The 113-mile drive from Miami to Key West is an iconic drive that truly captures the spirit of the American road trip. It is an unforgettable journey stretching across a chain of islands spreading out into the great expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf. The road is an engineering marvel, and not only will you be dazzled by the views, the tidal flats, and teal waters, but you will have plenty of fun visiting the many towns and attractions along the route.
There are two ways to explore the Keys: you can take Route 1, the shorter drive southwards to Key West, or you can drive the longer route of Card Sound Road, the only other way into the Keys. Both have spectacular views, but taking the longer route will lead you to Alabama Jacks, a roadside seafood joint deserving of its reputation as one of the best places to eat in the Keys. Get back on Route 1 and you can head down to John Pennekamp State Park, a great place for scuba diving, or take a glass-bottomed boat to see the kaleidoscopic world of coral reefs and sea life of the Keys.
Visiting the Keys is island-hopping at its best; stopping off at small towns with their kitsch American stores and fine eateries, dipping your toes in the turquoise waters at one of the many beaches, visiting museums and just taking in the sensations of being on island time, relaxing and absorbing the views at every turn.
A stop at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen at Key Largo is a great place to try a slice of Key Lime Pie, and there is always a great selection of seafood restaurants in the island communities that you can visit on your way to the southernmost tip of the US.
The Keys has something for everyone, and there’s nothing quite like it in the rest of the states. The village of Islamorada is actually a community of six tiny islands, while just further south, the larger village of Marathon is made of ten; both are worth exploring for their sea-themed shops, for going on a boat trip or sportfishing and for trying out local delicacies like conch fritters.
South of Marathon is a stretch of highway that is the most scenic of the route and where you’ll definitely need your camera to hand. Here you’ll cross Seven Mile Bridge, which is a modern wonder of road engineering and where you’ll feel yourself surrounded by the big blue, experiencing the joy of driving between nothing but sea and sky.
After this sensory overload, why not take the time to visit The Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West, which contains the original furniture that he had shipped over from Paris? It’s worth spending a few days in Key West, soaking up its atmosphere and enjoying its art galleries and hippyish community, before making the drive back across the most spectacular road in America.
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Have you been to the Florida Keys? Please comment below and tell us your favorite spot in the Keys or in Florida!