We love road trips, and we’ve talked about them until we’re as blue in the face as a bottle of RELAX® Riesling. Still, somehow we skipped one of the greatest destinations in the United States: Key West, Florida.
What makes Key West such a phenomenal location? How about a 110 mile drive with a 360 degree view of vibrant teal ocean, miles of fish houses offering up the freshest seafood in the world and knowing you have literally driven to the last (or maybe it’s the first) mile of pavement in the US? If we have your attention in the least, check out these basics to the perfect road trip to paradise.
Where to begin
Even if you live in Florida, this can be an excruciatingly long drive. The drive from the northwestern tip of Florida to Key West would take almost as long as driving down the coast of California. So when planning your trip, consider flying into Miami and renting a car. Then you’re only 3 hours away and can enjoy the beauty of the drive instead of sliding into that “are we there yet?” mentality.
Enjoy Highway 1
This is one road trip that the journey certainly is as great as the destination. Highway 1 is not like any road you have ever driven, although you will see your occasional tourist trap along the way. At any given point you’re just a few minutes drive from a great diving destination or a beautiful state park. Unlike most coastal drives, this drive gives you a great view of two amazing bodies of water with the Atlantic Ocean on the driver’s side and the Gulf of Mexico on the passenger’s.
Stop for lunch
Whether you’re looking for a fresh grouper sandwich or to try your first alligator, this trip is peppered with great seafood joints along the way. The Islamorada Fish Company in Islamorada brings great food and the perfect atmosphere for a long lunch. Dine just a few feet above the water and take a walk around the docks and spot lobsters, sharks and other marine life while waiting for your food. A few other options in this area are Snapper’s Waterfront Restaurant and Pierre’s Restaurant.
Lodging in Key West
Lodging can be surprisingly affordable in Key West. Your options vary quite a bit as well, ranging from your basic hotel up to the nicer resort-style. Our favorite idea? Camping. That’s right. At half the cost of the worst hotel we could find, it’s certainly your cheapest option. What? Are you thinking the whole “no shower” thing isn’t for you? We agree, that’s why we would go with the KOA in Key West. Not only do KOA’s have really nice showers, this one has a hot tub, sauna, Wi-Fi, pool, fishing, bike rentals, full service marina and the list goes on and on. Good luck finding a hotel that offers all of those amenities for $65 a night.
How many places have a nightly arts festival? None that we know of besides Key West. Every night in Mallory Square hundereds of people come together for the Sunset Celebration. It’s a guaranteed good time.
Even if you’re not into diving, you must at least try the snorkeling. Key West is home to many beautiful coral reefs and fish and is known for its shallow, easy dives.
We hate to recommend museums when you’re in such a beautiful environment, but there are quite a few really cool ones in the area. Check out Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, Eco-Discovery Center and the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. The list of similar attractions goes on and on.
Key West is known for its colorful crop of people and as the Village People said, “Take a walk down Duval Street, you never know who you’ll meet.” It’s people watching at its best. Take a gander at some of the better known bars, such as Sloppy Joe’s and the place as popular as it is small, Smallest Bar (really, this bar is smaller than our wine cellar). Or you can visit every bar in this area with the Duval Crawl, a self-guided tour of all the bars and their specialty drinks.
That’s it! Did we miss something? Let us know on Twitter! Before you get to planning though, we want to leave you with this quote:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain