Overseas Highway, mile by mile: Plan your Florida Keys itinerary
The Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys is the ultimate road trip: Spectacular views and things to do, places to go and places to hide, hidden harbors and funky tiki bars.
There are hundreds of places to pull over to fish or kayak or enjoy a cocktail at sunset. There are dozens of colorful coral reefs to snorkel or dive.
Fresh seafood is a Florida Keys staple, offered at roadside fish shacks and upscale eateries.
For many, the destination is Key West, at the end of the road, but you’ll find the true character of the Florida Keys before you get to the end of the road.
Our mile-marker guide will help you discover new things to see and do in the Florida Keys. It’s a great tool for planning your Florida Keys driving itinerary.
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Card Sound Road
127.5 — Florida City – Junction with Fla. Turnpike and U.S. 1.
126.5 — Card Sound Road (CR-905) goes east to the Card Sound Bridge and northern Key Largo. If you’re not in a hurry, take the toll road ($1 toll). Card Sound Road traverses a wild area that once had a small community of Card Sound. All that’s left now is Alabama Jack’s, a funky outdoor restaurant and tiki bar known for its conch fritters and the line of motorcycles it attracts. (Don’t be afraid; it’s a family oriented place and great fun.)
If you take Card Sound Road, you’ll pass a little-known park, Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, before coming to Key Largo itself. Saved from becoming another condo, this park preserves one of the largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock in the United States. There are picnic tables and two short hikes — a two-mile nature trail and a one-mile loop. If you fill out a back-country permit form at Pennekamp State Park, you can hike an additional four miles of trails.
The Upper Keys on U.S. 1
112.5 — Monroe County Line
110.8 — KAYAK — Little Black Water Sound Boat Ramp, bayside.
108.5 — Gilbert’s. Near the end of the “18-Mile Stretch,” just before you cross the new Jewfish Creek Bridge into Key Largo, you’ll see an access ramp on your right to Gilbert’s Resort and Marina, an Old Florida gateway to the Keys. The big attraction here is the tiki bar, which really pops on weekends.
108 — Jewfish Creek. Exit/enter Key Largo. Southern end of the “18-Mile Stretch.”
107.5 — Lake Surprise.
106.5 — Buzzard’s Roost, Oceanside. Outdoors and indoor dining on the water in the Garden Cove Marina.
106.0 — Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, gulfside. Easy-to-reach rest rooms, brochures, maps and discount coupons.
105.6— Railroad depot and Key Largo town center from 1910 to 1940. The depot was in the highway median. The community was bayside.
105.3 — Winn Dixie Supermarket.
104.5 — KAYAK— Florida Bay Outfitters. Small fee to launch. The friendly folks here will give you advice on kayak routes and/or rent you kayaks or paddleboards.
104.1 — Caribbean Club, Bayside. The exterior was used in the 1948 movie Key Largo, now a popular dive bar with Key Largo memorabilia. More: Tracking Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo.
104 — Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill, Bayside. Sports bar, tiki bar, restaurant.
103.9 — Sundowners.
There are many dive shops and snorkeling tours offered throughout the Keys, especially in Key Largo — So many, in fact, that we have not attempted to list them all.
103.5 — The 1920s Key Largo Rock Castle, End of Oceana Drive, Oceanside.
103.4 — RV King’s Kamp RV Park, Oceanside. Private campground with many waterfront sites. Packed in winter, but OK the rest of the year. Shaded tent sites along north fence.
103.4 — Marvin Adams Waterway Bridge (The Cut), a canal that connects Atlantic to Florida Bay
102.8 — KAYAK & RV — John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park entrance, oceanside: A great place for snorkeling and kayaking.
102.4 — The Fish House (and Fish House Encore) Restaurant. Quite popular pair of restaurants that serve a wide variety of fresh Keys seafood. Some dishes can get a little pricey but not shocking.
102 — Need a free place to stop for picnic? Behind the Key Largo government center (bayside) there’s a waterfront park with covered picnic tables. Moored boats come and go via dinghy or kayak.
101.7 — Hobo’s. Long one of Bob’s favorites stops. Good food at the right price.
101.4 — Publix Supermarket, Tradewinds Plaza, Key Largo
101.2 — Hibiscus Park, Oceanside. The was the center of the 1880s community of Newport.
100.5 — Key Largo Chocolates. Key Lime Pie on a stick!
100.0 — Divers Direct. Massive store catering to scuba divers, snorkelers and other water sports.
** Hotels.com: Find a room in Key Largo **
99. 7 — The African Queen, the 100-year-old steamboat from the 1951 Humphrey Bogart-Katherine Hepburn film, is moored next to the Holiday Inn Oceanside. You can take a 90-minute cruise or a two-hour dinner trip.
99.6 — Turn on Laguna Drive to Skippers Dockside, one of our favorite tiki bars and restaurants at 528 Caribbean Drive. Best tiki bar guide. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the African Queen steam by from the deck.
99.5 — Bayside Grille and Sunset Bar, bayside. Nice little hideaway bar (downstairs) and restaurant off the highway behind Cafe Largo overlooking Florida Bay.
99.5 — Pilot House Marina and Restaurant, Oceanside, 13 Seagate Blvd, Key Largo. Unique glass bottom bar over water best seen at night.
99.4 — Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. Roadside diner popular with travelers.
98.0 — Landings of Largo, Bayside; Moose Lodge, Oceanside; Everglades Park Ranger Station, Bayside. 1st Baptist Church, Oceanside; Shell World (center road); Rock Harbor Club, Bayside.
95 to 100 — The early community of Rock Harbor. A small railroad depot was also here. The name of the post office was Rock Harbor until the 1948 Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall film Key Largo inspired residents to cash in on that success. In 1952, the post office was renamed Key Largo.
95.8 — Harriette’s Diner. Popular eatery for locals. Home cookin’.
95.2 — Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary building.
94.5 — Snapper’s Restaurant. 139 Seaside Avenue. Waterfront restaurant with dockage.
93.6 — Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, gulfside. Wander along a boardwalk through a mangrove forest at this volunteer-run wildlife-rehab facility with an informal, backyard feel. The center is free, though you may want to stuff some dollars into the donation box. It’s open from sunrise to sunset. You’re free to wander without anyone hassling you. It’s a great place to bring kids; a stop will only take 15 or 20 minutes, unless you decide to linger. Read more.
92.6 — Burton Drive, Harry Harris Park oceanside. Small park with manmade beach, picnic tables, a picnic shelter and a playground. Great stop for a picnic or swim. $5 admission for over 16 on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. Incidentally, the early community of Planter was here.
92.1 — Winn Dixie Supermarket, Tavernier Town Shopping Center.
92.0 — KAYAK — Bottle Key Launch. Public boat launch, bayside. Turn right onto Jo-Jean Way.
91.9 — Old Tavernier Post office; Old Settlers Park, oceanside historic Tavernier Hotel, oceanside. This was the center of the early community of Tavernier.
91.6 — Mariner’s Hospital. Bayside.
90.1 — Plantation Key Colony community entrance, Bayside. Large Indian mound in the center of the subdivision.
88.0 — Marker 88 Restaurant, bayside. Venerable eatery whose fans include former President George H.W. Bush (No. 41), who dined here frequently during his fishing trips to Islamorada.
88.0 — M.E.A.T. Eatery and Taproom, oceanside. Burger raves, but what’s all this hullaballoo about beer milkshakes?
87.1 — Islamorada Chamber of Commerce Red Caboose
87.0 — KAYAK Founders Park. Public park has a beach, marina, boat ramps, baseball fields, skate park and kayak rentals.
86.7 – Rain Barrel Artisan’s Village. It’s fun to browse the arts and crafts here. And everybody has to get their picture taken with the giant lobster out front. This anatomically correct Florida lobster is 30 feet high and 40 feet long. It was created by Marathon artist Richard Blaze about three decades ago and it has a name – Betsy.
85.5 — Snake Creek Bridge; Coast Guard Station, gulfside. Enter Windley Key.
85.3 — Hog Heaven Bar & Grill. A popular sports bar and seafood eatery before Holiday Isle. You can’t miss the sign. The restaurant is tucked in behind a building on the oceanside. A frequent stop for bikers and tourists.
85.3 — Windley Key State Fossil Reef Geological Site, gulfside. Windley Key is worth a stop. It’s an old quarry where fossilized coral was acquired for use in building Flagler’s Overseas Railroad in the early 1900s. Visitors can walk along 8-foot-high quarry walls to see cross sections of the ancient coral and learn about the quarry and its operation. There are also some short self-guided trails through the native vegetation. The park has picnic tables.
84.3 — This was the center of the community of Quarry that thrived during the construction of the railroad.
84.2 — Theater of the Sea, established in 1946, it’s the second oldest marine mammal attraction in the world. Its salt water lagoon was originally a quarry for Flagler’s Overseas Railway. Offers live dolphin shows, exhibits, a private swimming area and various ways to interact with dolphin, sea lions or rays for additional charges.
84.2 — Postcard Inn. Once home of the iconic Holiday Isle Tiki Bar, this complex is a shell of what it once was. The marina is still popular for fishing charters, although some of the boats have moved over to the Whale Harbor Marina.
84 — Whale Harbor Bridge spans a navigable waterway connecting the ocean to Florida Bay. Oceanside, a long sandbar emerges at low tide, a magnet for recreational boaters and swimmers. (Stay off the protected ocean seagrasses southwest of the inlet or face stiff fines.)
84 — KAYAK and KITEboarding. The bridge causeway is a popular launch for kayaks, paddleboards and kite-boarders.
83.5 —Wahoo’s Tiki Bar. Quaint bar and restaurant with second-floor views of Whale Harbor. They’ll prepare your own catch of the day after you bring it ashore from the nearby charter fleet.
83.5 — Whale Harbor Marina. Fishing charter fleet; jet ski and paddleboard rentals
83.5 — Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet. This popular restaurant has been rebuilt and is once again serving its “World Famous” Seafood Buffet, and I’m glad to see it back. The wide selection of seafood dishes will make your head swim, and the food was very good. Been there twice already, and it had only been open a month. All you can eat for $34.95, adults, and $17.95 for children. Click here for the menu.
83.5 — The Sandbar at Whale Harbor. On the rooftop of the Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet is this delightful open-air lounge overlooking Whale Harbor and the offshore sandbar where Keys boaters gather on weekends to frolic in the sand and surf. The view is spectacular.
83.0 — Ziggie and Mad Dog’s. (Warning: Audio link)
** Hotels.com: Find a room in Islamorada **
82.1 — Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost (Warning: Audio link)
82.1 — Florida Keys History & Discovery Center, a two-story museum that tells the stories of people and events in the Keys. Open Thursday to Sunday. Good for people who want to learn more about the fascinating history of the Keys.
82 — Lorelei Restaurant and Cabana Bar. Lorelei’s mermaid sign on US 1 says: “Relax, you’re finally in the Keys.” A great place to pause for refreshments, especially at sunset. Bayside.
81.6 — Morada Bay Beach Cafe. Bayside waterfront cafe and bar.
81.5 — Oceanside: Islamorada Library and park; Hurricane Memorial. The Hurricane Monument tells the story of the devastating 1935 hurricane. In 1937, ashes of many of those who died were buried here when the monument was dedicated. Be sure to see the beautiful tile-mosaic map of the islands hit by the storm in front of the monument.
This is also a good place to park and explore this historic community, which is developing into the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District. Galleries, restaurants and monthly art walks with live music. At the end of Beach Road is picturesque The Moorings Village, where the Netflix filmed scenes for “Bloodlines.” Beachside near the monument, on “the Old Road,” is Cheeca Lodge.
Here’s a Florida Rambler guide to things to do in Islamorada.
81.6 — Morada Way Arts District, 200 Morada Way, home of Florida Keys Brewing Company opened in 2015. Taproom decor is colorful Keysy with mosaics made from thousands of bottle caps from breweries worldwide. It’s the only craft brewery in the Upper Keys. A lively place popular with locals.
81.5 — Bass Pro Shops’ Worldwide Sportsman is the temple of saltwater fishing, outdoors gear, boating accessories and clothing. Fishing charters in the marina. On display is an Old Keys wooden fishing vessel, the kind Ernest Hemingway once used.
81.5 Islamorada Fish Company, a popular seafood market, restaurant and sunset tiki bar, now part of Worldwide Sportsman. The market/restaurant has its own fishing fleet, so you can be sure to get fresh fish daily.
81.3 — Green Turtle Inn. Oceanside. Venerable eatery with a history back to the 1940s. Popular port of call for “barstool sailors.”
Key Lime Pie Almost every restaurant in the Keys serves this signature desert, and all claim to have the best. When camping, we choose Key Lime Pie Company pies, which are available in the frozen food section at many small markets from Key Largo to Key West for about $15.
80.0 — Roadside park, Bayside
79.8 — Lazy Days Restaurant, oceanside, has excellent fresh fish and a spectacular ocean view (best appreciated during the day. )
79.8 — Bud and Mary’s Marina, oceanside at the foot of Tea Table Relief Bridge. Drift fishing party boats, deep-sea and backcountry charters available.
79.1 — Tea Table Channel Bridge
78.0 — KAYAK. Indian Key Bridge. Lignumvitae Key Botanical Site, bayside in distance. Lignumvitae Key Boat Ramp gulfside; Indian Key Archaeological Site, San Pedro Underwater State Park and Alligator Lighthouse, oceanside at a distance.
Indian Key is Bonnie’s favorite kayak or canoe destination: Where else do you see such memorable scenery while exploring a ghost town on a tropical island? Here’s information on a paddle trip to Indian Key.
Another excellent paddling destination: Lignumvitae Key Botanical Site, on the gulf side of the road.
77.9 — KAYAK — Lignumvitae Bridge
77.5 — KAYAK Robbie’s Marina, bayside. No trip to the Keys is complete without a stop to feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina. Rent kayaks or arrange tours to Lignumvitae Key or Indian Key at the marina. Fishing charters also available.
77.5 — The Hungry Tarpon is a funky wooden fish shack built in 1947, a good place for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with outdoor seating.
75.0 —KAYAK Sea Oats Beach.
73.5 — Habanos Restaurant at Caloosa Cove. Cuban-influenced menu, casual dining with ocean views and moderate prices. Local Cuban-Americans eat here with good reason. Try it.
73.5 — Caloosa Cove Resort and Marina. TrueValue Hardware store in the main building. Waterfront tiki bar Safari Lounge at the resort, behind Habanos, featuring lots of taxidermied animals. (Thus the nickname: The dead animal bar.)
73.6 — Boy Scouts Sea Base, bayside — Location of Camp 3 for WW-I veterans. Many perished in the 1935 hurricane.
KAYAK and kiteboards 73.4 — Anne’s Beach, Oceanside. Anne’s beach is a lovely, sandy, free beach, so shallow you can wade great distances. The shore is lined with mangroves, through which a boardwalk, with periodic picnic tables, weaves. Anne’s Beach has limited parking and is very popular. If you can get a space, it makes a nice 20 minute stop in your road trip to wade in the shallow water.
Keep an eye on the sea life underfoot. This is the only place I’ve ever had to be careful to avoid stepping on an octopus — a small, nonthreatening and adorable creature.
On windy weekends, kite-boards are flying from this beach.
73.0 — Channel 2 Bridge. Off shore on the bayside can be seen the remains of eight concrete bridge pilings built by the WWI veterans. Bayside, there are several parking spaces and this is a good place to park and enjoy the view by walking on the old bridge, now a fishing bridge and biking/walking trail. If there’s no parking at Anne’s Beach, you can park here and cross and walk back to it.
The Middle Keys
71.8 — Craig Key
71.0 — Channel 5 Bridge. Considered by locals to provide the best bridge fishing in the Keys.
70.0 — Fiesta Key RV Park and Marina. Decent fallback to nearby Long Key SP, although more expensive. Boat launch and dockage, and nice waterfront cabins. RV, tent and swimming pool. General store.
67.5 — KAYAK Long Key State Park, Oceanside. It’s hard to find a more scenic camping spot anywhere in the Keys. All 51 campsites are on the beach, and they are hard to get, so check often for cancellations or book 11 months in advance. The day-use area is popular for picnics, hiking, kayaking and fishing. Note: Campground is scheduled to close Oct. 15, 2017, for about a year for a beach restoration project.
66.5 — KAYAK Long Key bayside. Decent pullover on the bay side, outside of Long Key State Park. Drop your kayak over the low wall. Leeward side of the island.
65.8 — Henry Flagler’s Long Key Fishing Camp occupied the southwest end of Long Key. In the early part of the 20th Century,this famed recreation outpost was visited by Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and adventurer Zane Grey, who spent 14 winter seasons here fishing and writing.
64.0 — Long Key Bridge, the second-longest bridge of Flagler’s railroad. The old bridge parallels the new one and has been resurfaced so that for three miles, it provides a scenic, traffic-free bike trail, part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Bicycle Trail. Also popular with fishermen and walkers and joggers.
62.2 — Walker’s Island (Little Conch Key)
61.2 — Tom’s Harbor Cut Bridge
61.1 — Duck Key and Hawk’s Cay Resort, luxury resort is oceanside.
60.6 — KAYAK Tom’s Harbor Channel Bridge. Oceanside launch and pullover. Good fishing!
59.9 — Enter/leave City of Marathon
59.3 — Keys Cable and Otherside Water Park — Cable wakeboarding.
59 — Dolphin Research Center, Bayside on Grassy Key. The focus of this not-for-profit facility is on education. Rather than choreographed shows, trainers hold informative sessions as visitors stand on the dock around open-water tanks. Many ways to interact with dolphins are available for an extra fee.
58.0 — Grassy Key Outpost Market and Grill — Shrimp and grits. Need we say more?
56 — KAYAK Curry Hammock State Park offers swimming, a playground, picnic tables and some of the most sought-after camp sites in the Keys. Day visitors can launch kayaks from the beach and paddle coves, tunnels and trails. There’s a 1.5-mile nature trail for hiking, and you can bike along the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. Campground is booked solid for the next 11 months, and the Oct. 15, 2017 closing of the campground at nearby Long Key State Park for beach renourishment will make it more difficult to snap up cancellations.
54 — Entrance to Village of Key Colony Beach, Oceanside. Take the Sadowski Causeway/6th Street to the end and turn right on W. Ocean Drive for the Key Colony Inn, one of the best restaurants in the Keys. Prices are moderate and the seafood selection outstanding. Truly, a hidden gem off the beaten path. The same causeway passes another good waterfront seafood bar and restaurant, Sparky’s Landing, which has indoor and outdoor seating and live music.
Marathon Note: Addresses in the city of Marathon track numbered cross streets, not Mile Markers. Where appropriate, we include both.
53.5 — KAYAK Island Boat Ramp. Public boat ramp adjacent to The Island Fish Company Tiki Bar & Restaurant, which is also a great place to eat and drink. It has the longest covered tiki bar in the Keys and is ideal setting for watching sunsets.
53.1 — Vaca Cut Bridge, entering the business district of Marathon next 8 miles.
53.0 — Marathon Lady Fishing (Head boat with two six-hour trips daily, $45 per trip), 11711 Overseas Highway, Marathon. Oceanside.
53.0 — Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters. 11710 Overseas Highway, Marathon. Bayside. Features a coral reef tank, shark tank, tarpon basin and a tide pool touch tank. Adults, $20; Children, $15.
52.0 — Marathon County Airport, bayside
** Hotels.com: Find a room in Marathon **
51.0 — Brutus Seafood Market and Eatery. Highly recommended by locals for its fresher than fresh seafood. When in Marathon, this is my go-to spot for Key West shrimp. 6950 Overseas Highway, Marathon
50.5 — Crane Point Museum and Nature Center, gulfside. Admission: Adults $12.50, children 5-13 $8.50 and 4 and under free.
50.0 — Winn-Dixie and K-Mart, 5585 Overseas Highway @ Sombrero Beach Blvd., Marathon
50.0 — KAYAK Sombrero Beach. There are few “real” public beaches in the Keys, and this is one of them. Turn south at the light (Publix Shopping Center) and follow Sombrero Beach Road to the end. Plenty of parking. Low-key place to enjoy sunset.
50.0 — Publix Supermarket, 5407 Overseas Highway @ Sombrero Beach Blvd.
49.5 — Cracked Conch Cafe, 4999 Overseas Hwy, Marathon
49.0 — The Stuffed Pig, 3520 Overseas Hwy, Marathon. Bob’s favorite breakfast destination in Marathon. Enjoy flaky, battered fish filets with your eggs.
48.5 — The Turtle Hospital. Located in a former motel bayside on the Overseas Highway, the Turtle Hospital supports its program of rescuing and rehabilitating about 100 injured sea turtles a year through the admission price paid by visitors. A 90-minute educational tour is given several times a day. Visitors meet the injured sea turtles up close and get to throw some feed into their tanks.
48.0 — Turn-off to Chiki Tiki Bar and Grille at Burdines Waterfront, one of the best casual restaurants and tiki bars in the Keys. To find it, you turn east on 15th Street in Marathon, wind past an old trailer park and stacks of lobster traps, and arrive in a large working marina in a protected harbor. The Chiki Tiki is upstairs with an excellent view.
47.5 — Porky’s Bayside BBQ and Captain Pip’s Marina & Hideaway, the place to be in the 1950’s when it was known at Bill Thompson’s Villas and Marina. Ernest Hemingway, Jimmy Hoffa, Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher were regulars. Reviews on Yelp! and Trip Advisor are complimentary, with kudos for the atmosphere and tasty barbecue dishes.
47.3 — Sunset Grille and Raw Bar — On Knight’s Key with a spectacular view of the iconic 7-Mile Bridge. Outdoor eatery at the foot of the Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon. A landmark serving “Keys food.” Breakfast and lunch menus are reasonably prices and you can’t beat the sunset view during happy hour.
47.0 — Knight’s Key Campground. Oceanside. There are 192 RV sites, some waterfront with dockage, and prime location at the foot of the Seven Mile Bridge. Many amenities nearby, as well as the “old bridge” and Pigeon Key. For reservations, call (305) 743-4343.
47.0 — Old Seven Mile Bridge/Pigeon Key. Bayside. Pigeon Key visitor’s center is oceanside. Here’s another road-trip must-do: You have to get out and take a stroll or ride your bike on the Old Seven Mile Bridge. (Note: The Old Seven Mile Bridge will be closed for repairs July 6, 2015 through April 2017.)
It’s also worth planning your schedule to include a visit to historic Pigeon Key. The history is fascinating, the scenery terrific and, if you bring gear, it’s a great place to snorkel.
44.8 — Pigeon Key. Bayside.
43.9 — Moser Channel, apogee of Seven-Mile Bridge. Sombrero Light can be seen oceanside
41.7 — End of original steel truss railroad bridge and begin concrete arch bridge
40.0 — West end of the Seven Mile Bridge
The Lower Keys
You should read this article: Paradise Found: Things to Do in the Lower Keys
39.9 — KAYAK Veterans Memorial Park. This small, free oceanside park just south of the Seven Mile Bridge is a great place to stop for a picnic or to use the restroom. Picnic tables are under chickee huts, there’s a beach where you can wade or swim and palm trees lean like they are waiting to be captured in a postcard. It’s also an easy kayak launch. If it’s crowded, there’s also a large parking area and a small boat ramp bayside.
39.5 — Missouri-Little Duck Channel Bridge
39.0 — Ohio-Missouri Channel Bridge
38.7 — Ohio- Bahia Honda Channel Bridge
36.8 — KAYAK Bahia Honda State Park entrance, oceanside. In my view, Bahia Honda is the best of the state parks in the Keys. It offers a great beach and snorkeling, good kayaking and the old camelback bridge is an awesome sight up close. On top of that, there are campsites and several well-equipped, cabins. Campsites and cabins book well in advance, so plan ahead and watch for cancellations.
36.0 — Bahia Honda Bridge (4-lanes); you can view the old railroad camelback bridge on the oceanside.
35.0 — KAYAK Bahia Honda Bridge launch. At the west end (towards Key West), access to both ocean and bay.
34.5 — Girl Scout Camp, oceanside.
34.1 — Camp Sawyer, Boy Scouts, oceanside.
34.0 — West Summerland Key
33.7 — KAYAK Spanish Harbor Bridge Boat Ramp. (East end of bridge, Marathon side.) Paddle to No Name Key and a cluster of other islands off Big Pine.
WARNING! — You are entering Big Pine Key, and the speed limit is strictly enforced. Big Pine is home to the endangered Florida Key Deer, and no mercy is shown for speeders. It’s 45 mph in daylight, 35 mph at night, for 3.5 miles. Drive inland, and the speed limit is 30 mph.
33.8 — KAYAK — Boat ramp alongside highway.
33.0 — Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge and RV Campground — This private 10-acre campground has 94 RV sites with full hookups, some waterfront, and a rustic camp area with 58 sites, tent and RV. Also, motel rooms and a full-service marina, with a boat ramp. Lots of hiking, biking and paddling opportunities nearby. A cool, shady nature trail winds back into the Key Deer Wildlife Refuge from the campground. Reviews on TripAdvisor.com.
32.8 — KAYAK Long Beach. Adjacent to Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge, take Long Beach Road about a half-mile. Turn left onto dirt road to Long Beach. There are three launch points.
31.0 — Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, Old F.E.C. railway marker, oceanside
30.2 — Big Pine Key traffic light is the gateway to the island and the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge.
There’s a lot to see on this very wide island, all of it accessed from this stoplight, so think about a side trip.
For starters, it’s the only place in the world where you’ll find the endangered Key deer. (Here’s how we saw dozen of Key deer on a recent trip.)
One of the most colorful spots for a lunch, dinner or drink is No Name Pub, a short drive on Key Deer Blvd. (then Watson Blvd.) through a residential neighborhood that is teeming with the tiny deer, especially near sunset.
KAYAK On Watson Blvd. is the Old Wooden Bridge Cabins, charming, historic cabins that make a great base for kayaking around No Name Key and viewing Key deer. Kayak rentals available. Low fee to launch your own kayak.
KAYAK No Name Key — Besides Old Wooden Bridge, there are two other launch sites, just across the bridge, or keep going to the end of the road for 1.8 miles for another public launch site.
Big Pine Shopping Center is just north of the traffic light on Key Deer Blvd., but don’t blink. It’s hidden behind dense vegatation. Winn-Dixie Supermarket, novelty shops and restaurants, including one of our favorites, locally popular PizzaWorks. The shopping center is also home to the Key Deer Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
** Hotels.com: Find a room near Big Pine Key **
30.0 — Bucktooth Rooster Restaurant, Bayside. New restaurant on Big Pine that is getting very good reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp!
29.3 — North Pine Channel Bridge
28.1 — Little Torch Key. Parmers Resort is highly rated on TripAdvisor and worth checking out if you want save a little money over accommodations in Key West. The resort is off U.S. 1 on Barry Avenue. (Turn right immediately after crossing the North Pine Channel Bridge.) Well-maintained cabins and motel rooms on the water.
28.1 — Kiki’s Sandbar Bar and Grille, 183 Barry Ave, Little Torch Key, just before Parmer’s Resort. Downstair open-air bar with entertainment. Upstairs dining. Food is average, but the downstairs outdoor bar is outstanding. Overlooks the North Pine Channel with docks for boats.
28.0 — Torch Channel Bridge
27.8 — KAYAK Middle Torch Key Causeway. Go north off U.S. 1 for several miles to Big Torch Key sign. Turn left. Launch from second and third culverts along this road.
27.8 — Bike Trail — A natural area with a bike path that’s 15.5 miles round trip from U.S. 1 on Middle Torch Road.
27.7 — Torch-Ramrod Channel Bridge
27.6 — Ramrod Key, Named for a ship, the Ramrod, wrecked on a reef south of here in the early nineteenth century.
27.3 — Looe Key Resort, Dive Center and Tiki Bar. Tiki bar is popular with locals. Dive boat, paddleboards, kayaks and boat rentals. Ramrod Key.
26.6 — South Pine Channel Bridge, east end of bridge, oceanside
27.5 — Boondocks Grille and Drafthouse. Hot spot with a huge covered tiki bar and restaurant featuring entertainment in season. Performers often add this venue to their Key West bookings.
26.0 — Niles Channel Bridge, middle.
25.1 — The Wharf Bar and Grill. A funky little fish shack on the bay side, just after the bridge, with inside and outside dining on the dock. A lot of local fishermen sell their catch here, and it’s always fresh. Prices are reasonable. The fish market is inside the restaurant.
24.9 — KAYAK. Summerland Key. Take Horace Street (bayside) to Northside Drive (2nd right) and turn left on Niles Road. Go to the end of Niles Road (about 1.5 miles). Launch is on the left where the road ends.
24.0 — Summerland Key Sea Base
23.5 — Kemp Channel Bridge, east end of bridge, oceanside
22.5 — Square Grouper. You’d never know it from the warehouse outside, but this is a classy joint serving gourmet dishes, named after a floating bail of marijuana.
22.3 — Fanci Seafood. Excellent seafood market on Cudjoe Key. Recommended by local fishermen for having fresh catch daily. Best homemade crab cakes I’ve ever tasted, lots of meat, although a little pricey at $5.99 each.(May 2017) The yellowtail filets and Key West pink shrimp were fresh, fresh, fresh and competitively priced. (Not a restaurant.)
22.2 — KAYAK. Spoonbill Sound Hammocks. Launch is on gulf side (Cudjoe Key). Check out the nearby salt ponds for photo ops.
21.0 — KAYAK. Cudjoe Gardens Marina, where you can rent kayaks and/or join guided kayak tours.
21.0 — KAYAK. Follow Blimp Road all the way to the end on the Gulf side (north side of U.S. 1). There is a launch ramp you can use for easy access to backcountry islands, such as Tarpon Belly Key, once home to a shrimp farm. (Blimp Road is named for “Fat Albert,” the Air Force surveillance blimp that was taken down in 2013.)
20.2 — Bow Channel Bridge to Sugarloaf Key.
20.0 — Sugarloaf Key/Key West RV Resort, KOA. Modern, well-maintained RV resort with swimming area, dockage and many amenities.
20.0 — Mangrove Mama’s. Popular roadside eatery on Bayside. Cracked conch and conch chowder, along with healthy serving of Keys atmosphere.
19.5 — Bike Trail. Paved bike path follows Crange Boulevard (Bayside) all the way to the bay.
19.0 — KAYAK. Sugarloaf Sound. Oceanside, near yellow traffic barrier, there’s a short path to the launch site.
18.6 — Upper Sugarloaf Key
18.8 — Park Channel Bridge
17.8 — North Harris Channel Bridge
17.7 — Sugarloaf Lodge and Tiki Bar — Laid back, this circular open-air bar is shaded by a palm-frond umbrella and overlooks a tranquil beach and bay.
17.6 — Harris Gap Channel Bridge
17.5 — Lower Sugarloaf Key
17.0 – KAYAK. Blinking light, Take Sugarloaf Blvd (oceanside) about two miles to stop sign, then another two miles to Sugarloaf Creek bridge. Park on west side of bridge.
There is also a launch ramp at the Sugarloaf Marina (Bayside), where you can rent kayaks and purchase accessories. Nominal fee to launch if you bring your own boats. Guided tours of Sugarloaf waterways offered.
17.0 — Bike Trail — Bike path is on Sugarloaf Road in a residential area. Round trip from Sugarloaf Lodge is 15 miles.
17.0 — Bat Tower. Fascinating relic of the early 20th Century is a testament to early mosquito control, but it didn’t work.
16.0 — KAYAK. Harris Channel Bridge. Good access off U.S. 1 to both bay and oceanside.
15.8 — Lower Sugarloaf Channel Bridge
15.0 — Baby’s Coffee. Funky Keys atmosphere; beans roasted fresh daily; craft beers and wine too. Baby’s is a good place to park and bicycle the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail to Key West and back.
Bayside gate goes to an old U.S. Army transmitter site. Now Radio Marti. Bay Point Park.
14.6 — Saddlebunch #2 Bridge
14.5 — Blue Water Key RV Park.
14.2 — KAYAK. Saddlebunch #3 Bridge. Pullover on oceanside; launch under bridge.
13.1 — Saddlebunch #4 Bridge
12.8 — Saddlebunch #5 Bridge
11.4 — Shark Channel Bridge
11.0 — KAYAK. Shark Key Boat Ramp, oceanside.
10.5 — Seaside Park, Fire house; SR 941 AKA Old Boca Chica Road, Ocean, to Geiger Key.
10.4 — Porpoise Point entrance, gulfside
10.0 — Big Coppitt Key. Take Boca Chica Road south to the Geiger Key Marina, where you’ll find a another popular tiki bar, fishing charters, a smokehouse and tiki bar with waterfront dining and a small RV campground with dockside sites. Daily campsite rates are a bit dear ($100/night), but you are on the “back side” of Key West.
9.7 — Rockland Channel Bridge
9.2 — East Rockland Key
8.5 — Tourist welcome center
8.0 — NAS Boca Chica Overpass; Entrance to Key West Naval Air Station. Oceanside. Turnoff from both directions on US-1. (I’m told they have an RV campground for active military personnel and veterans, but I have no idea how you book the sites. And I’m also told the sites are often full.)
6.1 — KAYAK. Boca Chica Channel bridge. Launch on either end of the bridge. Ample parking.
5.3 — KAYAK. Public Boat Ramp. Oceanside ramp between Boca Chica and Stock Island. Heavily used.
Hidden Key West
5.2 — Stock Island, named for herds of livestock formerly kept here.
5.1 (Inland) — Boyd’s Key West Campground. Turn south onto 3rd Street (Stock Island); go one block and turn east onto Maloney. Boyd’s is a decent, clean campground, and it’s scenic. There are 150 RV sites with full hookups, some oceanfront, and another 53 sites for tents. You can book your reservations online.
5.1 (Inland) — Hogfish Bar and Grill. A great place, if you can find it. On the docks near Boyd’s Campground, at 6810 Front Street, The Hogfish is one of the best open-air restaurants in the Keys. Their specialty — the world-famous “Killer” Hogfish Sandwich, tender white hogfish meat, smothered in onions, swiss cheese and mushrooms piled high on a Cuban hoagie. Yum.
4.8 (Cross Street) — Leo’s Campground. Cute little campground boasts the lowest prices in the Keys ($58 RV, May 2017). We had no trouble booking a site for our RV. Waterfront tent sites ($49). Very good Wi-Fi, bathhouse and laundry. Go south on Cross Street from U.S. 1, one block, turn left.
4.5 — North on College Avenue for the Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, a tranquil spot for plant lovers. You’ll also find the Key West Golf Club, designed by Rees Jones, and Florida Keys Community College.
4.6 — Hurricane Hole Restaurant and Marina, south side of U.S. 1, across from College Ave.
4.1 — Cow Key Channel Bridge
3.9 — Key West traffic light. Four-lane splits at the light. Left to the Key West Airport and Higgs Beach, and right to Old Town and Key West proper.
2.3 — Salt Run Bridge, N. Roosevelt, Key West
1.9 — Publix Supermarket, Searstown Shopping Center, 3316 N Roosevelt Blvd,Key West
1.7 — Publix Supermarket, Key Plaza, Key West. (Yes, these Publix are that close to each other).
1.7 — Palm Ave; U.S.C.G. Group; Naval Air Station, Trumbo Point. There is a campground here for military families, the Sigsbee RV Park, but sites with hookups are hard to get. Still, there’s an overflow area where you can drydock to wait for a site.
1.5 — Winn Dixie Supermarket, 2778 N Roosevelt Blvd.
1.5 — K-Mart, 2928 N Roosevelt Blvd
0.0 — Key West. Mile Marker “0” is the end of the road, but not the end of your adventure. It’s just the beginning.
KAYAK and KITEboard. Smather’s Beach. As you enter Key West, bear left towards Smather’s Beach. Just past MM 1, on your left, is the launch area along a palm-lined shore. My nephew Nick says it’s also popular for kite-boarding.
KAYAK. Simonton Street. At the west end of Simonton, between the Pier House and Hyatt, is a small city beach where you can launch. (Pay to park).
From our travels in Key West, we’ve put together this guide of free things to do in Key West, including a great free walking tour. The tourists flock to Duval Street, but the most enjoyable way to see Key West is on a bicycle. Be sure to stop by the Historic Key West Seaport and visit Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. The Historic Key West Cemetery is full of fascinating stories and scenes.
Throughout your visit, you will see chickens everywhere, roaming the streets as if they owned them. Key West chickens: Noisy, colorful, just like Key West
A Chicago foodie shared with Florida Rambler his favorite spots for authentic Key West flavor — from open air conch-fritter bars to the best happy hour in town. Print it out: Eight Key West restaurants for local flavor.
There are dozens of B&B’s and unique lodgings through the city, including a few of my favorites: The elegant Heron House, Key Lime Inn. Key West Bed and Breakfast, and the historic Eden House. (For a bargain, book one of the four second-floor rooms that share two bathrooms.)
** Hotels.com: Find a room in Key West **
Required stops on the saloon tour — this is, after all, Key West — are Sloppy Joe’s, Captain Tony’s (the original Sloppy Joe’s), the Bull and Whistle, the raucus honky tonk saloon Cowboy Bill’s, and ultra-funky Blue Heaven, a historic Bahamian Village watering hole where Ernest Hemingway officiated boxing matches in the 1930s.
And no visit to Key West is complete without a visit to landmark Mallory Square at sunset.
Just in case you think Key West is at the end of the world, you can keep going westward to get way away to Fort Jefferson and the Dry Tortugas. Plan ahead, and camp there.
Lagerheads Beach Bar on a small and little-known pocket beach at the end of Simonton Street, on the other side of the Pier House from Mallory Square. This cool beach is overlooked by most tourists. Beer, burgers and beach food served.
How did those places get those names? Look it up in this wonderful resource, the Florida Keys Gazettee, which explains the history behind the colorful names of Keys places.
Some of the the kayak launch ramps listed were gleaned from Bill Keogh’s Florida Keys Paddling Guide: From Key Largo to Key West. Bill is the proprietor Big Pine Kayak Adventures at the No Name Key bridge on Big Pine.
Many thanks to Judy Rowley and Paul Koisch of PizzaWorks in Big Pine and Judy’s son, charter captain Kevin Rowley, for taking us on a personal tour on and off the beaten paths of the Lower Keys and Key West.
The original mile-marker guide used as a base to build our guide was created by Jerry Wilkinson for the Historical Preservation Society of the Upper Keys at keyshistory.org.
Last but certainly not least, kudos to our family members who are often saddled with the clipboard, identifying potential listings, and to our friends and many readers who contributed to this report. Keep those tips coming! 🙂