down the streets that run parallel to the beach. While anytime is good, the evening is especially nice as the temperature cools down. The street next to the beach is aptly named Ocean Dr.

There you can see the former Versace mansion at 1116 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139. The mansion has now been turned into a luxury boutique hotel where you can rent rooms and a restaurant, Gianni’s Restaurant, serving a blend of Italian and Mediterranean food.

Versace Mansion

You can also take a step back in time admiring the art deco style buildings in the area, like the Park Central Hotel shown below, which is at 640 Ocean Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33139.

Park Central Hotel

3. Eat a Delicious Greek or Mediterranean Dinner

Where to Enjoy Dinner?

The Greek and Mediterranean Restaurant inside the Hilton Bentley hotel, Santorini by Georgios, is so good that it is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. We enjoyed an extremely delicious dinner there, and the blue ambient lighting was rather cool!

We started with an appetizer of Spanakopita.

spanakopita

For main dishes, my husband had the lamb chops, which he loved.

Lamb chops

And I had the Moussaka, which is Greek Eggplant Lasagna. Their version was called Moussaka Fusion, with a pan-style moussaka, eggplant stuffed with potatoes Bolognese, feta and topped with a creamy béchamel sauce. It was delicious!

moussaka

We finished with a wonderful Baklava for dessert.

Baklava

4. Do The Little Havana Food and Cultural Tour

One of the things we like to do in cities that are large enough is a food walking tour. In Miami, we did this fabulous Little Havana Food and Cultural Tour!

Little Havana Miami

Where is Little Havana Miami?

The center of Little Havana Miami is located at the intersection of Calle Ocho (Southwest Eighth Street) and SW 16th Avenue, where you will find the Little Havana Visitor’s Center and El Pub restaurant.

We were able to tour Little Havana and learn about the Cuban culture, immigrant’s history and sample some amazing Cuban food!

Here are a few of the foods and drinks we sampled, but you will get more on the tour.

First was a beef empanada, which was so delicious! If you want to try something similar at home, try our Puerto Rican Empanadas – Air Fryer Style.

Little Havana Empanada

Next, we sampled some Cuban Coffee and learned about the 4 Types of Cuban Coffee. We had the Café Cubano, which is a type of espresso that originated in Cuba, where the espresso shot is sweetened with sugar.

Little Havana Cuban Coffee

Then, we enjoyed a sit down lunch with a Mojito and a Cuban Sandwich.

Little Havana Miami Mojito and Cuban Sandwich

We also sampled, some fresh, hot cinnamon and sugar Churros as you can see my husband enjoying!

Little Havana Churros

We also learned about the Cuban culture with a tour of the Domino Park and a Cigar Factory.

Little Havana Domino Park

We were able to watch an expert hand roll cigars.

Little Havana Cigar Factory

Also, you will see a few Little Havana Miami Roosters!!!

Little Havana Food and Cultural Tour

The rooster represents strength and power in Cuban folklore.

As you wander through Little Havana, you will see a number of rooster statues and roosters in various wall art. As you can see below, there are a few statues in front of the El Pub restaurant and the Little Havana Visitor’s Center. Feel free to stop by for a selfie with any of them!

Little Havana Visitor's Center

5. Take an Everglades AirBoat Tour

We also did a fan boat tour in the Everglades. There are a few different operators. You will want to call and reserve a time as they often sell out in advance.

We selected Airboat Rides Miami, which had a fun wildlife show before the tour, where we saw this massive alligator.

Alligator

The airboat ride was fun. You can go as a group or as a private group. Check out our video to get a taste of the tour, with my husband narrating:

The photo below is us leaving the dock area. It is very treed here.

Air Boat Ride

Then you start going through tall sawgrass.

Air Boat Ride

Some parts are a little less grassy, where you can see a longer distance.

Air Boat Ride

Our guide took us to view a very old and no longer used hunting cabin and dock.

Everglades Cabin

Can you see the large alligator that is in front of me in the photo below?

Alligator

The Miami to Key West Drive

Here is a map overview of the stops we made.

If you want an easy to follow map on your mobile phone, then just click the More options link in either map below, which will open the map in Google and then click the Send directions to your phone link.

Here is a map with the stops we made along with the optional stops listed here as well.

Rent a Convertible

Consider renting a convertible for the Miami to Key West drive. We rented a Mustang Convertible and enjoyed having the top down on some of the ride.

Mustang Convertible

What are Mile Markers?

It is important to understand mile markers for this drive, since many of the attractions are listed by the mile marker closest to them. I knew what mile markers are, as you see them in the little green signs every mile on the highway (see photo below).

Mile Marker

These are useful if you have a breakdown or accident. What I didn’t know is that where the highway intersects a state line, the mile marker numbering typically begins at zero. The numbers then increase as you travel north on north-south roadways and increase as you travel east on east-west roadways. So, since we are going south on this trip, the mile markers will be decreasing and you can take a photo of mile marker 0 in Key West!

Key West Mile Marker 0

Leave Early

Try to leave early so you have the day. 9am if possible from South Beach.

Plan ahead for the turtle hospital by getting a ticket in advance for the 3pm tour.

So, my detail loving husband put together this nice table, so you can use it to create your own plan. You can add and remove any activities you want, but since the Turtle Hospital needs a reservation, it is helpful to make sure you can get there on time.

ActivityStart TimeEnd Time
Drive to Key Largo Chocolates9:0010:30
Enjoy the Chocolates10:3011:00
Drive to Brewery11:0011:30
Enjoy Lunch11:3012:30
Drive to Arts District and Shop12:301:30
Drive to Robbie’s and Feed the Tarpons1:302:15
Drive from Robbie’s to the Turtle Hospital2:153:00
Do the Turtle Hospital Tour3:004:30
Drive from the Turtle Hospital to No Name Pub4:305:00
Enjoy No Name Pub5:005:30
Drive from No Name Pub to Mallory Square5:306:30
Enjoy Mallory Square and the Sunset6:308:30

6. Key Largo Chocolates (Mile Marker 100.5)

Our first stop was at Key Largo Chocolates on – you guessed it – Key Largo. The address is 100470 Overseas Hwy, Key Largo, FL. It took us about 90 minutes from South Beach to get here.

Key Largo Chocolates

We had some tasty chocolate turtles.

Key Largo Chocolates Turtles

And we ate their unique Chocolate Dipped Key Lime Pie on a stick. If you like Key Lime Pie, then give this one a try!

Key Largo Chocolates Key Lime Pie on a Stick

Yes, it does even include the pie crust inside!

Key Largo Chocolates Key Lime Pie on a Stick

7. Islamorada Brewery and Distillery (Mile Marker 82)

Our next stop was in Islamorada, FL. It took us about 30 minutes to get here from Key Largo. We had lunch and a cool drink at Islamorada Brewery & Distillery where we had a flight of beer and a sandwich from the food trucks on their outdoor area. Their address is 82229 Overseas Hwy, Islamorada, Florida 33036.

Islamorada Brewery and Distillery

The patio was nice with shaded picnic tables.

Islamorada Brewery and Distillery Food

This was a good stop for lunch. I had a fruity drink and my husband had a small beer flight.

Islamorada Brewery and Distillery Beer Flight

The menus vary depending on which food truck is there. We had a beef sandwich…

Islamorada Brewery and Distillery Sandwich

and fried plantains. It was really tasty!

Islamorada Brewery and Distillery Food

8. Morada Way Arts and Cultural District (Mile Marker 81)

About a mile down the road is the Morada Way Arts & Cultural District, which is a nice stop to shop some local artist galleries. The address is 140 Morada Way, Islamorada, FL 33036.

Morada Way Arts and Cultural District

We visited several of the art galleries. Here are a few you should check out.

Jessica Ann Art Gallery – This gallery has some great ocean and bird art.

Morada Way Arts and Cultural District Jessica Ann Art Gallery

Redbone Gallery has many artists with Florida artworks around sea life and outdoor scenes. Here is an example from one of the artists:

Redbone Gallery Art

Islamorada Art Gallery By Pasta is another art gallery, which has large ocean artworks. Here is an example:

Art by Pasta

Elena Madden Studio Gallery has her very unique water, light and motion art. Here is an example from her motion art:

Elena Madden Art

9. Feed the Tarpons at Robbie’s of Islamorada (Mile Marker 77)

Drive another 4.5 miles and make a stop at Robbie’s of Islamorada, located at 77522 Overseas Highway Islamorada, FL.

This place has a restaurant, shop, open air market and more, but the thing you must do is feed the Tarpons!

Below is my husband, feeding the Tarpons.

You can try to have them take the fish out of your hand, but it is harder than it looks as it is easy to drop the fish when the Tarpons jump out of the water.

Or, you can just toss it in and watch the fun!

Feeding the Tarpon at Robbie's

Just make sure that you don’t leave your bait bucket alone, or the pelicans will have a feast!

Pelican at Robbie's

10. Turtle Hospital (Mile Marker 48.5)

Turtle Hospital

The Turtle Hospital is located in Marathon, Florida and I think it is a must see. Their address is 2396 Overseas Highway, Marathon, FL 33050.

Reservations are recommended and in our case, you had to have them as they sell out fast during the day. If you are doing the drive in one day like we did, then I recommend you book a late time in the day (3pm or 4pm) a few days before your trip.

Turtle Hospital Turtle

The guided educational tour is about 90 minutes long and covers the hospital facilities and the sea turtle rehabilitation area. It starts with an educational presentation on sea turtles as well as a behind the scenes look at the hospital facilities and rehabilitation area. At the end of each program you can feed the permanent residents.

The Turtle Hospital’s mission is to rehab injured sea turtles and return them to their natural habitat, educate the public, conduct and assist with research aiding sea turtles by working with state universities, and working for environmental legislation making the beaches and water safe and clean for sea turtles.

11. Seven Mile Bridge (Mile Markers 47-40)

After you leave the Turtle Hospital, the next bridge you will drive across is the Seven Mile Bridge, the longest bridge in Florida. It connects Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys.

Seven Mile Bridge

You will also see part of the original bridge, which was a railroad bridge built in the early 1900s. After a hurricane destroyed that original bridge, it was sold to the U.S. Government and converted to a bridge for automobiles. A new bridge was constructed beside the old one and opened in 1982. The old bridge has been converted to a pedestrian walkway and fishing pier, but only a part of that original bridge is left, so it doesn’t go the full seven miles.

12. See the Key Deer on Big Pine Key

On Big Pine Key you can see Key Deer. You have to drive carefully here as these Key Deer are endangered. The Key deer is the smallest subspecies of the North American white-tailed deer. They travel through all of the Florida Keys habitats, and can walk, wade or swim from island to island.

They are quite friendly and used to humans.

Key Deer

13. No Name Pub (Close to Mile Marker 30)

This No Name Pub is also on Big Pine Key. It is not hard to find, but here is the address if you need it: 30813 Watson Blvd, Big Pine Key, FL 33043. It will take you about 30 minutes to drive from the Turtle Hospital to this pub.

No Name Pub

Inside is eclectically decorated and you can add your dollar bill to the wall if you want.

No Name Pub

It is a great place to grab a cold drink and a little snack!

The House Specialty is their Homemade Smoked Fish Dip, and it is so good!

Homemade Smoked Fish Dip
Homemade Smoked Fish Dip

14. Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square

Sunset at Mallory Square

It will take you about 1 hour to drive from the No Name Pub to Key West. So, for timing, if you do the 90 minute Turtle Hospital tour from 4-5:30pm or earlier, then you will get to the No Name Pub about 6pm. So, enjoy a cool drink and an appetizer for about 30 minutes, so you can get to Mallory Square by 7:30 and then have time to see the sunset. If you are staying in Key West for a few days, then you don’t have to rush as you can watch the sunset any evening.

Once you get to Key West, check into your hotel and then make sure you are at Mallory Square before the sunset. This nightly event started in the late 1960s! It begins two hours before sunset, and everyone is invited to watch the beautiful sunset as the sun sinks into the horizon. The nightly festival hosts visitors from all over the world. You will be entertained by the magicians, jugglers, clowns, and local musicians.

Juggler at Mallory Square

You can also shop local artists and enjoy food and drinks from the nearby vendors. It is a fun time to be outside and enjoy the talented performers!

Additional Stops to Consider

If you have the time, here are a few additional stops that you might want to consider adding.

15. Coral Castle Museum

Coral Castle Museum

The Coral Castle Museum is a sculpture garden of stone that you can tour. It was built by one man, Edward Leedskalnin. Ed built it from 1923 to 1951 by himself, carving over 1,100 tons of coral rock. He did this with a secret process and only hand tools, making this a very mysterious accomplishment. The museum is open every day.

Coral Castle Museum
28655 South Dixie Highway
Miami, FL 33033

16. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – (Mile Marker 102.5)

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Christ of the Deep

The first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, covers approximately 70 nautical square miles. The mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks in the park’s upland areas offer visitors a unique experience; however, it is the coral reefs and their marine life that bring most visitors to the park. Above is the Christ of the Deep sculpture you can see on a snorkel or scuba tour.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Fish

You can enjoy the view of the reef from a glass-bottom boat tour, but you can get a much closer look by scuba diving or snorkeling. Canoeing, paddleboarding and kayaking through the park’s waters are also popular activities. All these tour reservations and equipment rentals require online booking in advance so book them early for the best availability.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park Turtle

Fishing is permitted in designated areas. You can also enjoy walking on short trails, picnicking, or swimming at the beach. The Visitor Center has a 30,000-gallon saltwater aquarium and a theater where nature videos are shown.

17. Rain Barrel Village – (Mile Marker 86)

Since 1978, Rain Barrel Village has proudly supported local artists. The work in the galleries is from more than 500 artists!

Rain Barrel Village Lobster Sculpture

Don’t forget to take a selfie with Betsy, the giant Spiny Lobster!

18. History of Diving Museum (Mile Marker 83)

History of Diving Museum

The Florida Keys History of Diving Museum collects, preserves and displays all things relative to the history of diving. The museum tells the history of exploring under water. If you are a scuba diver, you may want to consider adding this stop to your trip.

19. Dolphin Research Center (Mile Marker 59)

Dolphin Research Center

The Dolphin Research Center has been rescuing and rehabilitating whales and dolphins since 1984.

In addition to maintaining a great environment for the dolphins and sea lions, they also assist marine mammals in distress in the surrounding waters of the Keys.

To reach as many people as possible, the Center provides a variety of educational programs that allow the public a chance to learn firsthand about the world of the dolphin.

Swim with Dolphins

In addition to learning about dolphins and the research center, you can swim with dolphins here as well!

Address: 58901 Overseas Highway | Grassy Key, FL 33050

20. Bahia Honda State Park (Mile Marker 37)

Bahia Honda State Park

The Bahia Honda State Park is known for its scenery, sandy beaches, clear waters and magnificent sunsets.

The park is an excellent place to observe wading birds and shorebirds, and introduces nature lovers to the island’s plants and animals.

Kayaks and snorkeling gear can be rented, and boat trips to the reef for snorkeling excursions are available.

Address: 36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key, FL 33043

Where to Stay in Key West

Parking is very difficult in Key West, so we opted for a hotel that was close to Mallory Square and close to most of the restaurants, shopping and main attractions. If you choose a hotel farther away from the main attractions, that is fine, but I would plan to use Uber instead of looking for parking.

We stayed at the Opal Key Resort and Marina and loved it.

Opal Key Resort Key West Florida

Click here for other hotels in the area to consider.

We typically left our rental car in the hotel parking garage and mostly walked around, but if it was hot or we were in a hurry, then we would call an uber and that worked great.

Miami to Key West Drive Frequently Asked Questions

Best Time of Year to Drive from Miami to Key West

Miami and Key West have great weather all year; however, consider these when planning your trip:

  • Hurricane season starts June 1 and ends November 30. Historically, the chances of hurricane activity are greater between August 15 and October 15.
  • The busiest season is around Christmas into early January.
  • March through May is a great time, especially before school is out, because it is warmer, but not too hot and not too crowded with summer vacationers.

Timing Options to do this in One Day

If you want to do the optional activities, how many more days and where to stay?

If you are driving from Miami to Key West and back, then you can do some of the activities on the way down and others on the way back. If you are doing a one way trip from Miami to Key West, then depending on the activities you want to do, you might need to do this drive in 2 or 3 days.

Specifically, if you want to do some of the water activities in John Pennekamp State Park, then, you should plan on staying one night in Key Largo or Islamorada. Here are Key Largo Hotels to consider for your stay. If you want to stay on some amazing white sand beaches, then opt for Islamorada. Here are Islamorada Hotels to check out.

If you also want to hang out at the Bahai Honda State Park, and / or spend time at the Turtle Hospital and Dolphin Research Center, then you may want to spend a night in Marathon. Here are the Hotels in Marathon.

Did you Do the Miami to Key West Drive?

If so, leave a comment below about what you did and what you loved!

About the Author

Linda

Hi, I'm Linda! Welcome to The Wanderlust Kitchen, where I share recipes and travel adventures from all around the world. Here you'll find a world of recipes you can have confidence in. These recipes celebrate authentic food heritage as well as modern techniques and ingredients. Be adventurous and try a new recipe and travel somewhere you have never been before.  Bon Appétit! Bon Voyage!  

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