The drive down the Overseas Highway is full of pleasures – spectacular views from bridges and lots of funky Florida establishments. It’s easy to take a drive that could be done in four hours and make it into a two or three day adventure
Four of my favorite stops in the Keys aren’t on the Overseas Highway and are a little hard to find. They’re off the highway in neighborhoods that take you through a part of the Keys many folks miss.
Your best bet for doing the Keys right is to start with a print out of the Florida Rambler mile marker guide, because it will point out lots of opportunities to stop and have a little fun. (I recommend you avoid fixating on Key West – if you rush, you miss lots of what makes the Florida Keys unique.)
Then, be sure to get off the highway along the way and discover one of these great spots to dine, which range from the famous to the obscure. Each is full of Florida Keys flavor.
Chiki Tiki Bar and Grille at Burdines Waterfront in Marathon
At Mile Marker 48, turn off to find the 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 up a flight of stairs, giving you an excellent vantage point and a breeze.
Why we like the Chiki Tiki Bar and Grille (which folks in the area just call Burdines): Many visitors to the Keys complain about high prices on food, but this place has reasonable prices and very good food. It’s the sort of unpretentious, untouristy place residents frequent. We recommend the fresh dolphin, the burgers, the shrimp wrapped in bacon and brushed with barbecue sauce (so good) and especially the fries. The serving of fries is enormous; you can order one to share with two or more people.
There are no beers on tap but a nice selection of craft beers in cans. Burdines tiki bar is on our story on best tiki bars in the Florida Keys.
Finding it: 1200 Oceanview Ave, End of 15th Street, Marathon.
No Name Pub on Big Pine Key
At Mile Marker 30.2, turn off for the No Name Pub. Take a right turn at the Big Pine Key traffic light, the gateway to Big Pine Key and the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge. This area is the only place in the world where you’ll find the endangered Key deer, and there’s a good chance to spot the tiny deer as you wind your way through a residential neighborhood to the No Name Pub.
The No Name Pub likes to call itself “A Nice Place If You Can Find It,” but it isn’t that hard to find. For starters, they have signs to direct you, and in this era of smart phones and GPS, few get lost. No Name likes to tout its pizza and burgers, but the real star here is the history and the ambiance. From a general store to a brothel to a dive bar where drug-runners stapled money to the ceiling in the wild west Keys of the ‘80s, the No Name is full of stories.
Here’s more from Florida Rambler about the No Name Pub, including the story of its unusual décor.
Why we like it: We love it for its money.
Finding it: 30813 Watson Blvd., Big Pine Key. Follow the signs and/or your GPS.
Geiger Key Marina Fish Camp Restaurant on Big Coppitt Key
Geiger Key Marina Fish Camp Restaurant (MM 10.5 Bayside at the Geiger Key Marina) is a cool little tiki bar you wouldn’t even know existed. Stumbling on this place in a section of the Keys with few hotels and restaurants, I was surprised to have the best version of shrimp and grits ever (because these were delicious Key West pinks.) People also love the lobster bisque.
After dinner, we took a walk nearby on the closed roadway that runs between the beach and the US Naval Station runway at Geiger Key/Boca Chica Beach. It’s a lovely off-the-beaten track place. Note: A little hand-made sign notes this is a clothing optional beach. When we walked at sunset, there were few people there, all of them clothed.
Why we like it: The laid-back tiki-bar atmosphere with waterfront views that hearken to the Keys “the way they used to be.”
Finding it: Get off the highway at the Circle K (MM 10.5) and wander 1.3 miles south on Boca Chica Road to Geiger Road.
Hogfish Bar and Grill on Stock Island
At Mile Marker 5.2, turn off for the Hogfish Bar and Grill. The Hogfish Grill is located one island east of Key West – Stock Island, so named because in the old days, herds of livestock grazed here. Today, half the island is the Key West Golf Course and half is full of marinas and trailer parks.
With a waterfront setting, a big chickee hut and open-air dining, Hogfish Bar and Grill is casual and unpretentious; a t-shirt and flip-flops place with seating at picnic tables. But the fresh seafood is so good it has made various lists of best seafood spots in Florida.
Here’s more about the Hogfish Bar and Grill from Florida Rambler.
Why we like it: The World Famous Killer Hogfish Sandwich ($19 in 2022) is made with fresh hogfish, mushrooms and Swiss cheese on Cuban bread. And the fresh shrimp is amazing.
Finding it: 6810 Front St, Stock Island .
Resources for restaurants in the Florida Keys:
- Print out this mile marker guide to enhance your road trip to the Florida Keys.
- Eight Key West restaurants for authentic local flavor
- 17 iconic Florida Keys restaurants along the Overseas Highway
- Tiki bars: Soak up the Florida Keys atmosphere
The information in this article was accurate when published but may change without notice. Confirm details when planning visits.
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.
Tuesday 1st of March 2022
Ssssssssssssssh, please keep Geiger Key a secret!
Friday 7th of April 2017
Hi. Interested in camping in the keys next fall (2017). Will not have motorized transportation. How close or far will restaurants, bars, grocery stores ? Thx, cindylou
Friday 7th of April 2017
Cindylou, Like the rest of Florida, the Keys are a very car-oriented place. While there are buses and Uber, getting around without a car will be a challenge. If you stayed in Boyd's Key West Campground on Stock Island, you could have access to things you need via buses into Key West. At most campgrounds in the Keys, most people would find restaurants, bars and grocery stores would be too far to walk.