Bike & Hike / Florida Keys

Biking to Key West: Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is best near its end

Rainbow viewed along Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail near Key West.

Rainbow viewed along Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail near Key West. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

For bicyclists, one of the best sections of the ride to Key West comes at the very end.

I’ve ridden several sections of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail along US 1 through the Keys. This last stretch – Mile Marker (MM) 15 to MM 5 – stands out as one of the most scenic and safest sections.

Here’s why:

  • You never have to contend with traffic. This whole section, including the bridges, is a trail separate from the busy Overseas Highway.
  • There are a half dozen bridges, which offer the best views and scenery the Keys have.
  • Long stretches of the trail have water views on one side or the other, and this is a less urban region within the Keys.
  • In winter, there’s shade along many sections.
  • There’s an appealing supplemental section out to Geiger Key.
  • There’s a good place to park at the beginning (Baby’s Coffee) and good destinations to serve as turn-around spots (Key West Botanical Garden and/or Hogfish Bar and Grill, both on Stock Island.)

If you’re considering this ride, also see my overview on biking the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, including other recommended sections.

 

Baby's Coffee at MM 15 is a good place to start your ride on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.

Baby’s Coffee at MM 15 is a good place to start your ride on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. (Photo: David Blasco)

 

It’s a pleasure to start this ride at Baby’s Coffee, MM15 on the Overseas Highway. The coffee here is famously good, and Baby’s works to serve bicyclists by offering an air pump and locks. They welcome bicyclists parking here, but not overnight. While unloading our bikes, we met a group of friendly Indiana residents completing their four-day ride down the Keys and more bicyclists parked as we were leaving.

Along the way, the trail has periodic benches and a kiosk and the entire way is wide and smooth.

The only negative to this trail is the steady roar of traffic on the nearby Overseas Highway. You get used to it, but when you get a rare gap in the traffic, the sudden silence reminds you how great it would be to not hear engines.

 

Bicycing one of the scenic bridges on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail from MM 15 to MM 5.

Bicycing one of the scenic bridges on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail from MM 15 to MM 5. (Photo: David Blasco)

If you want to ride a quieter section, consider adding on the 5 or 6 mile round-trip out to Geiger Key Marina and Boca Chica beach on Big Coppitt Key. If you’re heading south, take a left on Boca Chica Road at the Circle K at MM 10.

Geiger Key Marina is a popular restaurant, tiki bar and RV resort.  If you continue past the marina on Boca Chica Road, the road ends because of past hurricane damage and a walkable path continues along the water past the runway of the Key West Naval Air Station. Be warned: This whole desolated section is a clothing-optional beach.

This side-trip is about half way to Stock Island, which makes a good turn-around spot for a 20- or 25-mile ride. (If you choose, you can continue to follow the trail the five additional miles into the heart of Key West.)

On Stock Island, we liked our hour-long visit to the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden. It will delight plant-lovers with its unusual trees, jungly paths and turtles that gather when you play the chimes.

One of our favorite Key West restaurants is actually on Stock Island, and makes a great stop too: Hogfish Bar and Grill.

Our ride was slightly marred by an all-too-typical experience on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail – two flat tires. Be sure to bring spare inner tubes (alas, we left ours in the trunk and had to use a patch kit.) The Indiana riders we met say they patched four tires on the previous day. We’ve been advised that Kevlar-lined tires are a good idea.

View over the handlebars on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.

View over the handlebars on the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. (Photo: David Blasco)

Here are more resources for biking in the Florida Keys:

Special things to discover in Key West

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2 Comments

  1. When you need to buy those spare tubes, the finest bike shop in the Keys is on Stock Island. WeCycle. I may be biased, a nephew is co-owner.

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