The Florida Keys road trip has a view for each passenger! With the ocean on one side and the Bay / Gulf on the other, this island hopping ride should be on everyone’s proverbial bucket list.
A lesson learned (i.e. Do as I say…and not as I did!), would be to take the Florida Turnpike as far south as you can and then take Route 1 once you’re well south of Miami. There is nothing scenic about Route 1, just south of Miami unless you’re overly fond of traffic lights, gas stations, and fast food restaurants?!
The Florida Keys road trip will take you over 42 bridges, connecting 43 of the Florida Key’s islands. In total, there are more than 1,700 islands in the archipelago know as the “Florida Keys” – most of which are uninhabited. The longest bridge, 7-mile bridge, connects Knight’s Key and Little Duck Key, and spans the gap from what is referred to as the Middle Keys and Lower Keys.
Once you leave the “mainland” and head toward Key Largo, the adventure begins! The Florida Keys’ road trip is 108 miles from Key Largo to Key West.
Mile Marker 108, Key Largo: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is located at mile marker 102 and is a great place for reef snorkeling or kayaking through the mangroves.
Mile Marker 82, Islamorada: Called a “Village of Islands”, Islamorada includes the islands of tea Table Key, Lower Matecumbe Key, Upper Matecumbe Key, Windley Key and Plantation Key. Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar is said to be a great place to watch the sunset, have a drink or slice of Key Lime pie.
Mile Marker 67, Long Key State Park: With nearly 1000 acres of tropical nature preserve, you can enjoy camping, hiking, panoramic views from the observation tower, the waterfront boardwalk nature trail, canoeing, bone fishing, and much more.
Mile Marker 47, Marathon: Island Fish Co. and Tiki Bar Restaurant is located between mile markers 53 and 54. We had a great dinner on the water and watched a nice sunset right from our dinner table. Note: The chicken fingers & fries kid’s meal came in an inverted souvenir frisbee which was a HUGE hit with our 5 year-old!7-mile bridge (mile marker 47 to 40);
Mile Marker 30, Big Pine Key: Bahia Honda State Park is known for its great beaches, snorkeling, kayaking and camelback bridge.
Mile Marker 0, Key West: Once in Key West, you can get the obligatory photo at the U.S.’s southernmost point, check out The keeper’s Quarters at Key West Lighthouse, Tour Ernest Hemingway’s Home, have some beach and snorkel time at Zachary Taylor State Park, and walk Duval Street (daytime is OK for families…nighttime will make for lots of uneasy questions on the return car ride!).
We chose to do a long day trip from Fort Lauderdale, as I really wanted my family to experience the Florida Keys road trip, as it really is a very unique ride. We left the Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort at 7am; saw the Key West sights by lunchtime; Had a picnic lunch at Zachary Taylor State Park and enjoyed 2-3 hours on the beach; and got up to Mile Marker 53 to see the sunset on Marathon Key at the Island Fish Co. We were back to the hotel and in our beds by 11pm. Long day…but worth every mile!