Florida Keys – an archipelago of tiny islands surrounded by white sands lying in the Southernmost part of the U.S. Road trip to Key West is easily one of the most exciting drives you’ll ever take. You drive through a series of islands called ‘keys’ surrounded by aquamarine waters as though the ocean is just there waiting for your arrival. The most famous and last island on the road trip is “Key West”. Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon are a few other keys that are worth visiting.
The journey to Key West has so many activities for you to indulge in. You can snorkel, swim, kayak, scuba dive, or choose from a variety of other water sports in the Keys.
First stop in Road trip – Key Largo:
Key Largo is one of the best places for snorkeling, scuba dive or getting scuba certified. This is your first stop on the road trip to Key West.
John Pennekamp coral reef state park has the beautiful coral in Florida and is the most popular destination for snorkel or scuba activity. One of the famous dives includes Christ of the Abyss where you can scuba dive to see the statue of Christ in water.
The state park itself offers multiple tours for a snorkel, glass-bottom boat, scuba dive, kayak, and paddling tours.
NOTE: Also, there are many other snorkel and scuba dive centers that offer the same trips to the same coral reefs. By going with them, you can avoid the park entrance fees.
Your next stop in the road trip to Key West is Islamorada.
Tarpon Feeding at Robbie’s:
Tarpons are silver-colored fishes with big eyes mostly present in the Atlantic Ocean.
Feeding tarpons is one of the most popular activities in the Keys. You can feed fish to Tarpon and watch them grab and gulp them in full action.
Robbie’s is one of the most famous spots for Tarpon feeding.
Also, you will see dollar bills with names written and stuck throughout Robbie’s. Ask anyone there to find out the exact reason and stick your dollar bills too. Here’s mine!
P.S: I am not revealing the reason ‘coz what’s the fun in traveling if you know all stories up ahead?
Robbie’s and most other places in Islamorada offer various water sports including snorkel, paddle boarding, jet ski, etc.
You can even rent a boat and sail to sandbars, enjoy a drink, stay till sunset and watch the sun go down.
Islamorada also offers some beautiful coral reefs perfect for scuba and snorkeling. I have personally done snorkeling in Islamorada from Sundance water sports at Robbie’s and recommend it. They took us to two different spots where you can spot different kinds of fish, turtles, and even jellyfish.
Also, note that the visibility in the water changes from day to day depending on the weather conditions. Call up ahead and check with the SportsCenter to know more details on the visibility and waves.
Note: If this is your first time to snorkel, wear a life jacket, relax and feel confident. You are never gonna drown when you are wearing a life jacket even if the waves are high. So, keep calm and put on your snorkel masks & enjoy the ocean and its life. You are gonna love it! I promise you.
Bahia Honda state park:
If you are not running on a tight schedule, you can make a stop at Bahia Honda state park and do some water activities such as kayak, paddle and relax your day out.
Where to eat in Keys?
Many of the restaurants have sunset views from the waterfront and are worth spending your evening. Please make sure you go an hour or 45minutes in advance to get a table at the restaurant. It is really hard to get in the restaurant during sunset times (telling you on personal experience). So, plan accordingly.
Lorelei cafe – This cafe has amazing waterfront with views of sunset. Food is okay but their pinacolada is awesome. Also, try any local beers on your trip to Keys.
Lazy Days – This is one of the most popular one and food and drinks are amazing. Fresh catch is available in most restaurants of Keys. So, if you are sea food lover, try ordering catch of the day.
Also, their Mudslide drink is something you should try. It’s a mix of vodka, baileys and Kahlua served frozen.
Now, that you enjoyed your road trip to Key West, it is now time to explore the real beauty of Key West.
Sunrise at Key West:
When visiting Keys, sunrise and sunset are the must-see experiences on the trip.
Here are few spots where you can enjoy sunrises:
Edward Knight Pier – This pier elongates into the water and so you have the best view of sunrise from here. Many times you can spot someone actually painting the sunrise.
Higgs Pier – This is also one of the pier from where you can experience the sunrise.
Smathers beach – Although, beach has lesser visibility of sunrise for few days, it is not at all crowded and some of the beautiful views with coconut trees are at this beach.
There are so many instaworthy places here.
Sunset at Key West:
Sunset celebration at Mallory square – If you are in Key West, make sure you visit Mallory square during sunset. There are street performers, live music, fire dances, painters, drinks and perfect views of the sun going down in the ocean. Even after the sunset, there are few performances and local crafts that are in display.It is an experience not to miss.
Try to go at least half an hour before the sunset to get best spot for viewing and also enjoy the celebration . This probably is the most happening time in Key West.
Mallory square museum – You might want to visit Mallory square museum when you are here
Zachary park -If you are a quaint person and want to skip the crowd, you can watch the sunset from Zachary park.More about this park below.
Places to see:
The heart of Key West lies in Duval street. The street is filled with beautiful cafes, local boutiques and several bars to hop on. Duval street is a perfect place to spend your evening and have that sundowner! I would recommend renting a bike to enjoy the real essence of Key West. Look at the colorful homes with white fences, make pit stops, stop by Mile 0 marker, find the oldest house,click pictures and also watch some cigar rolling on the street-stores.
Shop in the local stores, buy a souvenir. Grab a drink, listen to some live music, and do bar hopping. Eat the seafood and drink some tropical cocktails or locally brewed beer. Also, there is a whole list of food places to try here. It’s hard to choose just one.
But, I’ll try recommending a few. Check out food section in this blog post!
US1 highway begins at Key West,Florida and extends all the way up to Maine (US-Canada border). If you just follow US1, you can do a road trip from Key West all the way to Maine. Mile 0 marks the beginning of >2000 mile drive of US1 highway. It is one of the most photographed marker of the US.
You can also buy a Mile 0 souvenir at the shop adjacent to the marker.
Not far from Mile 0, is the Southernmost point of the United States.
It is 90 miles away from Cuba.
Expect a huge line if you want to get your photo snapped.
Fort Zachary Taylor Historic park:
This historic landmark was built to protect the nation’s SouthEastern coastline and is named after the then President Zachary Taylor. Take a walk around the fort and learn about the deep history rooted in it.
The Southernmost state park is also popular for recreational activities like scuba diving, snorkel, etc. You can spend your afternoon seeing the Fort, then head to the beach within the state park and enjoy scuba diving or just dip in the beach. Also, this is one of the popular places for sunset. So, plan your day accordingly.
Harry S. Truman little white house:
Visit President Truman’s White House which served as a headquarters for the naval command during World War II. It also served as a winter retreat to President Truman. Learn about the rich American history and gain insight by taking a self-guided tour.
Shipwreck treasure museum:
Back in the olden days, the wreckers used to stand atop the observation tower to find any ships that are wrecked and rush to it. The first person who approached the shipwreck claimed rights to the property in the ship and would also save any victims. This becomes a huge business in Key West once upon a time. This shipwreck museum is a replica of the 19th-century wreckers warehouse and also houses many artifacts.
Visit the museum and know more about the history and learn how shipwrecks contributed to making Key West, the richest town in the United States once upon a time.
Take a free legal rum distillery tour:
One of the free things to do is to take a rum distillery tour in Key West.
Learn the process and effort that goes into rum making and also learn how to identify if it is a quality rum. You get to try two shots of rum for free here and their pinacoloda with rum is just awesome.
If you are into contributing to the local economy, attending this free tour and buying a drink is something you can do.
Established in 1848, this lighthouse keeper was a woman, which was very unusual during the time. This lighthouse helped both military and commercial vehicles to reach the shores. Currently, they are converted to museum and you can also visit the Keeper’s quarters too.
Price: 17$ per adult; College, veterans, locals receive a discount
Check out exact pricing here !
Located 70 miles off Key West are the beautiful islands and Fort Jefferson. Dry Tortugas consists of seven islands surrounded by beautiful aquamarine waters and coral reefs. You can snorkel, swim in this area and it also has pristine beaches.
Dry Tortugas is one of the must-do activity while visiting Key West. You can only reach it by ferry or seaplane.
Reserve your trip in advance as they sell out weeks in advance.
An adult ticket costs 190$. You can also camp here and watch the stars if you book camping ticket.
Marilyn Monroe at Tropic Cinema – This beaiutiful Marilyn Mornoe statue is located right outside Tropic Cinema and is a insta worthy shot.
Colorful houses on Truman street – Series of cute, colorful houses with white fences are located on Truman street and provide photo opportunities. Respect the house owner’s privacy and click pictures.
Must try food at Key West:
- Key Lime Pie – Dessert
- Cafe con leche – Cuban coffee
Where to eat?
Caroline’s cafe – I have had food here personally and I loved it. Since I am a vegetarian , I tried chicken brocollini without chicken and included vegetables instead and it was so yum. Even the meat options are really good.
The cafe – Have some really good vegetarian/vegan options. I tried their falafel with Israel salad and loved it
Seaside cafe at the mansion – A waterfront dining experience you will love
Better than sex – A pretty famous dessert bar with naughty dessert names
Cuban Coffee Queen – Best place to try Cafe con leche and they have few customized versions too
Where to stay?
La Pensione inn – We stayed at this place and loved their service, amenities. The location of this stay is pretty amazing – very close to Duval street, and easily accessible to Zachary park, sunrise/sunset points such as Mallory square, Edward Knight Pier etc. The place was utterly clean and also had Bath&Body works toiletry. Only thing is you need to pick your breakfast right opposite the hotel which is also a property of La Pensione. For all the benefits this property has, I approve it 100%.
If you do not want to shell out a lot of money as stays in Key West can be pretty expensive, then I suggest staying in any of the Keys near Marathon/Islamorada or even lower keys closer to Key West and driving to Key West early in the morning.
If you are visiting Key West during December, check out my blog post about Fantasy Fest in Key West!
If you are looking for places to see in or near Miami,
P.S: Please leave a comment if you found this article helpful 🙂