Miami to Key West Road Trip: Fun 5 Day Itinerary
Last Updated on November 15, 2021 by Dana Berez
Miami to Key West Road Trip
Ready for an epic road trip driving down iconic US-1 highway from Miami to Key West? Just the thought of spending a sunny week in the South of Florida is making this post so fun to write.
In this Miami to Key West road trip guide, I will cover the best things to do in this five-day itinerary. Including where to stay, the best restaurants to visit, and more!
This trip was hosted by the tourism board of www.fla-keys.com. This post may contain affiliate links.
Is it worth driving from Miami to Key West?
First things first, is it worth driving from Miami to Key West? You might be wondering if you could save the 4-hour drive and just fly into Key West airport. However, making the drive from Miami to Key West will give you the best experience of the Florida Keys, and the drive itself is one of the most scenic drives in the USA.
Along the drive, you will pass by plenty of unique shops, restaurants, activities, places to spend the night, beaches, and the iconic 7-mile bridge.
Car Rental: I recommend flying into Miami International Airport and renting a car at the airport for your drive from Miami to Key West.
Pro Tip: To save money on your car rental, you can drop it off once you reach Key West and depend on walking or Uber. Parking in Key West is difficult, plus you won’t be needing it as much when you are there since most things to do are within walking distance.
Miami to Key west Drive Time
The drive from Miami to Key West is approximately 4 hours or 166 miles. I recommend making the most of the drive by spending a night or two on one of the centrally located keys.
Marathon is a perfect rest stop because it’s directly halfway between Miami and Key West. Plus, Marathon has different kinds of restaurants, a true beachfront area, and is home to the Turtle Hospital.
The Florida Keys are made up of 800 Keys. The word Key comes from the Spanish word ‘cayo’ meaning small island.
For our trip, we flew into Miami International Airport, rented a car, and drove to Marathon Key, halfway between Miami and Key West. We spent two nights in Marathon, then we headed to Key West where we spent our last two nights.
Here is our itinerary below with suggestions on things to do and where to stay in the Florida Keys.
Best time of Year for a Miami to Key West Trip?
The great news about a Miami to Key West road trip is that it will be sunny throughout the year. However, there are better months to visit for optimal weather.
Hurricane season in Florida begins June 1 through November 30 meaning these are the wetter months of the year. August- October are the rainiest.
For the best weather, plan your Miami to Key West trip from December- May.
Optional: Spend a few days in Miami
If you have time to add to your trip, you can always spend a few days in vibrant Miami. This way you can experience two destinations in one trip.
You won’t need too many nights in Miami, especially if you want to spend more time in the Florida Keys. Two neighborhoods I recommend staying in are South Beach or Downtown Miami.
To be steps away from the beach, stay in iconic South Beach in the Art Deco district. Renting a bike is a fun way to get around and to take in the architecture. Or you get a city vibe and stay in Downtown Miami to be close to plenty of restaurants, bars, and museums.
There are so many things to do in Miami, so to sum it up here are some things you can’t miss:
- Walk down Ocean Drive to take in the art deco architecture
- Have a beach day at South Beach
- Check out the art scene/ bars in Wynwood
- Go shopping in Lincoln Road or Brickell City Centre
- Grab a drink at one of the best rooftop bars in Miami
Day One: Drive from Miami to Marathon
Miami to Florida Keys Drive
After landing at Miami International Airport we immediately got the keys to our rental car and started the drive down the iconic Highway 1. Driving in Miami is a little hectic, but once you get on to Highway 1 you’ll find it very easy to navigate.
For most of the drive, you’ll be in one lane, so unexpected accidents and traffic may slow down your drive time. Once you get into the Florida Keys, keep a lookout for unique shops along the way.
Lunch Stop: Hungry Tarpon at Robbie’s Marina
After an hour into our drive, we stopped at Robbie’s Marina, an outdoor marina that is filled with cute shops, tarpon feedings, and a restaurant-bar called the Hungry Tarpon.
You won’t need a reservation as the restaurant is first come first serve, but we didn’t have to wait long for our table. In fact, a little wait wouldn’t hurt because there are so many cute shops along the marina you can browse.
You’ll be seated right alongside the water in a comfortable outdoor space. The portions here are huge, and we definitely over-ordered, but I loved the Thai Fish Fingers and the burger.
You can also pay $2.50 to feed the tarpon fish in the waters here.
Check-In: Isla Bella Beach Resort
After lunch, we drove 45 minutes to our hotel in Marathon. For our first two nights, we stayed at the newly opened Isla Bella Beach Resort.
I could not recommend this property enough for your stay in Marathon. It was spacious, and I especially loved the modern decor and modern finishes. Isla Bella Beach Resort has five pools, various daily activities, a sunset deck, a beach bar, and an Italian Restaurant Il Postino.
In fact, this resort is a perfect stop for any girl’s trip!
Guestrooms: The guestrooms are super spacious and each one has a private balcony overlooking the water. Bathrooms have a large soaking tub, separate walk-in shower, and a gorgeous furnished outdoor living area.
Dinner at Il Postino
We arrived just in time to watch the beautiful sunset on the sunset pier and then finished our night at Il Postino, a Neapolitan-style restaurant with beachfront seating. We ordered a wood-fired margarita pizza and fresh seafood pasta.
And don’t skip out on the cocktails! Il Postino has an inventive cocktail menu with unique twists on favorite classics.
Day Two: Explore Marathon
Visit the Turtle Hospital
Our first stop of the day was taking a tour of the Turtle Hospital. This hospital treats injured sea turtles and returns them back to the wild when possible.
The great news? About 75% of turtles who are treated are released back.
The hospital has guided tours every hour from 9 AM until 4 PM. On the tour, you get to see and learn about all the sea turtles and get to feed them. The hospital is a non-profit and runs off of donations and guided tours. It’s a great way to support the turtles and the people to help save them.
Other Things to do:
- Snorkel Tour: We did have a reservation to snorkel at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, but unfortunately due to the high winds, the tour had to be canceled. This park is located in Key Largo and is the first undersea park in the US. They offer boat tours, glass-bottom boat tours, and kayaking!
- Sombrero Beach: Plan a beach day at Sombrero Beach, a beautiful sand beach with park pavilions, volleyball courts, restrooms, and showers. Open Sunday- Saturday 7 am – dusk.
Afternoon in the Sun
Because our snorkeling was canceled we headed back to the Isla Bella Beach Resort and relaxed all afternoon. I always like to leave in some wiggle room on itineraries so you can take advantage of just relaxing!
We choose to swim in one of the five pools at the resort before we headed off to dinner.
Dinner at Butterfly Cafe
For dinner, we went to the Butterfly Cafe located at the Tranquility Bay Resort. We dined on the outdoor patio and had a scenic view of the resort. The service, ambiance, and food were equally fantastic in a casual, yet sophisticated space.
The menu features tantalizing offerings of Florida Keys’ shrimp cocktail, tropical crab cakes, horseradish encrusted Florida grouper, and TDF ‘To Die For’ sticky toffee pudding.
Day Three: Drive From Marathon to Key West
In the morning we checked out of our hotel and drove one hour to Key West. On the way, we drove over the iconic 7-Mile bridge that connects Knight’s Key to Little Duck Key.
Remember to drop off your rental car at the Key West Airport to save money on your car rental. You can use Uber or walk around Key West instead of driving.
Check-In Havana Cabana Resort
The next two nights we stayed at the Havana Cabana Resort in Key West. The whole resort has a Cuban influence. Add in vintage cars, a bright colorful lobby, framed photographs of ladies smoking cigars, a large pool, and a mojito bar that makes 25 different versions of the famous cocktail make this resort such an experience.
Havana Cabana is located in New Key West and offers a 15-minute shuttle service to the downtown area.
I heard that parking in Key West is hard to come by, so it’s best not even to look for a parking space. Because of this we actually returned our rental car and relied on the hotel shuttle service to get us around town and worked out great.
Other Hotels in Key West:
- Opal Key Resort & Marina: Centrally located in Key West, a 6-minute walk from Duval Street.
- Kimpton Winslow’s Bungalows: Vibrant hotel centrally located in chic modern decor.
- Southernmost House Hotel: Just as the name states, this Southernmost house hotel is a great option for adults only.
BBQ Lunch at Barrel House Brews
There are plenty of seafood restaurants in the Keys, so after a while, you just crave something different. Lunch at Barrel House Brews is a must to change up your dining experiences.
This smokehouse restaurant overlooks a beautiful marina and has an authentic BBQ menu. There’s even a distillery on site and sharable cocktails.
Sunset Excursion: Mallory Glow Hydrobikes
Ever wonder if you could bike on water? Well, you most certainly can in Key West.
Key West Hydrobikes offers daily guided tours around Key West where you can “bike” to Wisteria Island, watch the sunset, and learn more information about Key West. Each hydro-bike has two seats for bikers, so pick your partner wisely!
Our guide Trae was great and the whole experience was so fun and easy, I didn’t even realize I burned 1,300 calories!
Day Four: Things to do in Key West
This was our full day to explore Key West. There are so many unique fun things to do in Key West, so we had to pick our top selections to fit in our itinerary.
Besides walking around and having a drink on the famous Duval Street, there is so much to see in Key West. If it’s your first time in Key West, I would recommend taking the Conch Trolley Tour.
The Conch Trolley Tour takes you all around Key West in an open-door trolley. Throughout the entire ride, you will learn facts about Key West from your guide. Plus you can hop on and off at any stop to do more exploring.
A must-see in Key West is the Hemingway House, where Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote for 10 years. You can step back in time and tour around the home and gardens. Educated guides offer tours of the home, or you can wander the rooms yourself.
Ernest Hemingway wrote many of his classic works in the second-story studio. Among them: “Death in the Afternoon,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” and “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber.”
Features inside include the first swimming pool in Key West, and a colony of cats (approximately 40-50 cats wander around the property, and most have 6 toes).
Hours: Open Everday from 9 AM – 5 PM
Price: $16 per adult, $6 per child., 5 & under Free. Price includes a 30 minute guided tour.
Try a Slice of Key Lime Pie
You can’t leave Key West without having some Key Lime Pie. This is a famous dessert that originated in the Keys and you’ll see it on lots of menus around town. Now where to find the best Key Lime Pie is still debated amongst the locals, but here are the best places to try Key Lime Pie in Key West:
- Kermit’s Key Lime Pie
- Key West Key Lime Pie Company
- Old Town Bakery
- Better Than Sex Dessert Shop
- Key Lime Pie Bakery
Southernmost Point of the Continental US
Don’t miss the Southernmost Point when in Key West! Located at Whitehead Street & South St you’ll find the iconic photo moment of Key West. To learn more about this point, and other famous locations in Key West, take a guided walking tour learning about history and culture.
Because of its popularity, expect a line to take a photo with the marker!
Other Tours in Key West
Dinner at the Conch Republic
If you are a fan of Seafood, you can’t miss the Conch Republic restaurant on your trip to Key West. Conch Republic is located in the seaport overlooking the working Marina, all the fish served on the menu is caught right in Key West daily!
I ordered the blackened grouper which was on the daily special and it was so delicious. Try to make a reservation in advance, as it’s one of the most popular restaurants in Key West.
Day Five: Florida Keys Road Trip Last Day
Southern Brunch at Firefly Cafe
We ended our trip with a delicious southern brunch at Firefly Cafe. This was by far my favorite brunch we had in Key West and is most certainly worth a stop on your trip.
The Shrimp and Grits were cooked to perfection, and of course, I couldn’t help by trying a taste of the chicken and waffles. And there’s also plenty of seating outside on this bi-level eatery!
Beach Time: Reach Key West
We spent our last hours in the Florida Keys relaxing at The Reach Key West, a beachfront resort in Key West.
While we didn’t spend time sunbathing, we did check out the newly opened seafood restaurant called the Four Marlins that serves a variety of cuisine from edamame hummus, fish tacos, and a delicious chicken sandwich. Even if you aren’t staying at this hotel, you can enjoy the beachfront views for lunch or dinner.
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