Last updated on January 25th, 2020 at 05:38 am
Florida Keys Road Trip
The Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys is the ultimate road trip: Spectacular views and things to do, places to go, places to hide.
This comprehensive mile-marker guide will help you discover new things to see and do in the Florida Keys.
At the very least, you’ll know where you are and where to find the closest tiki bar!
Key West Home & Garden Tours (Sponsored Link)
The Upper Florida Keys and Key Largo
127 — You are leaving Florida City, Gateway to the Keys.
126.5 — Card Sound Road. Branches off U.S. 1 to North Key Largo via the Card Sound Bridge (toll). Stop at Alabama Jack’s, a funky outdoor restaurant and dockside bar, just before the bridge.
112.5 — Monroe County Line
110.8 — KAYAK — Little Blackwater Sound Boat Ramp, bayside.
108.5 — Gilbert’s Resort. Recently renovated Keys-style lodging with famous tiki bar open to the public. Ramp off the Jewfish Creek Bridge just before Key Largo. Florida Rambler story about Gilbert’s.
108 — Jewfish Creek Bridge. Jewfish Creek is the inside passage linking Miami’s Biscayne Bay to the Florida Keys.
107.5 — Lake Surprise. Unexpectedly encountered by workers building Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway. The lake had not appeared on preliminary surveys, and it presented a major obstacle for the project. When the crews attempted to fill in a causeway, the fill material was swallowed up by the lake. Source: FloridaMemory.com
107 — You’ve landed on Key Largo! Welcome to the Florida Keys!
Key Largo — Snorkel and Diving Capitol
106.5 — Turn left for Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammocks Botanical State Park
106.0 — The Buzzard’s Roost, Oceanside. Woohoo! Dockside bar and waterfront restaurant, just off U.S. 1 at the Garden Cove Marina, 21 Garden Cove Drive, Key Largo. (Big sign on U.S. 1).
106.0 — DIVE — Silent World Dive Center, Garden Cove Marina, 51 Garden Cove Dr.
106.0 — Key Largo Chamber of Commerce, gulf side. 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 rent kayaks, paddle boards.
104.5 — Rowell’s Waterfront Park. Former marina now an 8-acre, dog-friendly park on Florida Bay. You can swim and snorkel from the seawall, which has ladders. Monroe County also stores unused vehicles and construction equipment here.
104.3 (Bayside). Amy Slate’s Amoray Dive Resort.
104.2 (Bayside). Keys Palms RV Resort.
104.1 — Bayside. The Caribbean Club in Key Largo. Its exterior was used in the classic Humphrey Bogart film “Key Largo,” which inspired the community to change its name. This dive bar is plastered with movie memorabilia. More about tracking Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo.
104 — Jimmy Johnson’s Big Chill, Bayside. Sports bar, tiki bar, restaurant. Owned by the former football coach and Fox NFL commentator, who lives down the road in Tavernier.
103.8 — DIVE — Pirates Cove Watersports. Diving, snorkeling paddleboards, kayaks.
103.6 — DIVE — Quiescence Diving Services
103.5 — The 1920s Key Largo Rock Castle, end of Oceana Drive, ocean side.
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 — Lazy Lobster — Popular Keys restaurant directly across from the entrance to John Pennekamp State Park.
102.8 — KAYAK, DIVE, RV — John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, oceanside: Snorkeling, diving, glass-bottom tour boat, beaches, boat ramps, campground, hiking and kayak trails.
102.4 — The Fish House and Fish House Encore Restaurants. Very popular pair of restaurants serving fresh Keys seafood. A little pricey but not shocking.
** Hotels.com: Find a room in Key Largo **
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. Good food at moderate prices. Oceanside.
101.7 — Largo Resort.
101.5 — RV — Key Largo Kampground and Marina, at the end of Sampson Road.
101.5 – – RV – Calusa Campground and Marina, bayside at 325 Calusa St.
101.4 — Publix Supermarket in the Tradewinds Plaza shopping center. Oceanside and partially hidden by a wall of trees.
101.2 — Hibiscus Park, Oceanside. The was the center of the 1880s community of Newport.
100.8 — DIVE — Rainbow Reef Dive Center
100.6 — DIVE — Key Largo Dive Center. Dive excursions and scuba charters.
100.6 — Tower of Pizza Key Largo.
100.5 — Key Largo Chocolates. Key Lime Pie on a stick! Home-made chocolate treats.
100.2 — Key Largo Conch House.
100.0 — Marina Del Mar Resort and Marina.
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. Book your excursion on the African Queen or the Key Largo Princess glass-bottom boat in the hotel’s gift shop. Check out the waterfall and tiki bar at the hotel swimming pool.
99.6. Off the highway on Laguna Avenue, just south of the Holiday Inn
DIVE — Sea Dwellers Dive Center, 105 Laguna Ave.
Sharkey’s Pub and Galley, Laguna Ave. to 522 Caribbean Drive. Multi-level outdoor decks overlooking a busy canal. Worth finding.
99.5 — DIVE — Divers Direct. Mega-store for divers, snorkelers and other water sports.
99.4 — Key Largo Traffic Light — Port Largo
East at the light on Atlantic, an immediate right onto Homestead, then left on Ocean Bay Drive to seek out these hidden treasures:
American Legion Post 333, 2 Seagate Blvd. Key Largo. Large, shady outdoor seating with entertainment stage. Drinks and food. This place rocks weekends starting Thursday night. Open to the public. Profits benefit veterans causes, such as the Wounded Warrior Project.
Pilot House Marina and Restaurant, Oceanside, 13 Seagate Blvd, Key Largo. Unique glass bottom bar over water, best seen at night. Across the boat basin from Key Largo Fisheries.
Key Largo Fisheries,1313 Ocean Bay Drive. Old Florida wholesale and retail fish market with piles of fresh stone crabs and Florida lobster (in season), beautiful pink shrimp and fresh-caught snapper, mahi and more. Check out display cases for conch salad, smoked fish dip, lobster chowder and bisque. Best seafood market in the Keys.
Back to the Overseas Highway
99.3 — Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. Classic Keys roadside eatery open for breakfast and lunch only. Check out their fish and grits!
99.0 — Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen II. An extension of the iconic original in the median. Open for lunch and dinner only.
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 — Sal’s 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. Boardwalk through a mangrove forest at volunteer-run wildlife-rehab facility with an informal backyard feel. The center is free, though you may want to make a donation. Open sunrise to sunset. Great stop for kids. Read more.
92.6 — Harry Harris Beach and Park oceanside. Pet-friendly park with nicely groomed beach, picnic tables, picnic shelters, boat ramp and a playground. Free admission weekdays. Monroe County residents free anytime. Non-residents: $5/person on Saturday, Sunday and holidays. $30 to launch a boat. 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.
91.0 — Tavernier Creek Bridge; enter Islamorada; Tavernier Creek Marina, Conch Republic Divers, Plantation Marina. Bayside
Islamorada — Fishing Capitol
90.7 — Captain Slate’s Scuba Adventures. Casa Mar Village Shopping Center. Hands-on diving experience.
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?
87.7 — Twisted Shrimp. Seafood cafe. Limited menu.
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 Betsy, 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.
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, gulf side. 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 Beach Resort and Marina. Home of the Holiday Isle charter fishing fleet.
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. Rooftop open-air lounge overlooking Whale Harbor.
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 **
82.2. — Islamorada Beer Company, a craft brewery and tap room adjacent to Islamorada Distilling, which makes rums, gin and vodka, sure to become a popular Keys souvenir. (Included in our brewery tour of the Keys.)
82.1 — Islander Resort. Recently reopened with 114 rooms and new on-site Islander Girl Snorkel & Tours. All-new refurbished cottage-style units and screened-in lanais.
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.
81.8 — Cheeca Lodge and Spa. Upscale lodging with private beach, newly renovated after Hurricane Irma.
81.8 — The Moorings. Beach Road. Luxury cabins on a beautiful, palm-dotted beach. Pricey. Where Netflix filmed scenes for “Bloodlines.”
81.6 — Florida Keys Brewing Company Local craft brewery with a lovely garden and décor created by making mosaics out of thousands of beer bottle caps. The beer’s good too!
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 art walks (monthly on the third Thursday) with live music.
Here’s a Florida Rambler guide Things to do in Islamorada.
81.5 — 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. Bay side
80.0 — Roadside park, Bayside
80.0 — Amara Cay Resort.
79.8 — Lazy Days Restaurant, ocean side. Excellent food, oceanfront patio dining with scenic ocean view.
79.8 — Bud and Mary’s Marina, oceanside. Drift fishing party boats, deep-sea and back-country charters.
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
77.0 — KAYAK Feed the tarpon at Robbie’s Marina. Rent kayaks at the Kayak Shack for kayak trip to Indian Key. Fishing charters available. There’s a good restaurant overlooking the water, The Hungry Tarpon. We also love the key-lime-pie ice cream at a kiosk here Charli’s Shave Ice at Robbies.
75.0 — Sea Oats Beach. Not much beach left after Hurricane Irma, but turtle nests are booming.
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.
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. One of our favorite stops for wading along the beach and a picnic along the boardwalk. Free.
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 and Marathon
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. Campground is closed, but the day-use area remains popular for picnics, kayaking and fishing.
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. (It’s also a fun bridge to bike across, recommended in our guide to biking the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.)
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.
60.6 —KAYAK Tom’s Harbor Channel Bridge. Oceanside launch and pullover. Good fishing!
59.9 — Marathon city limits
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
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. 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.
Addresses in the city of Marathon track numbered cross streets, not Mile Markers. Where possible, 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. Now open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Good food, nice views.
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.
52.7 — Triton Seafood, 11,399 Overseas Highway, Marathon. (Ocean side) If you can’t get into Frank’s, cross the street.
52.5 — King Seafood Market and Restaurant, 10925 Overseas Highway, Marathon. Ocean side.
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 fresh seafood. In Marathon, this is Bob’s go-to fish market. 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 — 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.
47.5 — 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 Florida Keys and Key West
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 to 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.
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 (September 2019) because of heavy damage from Hurricane Irma. Iconic views of the crumbling old railroad bridge. Campsites and cabins book 11 months 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 — Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge. Very nice campground, some lining a canal with docks, others waterfront. Took a big hit from Hurricane Irma but is back and packed. Here’s a story from my last camp-over: 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. Or you can drive all the way to the end of Long Beach Road and hike out to the beach from the turnabout.
31.0 — Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, Old F.E.C. railway marker, oceanside.
30.3 — Key Deer Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center has moved out onto U.S. 1 into a new log-cabin structure, making it more visible and convenient to travelers.
30.2 — Big Pine Key traffic light is the gateway to the island, most of which is part of the unique National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge.
Consider a side trip. Big Pine is the only place in the world where you’ll find endangered Key deer. (Here’s how we saw 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. Kayak rentals and guided tours available.
KAYAK No Name Key — Cross the bridge to the end of the road for 1.8 miles to a public launch.
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.
** Hotels.com: Find a room near Big Pine Key **
Back to the Overseas Highway
30.0 — DIVE — Looe Key Reef Adventures and Strike Zone Charters
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. 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 — DIVE — 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 due to 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 — 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.
4.8 (Cross Street) — RV — Leo’s Campground. Cute little campground boasts the lowest prices in the Keys ($77-98 RV, September 2019). We had no trouble booking a site for our RV. Waterfront tent sites ($54-$67). 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 Road 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 Road.
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! You made it! 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).
Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe, 200 Elizabeth Street. Everything Key Lime, even Key Lime Pie!
Key West Ghost Tours, 501 Front Street. Find “Robert”
Half Shell Raw Bar, 231 Margaret St. My favorite dive bar. At the docks.
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 Gazetteer, 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 and an iPad, identifying listings, and to our friends and many readers who contributed to this report. Keep those tips coming! 🙂