Road Trip To Key West | Best Stops Along the Way

Making the drive from mainland Florida to Key West is on the bucket list of many. The 113-mile drive down US 1 is unique, with 42 bridges connecting like beads some of the many hundreds of small islands known as the Florida Keys. The highway follows the path of the Overseas railroad that ran down the island chain from 1912 to 1935. There are beautiful vistas of both Florida Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Ocean. And between the bridges are the many small towns of the Florida Keys, each with its own character and showcasing attractions worth exploring. Here are a few must-stops along the way.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Road Trip To Key West | Best Stops Along the Way

Photo credit: @bonniehoellin

At the northern end of the Keys, at mile marker 102.5 in Key Largo, is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the first undersea park in the U.S., encompassing approximately 70 nautical square miles.

Road Trip To Key West | Best Stops Along the Way 1

Photo credit: @heatherboss719

Here, it is easy to explore the most beautiful reefs in the United States by scuba, snorkeling, or a glass-bottom boat. For landlubbers, the park even has a 30,000-gallon aquarium in the visitor’s center.

Learn more about John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
102601 Overseas Highway (MM 102.5)
Key Largo, FL 33037

Get the Gram with Betsy

Road Trip To Key West | Best Stops Along the Way 2

Stop, Snap, Eat & Shop!

At mile marker 86 in Islamorada, visitors will want to stop and take their photo with “Betsy,” a giant, 40-foot-long sculpture of a spiny lobster. This impressive artwork is an accurate, detailed rendition of one of the Florida Keys’ favorite creatures. Betsy sits in front of the Rain Barrel Artists Village, a marketplace filled with unique Keys handicrafts and souvenirs.  They are also home to one of the best lobster rolls in the Keys.  (Photo credit: @rainbarrelvillage) 

Rain Barrel Village
Home to the world-famous Betsy the Lobster)
8670 Overseas Hwy
Islamorada, FL 

Dolphin Research Center

Road Trip To Key West | Best Stops Along the Way 3

Photo credit: Dolphin Research Center

Meet the dolphins, swim with the dolphins, and have fun while learning during your visit! 

Dolphin lovers won’t want to miss the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key at mile marker 59. The DRC is a marine mammal rehabilitation facility and allows visitors to tour the facility and see the dolphins, sea lions, and manatees living there. They also have programs where guests can swim with the dolphins (reservations required).

Learn more about the Dolphin Research Center, a not-for-profit 501(c)3 marine mammal education and research facility for more than 35 years.

Dolphin Research Center
58901 Overseas Hwy.,
Marathon, FL, United States, Florida

The Turtle Hospital

Road Trip To Key West | Best Stops Along the Way 4

Just down the road, in the town of Marathon, at mile marker 48.5, is the Turtle Hospital. Here, sick and injured sea turtles of all types are treated and housed until they recover and can be released. The Turtle Hospital is supported by visitors, who can tour the treatment facilities, learn about sea turtles, and feed some of the recovering residents.

“The staff and hospital are doing wonderful things for these turtles. It makes you sad seeing what has happened to them, but relieved that they are being cared for. The tour was wonderful, and the guide was knowledgeable. I recommend this place if you love turtles and wonder what our impact on the animals that live in the ocean are.”~  Rudy Ponce 

Learn more about The Turtle Hospital, a small non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles.

The Turtle Hospital
2396 Overseas Hwy,
Marathon, FL 33050

Bahia Honda State Park

Road Trip To Key West | Best Stops Along the Way 5

Photo credit:@bahiahondastatepark

After crossing the Seven Mile Bridge – the longest of the Keys bridges – it is well worth stopping at Bahia Honda State Park at mile marker 37. You can swim, snorkel, or just walk the shore at some of the Keys’ best beaches. 

For history buffs, a spectacular iron-framed bridge, the most spectacular relic from the Overseas Railroad, still stands over Bahia Honda Channel. Bahia Honda State Park also has popular camping facilities, but reservations must be made online in advance.

Bahia Honda State Park is another unique place to explore and experience the best of the Florida Keys. 

Learn more about Bahia Honda State Park. 

So much to see and do and enjoy on the scenic drive to Key West!  #somolife