Favorite thing: fly into miami then traval down to the keys, you can take the florida turnpike down to florida city then at little further to Homestead, we normally stop here for a couple of days , in the fairway motell,, from here you can either travel up to the everglades for the day or start ot make your way down highway 1,
The first thing most people want to do when they go to the keys is to head straight for Key West. As fun as Key West is, I think that the natural beauty of the Keys is more evident on some of the smaller keys to the north. That being said, Key West definately has the most activity and the most crowds.
Fondest memory: Since this is a page about Key West, watching the sunset at Mallory Square with the back drop of crowds of people and street performers, is an experience that everyone should have at least once. I have to be true to myself, my real Fondest Memory is Fishing with Bryan on the Iowa Fortune.
Key West is the end of the line for the Florida Keys. It is about 150 miles from Miami and worlds apart in every other sense. This tiny little town offers many opportunities for fishing, boating and other water sports. Key West also has a fairly lively nightlife scene and is home to the Halloween weekend Fantasy Fest, the Keys' version of Mardi Gras.
For more information about things to do, see my Key West page.
After passing Marathon and crossing the Seven Mile Bridge, you'll find yourself in Big Pine Key. This is the largest of the lower keys and the place to find some of the best beaches and for spotting the elusive and endangered key deer.
Big Pine Key is about 30 miles from Key West. Most people bypass the area in favor of the more popular end destination, still in awe of the Seven Mile Bridge and dreaming about burgers and frozen drinks at Sloppy Joe's. But Big Pine Key is a great place to stop for several reasons.
Bahia Honda State Park is considered by many to have the best beaches in the Florida Keys. Those who venture further to Key West in search of white sand will miss out on the real deal. Big Pine Key is also much less developed than its lower key neighbor 30 miles south. The forested areas have been preserved and set aside as a refuge for key deer.
Another thing to consider is that you're likely to find better hotel deals in this area and will save a bit of cash by staying here (or camping in the park) as opposed to heading to crowded Key West, where the sought after destination's hotel prices can really soar, especially during spring break and the holidays.
Tiny little Duck Key is a place most people pass by on the way to the lower Keys, figuring that they have hit all the major Keys and now seek to cross the seven mile bridge. But, in the Keys, the most overlooked areas are the ones most worthy of a stop.
Duck Key is located between Islamorada and Marathon. The island got its name from its unusual shape, which, from the air, resembles a duck. This key is actually a separate island comprised of 5 separate sub-islands and separated from the Overseas Highway by a side road.
This island/key is home to one of the finest resorts in the Keys. The Hawk's Cay Resort is as pricey as Islamorada's Cheeca Lodge, but less well known. The resort has great accommodations, as well as a wide variety of water based activities.
The island has some of the most exclusive residences in the Keys as well. Even if you don't stay at Hawk's Cay, its worth a drive over to view the impressive architecture and see how the wealthy Keys' residents live.
Marathon is a somewhat popular destination in the Florida Keys. It is about 50 miles north of Key West and just north of the famous seven mile bridge. Marathon offers all of the fishing and water sports opportunities of the other Keys, in addition to glass bottom boat rides, nature trails and other charter boat excursions. Marathon also contains one of the two airports found in the Keys (the other is in Key West).
I haven't spent much time here, mostly passing though on trips to Key West or to head over the seven mile bridge. But its a nice enough area, and less well known and therefore less crowded than Islamorada.
Favorite thing: Islamorada has always been my favorite party destination in the Keys. Its about an hour and a half from Miami, making it a closer destination than Key West, and it has everything the Keys have to offer. The Holiday Isle Resort offers boat trips, fishing trips, jet skis and, at the end of the day, the best rum runners you'll find anywhere.
Key Largo is the first key you'll reach when heading over from the mainland. The keys are connected to South Florida by the Overseas Highway- a two lane road which stretches from Key Largo to Key West.
Key Largo is a good place to visit when you are short on time. There are several great attractions in the area as well. The John Pennykamp State Park is one of the most popular places to visit and gives you a great opportunity to explore the coral reefs and landscape of this area. Here you will find glass bottom boat trips as well as snorkeling and diving. From here, its about 25 miles to Islamorada, home of the Holiday Isle Resort and the Tiki Bar.
Leaving Orlando, we struck south on our mission to reach the keys by the evening.
Stung by traffic snarl ups we encountered on the freeway into Orlando from St Augustine a couple of days before and that freeway driving isn’t that fast in the US anyway, considering we would be driving through Miami - the potential for delays were enormous! We also wanted to avoid all those pesky toll roads there seem to be so many of in the US, so we decided on a shortcut!
I'd always wanted to visit Lake Okeechobee out of curiosity and it seemed to be along the most direct line for the Keys.
Fuelled up with trail rations (beef jerky, fruit, nuts, drinks etc) we hit the road heading due south to Kissimmee on Hwy 17 and then avoided the dreaded toll road by taking Hwy 192 via St Cloud until the junction at Holopaw with Hwy 441.
Hwy 441 was a fantastic route south through the almost uninhabited and forested Florida hinterland along such completely quiet and straight roads that you could see traffic coming for miles - I won't be lying when I say that I was travelling just a *little* faster than the state speed limit coming down through there. ;-)
We crossed the Floridas Turnpike at the wonderfully named Yee Haw Junction before zooming down more backroads to Okeechobee – for about 60 miles the roads were almost totally our own!
At the town of Okeechobee and around the lake, traffic was busier along Hwy 98 skirting the waters’ edge. Frankly, on our side of the lake, there is not much to see as from the road all you're looking at is a huge dyke with a canal and picnic areas running alongside. We were able to drive up to the edge at the Fort Mayaca Lock and Dam about halfway along.
At South Bay we turned onto Hwy 27 due south past Okeelanta and then onto Route 997 past the Miccosukee Casino to Homestead - all in a few hours!
The next day we made our way down Hwy 1 all the way to Key West, reaching there about lunchtime having fun stopping along the way!
Fondest memory: Robert Frost always said to take 'The Road Less Travelled' and by golly he was right!
Driving up the embankment at Fort Mayaca (an old Native American name for the lake) where there is a lock and dam for the trans Florida canals that run from East to West was an interesting experience which we shared with a group of bikers and were even treated to a luxury yacht heading East through the lock. There isn't much else to see, except a seemingly endless expanse of water as far as the eye can see of the second largest fresh water lake in the US ...
It was certainly interesting travelling this way as you got to see a part of America that most tourists never do - though it was a definite roll up your windows and lock your doors kind of experience!
Around South Bay and Okeelanta is some of the worst poverty I had seen in a developed country (it got worse in the Indian Reservations of Arizona!), mostly black families were ekeing out a wretched existence far away and out of mind of the rest of the nation! Certainly not what you normally see on the tourist brochures of Florida and a ramming home of the fact that over 12% of the US' population lives below the poverty line without access to many human rights such as free medical care etc... :-(
We made such good timing taking this great shortcut that we arrived hours before we expected. We booked in to a Rodeway Inn at Homestead using a coupon from the fabulous state accommodation coupon books.
Perhaps we should have kept going, because we decided to make a sortie into the Keys that ended up getting us as far as Seven Mile Bridge for the sunset before having to turn back, stopping off at Squid Row along the way. It wasn't fun turning back and meant doubling back, but at least we had a guaranteed cheap nights' accommodation!
Between Marathon and Little Duck Key.
The first bridge, initially devoted to a railway was partly destroyed by an hurricane. Now it is used by pedestrians and cycle drivers.
Fondest memory: 7 Miles for a bridge which is at some meters from the ocean : amazing !
Holiday Inn Resort - Key Largo Florida Keys
2 Reviews and 543 Opinions There are good facilities of travel in tourist in the Florida Keys and it was a good stay in hotels....