Overseas Highway: A Road Trip from Miami to Key West

Overseas Highway
Overseas Highway

There are a lot of magnificent roads that run along the sea or the ocean in the world, but the Overseas Highway (also named the Florida Keys Highway) in Florida actually goes more than 100 miles into the Gulf of Mexico, linking the Key Islands to the south of Florida.

Driving on the Key West Drive from Miami is liking island hopping with a boat, but you’re driving on a road.

Where is the Overseas Highway located?

To drive on the Overseas Highway (also known as Key West Drive), you’ll need to travel to the US State of Florida, specifically to the area south of Miami. The Keys Highway connects mainland Florida to Key West, located about 100 km (60 miles) from the continent in the Caribbean Sea.

The road offers amazing views of the sea and the bridges between the islands that so low it makes you feel like you are driving on water.

Overseas Highway is quite attractive to road trippers because of its uniqueness, but also because more than 70,000 people live on the archipelago and use it every day to move around.

The spectacular views and vibrant blue water make the Overseas Highway a must-see for anyone visiting Florida or staying in Miami for a few days. The drive from Miami to Key West will take only a few hours, making it a great day trip or stop as part of a longer itinerary.

You can situate the road on the map below:

Enlarge the map

Facts about Overseas Highway

Key West drive description:

The Overseas Highway is a section of US Route 1 that runs along the East Coast of the United States, from Florida to the Canadian border. Spanning approximately 100 miles (180 kilometers), it connects 44 islands of the Key Archipelago through 42 bridges.

The Seven Mile Bridge, the highest on the road, towers at a height of 20 meters (65ft) above sea level. Despite its height, the remaining bridges on the road are relatively low. That creates the illusion of driving at the same level as the ocean.

It’s definitely one of the most impressive bridges on the East Coast, with the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, or the Martin Grade Scenic Highway in Florida.

Also, the road mostly straight with no turns, making it easy to navigate, and it is overall good condition.

Seven Miles Bridge on Overseas Highway
Seven Miles Bridge

The drive from Miami to Key West takes around 3 to 4 hours one-way. It is important to plan for the return trip as well. You might also consider stopping along the drive to enjoy the sights on the magnificent Key Islands. Indeed, you might want to take a full day or two to enjoy the Key Archipelago to its fullest.

A road trip to Key West is always a great experience. However, remember that the best time to visit the islands is during between November and March, when the weather is warm and dry.

Unfortunately, it is the period of the year when the islands are the most crowded. Our advice is to choose a weekday or starting your itinerary to Key West earlier in the morning!

History of the Overseas Highway drive

The road to Key West was built on the trail of a railroad originally built from 1905 to 1912. Some parts of the railroad are still up to this day, but some parts of the tracks were destroyed by a hurricane just a few years after its completion. This Pharaonic project cost more than 50 million US dollars and was considered an engineering masterpiece before part of it was destroyed in 1935.

The state of Florida bought the remaining of the tracks and started building the Overseas Highway on what was left after the hurricane in the 1930s. By 1987, the state rebuilt 37 bridges to make the road wider and safer for cars to drive. The Seven Mile Bridge’s construction lasted from 1978 to 1982.

Efforts to convert the original bridges for pedestrian use are ongoing. The old bridge adjacent to the Seven-Mile Bridge recently opened to the public in 2022.

How to get to Key West Drive from Miami?

Most probably, your trip to Key West will start in Miami. The itinerary from Miami to Key West is pretty easy with Highway 1. From Miami, follow the highway to Key Largo, then just follow Overseas Highway, no turns, just a straight road!

If you take a wrong turn, you might end up in Everglades National Park. This is another place to not miss on your Florida trip.

You can view the itinerary of the road on this map:

What to do in the Keys in Florida?

The Key Islands are full of amazing nature and wildlife. As they are islands, there are a lot of magnificent beaches and water activities to enjoy

Along the road from Miami to Key West, you will find viewpoints and stops for everybody to enjoy the azure views of the ocean. Here are a few things you can try or visit on your Overseas road trip:

  • Visit the different islands. The highway connects 42 of them, don’t hesitate to make a stop at some of them and visit them! The architecture is unique: have a walk along Duval Street on Key West.
  • Beaches: there are a lot of them on all the different islands of the archipelago, but some say that some of the most beautiful beaches are located in Bahia Honda State Park on Big Pine Key.
  • If you want to go even further into the sea, take a boat or a seaplane to Dry Tortugas National Park and explore fort Jefferson, a 19th century built on a remote island. Super clear blue water and amazing marine life, it is also a perfect place for snorkeling or just relaxing.
Key West view
Key West View

Once again, these are only a few of the activities you can enjoy on your Overseas Highway road trip but there is so much more. You will find the perfect activity just for you!
Also, it will be very easy to find accommodation in the keys as a hotel or an Airbnb.

Is Key West drive open?

Overseas Highway is usually opened all year round. Although, the road can be closed in case of important tropical hurricanes. Also, it’s better to check the weather if some storms are announced.

Key West hurricane
Hurricane on Key West

Be aware that the road to Key West is very crowded in high season. So remember to always drive carefully and respect the road signs.

Also, Florida Keys Highway is quite scenic, so don’t forget to stay focused on the drive at all times and drive carefully. The speed limit is 45-55 mph (70-90 km/h) and the road can be hectic on weekends and in high season. Indeed, many people want to explore Key West Drive from Miami.

A preview of the Key West drive:

If you are planning your road trip from Miami to Key West on the Overseas Highway, you can watch this video to have an idea of the Florida Keys Highway:

The Key Islands are full of marvelous sights, wildlife, and history. The Overseas Highway that connects these islands stunning in itself. It is definitely a road to enjoy if you have the occasion to go there. Visiting Miami? Take a day to explore this magnificent archipelago. Even in high season, you won’t regret it, so take the Key West drive and enjoy your adventure!

Credits: Chase Baker/Unsplash

Discover our other roads in the U.S.: click here or see our road map!