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Plan your Key Largo to Key West road trip stops with all the best things to do along the way.
One of the best road trips you can take in the US is through the Florida Keys. There is one road (US 1, also known as the Overseas Highway) that goes from Key Largo to Key West and it’s just under 100 miles between these two small islands.
On your road trip, you’ll be mesmerized by beautiful, vibrant water views. Even if you don’t get out of your car, you’ll feel like you’ve had a great experience but there are also a lot of places to explore on the way.
This is the ultimate Florida Keys road trip guide, from Florida local Chelsea, with the best places to stop, stay, eat and of course, the best things to do in the Florida Keys.
Key Largo To Key West Road Trip: Where To Stop, Stay & Eat
The Key Largo To Key West road trip stops in this post go from north to south (Key Largo to Key West) but you can easily reverse the order if you’re starting from Key West instead.
The Florida Keys have so much to offer and I recommend spending 1-2 nights at each main island (Key Largo, Islamorada, and Marathon) if you have the time.
If you don’t have the time, that’s ok! Just spend your time in the places that are most appealing to you (and maybe start making plans for a return trip!)
Quick Summary: Best Stops On A Florida Keys Road Trip
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory
Rain Barrel Artisan Village
Village Square At Trading Post
Seven Mile Bridge
Curry Hammock State Park
The Turtle Hospital
Bahia Honda State Park
No Name Pub
Key Deer Refuge
Key West Light House
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
Haunted Ghost Tour
Water Activities In Key West
Best Stops Between Key Largo And Key West
You’ve arrived in Key Largo and are ready to kick off your Florida Keys road trip. Let’s get to the good bit… the best places to stop along the way:
1. John Pennekamp State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a well-known state park in Key Largo and the first stop on your driving adventure.
The park was established to protect the only living coral reef in the continental United States, so that makes it very important!
The park will be especially a special stop if you like to scuba dive or snorkel, or if you want to try either for the first time.
If you do go scuba diving, I highly recommend checking out the Christ of the Abyss (also known as Christ of the Deep) statue. It is a 9-foot-tall bronze statue that’s located 25 feet underwater.
On very clear days, you may also be able to see it just by snorkelling as well. It’s such a unique experience and one of the most popular things to do in Key Largo.
If you don’t scuba or snorkel but still want to see the tropical fish and marine life below the surface, you can also take a glass-bottom boat tour (a great option if visiting with kids). You can also rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards.
2. Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory
This adorable stop is in Tavernier, which is in between Key Largo and Islamorada. The Blond Giraffe Key Lime Pie Factory is such a fun stop if you like key lime flavoured foods and want to sample some of the offerings.
They have a little bit of everything. Choose from whole key lime pies, key lime macaroons, key lime taffy, and much more.
I always get a chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick when I’m here.
If the weather is nice, I highly recommend eating your snack of choice in their backyard area. It’s a really cute area with plenty of space to sit, string lights (if you happen to be there at dusk), greenery, and you can even personalise a lock and lock it to their fence.
3. Rain Barrel Artisan Village
You will easily know when you’ve arrived at the Rain Barrel Artisan Village since there is a huge lobster outside.
This stop might not look very big from the parking lot, but once you enter, you will see that it’s actually huge!
The Rain Barrel is a funky road trip stop to buy some souvenirs for yourself or gifts to take home for others, or just as a good place to window shop. They have a variety of artisan wares, including art, clothing, jewellery, souvenirs, and other trinkets.
4. Village Square at Trading Post
Next stop is Village Square at the Trading Post. This is an area shared by a few different businesses.
Cafe Moka is a coffee shop with delicious coffee and almond croissants. Miss Monroe is a clothing boutique. Boo Kee Sue Botanics sells garden supplies, plants, and gifts, and Bad Boy Burrito has amazing food (my favourite is the sushi burrito).
My favourite time of the day to stop at Village Square is in the morning, so I can start the day with a coffee from Cafe Moka while I wander around the shops. It’s a small space, but definitely worth visiting.
5. Robbie’s Marina
Robbie’s Marina has a restaurant, some smaller shops, and of course, the main attraction is the marina, where you can go out on a boat charter or rent a kayak.
Even though those are all worthy of mention, that’s not why I think you should stop at Robbie’s.
Robbie’s is most known for feeding the tarpon because there are over 100 tarpons that hang out in their marina. It’s $2.50 to go on the dock, but if you want to feed them (and I highly recommend it), it’s $4 for a bucket of fish.
It can be a little freaky because tarpon are huge! But it is a must-do activity in Islamorada and one for the whole family.
6. Stop at an Islamorada Brewery
If you love trying local brews, Islamorada has two breweries – Islamorada Brewery and Distillery and Florida Keys Brewing Company.
I love them both for different reasons, so I can’t pick a favourite, but if you have time, I recommend checking out both Islamorada breweries.
They are located close to one another, making it pretty easy, even if just for a quick drink stop at each.
Islamorada Brewery has delicious non-beer options such as a key lime colada and mocktails. You can even get a cocktail flight!
Florida Keys Brewing Co has a fun vibe with tie-dye and even a resident cat. It’s my favourite after dark because of their relaxing string lights. Both have frequent live music and nice outdoor areas if it isn’t too hot.
7. Islamorada Sandbar
If you talk to anyone who lives in the Florida Keys, they will tell you that the best way to experience the Keys is by getting out on the water.
The Islamorada sandbar is the perfect place to do that and it’s relatively easy to get to.
There are plenty of private charters in the area but the Islander Girl is the cheapest option with daily departures (weather permitting, of course).
The Islamorada sandbar is well-known and very popular. So much so that the Islamorada Brewery even created a beer named after it, Sandbar Sunday!
It can get really busy, especially on holidays and weekends, but that’s part of the fun.
8. Drive the Seven Mile Bridge
If you are driving from Key Largo to Key West, you will naturally drive over the Seven Mile Bridge.
But it deserves special mention because how often are you driving on a bridge for seven miles?
This is a good opportunity to really take in where you are. The water in the Florida Keys is a unique vibrant color and I always say it is never quite the same color twice.
Also, be on the lookout for Fred while you’re driving the Seven Mile Bridge. He is a small tree growing on the old Seven Mile Bridge.
9. Curly’s Coffee
Maybe you need a little energy boost to continue your road trip to Key West, or maybe you spent the night and are starting your morning in the area.
Either way, I recommend stopping for a coffee at Curly’s Coffee.
This little coffee shop doesn’t look like much because it’s in a trailer, but trust me, it’s a. must. Locals and tourists alike love Curly’s Coffee so it is common for there to be a line around the small building from this popular spot.
We started through the mangroves which is such a unique experience. Kayaking the mangroves can actually be a little creepy at first, but I quickly got used to it and enjoyed the views you just don’t get to see every day.
The mangrove forests dumped us out over jellyfish alley, which as you may have guessed, is full of jellyfish! There were tons of them and it was mesmerising to see so many.
We spent the rest of our time on the sandbar. So with one 4-hour kayak rental, we kayaked mangroves, saw sea life, and hung out on a sandbar.
Not a bad way to spend the morning, so if you have enough time for water sports, this is a must!
11. The Turtle Hospital
The Turtle Hospital in Marathon is a special place because you can see sea turtles up close.
It is a real, active hospital with the mission to rescue, rehabilitate, and release sea turtles.
In order to see the sea turtles, you must take the education program tour. These run daily on the half hour from 9 am to 4 pm. The education program lasts around 70-90 minutes.
On the guided tour, you will learn about the sea turtles, tour the hospital facilities, and then see the sea turtles in their rehabilitation area. It’s a really unique experience and the admission goes towards the Turtle Hospital’s mission.
12. Pigeon Key
Pigeon Key is a 5-acre island just outside of Marathon. It originally served as a camp for 400 construction workers that built the original Seven Mile Bridge.
Pigeon Key is also on the National Register of Historic Places. If you visit, you’ll find hundred-year-old buildings, a museum, and a saltwater pool with sharks and other fish.
This is also a fun spot to go snorkelling and see wildlife.
The Old 7 Mile Bridge connects the town of Marathon to Pigeon Key. This was a long-awaited project that took 6 years to complete! The bridge makes Pigeon Key accessible to walkers, bikers, and runners. It is a 2-mile walk one way, so 4 miles round trip.
You can also take the ferry to Pigeon Key from the Faro Blanco Marina. It leaves at 10 am, noon, and 2 pm. But the most exciting way to get there is by train. It departs at 10:00, 11:30, 1:00, and 2:30 from the Pigeon Key Gift Shop.
13. Bahia Honda State Park
Bahia Honda State Park is absolutely stunning. Henry Flagler was responsible for the Overseas Highway, which connected the Florida Keys to the mainland by railroad.
Sadly, it was ruined in the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, but there are remnants of what used to be the Overseas Highway at Bahia Honda State Park.
It makes for stunning photos from the beach, but you can also walk to the top for even better views of the crystal-clear water.
There are three different beaches at Bahia Honda, so this can be a great place for a beach day or day trip. Bahia Honda is also a great place to have to snorkel and rent kayaks.
14. No Name Pub
You used to have to find No Name Pub on your own because it was located in the middle of nowhere.
In fact, their slogan used to be, “a nice place if you can find it.” But thanks to GPS, it isn’t very hard to find these days.
No Name Pub was originally a general store and bait and tackle shop which opened in 1931. In 1936, a small restaurant and pub were added.
The location was pretty out of the way, but people began to discover it.
In the 1950s, the general store and bait and tackle shop closed. It was at that point that it became known as No Name Pub and this quirky stop gained attention quickly. In the 70s, people started hanging up their dollar bills on the ceiling, a tradition that stands today.
They’re known for great pizza and cold beer.
15. Key Deer Refuge
Big Pine Key is home to around 700 to 800 key deer.
Key deer are endangered so they are protected and this is taken very seriously.
Chances are pretty good that you will see a key deer while you drive through Big Pine so keep an eye out. You can also visit the National Key Deer Refuge, which consists of 8,000 acres aimed at protecting the deer.
16. Stroll Duval Street
Once you reach the end of your Florida Keys road trip, you’ll find yourself in Key West -the southernmost point of the continental USA!
You cannot come to Key West without wandering Duval Street.
If you are not familiar, Duval Street is a street that runs through Key West from one end to the other with shops, bars, restaurants, and more.
We love to walk it end to end at least once every trip we take to Key West. If you go in the morning or afternoon, it is more family-friendly but at night it becomes full of life with most bars open until 3 am.
17. Tour Hemingway’s House
Ernest Hemingway loved Key West and owned a house there. It is honestly the house of my dreams and worth visiting just to see how beautiful it is, but you will also learn a lot about Hemingway.
He had a very interesting life and his books are considered classics.
One of the best parts about touring the Ernest Hemingway home is that there are still descendants of his 6-toed cats living there. It always cracks me up to see them snoozing in the house.
18. Climb the Key West Lighthouse
The Key West Lighthouse has been around since 1848. The purpose of the lighthouse was to help navigate ships because many were unaware or unfamiliar with the shallow reefs surrounding Key West. As a result, they would wreck.
I find it fascinating that one of the original keepers of the lighthouse was a woman, Barbara Mabrity, who took over after her husband’s death. It was almost unheard of for a woman to be the keeper of a lighthouse back then but she did an excellent job and stayed there until her death.
The lighthouse is also rumoured to be haunted by her to this day.
You can tour Fort Taylor, a fort that is older than the Civil War.
There is also a beach and in my opinion, it is the best beaches in Key West. If you want a beach day, umbrellas and lounge chairs are available for rent and the beach is great for doing a snorkelling tour as well.
You may have heard of Robert the Doll, a doll that is claimed to be possessed. He is from Key West and still lives there to this day.
Ghost tours are a fun way to learn more about Key West’s history and if you are lucky, you might even have a spooky encounter.
21. Watch the Sunset at Mallory Square
Every night, there is a Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square.
This area is quiet during the day, but bustling in the evening as the sun goes down. There are plenty of street vendors and performers, all gathered to celebrate the beauty of the sun going down behind Little Palm Island, a private island only accessible by boat.
22. Get on the Water
If you didn’t get a chance to get on the water in Islamorada or the other upper Keys, Key West is a great spot to do it.
There is an opportunity to get on the water in every way imaginable.
Key West locals love getting on the water and sharing it with you while you’re in Southern Florida.
Best Places To Eat Between Key Largo And Key West
You’re going to need to eat during your Key Largo to Key West drive.
To make sure you know where the best eats are, (besides the great options already mentioned in some of the best stops above) here are the best restaurant and cafe recommendations for Key Largo, Islamorda and Key West:
Where to eat in Key Largo:
Alabama Jacks is a quintessential Florida Keys stop. It’s a great way to kick off your vacation because this open-air bar and restaurant is right on the water with laid-back vibes. You truly feel like you’re on vacation the second you enter.
Alabama Jacks has gained quite a bit of popularity so it isn’t exactly a hidden gem anymore, but it still has that hidden gem feel.
To get to Alabama Jacks, you must take Card Sound Road heading into the Florida Keys. This is very important because unless you program it otherwise, your GPS will have you take US-1. If you do that, Alabama Jacks will be quite a bit out of the way.
Mrs Macs is one of the most popular places to eat in Key Largo. There are two locations and only one is open for breakfast (this is the location at 99336 Overseas Hwy). I like their breakfast the best, but all of their food is good.
If you like key lime flavour, definitely try their key lime freeze (and yes, you can order it at breakfast!)
Pro tip:If you get one of the local Florida Keys coupon books (located all over the island for free), they almost always have a coupon for a free key lime freeze in it.
Where to Eat in Islamorada
When you picture paradise in your head, I can almost guarantee you’re picturing a place just like Morada Bay. It is located right on the water with beautiful palm trees. The seats here are brightly coloured and right on the sand.
I consider their food to be a little more upscale than your traditional restaurant, but it isn’t pretentious.
Loraleis is best known for its sunsets. While I recommend watching the sun go down here if you can, know that it will be busy during sunset and it may be tough to get a seat. The good news is that if you do have to wait, you couldn’t be in a more beautiful spot to do it.
Loraleis has a large food selection, so there will be something to make everyone at your party happy. I love their frozen key lime pie, it’s a unique taste on the classic Florida Keys dessert!
Lazy Days is another great restaurant right on the water. You can sit outside right on the water but if it is a hot day, you can opt for an indoor seat in the air conditioning. They often have live music here as well.
I love their seafood options here, but if you aren’t a big seafood fan, there are some non-seafood options as well.
Best Restaurants in Key West
Hogfish Bar and Grill
Hogfish Bar and Grill is technically in Stock Island before you get to Key West, but it is a favourite among locals and visitors. It’s a laid-back restaurant famous for hogfish.
Cuban Coffee Queen
Cuban Coffee Queen is more of a spot to grab coffee than a restaurant but it definitely deserves to be on the list. They are famous for their Cuban coffee and it really is delicious. This is also where the infamous Greetings from Key West sign is located.
Garbo’s is loved by locals and visitors alike. It’s been a hidden gem that isn’t quite so hidden anymore and was even featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. It’s a tiny food stand run by a husband and wife serving unique tacos, burritos, and burgers.
If you ask anyone where you should go for breakfast in Key West, Blue Heaven will almost always be included in their answer.
This is one of the most popular places for breakfast in Key West and it definitely gets busy, so I recommend getting there early. If you go for lunch or dinner, their key lime pie is famous!
Best Places To Stay During A Florida Keys Road Trip
The Keys have some great places to stay, ranging from camping to luxury hotels. This area is known for its laid-back vibes and there are a few unique options to choose from to suit different budgets and for anyone visiting with kids.
If you’re looking for an outdoor experience during your Key Largo to Key West drive, camping in the Keys is a great way to go.
The state parks in the Keys all have campgrounds with both tent camping and trailer/RV sites. There is even an option for camping on the water, called Boat Camping. This involves taking your boat to Long Key State Park and then tying up to one of their mooring buoys for the night.
FAQs: Florida Keys Road Trip Itinerary
When is the best time to visit the Florida Keys?
The best time to visit the Florida Keys is between November and April when you will still have good temperatures but less rain and it’s outside of the summer hurricane season.
When is hurricane season in the Florida Keys?
The Atlantic hurricane season in the Florida Keys runs from June 1 through November 30 with mid-August to mid-October being the peak time historically for hurricane activity.
How long is a road trip from Key Largo to Key West?
The drive from Key Largo to Key West is about 98 miles via US-1 and takes around 2 hours without stopping, depending on traffic.
How long do you need for a Key Largo to Key West road trip?
To truly enjoy a Key Largo to Key West road trip, you should plan for at least 4-5 days. This allows enough time to explore each of the Keys and take in all the sights along the way.
What is the closest airport to Key Largo?
The closest airport to Key Largo is Miami International Airport (MIA). It is located just over an hour away from Key Largo. The second closest airport is Key West International Airport (EYW), which is about 2 hours away from Key Largo.
Conclusion: Key Largo To Key West Itinerary
If you want to do an iconic US road trip, driving between Key West and Key Largo is a must! Along the way, you’ll experience some of Florida’s most stunning beaches, unique attractions, and delicious restaurants. Remember to plan for plenty of time to explore all that this area has to offer – from scuba diving in Key Largo to sunset watching in Key West.
Author Bio: Chelsea from Suite Life Sanburg is a licensed mental health counsellor with a passion for travel. She currently resides in Florida after leaving her hometown of Iowa to live the life of her dreams with her husband.