Getting to Key West and the Florida Keys from Miami & Miami Beach is easier than you might imagine. With quick flights, scenic drives and bus tours which traverse the 130-mile route in just a few hours, a quick day trip or an overnight stay in the Florida Keys is an easy proposition.
The best way to explore the unique attractions lining the Overseas Highway to Key West is by rental car so you can set your own pace, chart your own course and stop to eat, drink, snap photos and meet the locals. The giant shell shops, thatched tiki bars and fabulous seafood restaurants that line the roadway throughout the Keys make a day trip or a longer visit particularly appealing to thousands of visitors all throughout the year. For an extended stay in Key West, return the rental car once you check into your hotel to save some money and avoid the hassle of parking. Like South Beach, nearly all the fun of a Conch Republic vacation can be found on foot.
Most Key West visitors who do not live in Florida opt for daily commercial flights to the International Airport. Private chartered flights from Miami via AirKeyWest.com aboard a Partenavia P68C are under $1000 for five passengers with less expensive individual spaces available for a shared ride or during “positioning” when the aircraft returns from Key West to pick up additional Miami travelers.
MiamiCharters.com offers private luxury yacht charters to the Keys and KeyWestSeaplanes.com runs island hopping amphibious aircraft that can land on the water or small Cessna airplanes for land to land flights. Many local tour companies have day trip coaches to the Keys which are comparable in price to a roundtrip Greyhound.com bus ticket from Miami to Key West that allows you to stay as long as you like for around $75 RT. Shuttle service from the Miami International Airport to the Keys and back via KeysShuttle.com is just under $100RT per guest.
South Beach backpackers can undertake the adventure via public transit by taking the J bus to the Metrorail Station and a southbound train to Dadeland South Station. Transfer to Route 38 Busway MAX to Florida City and transfer at the Wal-Mart to Route 301 Dade-Monroe Express which will get you as far as mile marker 50 in Marathon. Hop on board the Lower Keys Shuttle bus to venture the rest of the way to Key West for $3 (www.kwtransit.com).
The Florida Keys and Key West are a unique archipelago of 1700 tiny islands off the southern tip of Florida with around 60 connected islands leading south by south west from Florida City, each with its own particular charm and seaside attractions. Taking the journey all the way down to Key West puts you just 90 miles away from Cuba which makes this last tropical stop at the southernmost point of the United States particularly attractive to travelers seeking an escape from the “real world.”
There are breathtaking vistas along the drive from Florida’s mainland through the Keys which provides over a hundred miles of unique beauty, tropical vegetation and wildlife. Passing along congested two-lane roads, across vast bridges over seven miles long, and through stretches of sandy beachfront leading to shaded small towns, part of the appeal of a Keys vacation is the drive itself.
Locals and tourists are drawn to traverse the historic Overseas Highway which was originally built over Florida East Coast Railway trusses partially destroyed by a hurricane in 1935. More modern highway bridges now stand next to sections of the original railways which remain in use as fishing piers. The highway department utilizes “mile markers” to note the distance traveled from Key West (mile marker zero) up to the mainland, so businesses like the Keys Fisheries Restaurant just off Mile Marker 48 are easier to find. Often the best spots to spend the night or while away a few hours over a fresh seafood lunch are just off the main highway overlooking the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Florida Bay & the Gulf of Mexico to the west.
Visiting Key Largo, where thousands of explorers snorkel through the warm shallow waters of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, is only an hour’s drive from Downtown Miami making this an easy day trip for curious vacationers. Others choose to venture further south along the highway, stopping to tan on Bahia Honda Beach, explore the cafes and bars in the Middle or Lower Keys and then spending the night in the Conch Republic, Key West. No matter how far you travel, exploring the Overseas Highway and the islands of the Keys is a gloriously easy getaway for Florida travelers.