Driving southbound on Route 1 from Miami to the Florida Keys, travelers will experience one of the most amazing road trips that the United States has to offer.
Personally, I had ventured to the state of Florida on numerous occasions throughout my lifetime visiting cities such as Miami, Orlando, and Jacksonville, but the thought of visiting the Keys had never crossed my mind.
Key West and the surrounding Keys came onto my radar while I was browsing pictures of Florida destinations on Instagram. I was blown away by the beauty that I saw in areas such as Key West, Islamorada, and Bahia Honda.
I already had plans to visit Miami, Florida for a friend’s bachelorette and I decided that the perfect way to end the trip would be to take a road trip down to the Keys.
Stop 1: Miami Beach
I spent a few days in the city of Miami with a couple of girlfriends before heading down to the Keys. I had an amazing time eating, drinking, and soaking up the sun while I was in the city.
Some places and things to do that are worth checking out in the Miami Beach area include:
– Bolivar Restaurant – Bolivar is a restaurant on Miami Beach that serves amazing Colombian dishes. If you are with a group, I recommend ordering multiple items on the menu to share because everything is so delicious.
– Bodega Taqueria and Tequila – This cute unassuming little taco shop near South Beach houses a (not so secret) speakeasy. You might spot a celebrity or two at this cute little joint but be prepared for a wait to get in.
– Miami Culinary Tours – Curious to know about the food scene in different neighborhoods in Miami? Take a tour with Miami Culinary Tours to discover foods that have influenced the city’s culture and history.
– Clevelander South Beach – If you are looking for a fun night out on Miami Beach, the Clevelander has an amazing outdoor party space and great music.
– Morgan’s Restaurant – This little restaurant in the Wynwood area of Miami has a great brunch and a lot of colorful areas to get cute Instagram shots.
– Delano South Beach – The Delano has one of the city’s best outdoor pools. Grab some friends, a cabana, and some drinks, and soak up the sun at this amazing and insta-worthy venue.
– Wynwood – Wynwood is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Miami and has an amazing art scene.
Where to Stay in Miami?
Stop 2: Key West
I decided to continue my Florida Keys trip by heading directly to Key West from Miami. This would give me the chance to discover the other Keys on my way back to departing flight from Miami.
Some of the highlights of my trip to Key West included:
– Learning how to make mojitos at Key West Legal Rum Distillery
– Walking down Duval Street and taking in the sights
– Fine dining at Latitudes Restaurant on Sunset Key
Where to Stay in Key West?
The small island of Key West has hundreds of options of places to stay. Visitors can opt to book a rental property through sites like Airbnb, or you could stay in any one of its beautiful hotels.
I stayed at the lovely Hilton Garden Inn Key West in the northeastern part of town.
Stop 3: The Blue Hole
After a quick two-day jaunt around Key West, I made my way towards my next destination: Islamorada.
About 40 miles outside of Key West, I made a short pit-stop at an area called the Blue Hole in Big Pine Key.
The Blue Hole is the only freshwater lake in the entire state of Florida. Visitors can see animals such as turtles, deer, alligators, and birds, all roaming around in their natural habitat.
Luckily, I only saw little baby gators roaming around the lake, but if you happen to see their parents, keep a safe distance, and do not feed them.
Stop 4: Bahia Honda Key & Marathon Key
One of my favorite places in the Florida Keys was Bahia Honda State Park on Bahia Honda Key.
The historic abandoned bridge, which crosses the Bahia Honda Channel, serves as a background to many pictures in the park.
Since I visited Bahia Honda prior to Hurricane Irma, I was able to visit an amazing beach on the Atlantic side of the park called Sandspur Beach.
Unfortunately, the hurricane tore through the park and completely destroyed the beach. If restoration ever occurs on the Atlantic side of Bahia Honda Park, I highly recommend spending the majority of your time there.
After spending a few hours at the beaches of Bahia Honda State Park, I made my way north to Marathon Key for dinner.
During my research on the Florida Keys, I kept coming across a restaurant named Sunset Grille & Raw Bar which overlooked the Seven Mile Bridge and I knew I had to go there. There is nothing better than watching the sun set over the water while enjoying seafood and cocktails.
If you make your way to Sunset Grille, I highly recommend ordering the Broiled Seafood Dinner and the Mermaid Lemonade. If you are lucky, you might witness some manatee swimming near the dock of the restaurant too!
Stop 5: Islamorada
The final leg of our Florida Keys journey brought us to the village of Islamorada (pronounced eye-la-more-ah-duh).
Islamorada is a collection of four islands about one hour south of Miami. Although the islands only cover an 18-mile area, the destination is packed with things to do.
If you are hungry or thirsty while visiting Islamorada, make sure to check out some of these places:
– Mangrove Mike’s Cafe – Mangrove Mike’s serves some of the best (and cheapest) breakfast that you will find in Islamorada. You can’t go wrong with the Mangrove Oscar Benedict served with fresh blue crab meat.
– Islamorada Beer Company – This local brewery makes craft beer right in the ‘drinking town with a fishing problem’. You will find both locals and visitors alike visiting to taste some of the finest beer that the Florida Keys has to offer.
– Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar – This bar has great views overlooking the Lignumvitae Basin and is perfect for date night. Definitely come for the ambiance, and the drinks aren’t too bad either.
– Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen (Key Largo) – Technically this restaurant is about 20 minutes outside of Islamorada, but it is definitely worth a mention. This local diner-style restaurant is worth the trip to Key Largo for a late-night dinner.
One of the most unique things to do in Islamorada is to feed the tarpon at Robbie’s.
Tarpon are massive air-breathing fish that are native to the Atlantic Ocean. These enormous fish come to Robbie’s in droves seeking fish from hungry visitors.
Watching the tarpon feed is truly magnificent. As soon as they sense food in the vicinity, the fish jump out of the water with their mouths wide open, grab the fish, and swallow them whole before sinking back into the water.
Another great thing to do in Islamorada is to visit Anne’s Beach.
Prior to Hurricane Irma in 2017, Anne’s Beach had a beautiful boardwalk, nice warm shallow water, and a plethora of large iguana roaming around. The hurricane obliterated the boardwalk and the beach was shut down.
Before heading to the Keys, it would be best to do a quick online search to see if the beach has been restored to its original state.
Where to Stay in Islamorada?
Islamorada, like the rest of the Florida Keys, has numerous places to stay. I highly recommend checking out Guy Harvey’s Islander Resort, a full-service resort overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. With an expansive beach, several pools (equipped with bars), and water sports, this place is definitely worth checking out.