Every person deserves a little glimpse of paradise in his or her life, and there’s no better place to experience the earthly version of it than on the Florida Keys. A road trip along Highway 1 between Miami and Key West has all the ingredients for the perfect vacation – great views, turquoise ocean, amazing food, fine accommodation and fabulous weather.
Most visitors collect a rental car from Miami International Airport, which is an easy drive from the starting point on our road trip. Making the journey in comfort with a hire car that is well maintained with functioning AC is crucial, and fortunately it’s possible to easily find Hertz rent-a-car locations in Florida.
The Florida Keys extend south and southwest of the mainland in an archipelago made up of 1700 islands. Highway 1 runs north right up to Maine, but we are focusing on the 150 miles heading south between Miami and Key West. It’s possible to reach Key West in three and a half hours if driven directly without any stops – but this road trip is all about the places along the route, so never stopping is not an option.
Once out of Homestead, take a small detour off Highway 1 onto Card Sound Road. There is a dollar toll but it’s worth the deviation for the delicious fare at Alabama Jack’s. If faded Americana charm and super conch fritters are required, this joint makes a great pit stop. For dessert, get back onto Highway 1 for a few miles and grab a slice of that other local favorite, Key Lime Pie at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. Also nearby is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for excellent diving. Alternatively, catch a look at the marine life with some underwater sightseeing from a glass-bottomed boat.
This place is about half way on the route, so it makes an ideal place to overnight. The village consists of six tiny islands and is the sport fishing capitol of the world. Expect exceptional seafood in Islamorada’s restaurants. Also be sure to check out The History of Diving Museum, Robbie’s Marina for sport fishing and Anne’s Beach, a secluded bay with shallow waters and silky sand.
Cruise another half hour along the route until the island community of Marathon appears. After lunch at 50s style diner The Wooden Spoon, make a stop at The Turtle Hospital to learn about these fabulous sea creatures. There are many bridges to cross on this trip, but here is where the fantastic Seven Mile Bridge takes the breath away with its sheer scale set against the dazzling beauty of the turquoise colored waters.
Highway 1 finishes here in this southern most US city. The old stamping ground of creatives, such as Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, a bohemian atmosphere prevails. Pop into the Hemingway Museum for an insight into the colorful author’s life. Diving fans in Key West make for the Eastern Dry Rocks and Sand Key for some scuba action. Stroll around the ‘Old Town’ and historic district or go shopping on Duval Street; there’s something for everyone in this laid back, tropical outpost.
For one of the most relaxing road trips ever, a slow journey down the Florida Keys ticks all the boxes. So fill up with gas, point the car south and let the gentle pace of this island paradise work its magic.