A Florida Keys road trip is a bucket list item to do in the United States. Travelers come from all over the world to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime drive between Key Largo and Key West! It’s amazing how many sights there are to see in just a short 113 miles!
So what is there to see between Key West and Key Largo? From trying local seafood to helping rescued turtles, here are the best stops to make in the Florida Keys!
Key Largo to Key West (or Vice Versa)
These stops focus on traveling from north to south (Key Largo to Key West), but obviously, it can also be done in reverse if you want to start in Key West and drive north to Key Largo. Both are popular options!
Traveling the Overseas Highway on a florida keys road trip
The Overseas Highway is a 113-mile highway connecting Southern Florida to the Southernmost Point of the US (Key West). It’s referred to as “The Highway That Goes to Sea” since drivers cross coral and limestones islet throughout the way.
It’s a unique part of the world that is sometimes hard to believe exists. There are hundreds of islands along, called “keys” that make up The Florida Keys.
The distance from Key Largo to Key West is under 100 miles and without stops, you can expect the drive to take you about 2.5 hours; however there’s no fun in that! This post goes into the best Florida Keys stops you should make!
Snorkel in John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is located right in Key Largo and was established in 1963 to protect the only living coral reef in the entire country. This state park is well worth a visit as it’s the first and one of the only undersea parks in the US.
The park encompasses 70 nautical square miles of pure, protected beauty. There are plenty of things to do in the park here that families and individuals could easily spend the entire day and not get bored. Most visitors venture out on a glass-bottom boat tour or go scuba diving or snorkeling.
One of the most popular spots is the Christ of the Deep statue. A gift from Italy in the 60s, this nine-foot-tall bronze Christ statue sits 25 feet underwater! It’s quite the sight for snorkelers! Other activities include kayaking, canoeing, and there is some fishing allowed in designated areas.
Tour the Coral Restoration Foundation Education Center
The Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) is an amazing nonprofit headquartered right in Key Largo and well worth a stop when you are driving from Key Largo to Key West.
Did you know that we have lost 50% of the world’s shallow-water coral reefs in the last three decades? It’s estimated by 2100, we could lose them all if humanity does not act fast. Did you also know that coral is an animal (not a plant)? As these animal numbers decline, their genetic diversity and population resiliency are lost.
It’s estimated that 500 million people rely on coral reefs for survival, accounting for almost 10 trillion dollars in business. Their significance on this planet is astounding, and that’s why we are so thankful for the Coral Restoration Foundation who work with the reefs, and aid in their recovery process. They have large-scale cultivation and outplanting process and actually plant new coral reefs in the ocean! It’s mainly volunteers that carry out these tasks of working in the “coral nurseries.”
Visitors can venture into their Key Largo center to learn about their projects, or divers can go underwater and actually plant new coral themselves! There’s nothing better than feeling like you are giving back on vacation, and this is a great cause to give back to!
Dive The Spiegel Grove Wreck
Key Largo is the dive capital of the USA, so if you are a diver, you can’t visit the Florida Keys and not go for at least one dive underwater. Horizon Divers runs epic dive trips every morning and afternoon.
We spent the full day with them and loved every minute of our time diving. We were even lucky enough to see two eagle rays and a few turtles completing making our trip!
Over 100 regular dive locations can take you out, with all dive sites being located less than 45 minutes from shore. We enjoyed diving into the City of Washington and the Undersea Highway, but without a doubt, the most famous place to dive in Key Largo is the Spiegel Grove Wreck.
Harry Harris Beach and Park
If you are looking for an enjoyable day at the beach while enjoying your time in Key Largo, Henry Harris Park is a great option. This is a popular hangout for locals and tourists alike, especially on a nice day.
The park has several nice amenities like a tidal pool, boat ramp, grills, picnic tables, showers, playgrounds, and a bike path! It’s a common spot for fishers and snorkelers to come to! Note that there is a parking fee of $5 per person on Saturdays, Sundays, and Federal Holidays.
Have Lunch at Key Largo Conch House
Tucked away off right off the Overseas Hwy is this chilled-out lunch and dinner spot. They dish up delicious conch meals (which you have to try when in the Florida Keys), as well as other seafood dishes. It’s best to call ahead and make reservations – this place can get busy!
Eat at The Fish House
There’s arguably no better spot to feel like you are dining in the keys than at The Fish House Key Largo. The Fish House is a quirky place with delicious local seafood every night. Their grouper can be served in a multitude of ways, and their drinks are fun and great to enjoy with a group of friends or family on your Florida Keys road trip.
Although the food was great, my favorite part was the atmosphere that made me want to return. If you think about what the Florida Keys were 40 years ago – this place may come to mind!
Check into Baker’s Cay
The best place to stay in Key Largo is Baker’s Cay. This 13 acre, 200 room private resort is one of the most comfortable places we’ve stayed in the United States. Baker’s Cay has a great location off the Overseas Highway, with a large private beach big enough for the entire family to enjoy.
In true Florida Keys fashion, the water is calm and inviting, and there are plenty of activities to enjoy during the day.
The Baker’s Cay beach has fun toys like stand-up paddleboards, clear kayaks, and jet skis. Or if you don’t feel like spiking your adrenaline, just kick back with a book and a pina colada from the tiki bar.
The rooms at Bakers Cay are modern and romantic. We enjoyed an oceanfront room and really enjoyed falling asleep to the sound of the ocean nearby.
If you’re bringing the fur babies rest assured as Baker’s Cay is pet friendly and even has dog tiki huts! There are also two swimming pools with a waterfall, a beautiful marina area, and a romantic dock to enjoy drinks on while the sun goes down. Rest comfortably here before continuing your Key Largo to Key West journey.
Charter a Fishing Boat
Islamorada is known as the “sport fishing capital of the world,” If you’re a fisher, you likely already know that. We are not fishers, so we did not charter a fishing boat. However, it’s a trendy thing to do in Islamorada!
Islamorada isn’t just known for fishing, but also diving! Some of the best diving in the Florida Keys can be found here. The Davis Reef, Alligator Reef, Pickles Reef, and many more dive spots are near Islamorada. Check out the Islamorada Dive Center to enjoy a full-service PADI scuba diving trip!
Have a Sundowner at Lorelei
The Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar is one of the best places to head for a drink after a long day out. They have nightly sunset entertainment and Happy Hour (4-6) specials on cocktails. On beautiful nights come prepared to wait for a spot or to squeeze in with the locals at the bar.
Catch Sunset at Morada Bay
One of my favorite sunset spots in all the Florida Keys is Morada Bay, and if you head here for sunset you’ll see why. It’s a beautiful location on the beach, with endless palm trees, and stunning sunset views. Sure, drinks may be $15 a piece, but it’s well worth it to watch the sun set in such an ideal location.
Have Dinner at Chef Micehals
If there’s only one thing you do in Islamorada, it should be to have a meal at Chef Micheals. Hands down one of the best seafood meals we’ve ever had, this upscale restaurant offers an inspiring menu full of fresh fish.
Chef Micheal himself creates the most tantalizing dishes consisting of Hogfish, Grouper, and the invasive Lionfish. You can also bring in your fresh catch for the day out, and Chef Micheal will blacken, grill, or prepare your fish any way you want!
Feed the Tarpon’s at Robbies
One of the most popular things to do on any Florida Keys road trip is feed the Tarpon at Robbie’s Marina. At the marina is a school of over 100 tarpons that hang out near the marina every day. It’s no secret why, for just $2.25 a person, tourists can hand-feed a tarpon and watch its powerful mouth snatch a fish. While admission to the dock is $2.25, it’s an extra $4 per fish bucket.
Visit the Marathon Turtle Hospital
The Turtle Hospitals slogan is – Rescue, Rehab, Release, and that’s exactly what they do. Founded in 1986 as a hospital for injured sea turtles, this organization is doing fantastic work.
Located at mile marker 48.5 works to rescue injured turtles and rehab them to be released back into the wild safely. This small nonprofit educates visitors on the importance of sea turtles and the human impacts on the species throughout this process.
The Turtle Hospital also assists with research aid to sea turtles and works toward environmental legislation to make the beaches and water safer for sea turtles.
Visitors can stop in and get a glance at what goes here behind the scenes. They run daily tours of the facilities, which are very educational and fun! You’ll even get a chance to feed sea turtles, making it a great thing to do in the Florida Keys for families. These Educational Programs run daily at 9 am, 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm and cost $27.00 per adult and $13.00 per child.
Drive the Seven Mile Bridge
Anyone driving from Key Largo to Key West has to drive along the Seven Mile Bridge, but I still wanted to make special mention of it because it’s truly one of the coolest roads in the world.
Just driving across it makes you truly realize what a remarkable piece of civil engineering the bridge is. The bridge connects Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck in the Lower Keys; when it was first constructed, it was one of the longest bridges in the world.
Bahia Honda State Park
When driving the Seven Mile Bridge, save a little time to stop at the Bahia Honda State Park. It’s a wonderful spot for sunbathing and enjoying the salty air. It’s located at mile marker 37 and offers some of the best snorkeling in the keys.
Enjoy a Coffee from Cuban Coffee Queen
An iconic thing to do in Key West is grab a quick cafe con leche from Cuban Coffee Queen near the harbor. They are quick and easy, so if you are running short on time rest assured you can grab a quick bite and coffee here. And snap a “Key West photo” while you’re waiting.
Paddleboard Yoga with Lazy Dog Charters
For an easy morning out why not try some yoga, except make it Florida Keys style and practice your down dog on the water. Lazy Dog Tours runs paddleboard yoga tours right on Stock Island. Tours typically last about two hours, one hour of yoga and one-hour of paddling. If you are lucky you’ll get to see some manatees beneath your board! Make sure to put on lots of sunscreen and cover up with an outdoor hat as there is little shade.
Dolphin Watch & Snorkel Tour with Honest Eco
If you venture off just a little off the coast of Key West, you’ll likely see some wild dolphins in the distance. In fact, it’s so likely the Honest Eco Sustainable Nature Tours almost guarantee a sighting with them!
Book a trip with them, and you’ll get to enjoy SQUID, Key West’s first electric-powered charter boat. We’ve only been on one electric boat in Zambia before, so we were ecstatic to take a ride on the hybrid charter boat.
SQUID will take visitors out on a four-hour dolphin-watching tour every morning and evening. You’ll also get the chance to hop in the water for a snorkel to see what other awesome marine life you can find. I love that Honest Eco focuses on seeing wild dolphins in their natural habitat rather than dolphin shows or dorsel fin rides which are unethical animal tourism activities.
Have Dinner at Matt’s Stock Island
Matt’s Stock Island is located on Stock Island at The Perry Hotel. Head here for dinner around sunset so you can enjoy craft beer with laid-back comfort food as the sun goes down over the marina.
The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory
When you are done enjoying the beach or a fresh seafood meal, head to the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory to relax in nature. The conservatory has plenty of beautiful birds, flowering plants, and of course, butterflies.
The highlight of the conservatory is their two resident flamingos, Rhett and Scarlett. This famous Key West couple charms all visitors with their mating calls, foot patting dance, and mesmerizing pink color.
Land’s End Sunset Sail with Sebago Key West
I didn’t know what to expect when we boarded the Sebago Catamaran, but their sunset boat tour ended up being a highlight of our time in Key West. The Sebago sunset sail is truly for those that want to let loose and listen to island music while drinking rum punch as the sun sets on the water.
Booking an evening with Sebago starts at 6:30 and ends after sunset; a ticket includes all-you-can drink, appetizers, and plenty of entertainment. Oh yea – and epic views as the sun sets in the beautiful Florida Keys.
Enjoy Cuban Cuisine at El Siboney
If you are a bit tired of the endless delicious seafood, head to El Siboney for authentic Cuban cuisine. We loved our meal here and could tell it was true Cuban home cooking in an inviting and friendly atmosphere. One of their best dishes is the roast pork with black beans and rice and sweet plantains. Make sure to pair your meal with their house made sangria and end it with their signature Flan.
Catch the Sunset at Mallory Square
One of the best free things to do in Key West is catch the sunset at Mallory Square. Around 5 pm every night, this area comes alive with street vendors, performers, artists, and of course, food and drinks to soak in the ambiance together.
There are not many better places to celebrate the end of an awesome day in the Florida Keys than on Mallory Square. Even if crowds are not your thing (they are not mine), it’s still an atmosphere you have to soak up at least one of your days in Key West!
Tacos at Fisherman’s Café
A great lunch spot to head is Fisherman’s Cafe right on Lazy Way Ave. It’s a fun takeaway spot with delicious lobster tacos!
Enjoy Key Lime Pie on a Stick at Kermit’s Key Lime Café
You can’t visit the Florida Keys and not have a taste of the famous Key Lime Pie! There are plenty of places selling Key Lime Pie in Key West! However, none stand out as much as our FROZEN key lime at Kermits. Kermits is well known in the Key Lime world. Kermit Carpenter himself still bakes some of the pies himself, even after 28 years in business.
To say this place is an institution is an understatement, and even if you’ve already had Key Lime Pie in the keys, it’s well worth popping in here. There are now two locations, the original at 200 Elizabeth Street and one right off Duval Street.
Southernmost Point Buoy
Although it’s not the most exciting thing to do in Key West, it’s worth venturing to the Southernmost Point in the US to snap a photo and say you have been there!
Surprisingly Key West really isn’t known for its beaches. Most visitors hang out at their hotel pools, the marina, or the infamous Duval Street. However, there are a few places you can head for some beach time. Our favorite was Smather’s Beach! It’s a beautiful sandy beach with plenty of idyllic palm trees for shade. There’s a volleyball court and places you can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboard boards as well.
Other Great Key West Beaches Include
- Higgs Beach
- Rest Beach
- Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Slurp Up Oysters at Half Shell raw Bar
The Half Shell Raw Bar is rated as one of the best Key West Seafood Restaurants. Set in along the harborfront on the history seafront, they dish up fresh food and, of course, plenty of shellfish. We had to order a dozen oysters and were surprised by how large and tasty they were. They are also the only seafood restaurant in Key West that owns its own fish market – so you know you are getting the freshest catch!
Stay at Oceans Edge Marina and Resort
If you don’t mind not being in the center of all the Key West action, Oceans Edge Resort is a great place to stay on Stock Island. This secluded resort allows guests to enjoy peace and tranquility in Key West, all in a beautiful setting.
All rooms at Oceans Edge have ocean views and access to the marina. There are six swimming pools to enjoy with bar service to all! Oceans Edge also has kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and bicycles for free on-site. When you are ready to head into Key West, there is a free shuttle that runs hourly downtown, which means you don’t have to deal with the hectic parking situation in Key West.
The oceanfront rooms all have a balcony, high-speed WiFi, and large flat-screen television. The rooms are larger than average and decorated with modern beach decor. We stayed three nights here and never wanted to leave!
how Many Days Do You need in the Florida keys?
We spent 5 nights and 6 days in the Florida Keys, and I thought it was the perfect amount of time to spend traveling the Florida Keys. The drive from Key Largo to Key West can be done in one day as it’s only 97 miles (about two hours drive), though to make the most out of your Florida Keys road trip, it might be worth breaking up the drive in Marathon or Duck Key.
Where are the best places to stay in the florida Keys?
When planning out your Florida Key road trip, you may realize that there are only a plethora of hotels and accommodation options in Key Largo and Key West. That’s not to say there aren’t places to stay on other parts of the Keys, but there are definitely fewer options. Both Islamorada and Marathon have numerous options, and then there are a few hotels and resorts on the Keys.
I would suggest staying a few nights based out of Key Largo at Baker’s Cay, spending one night in Islamorada or Marathon, and staying three nights in Key West for the complete Florida Keys experience.
Is it Better to Fly into Miami or Key West?
I would highly suggest looking at options for flying into either Miami or Key West and flying out of the opposite, making your road trip one way; sometimes, it can work out better and not cost much more! We flew into Miami, rented a one-way car rental for cheaper than a round trip car rental, and flew out of Key West.
This gave us more time to explore each Florida Keys stop on our way driving from Key Largo to Key West and allowed us more time on our final day in the Keys as we didn’t have to drive all the way back up to Miami to fly out.
Which is better Key West or Key Largo?
Neither are better than one another, but one may be better for you and what you want to do! Key Largo is fantastic for beaches, diving, and snorkeling. It is closer to Florida’s Barrier Reef and is where most of the underwater action happens in the keys. Key Largo is also closer to Marathon and Islamorada, making day trips here easier.
Key West has more things to do, and you’ll find it hard to get bored here! Key West has a more relaxed “Jimmy Buffet” atmosphere with plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops. If you want to have a party holiday with friends, you will probably find that Key West is more your scene. Don’t take my word for it – make sure to check out both!
Is there a shuttle from Key Largo to Key West?
There is no shuttle, but the Greyhound Bus Service does operate a route between Miami, Key Largo, and Key West. It only serves those few stops, so it’s not ideal for most travelers. However, it is an option for those that can not drive. If you want private transportation, you can hire a company like Florida Keys Express Shuttle.
How much are Car Rentals in the florida Keys?
Expect to pay about $100 per day for a car rental in the Florida Keys. The further out in advance you book, typically the cheaper rates you can find. Read our car rental tips for more information about renting a car.
Do I need a car in Key West?
While a car is pretty essential for getting from Key Largo to Key West once you are in Key West, I actually found you don’t need a car rental at all. All Key West is pretty walkable, and there are Ubers and Lyfts on the island should you need to go further. A popular thing to do is rent a bicycle during your stay and get around Key West that way!