A Florida Keys roadtrip, mile by scenic mile
Updated April 2018
There are hundreds of places to pull over to fish, kayak or enjoy a cocktail at sunset. Visit colorful coral reefs to snorkel or dive. Fresh seafood is a Florida Keys staple at roadside fish shacks or upscale eateries.
For many, the destination is Key West, but you’ll find the true character of the Florida Keys before you get there.
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.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma…
While a majority of the Keys have returned to normal and debris cleared, evidence of this Category 4 hurricane remains. The most visible signs are in the trees and mangroves, where the storm stripped leaves to bare limbs, and the blue roofs on houses still waiting to be repaired. A handful of resorts are still undergoing repairs, and more than 900 RV sites at four campgrounds are no longer in the Keys inventory, which will surely tighten availability. — Bob Rountree, April 2018
Card Sound Road
127.5 — Florida City – Gateway to the Keys at the end of Florida’s Turnpike. U.S. 1 strip is packed with fast-food joints and gas stations.
126.5 — Card Sound Road (CR-905) is an alternative route to northern Key Largo, across the Card Sound Bridge. If you’re not in a hurry, traverse a wild area punctuated by Alabama Jack’s, a funky outdoor restaurant and tiki bar, a biker’s haven known for its conch fritters.
Once in north Key Largo, visit Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park. Saved from development, this park preserves one of the largest tracts of West Indian tropical hardwood hammock in the United States, home to 84 protected species of plants and animals, including wild cotton, mahogany mistletoe and the American crocodile. Take a hike!
The Upper Keys on U.S. 1
112.5 — Monroe County Line
110.8 — KAYAK — Little Blackwater Sound Boat Ramp, bayside.
108 — Jewfish Creek.
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.
104.9 — Cactus Jack’s.
104.5 — Rowell’s Waterfront Park.
104 — Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill, Bayside. Sports bar, tiki bar, restaurant.
103.9 — Senor Frijoles. Mexican restaurant on the Bay Side.
103.9 — Sundowners. Excellent restaurant with outdoor seating and a super view of Blackwater Sound, tucked in behind Senor Frijoles. Moderate prices.
103.5 — The 1920s Key Largo Rock Castle, End of Oceana Drive, Oceanside.
103.5 — 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. Lots of campsites with a gravel base, but hard to book in summer and winter. Read Hacks for booking a campsite in the Florida Keys
103.2 — Num Thai Sushi Bar Restaurant.
102.4 — The Fish House (and Fish House Encore) Restaurant. Popular pair of restaurants serving a variety of fresh Keys seafood. 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 Cafe. Long one of Bob’s favorites stops. Good food at moderate prices.
101.7 — Largo Resort.
101.5 — RV — Key Largo Kampground and Marina, at the end of Sampson Road.
101.5 – – RV – Calusa Campground
101.4 — Publix Supermarket, Tradewinds Plaza.
101.2 — Hibiscus Park, Oceanside. The was the center of the 1880s community of Newport.
100.6 — Tower of Pizza Key Largo.
100.5 — Key Largo Chocolates. Key Lime Pie on a stick! Home-made chocolate treats.
100.0 — Divers Direct. Mega-store for divers, snorkelers and other water sports.
100.0 — Marina Del Mar Resort and Marina.
** 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.
99.7 — Holiday Inn Key Largo.
99.6 — Turn on Laguna Drive to 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 (upstairs) 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. Bay side.
99.0 — Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen II. An extension of the iconic original in the median between northbound and southbound lanes.
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.
97.8 — Ballyhoo’s Historic Seafood Grill. Dine in a historic conch house built in the 1930s.
97.5 — RV — Blue Fin Rock Harbor Marina & RV Park.
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 when Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall film Key Largo inspired residents to cash in on that success. In 1952, the post office was renamed Key Largo.
97.0 — Playa Largo Resort.
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. Popular waterfront restaurant with dockage.
93.6 — Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, Bayside. 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 — Harry Harris Park oceanside. Small park with man-made 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.
91.5 — Mariner’s Hospital. Bayside.
90.7 — Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures. Casa Mar Village Shopping Center.
90.6 — Creekside Inn.
90.1 — Plantation Key Colony community entrance, Bayside. Large Indian mound in the center of the subdivision.
89.0 — Jersey Boardwalk Pizza,
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 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, is the second oldest marine mammal attraction in the world. Its saltwater 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 — Pelican Cove Resort.
84.2 — Postcard Inn. Once home to the iconic Holiday Isle Tiki Bar, the new tiki bar is a shell of the old.
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. (If you’re in a boat, stay away from the protected ocean sea grasses near 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. Bar and restaurant with second-floor views of Whale Harbor. They’ll prepare your own catch after you bring it ashore from the nearby charter fleet.
83.5 — Whale Harbor Marina. Fishing charter fleet; jet ski and paddle board rentals.
83.5 — Whale Harbor Seafood Buffet. This popular restaurant has been rebuilt and once again serving its “World Famous Seafood Buffet,” and I’m glad to see it back. The huge selection of seafood dishes will make your head swim, and it’s very good. 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.
83.0 — Ziggie and Mad Dog’s. (Warning: Audio blasts when you click on the link.)
83.0 — History of Diving Museum. Museum collects, preserves, displays, and interprets artifacts, antiques, books, documents, photographs, and oral history relative to the History of Diving.
82.2 — Sunset Inn Motel.
** Hotels.com: Find a room in Islamorada **
82.1 — Islander Resort, a Guy Harvey Outpost Major rebuilding after Hurricane Irma.
82.1 — Key Lantern Blue Fin Inn.
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. Popular sunset destination. Bayside.
82 — Cheeca Lodge and Spa. Popular upscale lodging with private beach, newly renovated after Hurricane Irma.
81.8 — The Moorings. Luxury cabins on a beautiful, palm-dotted beach. Pricey, but well-regarded.
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.
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 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.
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, popular seafood market, restaurant and sunset tiki bar, now part of Worldwide Sportsman. The market has its own fishing fleet, offering fresh fish daily.
81.3 — Green Turtle Inn. Oceanside. Venerable eatery with a history dating 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 $16.
81.0 — Kon Tiki Resort.
80.0 — Roadside park, Bayside
80.0 — Amara Cay Resort.
79.8 — Lazy Days Restaurant, oceanside, has excellent fresh fish and a spectacular ocean view.
79.8 — Bud and Mary’s Marina, oceanside. Drift fishing party boats, deep-sea and back-country charters available.
79.1 — Tea Table Channel Bridge
78.5 — 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.
78.5 — San Pedro Underwater Archaeological Preserve State Park. Underwater archaeological preserve features a submerged shipwreck that is available for diving and snorkeling. About 1.25 nautical miles south of Indian Key.
77.9 — KAYAK — Lignumvitae Bridge
75.0 —KAYAK Sea Oats Beach.
73.5 — Habanos Restaurant at Caloosa Cove. Cuban-influenced menu, casual dining with ocean views and moderate prices. Locals eat here with good reason. We loved 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 taxidermied animals. (Thus the nickname: The dead animal bar.)
73.6 — Boy Scouts Sea Base, bayside — Camp 3 for WW-I veterans. Many perished in the 1935 hurricane.
73.4 — Anne’s Beach, Oceanside. Anne’s beach was wiped out by Hurricane Irma. Unknown when it will be restored.
73.0 — Channel 2 Bridge. Offshore on the bay side are the remains of eight concrete bridge pilings built by WW I veterans. There are several parking spaces so walk out on the old bridge, now a fishing bridge and biking/walking trail.
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 — RV — Fiesta Key KOA 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/RV — 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. Campground closed until at least Dec. 31, 2018.
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.
65.0 — Long Key Bridge, the second-longest bridge (3 miles) of Flagler’s railroad. The old bridge parallels the new one and has been resurfaced for bicyclists, hikers and fishers. Considered one of the best fishing bridges in the Keys.
62.2 — Walker’s Island (Little Conch Key)
61.2 — Tom’s Harbor Cut Bridge
61.1 — Hawk’s Cay Resort, Duck Key, luxury resort oceanside. Reopens Aug. 30, 2018 after renovations necessitated by Hurricane Irma.
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 wake-boarding.
59.3 — RV — Jolly Roger Travel Park.
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.
58.7 — RV — Grassy Key RV Park & Resort
58.0 — Grassy Key Outpost Market and Grill — Cafe and groceries. 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. With the closing of Long Key State Park’s campground, this campground is booked solid. For more information, read: Hacks for booking a campsite in the Florida Keys
54 — Village of Key Colony Beach, Oceanside. Take Sadowski Causeway 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. Also on the causeway, Sparky’s Landing with indoor and outdoor seating.
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.
53.4 — The Island Fish Company Tiki Bar & Restaurant. Popular tiki bar and restaurant with sunset view.
53.1 — Vaca Cut Bridge, entering the business district of Marathon next 8 miles.
53.0 — Marathon Lady Fishing (73-foot party boat with two trips daily, $45-$55), 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 ** (Sponsored)
51.0 — Brutus Seafood Market and Eatery. Highly recommended by locals for its fresh seafood. In Marathon, this is Bob’s go-to market for seafood. 6950 Overseas Highway, Marathon.
50.5 — Crane Point Museum and Nature Center, gulfside. Kayak and paddleboard tours; tram tours.
50.5 — RV — Key by the Sea RV Park (Member-owned with transient sites) 305 743-5164
50.0 — Winn-Dixie and K-Mart, 5585 Overseas Highway @ Sombrero Beach Blvd., Marathon
50.0 — KAYAK Sombrero Beach. There are few “real” beaches in the Keys, and this is one of them. Turn south at the Publix Shopping Center and follow Sombrero Beach Road to the end. Plenty of parking. Beach has been fully restored after Hurricane Irma.
50.0 — Publix Supermarket, 5407 Overseas Highway @ Sombrero Beach Blvd.
50.0 — Skipjack Resort and Marina, 19 Sombrero Blvd..
49.5 — Cracked Conch Cafe, 4999 Overseas Hwy, Ocean side.
49.4 — Hurricane Bar and Grill, 4650 Overseas Highway, Bay side.
49.0 — Florida Keys Steak and Lobster House, 3660 Overseas Highway.
49.0 — Overseas Pub and Grill, 3574 Overseas Highway. One of Marathon’s oldest historic landmarks (1937). “Coldest beer in town.”
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.
48.3 — Faro Blanco Resort and Lighthouse Grill. 1996 Overseas Highway. Bayside.
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, go east on 15th Street, 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.
47.8 — RV — Ocean Breeze RV Park & Marina. Temporarily closed.
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. Food is very good and reasonably priced.
47.3 — Sunset Grille and Raw Bar — Outdoor eatery at the foot of the Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon. Upstairs bar and patio has a fabulous sunset view, or you can dine downstairs on the open deck.
47.0 — 7 Mile Bridge. Famously, the longest bridge in the Keys. (Actually just 6.8 miles long.)
47.0 — Old 7-Mile Bridge/Pigeon Key. Bayside. This section of the 7-mile Bridge is closed as it’s being rebuilt.
43.9 — Moser Channel, highest point on 7-Mile Bridge. Sombrero Light can be seen oceanside
40.0 — West end of the Seven Mile Bridge
The Lower Keys
Read this article: Paradise Found: Things to Do in the Lower Keys
39.9 — KAYAK Veterans Memorial Park. Public park (oceanside) is a good place to stop for a picnic or use the restroom. 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.
39.5 — Missouri-Little Duck Channel Bridge
39.0 — Ohio-Missouri Channel Bridge
38.8 — RV — Sunshine Key RV Resort and Marina. Sunshine Key was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma and was still undergoing major reconstruction in April 2018.
38.7 — Ohio- Bahia Honda Channel Bridge
36.8 — KAYAK Bahia Honda State Park entrance, oceanside. Award-winning beach with boat launch and marina. Main campground is open, but the tents-only Sandspur campground and beach remain closed (June 2018) because of heavy damage from Hurricane Irma. Iconic views of the crumbling old railroad bridge. Campsites and cabins book well in advance, so plan ahead and watch for cancellations.
36.0 — Bahia Honda Bridge (4-lanes); View the old camelback bridge.
35.0 — KAYAK Bahia Honda Bridge launch. At the west end (towards Key West), access to both ocean and bay.
34.5 — Scout Key, Girl Scout Camp, oceanside.
34.1 — Scout Key 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.
SPEED WARNING: As you approach Big Pine Key, the speed limit is drops and 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. Off the main highway, the speed limit is 30 mph.
33.8 — KAYAK — Boat ramp alongside highway.
33.0 — RV — Camp to fish on Big Pine Key
33.0— 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 the hard-to-find No Name Pub. Take Key Deer Blvd., then Watson Blvd., through a residential neighborhood.
KAYAK On Watson Blvd. just past the No Name Pub, is the Old Wooden Bridge Cabins, charming, historic cabins that make a great base for kayaking. Kayak rentals and guided tours available.
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 to another public launch site.
30.2 — Big Pine Shopping Center is north of the traffic light on Key Deer Blvd., but don’t blink. It’s hidden behind dense vegatation, even after Hurricane Irma stripped the island’s trees and brush of leaves. Winn-Dixie Supermarket, novelty shops and restaurants, including one of our favorites, locally popular PizzaWorks. Also home to the Key Deer Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.
** Hotels.com: Find a room near Big Pine Key **
30.0 — Strike Zone Charters. Book snorkel trips to Looe Key or book a fishing charter.
30.0 — Bucktooth Rooster, Bayside. New restaurant on Big Pine getting good reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp! Moderately priced.
29.3 — North Pine Channel Bridge
28.5 — Little Torch Key. Parmers Resort is highly rated on TripAdvisor and worth checking out. 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.
28.5 — Kiki’s Sandbar Bar and Grille, 183 Barry Ave, Little Torch Key. Downstair open-air bar with entertainment. Upstairs dining. 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 Reef Resort, Dive Center and Tiki Bar. Tiki bar is popular with locals. Dive boat, paddle boards, 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 largest tiki bar in the Keys, featuring entertainment in season. Performers often add this venue to their Key West bookings.
26.0 — Niles Channel Bridge, middle.
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 look, 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. The yellowtail filets and Key West pink shrimp were very fresh and competitively priced. (Not a restaurant.)
22.2 — KAYAK. Spoonbill Sound Hammocks. Launch on gulf side (Cudjoe Key). Check out nearby salt ponds for photo ops.
21.0 — KAYAK. Cudjoe Gardens Marina, where you can rent kayaks, 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 for easy access to back-country islands, such as Tarpon Belly Key, once home to a shrimp farm. (Blimp Road is named for “Fat Albert,” an Air Force surveillance blimp that was taken down in 2013.)
20.2 — Bow Channel Bridge to Sugarloaf Key.
20.0 — RV — Sugarloaf Key/Key West RV Resort, Campground is closed. Heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma.
20.0 — Mangrove Mama’s. Roadside eatery. Cracked conch and conch chowder, along with healthy serving of Keys atmosphere.
19.8 — RV — Lazy Lakes RV Resort.
19.5 — Bike Trail. Paved bike path follows Crange Boulevard (Bayside) all the way to Florida 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, circular open-air tiki bar overlooking 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. Relic of the early 20th Century is a testament to early mosquito control, but it didn’t work. Blown over by Hurricane Irma.
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. Beans roasted fresh daily. Highly rated and a mandatory stop on your way home from Key West. Baby’s is also 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 — Bluewater 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 popular tiki bar, fishing charters, a smokehouse 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.
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) — RV — 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) — RV — Leo’s Campground. Cute little campground boasts the lowest prices in the Keys ($62-85 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. (305) 296-5260
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 dry dock 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.
After dinner, try a slice of Kermit’s Key Lime Pie at 200 Elizabeth Street.
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, 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.
One of the best ways to see Key West is to take a tour, especially if this is your first visit. The famous Conch Train Tour is probably the most well-known sightseeing tour. For a strange adventure, try the spooky Ghost and Gravestones Tour.
Or circle Key West on a jet ski tour with Barefoot Bill.
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 pocket beach at the west end of Simonton Street, next to the Pier House. Beer, burgers and outstanding ceviche 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 listings, and to our friends and many readers who contributed to this report. Keep those tips coming! :-)