Florida Keys Stories and Tips

Driving the Keys

Driving to Key West can be a very fun drive but it can also be a very long drive. Beware of those who tell you that Key West is just a three hour drive from the Miami airport. I knew a travel agent, who by the way had never made the drive from Miami to Key West, who booked some clients on a flight out of Miami and told them that it was an easy three hour drive. When I happened to mention it was a much longer drive than that, she said, “How can it be, the map shows it’s only 150 miles and some of the highway is four lane. They should be able to average at least 50 to 60 miles an hour.” While it is true, some of the highway is four lane and it is approximately 150 miles (MapQuest.com shows it is 159.2 miles), my travel agent friend did not know about the stretch, the deer zone or the many travel trailers and cars pulling boats that do a lot to slow traffic.

The most important thing to do if you are making the drive from one end of the Keys to the other is allow plenty of time – especially if you are trying to catch a flight out of Miami International and returning a rental car. The car rental agencies provide maps of the Miami area and many offer directions to the different areas, including Key West.

On a recent trip to the Keys, I took a sightseeing trip to South Beach before heading to Key West. Instead of following the expressway to the Turnpike from the beach, I decided to go US 1 from Miami to Florida City. What a mistake! I found myself sitting in bumper to bumper traffic all the way through Coral Gables. With the traffic still bumper to bumper, I decided to head back for the Turnpike, where I was able to reach the gateway to the Keys, Florida City, in a matter of minutes.

But my sightseeing detour added several hours to our trip. So follow my advice and take the Turnpike to Florida City and avoid US 1. Just outside of Florida City begins the 20 mile ???? known locally as “the stretch.” While there has been talk of widening this part of US 1 to four lanes, environmentalists and those concerned the widening will just bring more folks to the already overpopulated Keys have banned together against the project. This 20 mile stretch is probably the most dangerous part of the entire trip to the Keys, with wrecks occurring on an almost daily basis when drivers become impatient and attempt to pass in no passing areas. Observe the signs and pass only in the passing zones. On our return trip to Miami we were forced to take a detour over Card Sound Road because of an accident on the stretch. Upon reaching Key Largo, the highway returns to four lane for a short distance before becoming two lane again for almost the entire remainder of the trip to Key West. Once past Marathon and you have crossed over the seven mile bridge, the Keys become less commercialized and populated, until reaching Key West. More to Come

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