One of the very best road trips we ever took was the Miami to Key West drive along the stunning Florida Keys.
The drive is approximately 160 miles and takes around 4 hours if you do the whole drive in one hit.
This however, would be an awful shame as the famous and picturesque Overseas Highway passes through some of the most interesting and fun fishing villages in the United States.
The drive to the Southernmost point of continental USA (you can practically reach out and touch Cuba from here) was one of the best adventures we have ever had! In terms of prestige the iconic route is comparable only to the Great Ocean Road drive in Australia or the California Highway 1 drive.
Pile your whole family in the car and prepare to make memories that last a lifetime in one of our all time favorite areas of Florida!
Strap your seat belt on while we guide you through the best stops driving to Key West. First up we’ll answer some FAQs about this Florida Keys road trip.
If you want to jump straight to the itinerary click here: Miami to Key West drive.
Bring with you: Lonely Planet Miami and the Keys Guide
Best stops driving to Key West
Keys’ Drive: Frequently Asked Questions
Which is the Best Airport to Start your road trip?
The best airport to fly into to start your Road Trip is Miami (MIA) or Fort Lauderdale (FLL).
Despite Miami airport being the most optimal place to fly into to start your road trip, often the most affordable flights land in Fort Lauderdale. We flew from Paris to Fort Lauderdale for around $200.
If you are starting from inside the United States you can either fly using low cost national carriers such as Spirit, Frontier, SouthWest or JetBlue. You can find the cheapest flights available on Skyscanner.
If you are driving from the Northern States you will likely use Route 95 to make your way to Miami.
Things to Know about Hiring a Car for the Florida Keys
If you don’t have your own car, you will need to hire a car to make the trip.
On our drive we had our own car however, we have rented cars many times in the past in Florida.
Car hire in Florida is reasonably affordable. You can get a car rental from Miami for as little as $200 for a week. One of the most popular car options in the Keys is a mustang. Let your hair fly in the wind as you hit the open road!
Gas prices in the Florida Keys can be a little more expensive than the rest of Florida so we would recommend filling up in advance if possible. Expect to pay as much as US$3 per gallon (3.78L) in the Keys.
In addition to the car insurance (you can get this when you hire your car), we always recommend having separate travel insurance. After 5 years of full time travel, the best insurer we have found is World Nomads Insurance.
Best Time to Visit?
As it is a tropical location that is warm and sunny year round, it is always a good time to visit the Florida Keys, especially if you are looking for a break from the harsh winter!
We visited in September and it was a lovely month to visit with very little rain and mild days temperature-wise.
The winter months are the busiest in the Keys and prices are at a premium as snowbirds make their way down from the Northern States in search of warmer temperatures.
- January is the coldest month in the Florida Keys with temperatures between 71 and 77°F (22 to 25°C).
- August is the hottest month in the Florida Keys where temperatures reach as much as 89.4°F (32°C).
How Far is Key West from Miami?
If you drive continuously, it is 160 miles and takes around 4 hours to get from Key West to Miami.
If you are determined, you could make this drive in a single day. However, we would advise against this as you would miss some of the very best attractions!
How many days should I allow in the itinerary?
Despite the fact that the drive is 160 miles and takes only around 4 hours, we would recommend allocating at least a week to a Florida Keys road trip.
You will want to spend at least a few nights at the major stops along the way including Key Largo and Key West.
Where are the Florida Keys?
When going on a road trip, it is always advisable to bring a good map with you.
Tip: You can download this map of the area using the google maps app when you are online and then use it when you are offline as you drive.
Stop 1: The Everglades
Before you make your way to the start of the Florida Keys, we would suggest thinking about including the Everglades National Park in your Florida Keys itinerary.
If you wish to visit the Everglades before you hit the Keys, make a turn south from Florida City.
The Everglades is one of our favorite things to do in Florida. We have been several times and will probably go several times in the future.
National Parks in the United States are just the best and like all other National Parks, there is an abundance of cool things to do in the Everglades.
If you just want to do one day in the Everglades, we would suggest doing an airboat tour, visiting Shark Valley where you can bike the Everglades and the Anhinga Trail where you have the best chance of seeing an Alligator on foot.
We were very lucky and even saw some baby alligators at the time we visited.
The Gumbo Limbo Trail is also a great place to visit in the middle of the day. Florida is hot all year round so it is nice to find a well shaded hike in the exposed Everglades wetlands.
Stop 2: Key Largo
The first spot on your road trip is the laid back town of Key Largo.
We didn’t expect to enjoy Key Largo as much as we did. Everyone heads straight down to Key West without giving Key Largo a chance but really I think this is a total mistake.
We loved that you can have a mix of both relaxation and adventure in Key Largo. It is a place you could keep coming year after year and not get bored.
We would recommend spending 2 nights in Key Largo. See our detailed post on Key Largo if you want some in depth information on what to do there.
Otherwise, keep reading and we will list some unmissable things to do right below!
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
This was our absolute favorite place in Key Largo as it has some of the best snorkeling the Florida Keys.
Unlike Key West, which is over-populated with cruise goers, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a bit of an undiscovered hidden gem in Florida.
The State Park has set up in 1963 to preserve Key Largo’s coral reef.
It costs $9 (for 2 people) to enter John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park which is waived if you are camping. Camping will set you back$43 USD a night including tax (highly recommended by the way!)
Inside the State Park are stunning beaches and fun nature trails to enjoy. You can also snorkel right off the beach or alternatively hire a kayak or go on a glass bottom boat tour – the possibilities are endless!
The first beach within the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is Cannon Beach.
This beach was one of our absolute favourites as there are cannons rumored to have come from a shipwreck all over the beach and it was one of the most chilled and relaxed beaches in Key Largo.
We would recommend bringing both a floatie and a snorkel to Cannon Beach. The beach is ideal for relaxing as there are no waves.
There is also great snorkeling off the beach where you can find old Spanish shipwreck if you are not afraid of alligators. Ekk!
There are signs at the beach warning swimmers of alligators but in reality they are rarely found there.
The second beach in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is Far Beach.
This was possibly our favorite beach in Key Largo as we really enjoyed the snorkeling off this beach.
If you enjoy isolated beaches, this is the beach for you as it was the less popular of the two beaches located in the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Nearby Far Beach there is a nice little walking track where you can see some local wildlife in the area including birds and lizards galore!
Dive the Spiegel Grove Wreck
Divers are drawn to the beaches of Key Largo to dive the Spiegel Grove Wreck.
If you want to complete this dive, we would suggest booking in advance as spots fill up early.
It is amazing to see the sea life that lives in and around the shipwreck.
Swim with Wild Dolphins at Dolphin Plus Bayside
Swimming with Dolphins is such a cool experience. We swum with Dolphins in Cancun Mexico and it was pure magic to say the least.
If you have always wanted the chance to swim with dolphins, Key Largo is a a good place to fulfill this dream. At Dolphin Plus Bayside in Key Largo you can swim with the most beautiful bottlenose dolphins in their natural seawater home.
Ethically, it is always advisable to swim with animals in a natural rather than man made habitat so we like that about this place.
This center also includes education center where the trainers will teach you all about dolphins as well as the importance of marine conservation.
Visit the Harry Harris Park in Tavernier
Another great ‘beach’ to visit in Key Largo is the Harry Harris Park in Tavernier.
We say ‘beach’ as it is not a typical white sand beach however, it is a nice place to relax by the seaside and soak up the fresh ocean air.
The park was absolutely ideal for a BBQ as there are numerous shaded picnic tables with BBQs all over the park.
You can also go snorkeling off the beach and there is even playgrounds for children to enjoy in the park.
Eat Key Lime Pie
You simply cannot go to the Florida Keys without eating Key Lime pie, one of the most iconic Florida Foods to the area.
The very best Key Lime pie we tried in the Florida Keys was in Key Largo at a place called Mrs Macs.
Due to its awesome Key Lime pie, it expanded over the years to include several stores in Key Largo so you will have no trouble finding a Mrs Macs! A slice of yummy Key Lime pie at Mrs Macs it will set you back around $5.50 for take away.
Important note on Key Lime Pie: If the pie is green avoid it, it is not traditional Key Lime Pie. You want your pie to be YELLOW! Traditional Key Lime pie is yellow in color!
- Here are our 6 favorite places for Key Lime Pie in Key Largo.
Food lovers rejoice as Key Largo is known to be a bit of a foodie paradise with a lot of amazing restaurants to enjoy including fabulous, fresh seafood restaurants.
While on vacation, we love to sample unique food in the area. Along with Key Lime pie, the other iconic Florida food to try in Key Largo is Conch (pronounced “Konk”)
If you aren’t sure what Conch is (don’t worry we didn’t know either!!) it is kind of like a sea snail. It is a a tropical marine animal with a spiral shell. You eat the meat inside the shell. It has been known to be a bit chewy.
Conch almost look too pretty to eat but if you would like to try some in any event we would suggest The Conch House. Conch is an acquired taste & so be prepared – it has a rubbery texture.
The restaurant offers an awesome Conch House Sampler for those new to Conch. This consists of: conch fritters, lobster & conch ceviche, cracked conch, coconut shrimp and mango crab cake.
As for other restaurants in Key Largo, the best rated restaurants in Key Largo are:
- What the Fish Rolls and More
- Alfredo’s Cookhouse
- Harriette Restaurant
- The Fish House
- Chad Deli Grill Pizzeria
For a yummy and cool experience we would suggest going to the Key Largo fisheries. Here you can watch the local fisherman at work as you enjoy your fresh fish. It also serves yummy key lime pie if you want a great desert.
Where to stay in Key Largo?
There are so many fabulous places to stay in Key Largo to suit all budgets and tastes. Click here for all accommodation in Key Largo during your dates.
We would recommend staying at least 2 nights in Key Largo to soak up all this small town has to offer.
If you would like to camp in the area we would highly recommend the Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. As stated above, it costs $43 USD a night including tax.
It is a little expensive for camping but it provides a very clean, comfortable and secure place to stay for the night for those who want to be in touch with nature.
If you want a little more comfort, we would recommend at this out of the world hotel!
There is also a pretty unique hotel whose home is in Key Largo known as the Jules Undersea Lodge. This is a pretty epic place to stay. It is Florida’s only underwater hotel. To stay at this hotel there is a catch, you need to dive to access the hotel. Staying here would truly be a once in a lifetime experience and a talking point among friends.
Getting from the Everglades to Key Largo
Key Largo is the easiest place to access in the Florida Keys as it is the closest place to Miami.
Key Largo is only a 1 hour drive from Miami so it means you can even visit this part of the Florida Keys during a day trip. For more information see our Miami to Key Largo driving guide.
As mentioned above, Key Largo is also very close to the Everglades National Park, being only around a 40 minute drive away.
With limited public transport options, the best way to visit Key Largo is by car.
Driving Stop 3: Islamorada
Despite Islamorada being a small town, it is in our opinion one of the best places to visit in the Florida Keys due to the abundance of fun activities in the area.
You won’t be driving long from Key Largo to reach Islamorada, only a 40 minutes away drive away.
As Islamorada is a little further down the Keys, it has even more of a relaxed vibe than Key Largo.
Like Key Largo it caters well to many different types of travelers. It has snorkeling or diving for adventure seekers and calm, peaceful, beautiful beaches in Islamorada for relaxation.
There are some fabulous things to do in Islamorada. The best activities include the following:
Anne Beach was the favourite beach we visited in Islamorada, known for being one of the most beautiful beaches in the Florida Keys.
The beach is particularly popular with families as it has really nice shallow water perfect for children swimming it.
We would recommend it even for a couples trip to Islamorada as it has a stunning boardwalk that you can go for a walk on or enjoy a picnic. Another great part of the beach is that the picnic tables are shaded which is always a win.
The reason it is called ‘Anne Beach’ is a cool story. It was named after a special eco-warrior in the area Anne Eaton for her hard work in the Keys.
If you are headed to Anne Beach from Key Largo allow 30-40 minutes by car.
Aside from Anne Beach, another of the best beaches in Islamorada is Founders Park which is a particularly popular beach with the locals in the area.
It is free for Islamorada locals but costs $8 USD per person entry fee for non residents.
Founders Park is a popular recreational option in Islamorada as it has a bit of everything – an athletic field, Olympic size swimming pool, marina and beach.
The beach isn’t huge but the water is clear and the sand is white.
Founders park tip: Remember to BYO your own food if you are headed to Founders Park as there is only a vending machine on premises, no shop.
Holiday Isle Beach
In terms of a beautiful white sand beach, Holiday Isle Beach may even be more beautiful than Anne Beach.
Despite the fact it is traditionally a private beach owned by the Holiday Isle Resort complex some parts of the beach are open to the public for free.
We loved that there was very convenient parking at Holiday Isle Beach and lots of facilities at the beach to enjoy.
There is also a Tico Bar & Restaurant at the public beach which is fun if you are looking for a different and unique dining experience.You can also reserve a fishing charter or eco boat tour in the same vicinity.
On top of the public beach there is also a private beach for use of the people staying at the Holiday Isle Resort. You cannot enter this area unless you have a special wristband.
Feed giant Tarpon at Robbie’s
100% of absolute favourite activity on our road trip of the Florida Keys was feeding the giant tarpon at Robbie’s pier.
These fish are seriously giant – up to 8ft long – so it is a pretty cool sight for fish enthusiasts.
To see the tarpon in action it costs $2.25 per person. If you would like to feed them (note: only for the brave!!) each bucket of fish is $4.00 (5-8 fish per bucket).Mike ended up with an injured arm out of it though – the Tarpon literally jump out of the water and swallow your arm trying to eat the fish.
Be prepared to get a little injured – the bite feels a bit like sandpaper. Or, you can always watch by the sidelines (as I did!).
Be careful of the other little fish in the water too. The tarpon have no teeth but there are also “little” fish in the water which have razor sharp teeth which will do some damage!
The Islamorada Library and Park
If you are on the hunt for hidden gems on your drive then you best check out Islamorada’s best kept secret – The Islamorada Library and Park.
We only saw locals at this spot as most tourists don’t know about this ‘secret spot’ in Islamorada.
The easiest way to visit this park and little beach area is by placing ‘Islamorada Library’ into google maps. The Islamorada beach is just behind the Islamorada Library.
The best part of this beach is that it is very nature friendly. We saw some cool wildlife at this beach including an iguana and a reef shark cruising by while while we were there.
Due to the sharks and crocs in the water, we personally wouldn’t recommend swimming but it is perfect for relaxing or having a picnic. There is a stunning nature view from the picnic tables.
The beach is a well equipped including a swing sets for children, picnic tables and BBQ facilities as well as toilets and a beach shower.
Florida Keys Brewing Company
Love beer tasting? So do we! Some of the very best beer tasting we have done is at the Florida Keys Brewing Company in Islamorada.
This is one for beer lovers. The Florida Keys Brewing Company is the Upper Keys first microbrewery.
At the brewery you can take a tour or just enjoy the many seasonal and barrel aged beers they have on on draft.
You can go for a tasting or simply enjoy a beer of your choice in the cool beer garden.
The Islamorada Beer Company is another option for a Brewery in Islamorada.
Theater of the Seas (Mile Marker 84)
If your road trip is a family affair, you will want to make a stop at the theater of the seas in Islamorada.
Kind of like sea world, the theater offers lush, tropical gardens home to dolphins, sea lions, sea turtles including green turtles, fish, sharks, stingrays, alligators, and birds.
It is possible to get up close and personal with the dolphins by having a dolphin experience.
Cost of basic entry to observe the animals is $40 USD a person.
A perfect activity for a family trip to the Keys at mile marker 84.
Visit a secret local beach
We stumbled across a secret local beach while hunting for the best beaches in Islamorada.
At this spot, locals enjoy free swimming in the crystal clear water.
If you would like to visit this “secret spot” we discovered you can find it on State Route 1 where the Indian Key Channel is.
Spend time at Fossil Reef
We are always on the hunt for new and interesting things to do while on vacation.
We have never seen fossilized coral before and if you haven’t either you are in luck Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park in Islamorada.
There are 5 trails and lots to read and learn about the geological fossil reef around the park and Florida Keys history.
We suggest going in the afternoon as the park gets very hot.
It costs $2.50 per person to enter the park.
If you loved this geological state park you might also like to visit the key botanical state park while in the area.
Visit the History of Diving Museum
All the self proclaimed nerds raise your hand!
If you are a bit of a nerd you will just love the history of diving museum.
The museum provides a full history of diving including what diving was like in early times, you know aka metal helmets.
The museum if open daily between 10am-5pm.
It costs $12 USD to enter but they offer a free information evening on Wednesdays at 7pm.
Make the most of some awesome water activities in the area
Islamorada has some of the very best water facilities in the Florida Keys.
Islamorada has a fabulous coral reef so if you are interested in snorkeling or diving, this is a great place to do it!
If you are not so interested in fish, you can always pick an alternative water sport like stand up paddle boarding or kayaking, there are plenty of opportunities to hire equipment in Islamorada.
One of the most popular trips is to head out to Alligator Reef Light House. Hire a kayak and jump out and snorkel when you hit the reef.
Get an Iconic Giant Lobster Picture
And after all of that, you might like to get a picture with a giant lobster!
The Rain Barrel Artisan Village is famous for the giant lobster “Betty”. If you are passing by, make a quick stop to get an iconic Islamorada giant lobster photo.
The Rain Barrel Artisan Village also have a shop where you can purchase arts and crafts, handmade soap and clothing.
Where to stay in Islamorada?
Islamorada has lodging available for all budgets. Click here to search accommodation options in Islamorada during your dates.
Here is the places we would recommend depending on your budget:
- Budget – La Jolla Resort (good budget option with beach access)
- Mid Range to Luxury – Postcard Inn (has access to a great beach)
- Luxury – Casa Morada (limited guests so a very tranquil, relaxing experience)
What to eat in Islamorada?
The best rated restaurants we would recommend dining at in Islamorada include:
- Twisted Shrimp
- Bayside Gourmet
- Mangrove Mike’s Cafe
- Midway Cafe and Coffee Bar
- Bitton Bistro Cafe.
Next stop: Marathon!!
Keys Drive Stop 4: Marathon
From Marathon, it is only a 1 hour drive onward to Key West.
We actually came through Marathon on our way to Bahia Honda State Park (highly recommended by the way!!) and wanted to check out what activities the mid point of the Florida Keys had to offer!
You can either make an overnight stop in Marathon or keep driving onward to Key West. Regardless, you need to make a stop!
Sombrero Beach is the best beach in the Marathon area.
It is a lovely beach with a strip of white sand and decent water.
It wasn’t our favourite beach in the Keys, this award goes to Bahia Honda State Park but it certainly wasn’t the worst and it is a completely free beach!
What we loved that the beach has more than ample parking.
There is also toilet facilities and showers at the beach if you don’t plan to stay the night at Marathon.
One can simply not make a trip to Marathon without visiting the turtle hospital aka cuteness overload.
Families traveling in the Florida Keys often rate this activity as their all time favorite activity in the Florida Keys.
What we love is that it is much more than just seeing turtles although that is always fun! The Turtle Hospital serves to rehabilitate the turtles of the Florida Keys.
This good work justifies the fairly high entry fee of $25 per person. Included in your ticket is a 90 minute guided where you will get an opportunity to feed the turtles.
This is their rescue mobile.
Coco Plum Beach
If you love turtles you might want to check out Coco Plum Beach, the other beach in the Marathon Florida area.
At the entry of Coco Plum Beach there is a sign which shows what turtle belongs to what track so you can check it out as you walk down the beach.
Personally, we didn’t like Coco Plum Beach much. The beach had a lot of seaweed and there was also a very unusual smell at the beach.
Coco Plum Beach has toilet facilities but no showers as far as we could see. You will likely have the beach to yourself (guess people didn’t like the funky smell).
Crane Point Museum & Nature Center
If you love nature, you must make a stop at the Crane Point Museum and Nature Center.
The center consists of 63 acres of native plants, a creek, a history museum including the first Bahamian house. If you get bored after all this exploration you can even rent kayaks.
Don’t forget to do the Crane Point Hammock hike!
It costs $14.95 to enter. It is local favourite activity as you can really make a day of it which makes the entry fee very affordable.
Visit the Dolphin Research Center
There is more than just a turtle hospital in Marathon Florida.
For those who love animals you will be happy to know there is also a dolphin research center in Marathon.
In the general admission ticket ($29 per person) you learn about all things dolphin and their behaviors but if it is a special occasion we would recommend extra to have a dolphin encounter ($199 per person).
It is a special experience to be able to interact with a dolphin up close and personal. A great family activity!
Cruise along Seven Mile Bridge
Even if you are not planning to go up as far as these places, we would highly recommend taking a joy drive on the 7 Mile Bridge, it is iconic to the Florida Keys and really beautiful.
The water of the bridge is absolutely stunning and the bridge itself is truly a piece of art.
Get your camera ready but don’t hang it outside your window. It is super windy on this bridge and it you drop it, its gone for good!
Spend a day at Curry Hammock State Park
In the Marathon area there is the Curry Hammock State Park.
It is not the best beach for swimming but it is a nice place to kayak or have a BBQ.
It costs $4.50 per person to enter.
We would suggest bypassing this State Park and heading to Bahia Honda State Park across the 7 Mile Bridge instead.
Aquarium encounter is a pretty cool place to visit in Marathon.
This Florida Keys Marathon aquarium is no ordinary aquarium but one where you can get up close and personal with the marine life through diving, snorkeling & feeding. There is also touch tanks for the kids.
One cool activity you can do here (if you are brave enough) is to hand feed sharks!
For what it is it is a fairly cheap activities in the Keys – it only costs $22 USD per person to visit.
While at the Aquarium Encounter don’t forget to visit Key Colony beach – a pretty white sand beach which is located right behind the aquarium. You will even find boat rentals to hire there.
Where to stay in Marathon?
Marathon has lodging available for all budgets. Click here to search accommodation options in Marathon during your dates.
If you like camping, we would recommend camping in the Bahia Honda State Park.
The downside to this is that Florida can get quite hot and sticky at night. If you prefer a little more comfort, we would suggest staying in these vacation rentals and hotels in Marathon to explore the beaches.
What to eat in Marathon?
The best rated restaurants we would recommend dining at in Islamorada include:
- Island Fish Co
- Castaway Waterfront Restaurant
- Herbies Bar and Chowder House
- Porkys Bayside Restaurant
Next stop: Bahia Honda!!
Driving Stop 5: Bahia Honda State Park
Practically in Marathon, just a hop, skip and a jump away (over the 7 Mile Bridge) is our favourite place in the Florida Keys – Bahia Honda State Park in Pine Key.
If you are looking for a great (and affordable) place for camping in the Florida Keys at a cost of $43 USD a night including tax for a beach front powered spot!
All sorts of people come to holiday in Bahia Honda – older retired, families with kids and even honeymooners – these people do have two things in common though: 1.They love the great outdoors and 2. They are beach enthusiasts.
Bahia Honda State Park Information
Opening Hours: 8am – Sundown (want to stay longer? Try camping. More info in our Bahia Honda camping guide)
Does Bahia Honda have wifi?: Yes, wifi is available 24/7 from the Concession building
How much is entry? $8.00* per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle. $2.00* Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers.
How much is camping? $43 including taxes
Can you fish? Yes, check at the gate for permit information
What mile marker is the park? Look out for Mile Marker 36 for the entrance.
Bahia Honda State Park
The Florida Keys is not exactly known for insane beaches but Bahia Honda is an exception to the rule.
It costs $4.50 pp to enter the park but it is well worth it. If you decide to camp in the park ($43 USD per site per night) this fee is waved.
If you have a drone and want to take amazing drone footage this will be a bit of bummer for you as no droning is allowed in the State Park.
If you have traveled through America before this probably won’t come as a surprise as all National and State parks have a no drone policy but it is still a bummer when the water in the State Park is just so picturesque.
Inside the State Park itself there are many things to do: there are 3 gorgeous beaches, a marina, and water activities.
There is also a store in the State Park where you can book Snorkel Boat Tours, rent Beach Rental Equipment and Kayaks. There is also a free water refill station at the shop.
Beaches in Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda has 3 amazing beaches – Caloosa Beach, Loggerhead Beach and Sandspur Beach.
Sadly, Sandspur Beach was closed due to damage from Hurricane Irma when we visited. It is a pity as we have read that it is the most beautiful beach in Bahia Honda.
People have described Sandspur Beach as having perfect white powdery sand and translucent water which goes for miles. Many people believe it is the MOST beautiful beach in the world.
I guess we may never know! BUT we were pretty satisfied with the other beaches which remained open – Caloosa Beach & Loggerhead Beach.
Caloosa Beach was fairly different to Loggerhead Beach. I would describe it as the ‘swimming beach’ of the two. Although after 5pm or on a bad weather day, this beach is virtually dead.
We arrived at around 4pm on a cloudy day and there was not a soul in sight at Caloosa Beach.
The next morning we woke up and visited Caloosa Beach to find many holiday makers relaxing by the shore, having picnics and frolicking in the crystal clear water.
One aspect that makes Caloosa Beach particularly special is that is has epic views of the Old Baha Honda Bridge.
Another aspect we loved about this beach is that picnic tables are on the actual beach. We have never seen this before. It is so nice to be able to picnic directly on the beach. There is even BBQs on the beach. Pretty cool.
Sadly, you are not allowed to consume alcohol on the beach – I can really see a cold one going down a treat on a hot day.
In saying that, I did notice some sneaky seniors with bud lights on the beach. If you are stealth and dispose of your trash you probably won’t have a problem but you didn’t hear that from me!
Here is a little photography tip – Caloosa Beach has magical sunsets looking out to the Old Baha Honda Bridge. It is an amazing photography opportunity and hardly anyone is around at this time.
Loggerhead Beach was the beach in the State Park that we preferred. We thought of it as it was the snorkeling beach.
Loggerhead Beach has an absolutely fabulous reef that is so close to the shore.
You can seldom find good beach snorkeling in the world (usually you have to take a snorkeling trip) and Loggerhead Beach is one of the few places in the world that you can actually see awesome fish right off the beach.
Make sure you bring a snorkel with you. The Florida Keys are notoriously expensive so it is best if you purchase a snorkel set in advance.
We saw lots of colorful fish while snorkeling at Loggerhead Beach including garfish and schools of bright yellow and blue fish.
We were a little surprised to find such pretty ones as the while snorkeling at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo we didn’t see any colorful fish, just regular fish.
If you are just coming for a day at the beach, you will be happy to know that there is ample parking close to the beach and great showers and changing facilities available as well as free water.
Old Bahia Honda Bridge Walk
Another cool activity you can do within Bahia Honda is the Old Bahia Honda Bridge Walk.
This walk is pretty awesome as it gives you an incredible view from one of the highest points in the Florida Keys.
It is an easy 0.4 mile walk (there are some steps required) with a fabulous view reward at the end.
You can find the entry easily from the car park at Caloosa Beach.
The bridge has crumbled in the middle so you can hike until you find a barrier in the middle of the bridge from where you can go no further.
Adventure Activities at Bahia Honda
If you are interested in a bit of adventure during your time in Bahia Honda the following activities are available within the State Park:
- Kayaking: Kayaking is a really fun way to explore Bahia Honda. It is possible to rent your own kayak or go on a tour.
- Biking: You will need to bring you own bike for this. If that is a possibility for you, it is fun to ride the length of Bahia Honda (3.5 miles)
- Snorkeling: As discussed above, the off beach snorkeling in Bahia Honda is the best we experienced in the Florida Keys.
- Fishing: For fishing lovers out there, some of the best Tarpon fishing in the Florida Keys is found in Bahia Honda. You do need a saltwater fishing license to go however. And, if you are thinking of picking up some delicious Conch (the Key’s specialty) note that the collection of Queen conchs are prohibited.
National Key Deer Refuge
Aside from amazing beaches and water activities in Bahia Honda, you will want to schedule a stop at the National Key Deer Refuge if you are traveling to the area.
This is one of the few places in the Florida Keys that is free to visit so it is definitely worth a stop on your road trip, especially if you are a nature lover.
What is interesting is that the deer in the park are much smaller than deer elsewhere in the world, mini deer, only about two feet tall.
The Blue Hole
Practically right next door to the National Key Deer Refuge is the Blue Hole.
If you want to see a gator in the Florida Keys then this is your chance! While we were at the Blue Hole a local told us that they used to swim in the waters of the Blue Hole. That is until the gators moved their way in.
The Blue Hole is home to a few gators and many many birds.
If your trip falls within the summer months it is possibly not worth a visit as there is less water and fewer wildlife.
Apply a lot of bug spray if you want to make the trip.
What to eat at Bahia Honda?
Inside the Bahia Honda State Park there is BBQ facilities where you can bring your own meat and vegetables to cook.
If you wish to do this, the closest and most affordable supermarket is Winn Dixie in Marathon. There is also a lot of fast food available in Marathon including McDonald’s, Subway etc.
Inside the Bahia Honda State Park there is also a small shop which serves super yummy chocolate coated key lime pie among other things.
The best restaurants nearby Bahia Honda are as follows:
- Milagro Restaurant & Bar
- Big Pine Rooster
- Boondocks Grille & Draft House
- Bagel Island Cafe
Where to stay in Bahia Honda?
If you want the best proximity to Bahia Honda State Park we would highly recommend camping inside the Bahia Honda State Park.
State Park Campgrounds
It costs $43 USD a night including tax for a site with electricity. Some of the camping spots are particularly nice as they have a water view.
If you decide to camp at Bahia Honda you do not have to pay the $4.50 admission fee to enter the park and can be there for 2 days.
Due to the damage from Hurricane Irma, there is only pop up shower and toilet facilities currently available.
We found them to be sufficient nonetheless but it was rather tight in the bathrooms. On the plus side, there were air conditioned which was a nice surprise.
I personally (as a bit of a glamper) like to use a hair dryer and hair straightener to beautify myself in the morning. Yes, I realise that this is abnormal in the camping world but what can I say – I’m a diva!
The shower facility did have an electricity outlet available however it would be very inconsiderate for other campers as it was extremely tight in the bathrooms.
Other glampers out there will be happy to know that you can use the power outlets for hook ups for your regular outlets including computers!
Read our detailed review about Bahia Honda State Park Camping
Bahia Honda Key Hotels
It does get quite hot and sticky camping, especially in Florida so if you would prefer a little more comfort on your vacation we would suggest the following options.
Next stop, your final destination on Keys Road Trip: Key West!!
Final Stop: Key West
When you think of the Florida Keys, you probably think of Key West.
Key West is home to famous writer Hemingway and is a fan favourite due to the amazing architecture, wacky vibe and abundance of fun things to do.
Despite the fact it is very touristy, with cruise shops docking at Key West virtually every day we really enjoyed Key West!
The Florida Keys are a beautiful but notoriously expensive place to holiday. Accommodation will cost you $150 USD upwards in Key West for basic lodging. Food and activities are also costly.
While on a very expensive holiday it is nice to break up the expensive with a few free activities. Luckily, Key West has many of these. You can see our guide to free things to do in Key West for those.
Things to Do
Ernest Hemingway House
The number 1 attraction in Key West and the most iconic thing to do in Key West is to take a visit to the Ernest Hemingway house, one of America’s most respected authors.
You won’t want to visit Key West with at least not visiting Ernest Hemingway’s house
The famous writer lived in Key West from 1931 to 1939.
Tourists come from all over the world to visit the house in which he lived including touring the rooms and gardens. There is usually a line out the door to get in.
The house is super easy to access as it is located within the very heart of Key West.
There is also something a little quirky about the Hemingway house. There are over 40 cats that live at the house. In Key West style, they are a little strange and some have six toes due to a polydactyl gene in their DNA
These cats are descendants of Ernest Hemingway white six-toed cat called Snow White which he was given by a ship’s captain.
Ernest named his cats after famous people so the Hemingway house follow that same tradition. The house is almost like a mini cat cafe!
It costs $14 USD to tour Hemingway house.
Sunset celebration at Mallory Square
Aside from Ernest Hemingway’s House, there is an abundance of other fun things to do in Key West that could keep you occupied for days.
One of the weirdest and wackiest thing to do in Key West is enjoy an epic sunset at Mallory Square.
Mallory Square is well known in Key West for its incredible sunset celebration. Street performers, buskers and all the weird and wacky people live in Key West come to entertain you as you watch an amazing sunset.
While we were there we saw long john silver swallow his sword – what a sight.
If you are a people watcher, this is an activity for you.
If is free to enter and watch the festivities but parking is very expensive ($4 an hour). It pays to book a hotel close to Mallory Square so you can walk to the sunset festivities. This hotel is in the PERFECT location for Mallory Square festivities.
Don’t miss Mallory Square sunset it is definitely the best Key West sunset.
If you would like a stunning view of Key West, you must visit the Key West Lighthouse.
If you are planning to visit the Hemingway House, the Key West Lighthouse is an easy addition to your day as it is right across the street.
It costs $10 USD to climb the Key West Lighthouse to gain a fabulous view of Key West.
Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
For those who love nature make sure you make a visit to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory.
The Butterfly Conservatory includes a greenhouse with stunning tropical plants, butterflies and birds. There is even a few resident flamingos which makes the visit extra fun, especially if you have not seen a flamingo before.
It costs $12 USD to enter the Butterfly House in Key West.
If you have brought a fur baby on your road trip then there is no better place to visit in Key West than Dog Beach.
Your furry friend will thank you for this cute little strip of beach where they can play in the water and run around unleashed.
Next door there is also something for you: Louie’s Backyard – a great place for a cold drink or bite to eat.
The dog beach is free. Louie’s Backyard costs extra.
There is an alternative dog beach and dog park at Higgs beach.
Go marine watching at The Eco Discovery Center
For an expensive place we were surprised to discover the Key West Eco Discovery Center was completely free.
At the Key West Eco Discovery Center you will find a mini aquarium with tropical fish from the keys available for viewing.
If you haven’t had much luck snorkeling in the keys this is your chance to see amazing tropical fish up close and personal.
The center is also great for kids as it provides a lot of interactive, information about the marine life in the Keys.
There are short short informational videos on a half hourly basis until 3.30pm (last viewing).
Key West is a little difficult on the parking front so you will be pleased to know that there is free parking available at the center. Really no excuse to come now is there?!
Take a picture at the Southernmost Point of the Continental US
If you have made it to Key West, congratulations, you have made it to the Southernmost point of the United States!
From here it is only a hop, skip and a jump to Havana Cuba another of Hemingway’s favourite places. You can almost reach out and touch the island from here!
Be the envy of your mainland friends and get a photo with the Southernmost point of the United States buoy.
You may have to line up to get the signature photo as it is one of the most popular things to do in the area.
Nearby the Southernmost point is South Beach. No, not South Beach in Miami but South Beach in Key West.
There are so many South Beaches it starts to get confusing. There is another great South Beach in Marco Island in Florida.
Anyway, like all the other South Beaches in the State, this beach is completely free to access.
Talking about photo opportunities, another great photo opportunity is the giant chair that sits on South Beach.
We loved South Beach as not only is it a gorgeous beach but there are a lot of restaurants and cafes in close proximity to the beach selling very yummy frozen drinks.
Surprisingly, South Beach is not the most popular beach in Key West. This title and award goes to a beach called Smathers Beach.
Smathers Beach is a great place for swimming in Key West as it is a rare sand beach in the Keys.
Like the other beaches in the area, there are plenty of facilities including food and drink stands, places to hire deck chairs, kayaks and rafts available for hire at the beach.
While the beach is free there is no free parking in the area which may be a factor as to whether or not you want to visit on your road trip!
Harry S. Truman Little White House
Another must do stop for history lovers out there is the Harry S. Truman Little White House.
If you are not from the US (of even if you are) this a great place to learn more about US history.
Former president Harry S. Truman used this cute little building as the winter White House in 1946. Since then other presidents have made use of it too for one purpose or another including Kennedy and Clinton.
It costs $19 USD to enter the Harry S. Truman Little White House.
Again, sadly there is not very good parking available here.
We really enjoy seeing wildlife so we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Key West Wildlife Center
Basically this Key West Wildlife Center homes and rehabilitates injured, orphaned and sick animals in the Florida Keys.
Once they are better they release them back into the wild except for the chickens (who are foreign) and they relocate to the mainland once they are better.
The center mostly houses birds and turtles. At the center we saw seagulls, pelicans among other birds and a pond full of turtles.
There is also a fantastic garden loop that we thoroughly enjoyed walking.
It is completely free to enter and they only request an donation from you in a bucket as you leave.
We were very happy to discover that there was good and free parking available outside this attraction.
Duval Street is the most iconic street in Key West so you absolutely cannot visit Key West without going for a walk along Duval Street.
It is free to wander but not to drink. Of course, Key West is a party town and one of the most iconic things to do is to bar hop Duval Street. Many people come to Key West just to party.
Whether you want to join in the party or just people watch, it doesn’t really matter – you will love Duval Street nonetheless.
Put these iconic Key West bars into your bar hopping list:
- Sloppy Joes – The Most famous bar in Key West and also Ernest Hemingway’s favourite.
- Schooner Wharf – One of the most popular bars in the area
- Aqua, La Te Da, Bourbon St. Bar – Best places for a drag show (huge in Key West). Don’t knock it until you have met someone who does Drag in real life. We are pretty straight laced people but we LOVED the Drag Theme cruise we went on in Germany.
Do you love all things spooky? Then take a trip to the Key West Cemetery.
Interestingly the Cemetery ‘homes’ 100,000 of the island’s former residents so it is a very large cemetery. This number is 3 times the current population of Key West.
If you are interested in African American history this cemetery provides a monument to the African slaves who died on slave voyages to the USA.
Upon entrance, the staff will provide you will historical information including a self-guided walking tour brochure.
We love visiting unique things in areas like us, we would highly recommend visiting the Oldest House in Key West.
The house has been made into a museum which showcases how the first residents of Key West lived.
It was made in 1829 by Richard Cussans who immigrated from the Bahamas.
It is free for anyone to go on self-guided tours between 10:00am and 4:00pm. Note the museum is closed Wednesday and Sunday.
We loved that Higgs Beach had palm trees lining the powdery white sand. Had me singing Beach Boys songs.
Higgs Beach really has something for everyone. We saw young girls tanning at the beach, people were walking their dogs and others were snorkeling at the beach. Stingrays are commonly spotted at the beach.
The beach is completely free to access and has great parking available which is perfect when you are on a Florida Keys road trip.
Another great beach you can access from Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park but it is an expensive outing. It costs around 180 USD pp to access Dry Tortugas National Park.
West Martello Tower
While you are visiting Higgs Beach schedule Martello Tower into your itinerary. The tower is literally a hop, skip and a jump away from Higgs Beach.
If you are a history lover, definitely put this on your list of things to do in Key West as there is lots of history on the civil war.
West Martello Tower is a National Historic Site. It is one of 3 fortifications that were designed to protect the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.
No battles were fought on the site but many deaths happened nonetheless due to yellow fever.
Nowadays you can walk through what remains of the fort. Beautiful gardens have grown among the fort remains. The gardens are so beautiful they are the home of the Key West garden club.
Highly recommended for a short visit. It is rather surprising this historic site is free.
If you are interested in West Martello Tower you might like to also check out the Fort Zachary Taylor historic State Park.
Rest Beach for Sunrise
This beach may not look like much but it is known for its amazing sunrises in the keys.
It is located just a few meters from Higgs Beach so it is worth checking out during the day even if you are not a morning person.
If you can drag yourself up in the morning you will be greeted with an epic sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean due to its position in Key West.
We aren’t morning people so we checked it out during the day and it was still nice although a little on the windy side!
Rum Distillery Tour
If you are a fan of rum, we would recommend you taking the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery Tour while in town.
The reason why we would recommend this is that it provides flavors very unique to the Key West area including Florida sugar cane, vanilla creme brûlée and Key lime.
The Distillery offers free tours demonstrating how to create the perfect rum. The best part is the free tastings at the end of the tour!
Another popular freebie that First Legal Rum Distillery hosts is free mojito classes. These free classes are popular with visitors as it showcases how to make the perfect mojito, Cuban style!
Get a picture with the Mile 0 Marker
If you want another great photo op in Key West, we would recommend getting a pic with the 0 Mile Marker.
Like the Southern most point, there is a must do iconic picture to take while you are in Key West. There is not usually a long line at the mile 0 marker either which is always a win!!
Admire the Conchs Architecture
If you love all these pretty and pretty buildings you will just LOVE Key West.
This was one of the prettiest cities we have ever been in terms of gorgeous architecture.
The houses are just too cute. I want to move in – who’s with me?
How to get around with a car?
Doing a road trip to the Florida Keys is amazing but in all honestly, it is not always easy to park in Key West.
What we would recommend is finding a centrally located hotel (see below for our recommendations) parking your car and taking the free duval bus around.
The bus is free and runs every 15 minutes, 10am to midnight.
You can find more information and the bus stops here.
The Florida Keys is an expensive place to travel and Key West is possibly the most expensive place in the Keys. Nevertheless, it is a place that just has to be done at least once.
Here are the hotels we would recommend staying in Key West depending on your budget:
If you are traveling as a couple, here are our favorite places to stay as a couple in Key West.
We wouldn’t really recommend camping in Key West as it is $100 USD +. It is more worthwhile to pay for a hotel in Key West. Key West is a place you come for a bit of luxury, not to camp.
What to eat?
Key West is a bit of a foodie paradise it has some great places to eat in Key West.
If you haven’t tried Key Lime pie yet, you need to while in Key West. The best place for Key Lime Pie in Key West is Old Town Bakery.
The best rated restaurants in the area (which you might like to check out) include:
- Blue Heaven
- The Stoned Crab
- Prime Steakhouse
- Cuban Coffee Queen
- Santiago’s Bodega
- Better Than Sex – A Dessert Restaurant
Key West to the Mainland
On your way back from Key West to Miami, you will need to make at least a one night stop on your way back.
We would suggest either staying at Marathon or Islamorada on your way back to Miami as they are towns approximately half way along the Florida Keys.
Traveling in the Sunshine State?
If you are traveling to Florida and you want more resources on where to go you might like to check out:
- Things to do in Bonita Springs
- Bonita Springs Beaches
- Naples Beaches
- Sarasota Beaches not to miss
- Siesta Key Beach
- Best springs in Florida
- Sarasota Beaches
- Where to see manatees in Florida
- Shelling Beaches in Florida
- Where to stay in Marco island
- Ginnie Springs Hotels
- Florida Food
We hope you enjoyed the drive along the beautiful Florida Keys as much as we did and found this guide useful for some awesome places to stop along the way!
If you have any questions, or have something to add, we always love to hear from you so leave a comment below!
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