Ultimate Key West to Key Largo Road Trip Guide for 2023

Key West to Key Largo blog cover image.  Text overlaying a drone image of overseas highway 1 connecting Key Largo to Key West.

The drive from Key West to Key Largo through the Florida Keys tops the list for the best road trips you can take in the entire US.

We were invited to visit in September 2022 by The Florida Keys & Key West tourism, tasked to create the perfect road trip itinerary.

This is that guide and in it, you will discover all of the best stops, places to eat, and things to do between Key West and Key Largo that make this tropical region so special.

After reading, be sure to leave us any questions or feedback in the comments section!

Disclosure: In order to keep providing you with free content, this post likely contains affiliate links. If you make a booking or purchase through one of these links we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. So a HUGE thank you to you if you click one of these links ๐Ÿ™‚

Important Florida Keys Driving Tips

A view of Pigeon Key and 7 Mile Bridge from the sky during a road trip from Key West to Key Largo.

Car Rental

While there are plenty of cabs and ride-share services in the Florida Keys, the best way to get around Southern Florida is by renting a car.

Car rentals to/from Key West are much pricier than arriving and departing in Miami, but are still reasonable starting as low as about ~$50/day during off-peak season (May-September), or $55-$70 during peak (winter).

This rate will increase by about $10-$25/day if you want to drop off at a different location, such as Miami.

Gas

The state of Florida has some of the lowest gas prices in the US, but Key West is the most expensive place to fuel up in the state.

The further you drive east from Key West to Key Largo, the more you will see the pump prices come down.

On our visit in September 2022, the gas price in Key Largo was a full $1/gallon less than in Key West!

Protect Your Valuables

Like any tourist town, vehicle break-ins are something to be aware of.

In addition, the Florida heat is no joke and your vehicle will get VERY hot.

Be sure to leave valuables and electronics, especially heat-sensitive ones, at your accommodation whenever possible.

Key West to Key Largo Overview

A girl sits under a palm tree on the tropical Smathers Beach on a road trip from Key West to Key Largo,

Whether it is the unspeakable roadside beauty, underwater coral gardens, or a view of paradise from 100-feet up in the sky whilst parasailing, there is so much to see and do on the drive from Key West to Key Largo.

Below is a quick list of the top 20 attractions on your drive in the order in which you will discover them.

These include the best beaches, restaurants, and attractions at a glance.

Scroll down to find photos and information on each featured destination.

The Top 20 Best Key West to Key Largo stops are:

  1. Historic Key West Downtown
  2. Sunset Pier
  3. Mallory Square Sunset Celebration
  4. Smatherโ€™s Beach
  5. Higgs Memorial Beach Park
  6. Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
  7. Key West Lighthouse & Keeperโ€™s Quarters
  8. Harry S. Truman Little White House
  9. Tropic Cinema
  10. The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservancy
  11. Southernmost Point
  12. Fort Zachary State Park Beach
  13. Watersports
  14. Eco-Friendly Dolphin Watch & Snorkel Tour
  15. Sunset Key
  16. 7-Mile Bridge
  17. Pigeon Key
  18. Marathon Turtle Hospital
  19. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
  20. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
    Bonus
  21. Dry Tortugas National Park (outside of Key West by tour only)
  • A photo of the colorful Sunset Pier in Key West
    2. Sunset Pier

Best Stops Between Key West & Key Largo

This section provides more insight on each of the best stops featured above in the order in which you will find them, beginning in Key West and ending in Key Largo.

*Dry Tortugas National Park

Aerial view of Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida

Though not on the way to Key Largo, Key West serves as the gateway to Dry Tortugas National Park; a unique park full of natural beauty and history.

Dry Tortugas is famed for its spectacular blue waters, marine life, and coastal fortress at Fort Jefferson.

Getting to this incredible park takes some planning as visitation is limited and it can only be reached by boat or small seaplane. Book your tickets in advance!


Historic Key West Downtown

A view of colorful Duval Street in downtown Key West, with a bit of New Orleans inspiration.

Downtown Key West has preserved much of its early architecture and aesthetics, making for a fun stroll around town.

Of course, it is equally popular as a party destination, especially on the world-famous Duval Street.

Duval Street is often compared to Bourbon Street of New Orleans, and even boasts a touch of Nola culture in some of its bars and pubs.

The downtown area is also where you will find the majority of the main tourist attractions in Key West.


Sunset Pier

A girl standing at Sunset Pier in Key West with Sunset Key in the background.

Sunset Pier is the premier place to grab an evening cocktail on the colorful dock and watch the sunset over the appropriately named Sunset Key.

You will find this vibrant, buzzing place in the heart of Key West.

Expect a bit of buzz most times of day, but especially in the evenings.


Mallory Square Sunset Celebration

One of the quintessential Florida Keys bucket list activities is to spend an evening at the Sunset Celebration nightly arts festival at Mallory Square Dock.

Local street performers, food vendors, and even psychics attend each night accompanied by thousands of tourists to watch the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico horizon as an iconic schooner drifts across the scene.


Smather’s Beach

An empty beach at Smathers Beach on Key West

Smather’s Beach is the best beach you will find anywhere from Key West to Key Largo, and is located within a short drive from the airport.

This postcard-perfect beach features pristine white sand, towering palm trees, and clear water.

It is exactly the beach you daydream about when planning your visit to the Florida Keys.


Higgs Memorial Beach Park

Day time photo of beautiful Higgs Memorial Beach Park in Key West.

Higgs Memorial Beach Park is a family-friendly and easily accessible beach on the outskirts of Key West.

Full facilities are available and beach access is free. You will have to pay for parking, however.


Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

The living room of the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West.

The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is one of the most iconic places in Key West. During the 1930s it was home to the famous writer and was where he wrote 70% of his work.

Today, it is a National Historic Landmark and home to over 60 cats, including many that are famed for having six-toes!

The grounds are beautiful and you can choose to take a guided tour or explore by yourself.


Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters

Key West Lighthouse & Keeper's Quarters

The Key West Lighthouse & Keeper’s Quarters can be seen from the roadside, across from the Ernest Hemingway House.

However, if you’re physically able, it is worth visiting to climb the narrow spiral staircase to the top of the lighthouse and take in the views over the island.

The museum is small but provides an interesting glimpse into the life of the lighthouse keepers.


Harry S. Truman Little White House

The front entrance to the Truman Little White House in Key West.

Built in 1890, the Truman Little White House first served as the naval station’s command headquarters during the Spanish-American War, WWI, and WW2.

It later became the winter home for President Truman and subsequent presidents.

Today, it continues to be a government building, in addition to a museum where you can take a guided tour to learn more.


Tropic Cinema

A photo from the Tropic Cinema, one of the most popular things to do in Key West.

While it may look historic, the Tropic Cinema was actually only opened in 2004.

It was created with an artistic vision, as stated on the website:

“Tropic Cinema was created to bring quality movies to people who longed for something more than Hollywood blockbusters. Our artistically diverse island community deserved to see amazing independent films, international favorites and cinematic classics โ€” film that appealed to folks who value going beyond the usual.”


The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservancy

Close up photo of a beautiful colorful butterfly at the Key West Butterfly Conservancy

The Key West Butterfly Conservancy was surprisingly our absolute favorite thing to do in Key West!

Imagine walking through a magical trail as tranquil music echoes throughout and hundreds of butterflies and colorful birds swirl about… it is truly an enchanting experience.

Definitely include the Butterfly Conservancy on your Key West to Key Largo itinerary!


Southernmost Point

A photo showing the marker for the Southernmost Point in the USA.

While the only “experience” in visiting the Southernmost Point in the US is waiting in a long line to say you’ve been there and take a photo, it continues to be perhaps the most popular activity in Key West.

To add a little experience to the wait, grab a Cuban coffee from the nearby cafe to enjoy while in line.

๐ŸŒ… Pro tip: Visit early morning to avoid waiting in line.



Fort Zachary State Park Beach

Fort Zachary Beach photo taken on a blue sky day

While it may not be the softest sand, Fort Zachary Beach is one of the prettiest beaches in the Florida Keys.

In addition to ample white sand, lush greenery provides plenty of shade making for the perfect picnic destination.

As it is a state park, you will need to pay a small entry fee.


Watersports

First person view from high over Key West while parasailing.

One of the best ways to enjoy the Key West sunshine is by taking to the water.

From adrenaline-filled activities such as jet-skiing and parasailing to more energetic experiences such as kayaking, or a relaxing snorkel or sunset sail… Key West has it all!

If you can’t decide, many tour companies even offer full-day watersport packages so you can try multiple activities.


Eco-Friendly Dolphin Watch & Snorkel Tour

Drone photo of the coral reef off Key West during a dolphin watching tour by Honest Eco.

Just off the coast of Key West lives a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins.

Honest Eco takes visitors on a sustainable dolphin watch tour and snorkel aboard SQUID, the first electric passenger boat in the USA.

But it’s not just the boat and the wildlife that makes this tour special, the staff is truly exceptional. We were swept away by their enthusiasm and passion and learned so much from them.


Sunset Key

A photo from a boat looking at Sunset Key and its palm tree-lined coast

Sunset Key is a beautiful little island just off of Key West.

It is technically a private island, but visitors can enjoy this special place via a few options.

The one we recommend most highly is by making a reservation for Latitudes Restaurant – this was the most unforgettable meal we enjoyed in all of Florida.


7-Mile Bridge

An aerial view of old 7-mile bridge spanning from Key West to Key Largo

This 7-mile overseas highway connects the westerly keys to the rest, allowing driving access from Key West to Key Largo.

In addition to its transportation services, it is also quite striking to behold, especially from the sky.

The old 7-Mile Bridge can only be accessed by foot, bicycle, or trolley, but the modern one is easily drivable.


Pigeon Key

Pigeon Key as seen from the sky looking back toward Marathon in the Florida Keys.

Pigeon Key is a small but stunning little island just outside of Marathon. It is only accessible by walking, cycling, or taking the Pigeon Key Trolley 2-miles down the old bridge which stops just after reaching the key.

In addition to being a beautiful place to explore, Pigeon Key offers perhaps the best beachside snorkeling in the Florida Keys.


Marathon Turtle Hospital

A sea turtle comes up for air at the Marathon Turtle Hospital between Key West and Key Largo.

A tour of the Turtle Hospital in Marathon is a must on your way to Key West. This incredible place rescues and rehabilitates hundreds of endangered turtles every year.

By taking a tour of the hospital, not only will you get up close to lots of turtles from hatchlings to fully grown adults, but you will also be helping to support their amazing work.

The tours last approximately 1.5 hours and run every half hour from 9am-4pm.


Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Underwater photo of a fish in the colorful coral garden of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Of the many underwater places to explore, few are as impressive as Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

What lurks below the crystal clear water is a world of colorful, thriving marine life and vegetation.

The only way to experience the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (without your own boat) is via tour!

We went with Horizon Divers and highly recommend them.


John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

A girl in a swimsuit walks the beach at John Pennekamp Beach State Park in Key Largo.

John Pennekamp is the first underwater park in the US.

This park is best known for the diving and snorkeling opportunities it provides, the most famous being a visit to “The Christ of the Abyss.”

The beaches at Pennekamp are also the best you’ll find in Key Largo.

The only way to see the Christ of the Abyss is via a snorkel tour. You can also take a glass-bottom boat tour to witness the beauty of the underwater world without getting wet!


Best Restaurants Between Key West and Key Largo

Latitudes Restaurant – Sunset Key

Sunset photo of Latitudes Restaurant on Sunset Key.

Latitudes promises to be one of the most unique, memorable dinners of your life. That is not hyperbole, it is truly that special.

This Caribbean-inspired restaurant is located on a small, private island known appropriately as Sunset Key. To reach it, you will hop onto a ferry from Key West and take a short ride to a pristine, white sand beach.

Tiki torches and unbeatable sunset views surround beachside seating. Even on a busy night, the tables are arranged so that you forget anyone else is there.

Latitudes is the perfect place for a special occasion and/or to celebrate your final night in Key West. Every detail has been dialed in from the elegant service to the innovative menu; this is one you will not forget!


First Flight Island Restaurant & Brewery – Downtown Key West

A photo of the entrance and garden of First Flight Brewery in Key West.

Downtown Key West is a colorful, vibrant place that really comes alive at night.

For your first night in the area, we recommend a more casual option that lets you see and feel what Key West is all about.

First Flight Brewery is the perfect choice. Leave the collared shirts and heels behind and come as you are for hand-crafted beer and exceptional comfort food in a garden-like setting.

With so many upscale and more elegant meals on the itinerary, we truly appreciated the experience at First Flight. Live music could be enjoyed from the bar adjacent, but provided ample distance for us to chat and enjoy each others’ company.


Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen – Outside Key West

A couple toasting over drinks at Matts Stock Island Kitchen restaurant, one of the best places to eat on a Florida Keys itinerary.

Matt’s Kitchen was one of our sneaky favorite meals in all of our time in the Keys. We visited on our last night, exhausted from so much sun and food and running around, and could not have been more impressed with everything.

Matt’s is not a fancy place, it is just a great one. It is located on a small harbor in a very quiet region of Stock Island just a short drive from Key West.

Sit by the fireplace and begin your evening with one of their incredible cocktails as the sun goes down. I recommend the Key Lime Pie martini, complete with crust-lined rim and absolutely perfectly flavored.

Pair it with some appetizers ranging from locally-sourced and expertly-prepared scallops to their signature duck wings. Both exceeded even our high expectations.

We ordered everything from appertizers to desserts and could barely move by the end, but enjoyed every single bite.


Isla Bella Resort Beach Bar in Marathon

A young couple looks at the lunch menu at Isla Bella in Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

Located on Marathon, on the way to Key Largo from Key West, the beach bar at Isla Bella provides a great option for a lunch stop.

Head to the beach and recharge with a signature island cocktail and a light nosh. The menu is somewhat limited, but will have some good options to tide you over until your dinner in Key West.


Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen

The entrance sign for Mrs Macs Kitchen, the most popular lunch stop in Key Largo

Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen is the most popular lunch spot in Key Largo and an absolute local favorite.

This quaint restaurant has been serving the Florida Keys delicious food longer than nearly any other establishment, opening in 1947 as one of the few places to eat in all of the Keys.

Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen is a nearly-perennial winner of local People’s Choice Awards and is a must-visit while staying in Key Largo.


Calusa at Baker’s Cay Resort in Key Largo

A woman reading the menu at Calusa restaurant with a vibrant sunset behind

We recommend you end your day by enjoying delicious local cuisine with an unbeatable ocean view at Calusa restaurant at Baker’s Cay Resort.

Calusa serves all the Southern Florida favorites, primarily locally-caught seafood with a Caribbean influence, but they also prepared one of the finest filet mignons we have ever tasted.

Beyond the food, views, and service, what we loved about Calusa was that it felt elegant and upscale without feeling formal or pretentious.

That and the Jerk Prawns… you have to try the jerk prawns!


Key Largo Conch House

A close up image of syrup being poured onto Key Lime pancakes at Key Largo Conch House - a must on a 5 day Florida Keys itinerary

The Key Largo Conch House is another local favorite and an excellent place to fuel up for the day.

This historic house is one of the oldest in the Keys and has been serving large portions of local fare for over half a century.

Prices are reasonable, portions are ample, and flavor is true.


Water Table Dinner at Sol by the Sea in Key Largo

Night photo of a water table dinner at Sol by the Sea restaurant in Key Largo

The “water table dinner” at Sol by the Sea is the perfect way to spend your final night in Key Largo and promises to be one of the most unforgettable meals of your life!

Sol by the Sea restaurant actually arranges a table and service IN the water. Imagine dining while fish swim about and the sun sets magically over the very water you are eating in.

“But what about the food?” you may be asking. Rest assured, they have that covered. Sol by the Sea serves some of the best food you will have anywhere in Florida, specializing in local favorites such as seafood, key lime pie and cocktails, and catch of the day.

Our sunset dinner in the water was one of the most unique dining experiences we have ever experienced. This is definitely one you will not want to miss!


Where to Stay in Key West and Key Largo

Key West: Parrot Key Hotel & Villas

A woman on the balcony of the Parrot Key Hotel in Key West

The most important decision you will make when planning your Florida Keys itinerary is deciding where you are going to call home.

We stayed at Parrot Key Hotel and genuinely feel it is one of the best options in Key West for accommodation. Our “room” was more like a house, and the views were just unbelievable.

Among the endless list of features and amenities you can expect, the most notable is their shuttle services to downtown Key West and Smathers Beach (the best beach in the region). This means you can just walk to the front desk and not have to worry about parking and driving in the busy streets of downtown.

Parrot Key also has FOUR pools for their guests, one with a full bar and a small restaurant.


Key Largo: Kona Kai Resort

Drone photo of Kona Kai resort in Key Largo

Kona Kai Resort is the best place to stay in the Florida Keys and offers an experience unto itself.

This incredible resort is an all-in-one staycation destination with paddle boarding, dolphin watching, kayaking, and more right from the dock!

Our stay at Kona Kai was one of the most memorable of our extended travel lives. We cannot recommend this place highly enough!


Key West to Key Largo Itinerary

Sunset in Key Largo on a trip from Key West

The following provides a breakdown on how and where to best allocate your time on a Key West to Key Largo itinerary.

It has been designed as a 5-day itinerary as this is the most common trip length. However, it can easily be compressed or expanded to fit your exact vacation length.

  • Day 1 & 2: Key West & Nearby
    • ๐ŸŒด Visit: Butterfly Sanctuary, Hemingway House, Smathers Beach, Downtown Key West, Fort Zachary Beach, Dry Tortugas NP
    • ๐Ÿด Eat: Latitudes, Matt’s Stock Island Kitchen, First Flight Brewery
    • ๐Ÿ›Œ Stay: Parrot Key in Key West (3 nights)
    • ๐Ÿ– Do: Parasailing, Dolphin Watching, Snorkel/Dive
  • Day 3: Islamorada & Marathon
    • ๐ŸŒด Visit: Turtle Hospital, Pigeon Key, Islamorada/Marathon
    • ๐Ÿด Eat: Isla Bella
    • ๐Ÿ›Œ Stay: Kona Kai Resort (Key Largo)
  • Day 4 & 5: Key Largo
    • ๐ŸŒด Visit: Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, John Pennekamp
    • ๐Ÿด Eat: Conch House, Sol by the Sea, Mrs Mac’s, Calusa
    • ๐Ÿ›Œ Stay: Kona Kai Resort
    • ๐Ÿ– Do: Snorkel/Dive, Paddleboard, Kayak

Packing for a Key West to Key Largo Road Trip

A snorkeler with a GoPro explores the incredible coral reef of the Florida Keys on a 5 day itinerary.

There are a few essentials that you will want to consider taking with you to the Florida Keys.

For a complete guide on what to pack, including a printable list, check out our ULTIMATE FLORIDA PACKING GUIDE.

Essentials

  • Reef-safe sunscreen: Traditional sunscreen is full of chemicals that are hugely damaging to coral reefs. Furthermore, it is hard to find reef-safe sunscreen in stores in Florida, despite being so close to marine sanctuaries. We use Stream 2 Sea sunscreen as it’s non-harmful and most of their bottles are made from sugarcane resin rather than plastic.
  • Insect repellent: As is often the case with tropical paradises, the Florida Keys has a fair few biting insects, namely mosquitoes and sandflies (or no-see-ums as they’re known locally). Packing some insect repellent is essential, particularly if, like me, you’re a bug magnet. Avon So Soft is a firm favorite with locals and is DEET-free.
  • Beach travel towel: Hotels will provide towels for use within their grounds but you will want to take a towel with you for the beach. We recommend bringing a travel towel specifically as they are small, dry quickly, and do not collect sand!
  • Snorkel gear: Unless you’re only planning on taking snorkel tours, it is cheaper and easier to bring your own snorkel and mask and fins than renting them each day. You can also buy these items as a snorkel set which works out cheaper still.

Photography Gear for Photographing the Florida Keys

A girl taking a photo on a boat at sunset.
  • Camera: The Florida Keys are truly spectacular and you’ll want to capture those moments to cherish. We use the Sony a7riii love it. However, beginners may wish to consider an entry level DSLR.
  • Waterproof camera: With incredible snorkeling and watersports to enjoy you may find yourself taking more photos from the water than on the land! We recommend either the GoPro or Olympus TG6, both of which we use.
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths: You will want to bring plenty of dry microfiber cloths to clean your lens between shots.
  • Filters: We strongly recommend learning how to use a Circular Polarizing (CPL) filter. These are incredible for enhancing natural colors by cutting glare the same way that polarized sunglasses do. The best CPL we have found is the Quartzline from Polar Pro.
  • Camera Rain Cover: You may want to consider a rain cover for your camera to protect it from both rain and saltwater spray. Both can damage your camera, but salt water is especially harmful

Key West to Key Largo FAQs

Click the drop-down arrows below to reveal answers to the most frequently asked questions for travelers going from Key West to Key Largo on a road trip.

Is there a road from Key West to Key Largo?

Highway 1 is an oversea road that spans all the way from Key West to Key Largo. The total drive distance is 98 miles and takes about 2 hours without stops.

Highway 1 connecting Miami to Key West as seen from the sky.
What is the drive time and distance from Key West to Key Largo?

The drive from Key West to Key Largo is 98 miles along Hwy 1 and takes two hours without stops.

What is there to see on a drive from Key West to Key Largo?
  1. Historic Key West Downtown
  2. Sunset Pier
  3. Mallory Square Sunset Celebration
  4. Smatherโ€™s Beach
  5. Higgs Memorial Beach Park
  6. Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
  7. Key West Lighthouse & Keeperโ€™s Quarters
  8. Harry S. Truman Little White House
  9. Tropic Cinema
  10. The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservancy
  11. Southernmost Point
  12. Fort Zachary State Park Beach
  13. Watersports
  14. Eco-Friendly Dolphin Watch & Snorkel Tour
  15. Sunset Key
  16. 7-Mile Bridge
  17. Pigeon Key
  18. Marathon Turtle Hospital
  19. Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
  20. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
    Bonus
  21. Dry Tortugas National Park (outside of Key West by tour only)
What road connects Key West to Key Largo?

Highway 1 is an overseas highway that connects Key West to Key Largo, servicing all of the Florida Keys.

Highway 1 as seen from above which connects Key West to Key Largo.

Final Thoughts on the Perfect Key West to Key Largo Itinerary

A photo from the plane window leaving Key West after a 5-day road trip from Key West to Key Largo and back.
Flying out of Key West after an incredible road trip to Key Largo and back.

We truly hope you have found this Key West to Key Largo itinerary guide useful for planning your visit.

Now we’d love to hear from you!

If there are any questions we have not answered, revisions we need to make, or other suggestions for improvement, please let us know in the comments below.

Likewise, if you have found it useful and want to leave some kind words, those are always appreciated.

Now grab some sunscreen and go prepare for the trip of a lifetime!

Enjoyed this Key West to Key Largo Itinerary? Pin it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Leave a Comment