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Hit the Road

Florida Keys Overseas Highway

Photo by Andy Newman at Florida Keys News Bureau

The Florida Keys Overseas Highway is an All-American Road connecting the Keys to mainland Florida.

For the avid road tripper, a visit to Key West should include a day cruise on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway. Unofficially dubbed “The Highway that Goes to the Sea,” this two-lane highway is one of the most scenic drives in the United States. The highway stretches 113 miles with 42 bridges and crosses three bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean, the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It also gives way to stunning views and offers drivers the opportunity to “key hop” from Key Largo all the way to Key West. Mile markers map the drive, ticking down to mile zero in downtown Key West, the southernmost point in the continental U.S. The mile markers also serve as landmarks for places to visit along the way.

The Overseas Highway has connected the Keys to mainland Florida since the early 1900s when it began as an extension of the Florida East Coast Railroad linking the Keys to St. Augustine. The railroad was badly damaged in a 1935 hurricane and was rebuilt on some of the remaining foundation of the railroad as a highway. Since then, the Overseas Highway has been updated and some of the bridges reconstructed. Drivers can still see the old bridges, however, which have been adapted by some as sportsfishing piers. In 2009, the highway earned the prestigious title of an All-American road.

Whether you fly into Key West and decide to drive up through the Keys, fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale and drive down, or just want to take a day trip to a nearby key from Key West, the entire span of Overseas Highway can be traveled in less than four hours and is a must-drive for road trip aficionados.

Looking to explore the other Keys on your drive? Though there are hundreds of places to stop, characteristic of each key, here are some fun hotspots to check out along the way:

KEY LARGO
Key Largo Conch House: Mile Marker 100.2

Whether you’re on your way down to Key West or taking a day trip from the southernmost island, Key Largo—the longest of the Keys—has plenty of restaurants to choose from for the hungry traveler. Make a pit stop at the Key Largo Conch House, a family-owned oceanside café right off the Overseas Highway for breakfast, lunch or dinner to sample some award-winning conch fritters and homemade desserts.
100211 Overseas Highway, Key Largo 33037

MARATHON KEY
Seven Mile Bridge: Mile Marker 40-47

Extending 6.79 miles is the Seven Mile Bridge, the longest of the 42 bridges on the Overseas Highway. It was originally nicknamed “the eighth wonder of the world” back in the early 1900s when the bridge first debuted as part of the original Florida East Coast Railroad. Now reconstructed, it still remains the longest stretch of road over the water on the Overseas Highway, giving travelers the surreal feeling of driving atop the ocean.

       
Photo by Bob Kirst at Florida Keys News Bureau

       

BIG PINE KEY
Bahia Honda State Park: Mile Marker 37

Stop by Bahia Honda State Park to enjoy the sun and sand. Known for its beaches, this park is the perfect place to stop for a picnic, or if you have more time to spare, go snorkeling or kayaking. Bahia Honda State Park is also home to the Old Bahia Honda Bridge, which was a part of the old railroad. Though parts of the bridge are missing, the state park side is accessible to pedestrians and offers great panoramic views of the island and surrounding waters.
36850 Overseas Highway, Big Pine Key 33043

National Key Deer Refuge: Mile Marker 30
Home to 22 endangered and threatened species, the National Key Deer Refuge spans more than 8,000 acres. Eco-friendly travelers should stop and roam the trails. The refuge protects the little Key deer (fully grown, Key deer only weigh 65-90 pounds) and their habitat, and is home to the majority of the Key deer population.
28950 Watson Blvd., Big Pine Key 33043

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