U.S. Highway 1 ends in Fort Kent, Maine which is about 2369 miles from Key West, Florida. I know you should not start with the end, but I want to talk about my favorite drive on Highway 1.
Hwy. 1 headed north
I like to take the lovely trip down Highway 1 also known as the Overseas Highway from Homestead, Florida to mile marker 0 in Key West. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me. The map says it is 125 miles from Homestead to Key West and you would think it is about a two hour drive. Maybe it is for some, but they may get to meet some of Florida’s fine law enforcement agents if they try to hurry the trip too much and there really isn’t any reason to hurry.
We almost immediately take a detour off Highway 1 for a trip down Card Sound Road. This has always been a way to miss some of the heavy traffic and low speed limits between Homestead and Key Largo. Since the new bridge into Key Largo has been completed the drive down Hwy. 1 is a bit better. This said, we still prefer Card Sound Road as the route to Key Largo.
First it is a nice drive through an area of mangrove swamps which bring to mind Florida before Disney and high rise condos. Second we always make our first stop at Alabama Jack’s where we get into our Key West frame of mind. This open air bar nests among the mangroves alongside the sound and there are often boats tied up next to the building. Many think of Alabama Jack’s as a biker bar, but it is really a Keys style family stop.
After leaving Alabama Jack’s we pay our $1 toll and cross the Card Sound Bridge for our journey to Key Largo. In Key Largo we get back on Highway 1 and head to Key West. Do not look for an alternate route at this point. There isn’t one.
A nice place to stop in Key Largo is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Here you will find a nice picnic area and some very good snorkeling opportunities. It’s another nice break to take early in your drive.
We’ve been known to spend some time in Key Largo as part of our week-long Keys vacation. We had a very nice stay at the Anchorage Resort & Yacht Club which is a lovely timeshare facility. If staying in Key Largo you can always make a daytrip back to Miami to visit the beaches or do some shopping. Or you can head on down Highway 1 to spend some time in Key West.
A little further down the highway you reach the city of Marathon. If you are thinking about spending a night going or coming from Key West this is a good place to stop; there is a new Holiday Inn Express that is very nice. Not far from the hotel is a turn off to Key Colony Beach. Lunch or dinner at Sparky’s Landing is a real treat. Sparky’s is located at the Key Colony Marina and has good food and a great location.
The old Seven Mile Bridge
Leaving Marathon you will be crossing the Seven Mile Bridge which was one of the longest bridges in the U.S. when the original bridge was built. You will see the original bridge off to the side as you head south. There have probably been over a million photos taken from both bridges and of both bridges. This is one of the loveliest sights you will view on your drive. It can also be a real traffic headache on the busy days or if someone decides to participate in an auto accident.
About 30 miles down the road you will reach Pine Key. Slow down – the speed limit is dropping. You have reached the area to watch out for Key deer. The Key deer is native only in the Florida Keys and is the smallest breed of deer. Now I have not actually ever seen a Key deer on the highway but better safe than sorry. Slow down.
A bit further down the road you will reach Ramrod Key. Here we offer another opportunity for food and drink at Boondock’s. Boondock’s serves lunch and dinner and has live music in the evenings. It is also a place where you may catch our favorite Keys band, Howard Livingston and the Mile Marker 24 Band.
You are now 25 miles from one of my favorite cities. Key West, also known as Bone Island, is a little bit of land about 4 miles long and 2 miles wide. It has a “new town” and an “old town.” Old town Key West is the place get the true Key West vibe. Life is pretty laid back down here and we always find ourselves living on Key West time.
Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Make your pick from many great bed and breakfast options. Visit the tourist and historical sites. Enjoy the beaches. Our favorite is Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Be sure to take a tour on the trolley or conch train so you will be familiar with where things are. If you are really lucky, get to know a local. They can show you a lot of great spots off the beaten path.
We will talk more about Key West another time, but for now think about taking a great drive down the Overseas Highway.