FLORIDA KEYS TRAVEL GUIDE

By  Mike Miller   Updated July 11, 2022

The Florida Keys are one of the most popular tourist destinations in the continental United States. 

Traveling to the island chain by car takes you down a string of tropical islands fringed with palm trees and made of coral reefs that stretch more than 120 miles from mainland Florida down to Key West. 

The island chain has the only living coral barrier reef in the US. 

The Keys are famous for their beautiful beaches and popular activities in and around water including all water sports, fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and boating.

Naturally, fresh seafood can be enjoyed at almost every place you stop in the Florida Keys.

About 75,000 people live in the Keys full time;  many thousands more visit on their vacations. 

The winter months are peak season since many say that's the best time to visit to escape their cold weather up north and bask in the Florida sun.

Our travel guide will give you Florida Keys information on a single web page that will help you enjoy your visit.

This page is organized under the following categories from top to bottom.  Click to go directly to your area of interest, or have fun exploring by scrolling down the page.



This Interactive Google Map Will Keep You Oriented in the Keys


Restaurants, lodging, tiki bars, attractions, and maps are listed from north to south, by highest Mile Marker down to Mile Marker 0 in Key West. 

From the mainland of South Florida proceeding through the chain of islands, the main keys are Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon, Lower Keys, and Key West.

If you are arriving by plane, depending on your destination you can fly into Key West International Airport (EYW); Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), Miami International Airport (MIA), or Florida Keys Marathon International Airport (MTH).


OVERSEAS HIGHWAY MILE MARKER SYSTEM

Most Florida Keys travel is by car.  It takes half a day to drive nonstop from Miami to Key West.  That's really not enough time and certainly not the best way to see the Keys.

If you want to embark on a Florida Keys road trip, you need to spend a few days or more to really soak up the magic of the many islands that make up the Keys.

There are only two ways to get into the Keys by car.  The main route is US-1 to Key Largo, but there is also Card Sound Road (County Road 905A) that branches off and ends up in North Key Largo. 

If you take Card Sound Road your first stop should be the legendary local watering hole, Alabama Jack's, just before you get to the toll bridge to North Key Largo.

Alabama Jack's on Card Sound RoadAlabama Jack's on Card Sound Road

US 1 is actually the longest north-south route in the United States, running almost 2400 miles from Key West up the east coast to Maine at the Canadian border.

In Florida, the section that runs through the Keys is called the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. It runs the length of the Keys, through the islands and over the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Florida Bay.

There are 42 bridges, the longest and most well-known being the Seven Mile Bridge, which connects Marathon in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys.

The old Seven Mile Bridge, built in the early 1900s, is not open to vehicular traffic but is open to pedestrians and bicycles.

The Florida Department of Transportation has installed signs at almost every Mile Marker in the Florida Keys.  The one in the photo below is typical.  It is located about 84 miles northeast of Key West near Islamorada.

Mile Marker 84 at Whale Harbor BridgeMile Marker 84 at Whale Harbor Bridge

As you are driving south toward the Keys, the first Mile Marker you will come to is 127.5 at the junction of US-1 and the Florida Turnpike. 

This is where you are leaving Florida City and beginning your road trip.

About one mile later you have to decide whether to stay on US-1 or head easterly on Card Sound Road. 

Mile Marker 126.5 is at the junction of US-1 and Card Sound Road.

Jewfish Creek Bridge, Mile Marker 107.2Jewfish Creek Bridge, Mile Marker 107.2

The section of US-1 from Mile Marker 126.0 to  Mile Marker 107.2 at Jewfish Creek is known as the "18 Mile Stretch". 

The stretch is two lanes and can get very crowded during holidays or emergency evacuations. 

You need to drive carefully on this stretch;  one accident can shut things down for hours.

The Mile Markers end in Key West with Mile Marker 0 located at 501 Whitehead Street.  Mile Markers are used by locals and tourists to tell how many miles they are from someplace. 

For example, Key West (Mile Marker 0) is 33 miles from Big Pine Key (Mile Marker 33).

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FLORIDA KEYS TRAVEL TIP:  OUR TOP LODGING PICKS

We think Mom and Pop and smaller motels, hotels, and inns are a lot more fun than the big resorts.  Here are some that we like.

KEY LARGO (Mile Marker 108)

Gilbert's Resort
107900 Overseas Highway
305-451-1133
Originally a fishing camp from 1903, this is a charming laid back spot with its own marina so you can arrive by car or boat.

Key Largo Cottages
99306 Overseas Highway
305-453-1672
At the Key Lime Sailing Club, these rustic cottages near the water are a great way to spend the day in the water or just enjoying the wonderful Florida sunset.

ISLAMORADA (Mile Marker 81.2)

Kon-Tiki Resort
81200 Overseas Highway
305-664-4702
Islamorada is nicknamed the "sports fishing capital of the world" and this resort is on the bay side with great views.

LAYTON (Mile Marker 68.5)

Lime Tree Bay Resort
Mile Marker 68.5
305-664-4740
Right on the Gulf, this resort offers a longer than average list of amenities including unlimited use of kayaks.

MARATHON (Mile Marker 58.7)

Gulf View Waterfront Resort
58743 Overseas Highway
305-289-1414
Smaller spot with an Old Florida feel.

Booking.com Marathon Lodging

Barnacle Bed and Breakfast, Big Pine KeyBarnacle Bed and Breakfast, Big Pine Key

BIG PINE KEY (Mile Marker 33)

Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge
(now called Big Pine Key Resort)
33000 Overseas Highway
305-872-2351
Offers campsites and RV rentals and parking sites, many on the water, with full camping amenities.

Barnacle Bed and Breakfast
1557 Long Beach Drive
305-872-3298
A small bed and breakfast, a great place if you are looking for quiet and relaxing.

LITTLE TORCH KEY (Mile Marker 28.5)

Parmer's Resort
565 Barry Avenue
305-872-2157
A mix of accommodations to fit the needs of singles, families or groups, this resort is spread over 5 acres of waterfront with hotel-style rooms, cottages, suites, and efficiencies.

SUGARLOAF KEY (Mile Marker 17)

Sugarloaf Lodge
17001 Overseas Highway
305-745-3211
Unusual nostalgic spot with its "old school" marina and charming feel, this lodge is situated within the Great White Heron Refuge. Rooms are basic but all offer waterfront views of Sugarloaf Sound and there are adventures you can partake in such as fishing charters or even sky diving.

KEY WEST (Mile Marker 0)

The Grand Guesthouse
1116 Grinnell Street
305-294-0590
An 1880's house that started as a rooming house, became a single-family residence and now modernized and converted back to a "guest" house with individual entrances and bathrooms.

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FLORIDA KEYS CAMPGROUNDS

Camping in the Florida Keys is not only fun, it saves you money over many other lodging choices.  There are a limited number of public and private parks, so it's best to make reservations in advance. Here are some of our favorites.

KEY LARGO (Mile Marker  102.5)

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
102601 Overseas Highway
305-451-6300

With the first undersea park in the US, this park offers mangrove forests, tropical hammocks in the upland areas, and coral reefs where you can enjoy snorkeling, glass-bottom boat tours, canoeing and a beach.

Reservations made at ReserveAmerica.com

LONG KEY (Mile Marker 67.4)

Long Key State Park
67400 Overseas Highway
305-664-4815

The land this State Park is on has an interesting history, starting out as a fishing camp and was a favorite spot for the rich and famous. Today it's a Florida State Park and has nature trails ideal for hiking and especially popular for its birdwatching. There was significant damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017, especially to camping areas, and the restoration efforts have been ongoing.

Reservations made at ReserveAmerica.com

MARATHON (Mile Marker 56.0)

Curry Hammock State Park
56200 Overseas Highway
305-289-2690

Another Florida State Park, Curry Hammock is unusual in its seclusion and undeveloped land, since much of the Keys has been developed. This provides a sanctuary for local and migrating birds as well as a large number of peregrine falcons. The park offers camping, kayaking and kiteboarding, among other activities.

Reservations made at ReserveAmerica.com

Jolly Roger RV Resort
59275 Overseas Highway
305-289-0404

On 11 acres this RV park offers large sites for you to park your RV with full hook-ups. There are also a limited number of efficiency rooms for rent.

BAHIA HONDA KEY (Mile Marker 36.8)

Bahia Honda State Park
36850 Overseas Highway
305-872-2353

Bahia Honda is one of the many small islands in the Keys. It's virtually uninhabited except for this State Park, which offers camping and is known for its birdwatching and snorkeling. Its nearshore snorkeling is a perfect place for beginners, offering glimpses of coral, tropical fish, conch and lobster.

Reservations made at ReserveAmerica.com

SUGARLOAF KEY (Mile Marker 20)

Sugarloaf KOA
251 State Road 939
800-562-7731

A traditional KOA campground, Sugarloaf has a private beach, a pool and offers kayak and bike rentals.

KEY WEST (Mile Marker 0)

Boyd's Key West Campground
6401 Maloney Avenue
305-294-1465

As the campground in the southernmost point in the US, this is a popular destination for those doing a Key West drive. This full hook-up RV park accommodates larger RVs and motorhomes, tent campsites, and even has a section where you can rent a furnished tiny home for 1 or 2 people.

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FLORIDA KEYS TRAVEL TIP: OUR TOP RESTAURANT PICKS

There are hundreds of restaurants from the Upper Keys to Key West.  Your Florida Keys travel will take you by many of them on the Overseas Highway. There are many good ones, so we've picked a few of the best restaurants from our favorites.

KEY LARGO (Mile Marker 101.7)

Hobo's Cafe
101691 Overseas Highway
305-451-5888
Everything is fresh here, from seafood sourced from local fishermen to produce for local farms.

TAVERNIER (Mile Marker 90.8)

What the Fish Rolls and More
90775 Old Highway, Unit 6
305-440-3650
This little seafood shack features creative specialties with an "ocean to table" focus.

ISLAMORADA (Mile Marker 87.7)

Twisted Shrimp
Mile Marker 87.7
305-453-6377
Casual seafood spot with a southern influence; indoor/outdoor seating.

LAYTON (Mile Marker 68.4)

The Florida Boy Bar & Grill
68450 Overseas Highway
305-998-4061
Casual sports-bar style spot complete with TVs, a variety of burgers and a pool table.

MARATHON (Mile Marker 49.5)

Barracuda Grill
4290 Overseas Highway
305-743-3314
Casual sports-bar style spot complete with TVs, a variety of burgers and a pool table.

BIG PINE KEY (Mile Marker 33)

Milagro Restaurant and Bar
31044 Avenue A
305-440-3534
This upscale romantic spot is owned and run by a 5-star chef and his wife. Creative and fresh dishes featured along with a large list of high-end tequilas as well as a wine list.

Kiki's Sandbar Bar & Grille, Little Torch KeyKiki's Sandbar Bar & Grille, Little Torch Key

LITTLE TORCH KEY (Mile Marker 28)

Kiki's Sandbar Bar & Grille
183 Barry Avenue
305-872-4500
Casual spot on the beach with live music nightly.

RAMROD KEY (Mile Marker 27)

Boondock's Grille and Draft House
27205 Overseas Highway
305-872-4094
Large tiki bar setting with outdoor dining that is pet- and child-friendly and has a mini-golf course on premises.

SUMMERLAND KEY (Mile Marker 25)

The Galley Grill
24862 Overseas Highway
305-745-3440
Open for breakfast and lunch, this is a local favorite with good homestyle food.

CUDJOE KEY (Mile Marker 22)

Square Grouper
22658 Overseas Highway
305-745-8880
Casual eclectic spot with fresh seafood, homemade desserts, comprehensive wine list and microbrews.

SUGARLOAF KEY (Mile Marker 20)

Mangrove Mama's
19991 Overseas Highway
305-745-3030
This landmark restaurant and bar has a fun tropical vibe and serves fresh local seafood with live music.

BIG COPPIT KEY (Mile Marker 3)

Bobalu's Southern Cafe
301 U.S. 1
305-296-1664
A casual seafood and pizza stop popular with travelers, locals and bikers.

KEY WEST (Mile Marker 0)

Garbo's Grill
409 Caroline Street
305-304-3004
This is a well-known spot working out of a food truck situated in front of another spot, Hank’s Hair Of The Dog Saloon. Garbo's has an innovative menu and has been featured on the show Diners, Drive-ins & Dives. Hanks has live music, and the combination offers a good time and a fun "Keys" experience.

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FLORIDA KEYS TIKI BARS WE LIKE

The Keys have some of the greateast tiki bars anywhere.  Some of the restaurants we've listed above have tiki bars.  Here are a few others we like.

KEY LARGO (Mile Marker 108)

Gilbert's Tiki Bar
107900 Overseas Highway
305-451-1133
This is the first tiki bar you will come to in the Keys. It's on the  Overseas Highway just before you cross the Jewfish Creek Bridge.

Skipper's Dockside
528 Caribbean Drive
305-453--9794
Vintage-themed classic with beautiful marina views, a good-sized menu, live entertainment and indoor sports.

ISLAMORADA (Mile Marker 82)

Lorelei Cabana Bar & Restaurant
96 Madeira Road
305-664-2692
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, it's one of the best places to enjoy a sunset dinner. The views are spectacular, the seafood is fresh and live music plays every night.

MARATHON (Mile Marker 54)

Island Fish Company Tiki Bar
12648 Overseas Highway
305-743-4191
Waterfront tables and a traditional tiki menu with fresh seafood, key lime pie, and a variety of summer drinks.

Sugarloaf Lodge Tiki BarSugarloaf Lodge Tiki Bar

SUGARLOAF KEY (Mile Marker 17)

Sugarloaf Lodge Tiki Bar
17001 Overseas Highway
305-745-3211
The Sugarloaf Lodge mentioned above also has a nice tiki bar on the property, open for lodgers and visitors.

STOCK ISLAND (Mile Marker 4) 

Hogfish Bar & Grill
6810 Front Street
305-293-4041
A casual outdoor eatery that is a local favorite with waterfront views and fresh local seafood, but one of the best things about this spot is its "Old Florida" nostalgic feel.

KEY WEST (Mile Marker 0)

Sunset Tiki Bar & Grille
617 Front Street
305-295-0207
Busier spot, this tiki bar is a poolside treat, with marina access and beautiful Key West sunsets.

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FLORIDA KEYS TRAVEL TIP: TOP ATTRACTIONS

There is no shortage of outdoor activities available throughout the Florida Keys, including a lot of family friendly attractions.  

KEY LARGO (Mile Marker 102.6)

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
102601 Overseas Highway.
This is the first undersea park in the United States as described earlier in this article.  The park has a wide variety of tropical plants, shore birds, and marine life.  Tour boats are available to show you the features of the living coral reef.

TAVERNIER (Mile Marker 92.6)

Harry Harris Beach and Park
This county park has pavilions, barbecue grills, picnic tables, a basketball court, a playground.  It also has a protected beach with a nice swimming area.

Theater of the Sea in IslamoradaTheater of the Sea in Islamorada

ISLAMORADA (Mile Marker 84.5)

Theater of the Sea
Mile Marker 84.5
Islamorada, Florida
305-664-2431.

An old attraction where you can swim with dolphins and watch sharks, turtles, and other species swimming around in front of you. They have interactive educational displays and are home to many rescue and rehabilitation animals, working together with non-profits such as Turtle Hospital and other marine protection organizations.

Betsey the Lobster, Islamorada
Betsey the Lobster, Islamorada
Photographic Destinations by Bob Kyle

Rain Barrel Village
86700 Overseas Highway
Islamorada, FL 33036

Another popular spot in Islamorada is Rain Barrel Village, a shop with sculptures, pottery, painting, souvenirs and other gifts.  Betsey the Lobster is a giant photo opportunity out front.

DUCK KEY (Mile Marker 61)

The Dolphin Connection
Hawk's Cay Resort, 61 Hawk's Cay Boulevard
Duck Key, FL 33050
1-888-814-9154. 
This is one of the most popular places in the Florida Keys to learn about dolphins and swim with them.

Having Fun at The Dolphin ConnectionHaving Fun at The Dolphin Connection

BAHIA HONDA KEY (Mile Marker 36.8)

Bahia Honda State Park
36850 Overseas Hwy
Big Pine Key, FL 33043
305-872-2353
Great view of the ocean, a nice beach, swimming, boating, fishing, and snorkeling. 

Bahia Honda Railroad Bridge, by Jerzy Strzelecki via Creative CommonsBahia Honda Railroad Bridge, by Jerzy Strzelecki via Creative Commons

KEY WEST (Mile Marker 0)

Key West Aquarium
1 Whitehead Street (Mallory Square)
Key West, Florida 33040
305-296-2051.
This historic museum is a place where you can get up close and personal with animals such as horseshoe crabs and Florida lobster.  You will enjoy a 90 minute guided tour. 

Mallory Square
400 Wall St
Key West, FL 33040
305-809-3700
This is the gathering place for locals and visitors.  There is all kind of entertainment, food vendors, and the best sunset in Florida. Free.

Mallory Square Key West at SunsetMallory Square Key West at Sunset

Hemingway House
907 Whitehead Street
Key West, FL 33040
305-294-1136
The great author lived here from 1931 to 1940.  It has many of his furnishings and the first in ground swimming pool in Key West. In addition to tours, the Ernest Hemingway Home is also a wedding and event venue on its lush grounds.

Truman Little White House
111 Front St.
Key West, FL 33040
305-294-9911
Florida's only presidential museum.  The 33rd President of the U.S. stayed here many times and it displays some of his memorabilia.

Hemingway Home in Key WestHemingway Home in Key West

DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK AND FORT JEFFERSON

Another attraction that should be mentioned is the Dry Tortugas National Park. This park is about 70 miles west of Key West.

Rich with history and unique among the National Parks, this secluded and natural area consists of 7 small islands and is only accessible by boat or seaplane.

The official ferry from Key West runs regularly to Fort Jefferson, a main attraction with Civil War history . The approximately 2-hour boat ride is designed for comfort with air conditioning, snacks, tour information, and amazing views of the islands, birds and marine life.

The park offers camping (you must bring your own supplies), snorkeling, several white-sand beaches, diving sites to explore shipwrecks, and lighthouses.

Learn more about Key West by visiting our page on this website.  Click on the southernmost marker to go to that page.

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FLORIDA KEYS REGIONAL MAP


The Five Regions of the Florida Keys

From north to south, when people refer to the "Upper Keys" they mean Key Largo, Islamorada, and sometimes Marathon.  Then come the "Lower Keys" and finally Key West.

Many of the keys in the Islamorada and Marathon areas are also sometimes called the "Middle Keys."

Map of the 5 Regions of the Florida KeysMap of the 5 Regions of the Florida Keys

The Monroe County Tourist Development Council has links to at least 56 webcams located all over the Florida Keys.  Enhance your travel in the keys by enjoying a real time look at these places.

FLORIDA KEYS WEBCAMS

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