Key West has the distinction of being the only Caribbean island that you can get to by car, and people often wonder about the possibility of driving to Key West. They may be in Miami for a visit or for other reasons and would like to see the southernmost city. Or they might be putting together a flight itinerary to Key West and find themselves wondering about the advantages and disadvantages of renting a car at the Miami or Fort Lauderdale airport rather than arranging a connecting flight to Key West. In this article, I will take a look at the drive down the Keys and consider some of the positive aspects of driving to Key West.
Key West is the last inhabited island in the Florida Keys, and it lies about 170 miles (272 km) to the southwest of Miami. The island is connected to the rest of the Florida Keys and the mainland by US-1, the Overseas Highway, which terminates at mile marker 0 in Key West. Setting the starting point at the Miami International Airport, driving to Key West will take about 3.5 to 4 hours if a steady pace is kept. The drive down US-1 is one of the more straightforward drives in America, because from Key Largo heading for points south, the road is like a long main street. It runs through all of the small towns on the Keys, there are no other connecting or alternate highways, and the Keys themselves are only about a half-mile or less wide in most places. In fact, for a good portion of the trip, you will be crossing water on bridges with no possibility of turning off or even stopping. This is one road that no one can get lost on.
Aerial view of Long Key, halfway between Key Largo and Key West
Despite any difficulties or disadvantages, it has to be said that the drive down the Keys is one of the classic American road trips. Many people regard the drive as a bucket-list item – something that has to be done at least once in a lifetime. Although the 50-mile stretch from Miami to Key Largo is mostly boring, and Key Largo mainly presents the driver with a stretch of gas stations, strip malls, and souvenir stands, the remainder of the drive south is beautiful and even amazing. There are many interesting sights and funky stops to explore, everything from beaches to barbecue shacks and tiki bars to turtle hospitals. When you hit mile marker 47 and the east end of Seven Mile bridge, the ride gets spectacular. Traveling across this engineering wonder is great fun as you take in views more commonly seen from an aircraft than a car.
Old and new Seven Mile Bridges
As you head south, there are numerous places and things worth exploring and experiencing. Historical sites, water sports and fishing, lodgings and resorts, camping, dining, and drinking all beckon the traveler. If it is your first drive down the Keys, the most difficult part of driving to Key West will probably be trying to make it in only one day, little less in just 4 hours. This drive could be made into a vacation in itself, and many visitors do just that. It is an ideal trip for an RV, or for camping (Be sure to reserve sites early in the winter season as most parks are booked months in advance.), and US-1 along the Keys is unmatched in America for offering road access to water sports like fishing, diving, snorkeling, and kayaking.
The run south down the Keys is truly one of America’s great tourist drives. Along with being a lot of fun in itself, the trip will give you a true feeling for the flavor of the Keys, and the sense of isolation and “end of the road” setting associated with Key West. Moving into the lower Keys off the west end of the Seven Mile bridge, there is a feeling of decompression and shift into tropical vacation mode that will make your arrival in Key West all the more pleasant.
Driving to Key West out of Miami can be easy and fun if you have the time and energy to put into the undertaking. If you do not, or if you would like to experience a Florida Keys road trip from a comfortable and safe passenger seat, a Miami to Key West luxury motor coach tour is definitely something you should consider. Cool Key West is your gateway to easy round-trip coach transportation from Miami to Key West, with convenient pickups at most Miami hotels.
Take the bus – Leave the driving to us!
Tour the Keys without the responsibilities of driving and gaze at the scenery or shoot pictures to your heart’s content. You can arrive for a day or a longer stay in Key West refreshed and ready to enjoy the island to the fullest, while avoiding the dread and depression commonly associated with the drive back north at the end of a Key West visit. Travel like a rock star and see the Keys from the air-conditioned comfort of a luxury touring coach.