The Overseas Highway stretches 127.5 miles from the Florida mainland near Florida City to what seems like the end of the earth -- Key West. Along the way you pass some famous towns like Key Largo and Marathon, along with some not so famous places like Jewfish Key, Saddlebunch, Cow Key, and the oddly named Ohio-Missouri Channel.
The highway follows the path of the Overseas Railroad that was completed about 1912 due to the work and money of Henry Flagler. In 1935 many bridges were destroyed by hurricane, so the State of Florida bough the railroad and made it an automobile road. This new road was opened in 1938 and had had areas with tolls until 1954.
Seven Mile Bridge connects connecting Knight's Key to Little Duck Key on US Highway 1.
The original bridge was constructed by Henry Flagler from 1909-1912 as part of the Florida East Coast Railway. The original railroad bridge was badly damaged in a 1935 hurricane, and refurbished as an automobile bridge. This bridge also provides access to Pigeon Key, once a camp for the bridge workers, is now a small historic district.
The modern Seven Mile Bridge was built from 1978 to 1982 and stretches 6.79 miles. It includes a 65-foot high clearance for boats, eliminating the need for a drawbridge. The bridge was constructed of 440 prefabricated concrete spans laid across some 439 concrete piers.
It has been a fantasy of mine from a young age to drive a convertible across the overseas highway to Key West. In April of 2009 I was able to live this fantasy. I recently purchased a new BMW 3 Series Convertible and drove from Michigan to Fort Myers, FL. I decided to drive to Key West for a night and live out my dream. When first getting onto US-1 in Key Largo I expected to see much more water...instead it seemed as if I never left the mainland. Key Largo is a long key and not until after leaving Key Largo will you truly get to experience what the overseas is all about. Once you start Key hopping with the top down and the sun shining...it turns into a dream! Being from a large city in Michigan I am used to the hustle and bustle...but the further you get down the Keys, you feel the need to be in a hurry melt away, the person in front of you can be going 20mph and you just don't care. 7 Mile Bridge is awesome! Be sure to keep an eye for the little island attatched to the old bridge...this is where workers who built it lived during construction! The count down to Mile 0 is great...once you arrive in Key West you will be glad you took the 3 hours to let all the worries and cares of the world melt away over every bridge and only then will you be in the true Key West state of mind when you arrive. Driving is truly a thing everyone must experience at least once in their lifetime! Conch Republic or Bust!
If you are driving I recomend filling up on gas before you leave the mainland. Florida gas prices are some of the most expensive in the south east and it can be really hard to find a bargain in this region because the prices are jacked up in the Miami Ft Lauderdale area, along the turnpikes, and in Key West. I did see some deals though in the area around Key Largo and in Marathon at the smaller mom and pop style gas stations along the road. If you fill up here you might be able to avoid doing so in Key Largo where you will generally pay 20-40 cents more per gallon.
The drive from Miami should not be missed. It is BEAUTIFUL. There are also planes and boats that take you to Key West but driving is definitely my favorite and the best way to slowly integrate the Key West relaxed lifestyle. Don't be in a hurry though cause driving fast is quite impossible given the one only lane. Enjoy the surrounding instead.
Reference points are not the little towns that dot the Florida Keys, but instead the mile markers which line the highway. Without them, finding the proper places to stop would be virtually impossible. Mile markers are designed as MM, such as MM88.
I began my trip to Key West in Ft.Lauderdale where I was staying with family. I took the Florida Turnpike, which was a very smooth ride because we around 11:00 in the morning. Bring plenty of change because there are 4 toll boothes before you get to U.S. 1 at .75 cents a peice.
Once you pick up U.S. 1 in Key Largo you'll probably pick up alot of traffic during the winter because U.S. 1 is only 1 lane each direction in most places. The speed limit is from 35-50 MPH and the Monroe County Sheriff and Florida Highway Patrol are always taking radar.
Once we left Key Largo we were treated with the elevated highway. There is water on either side of you and it's a really cool drive.
One of the highlights to a trip to Key West is the drive down from Miami. Driving through the keys is quite an experience, at times there is nothing but blue water on either side of you for miles. Even for the bridge-a-phobic like me, the drive was relaxing and quite serene. Be careful not to speed though- some keys are designated wildlife sanctuaries and are heavily policed!
One of the most charming qualities of Key West (and the Keys in general) is the road that leads to them. Riding US Highway 1 from Miami to Key West on a sunny day is a memorable experience… especially if you drive a cabrio. ;-)
The best way (and I've done it numerous times) is to rent a convertible in either Ft. Lauderdale or Miami (hang out here for a couple days) then head down route 1 through ALL the keys and make stops on the way...it's fantastic. The bridges between each key especially 7 mile bridge, it's so breathtaking! Key Largo, Islandmarada (go to the Cocomo) and Key Byscaine are must stops!!!
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