Our anniversary trip to the Florida Keys was definitely one to remember! We had a wonderful time, and for the first time in far too long, I think we might have actually relaxed. That may be surprising to those who know I actually hate driving and despise road trips, but if every place was as chill and easy to get around as the Florida Keys, I might just change my mind. Here are a few tips and things to know to make your drive through the Keys as easy as ours!
The Lay of the Land
The Florida Keys are linear. They’re long and skinny, and you definitely need a car to see more than one of them—or even all of just one of them. There’s one main road, called the Overseas Highway, or U.S. Route 1. This road follows the original railroad line, and it’s paralleled by the Overseas Heritage Trail for pedestrians and cyclists. You’ll go over a series of bridges, the longest of which is the 7 Mile Bridge.
Most of the road has only one lane in each direction: one heading South toward Key West, and one heading North toward Miami.
There are not very many lights on the Overseas Highway, but the ones you’ll see will be horizontal rather than vertical! You also won’t find many large intersections throughout the Keys. You’ll have to make a lot of U-turns whether you like it or not, so don’t be scared! Also, you’ll have to muster your bravery for left turns—you can do it!
Also helpful: How to Read a Map
Speed limits are low throughout the Keys and range from 35 mph to 55 mph, and some areas even have a minimum speed limit, usually of about 40 mph. These limits are strictly enforced. In fact, we saw several people getting tickets particularly near the 7-mile bridge in Marathon! Pay attention to the speed limits, and don’t mar your fun island adventure with a reckless driving ticket!
Don’t forget: How to Savor Your Travels
You know why driving in the Keys was so pleasant for two people (my husband and me) who don’t enjoy driving? Keys drivers are courteous! Here are some courtesies we found while we were driving and walking in the Keys.
Share the road. The Overseas Highway shares much of its roadways with the Historic Overseas Heritage Trail for cyclists and pedestrians. Be aware of who’s around you, and share the road kindly. Trust me, the cyclists and pedestrians don’t like competing for space any more than you do!
Be willing to back up and give way. It can be challenging to make a turn onto the Overseas Highway (left or right!) because there are so few traffic lights. Sometimes you need to nose out to be able to see and get in a position to pull out. But if you see a pedestrian or cyclist coming and you know you won’t be able to pull out before they cross your path, just back up if there’s no one behind you.
Be willing to let people go. Don’t cut people off, don’t tailgate, don’t flip anyone off. Be nice, be patient, be courteous. You’re on island time!
More here: How to Plan the Best Road Trip
Word to the wise: if there’s roadwork happening, you’ll have to stop for a while. Because there’s only one lane each way through most of the Keys, when one lane is closed for roadwork, the other lane has to be used for cars going in both directions. We had to stop three times throughout our trip, once for an accident and twice for power line work. Each stop took between 10-20 minutes. Just pack your patience. The islands will still be there when you start moving again!
Another scenic drive to consider: What to Know Before You Drive the Road to Hana
We ended up driving all the way from Miami to Key West and back over the course of a week. We had a Ford SUV with EcoSport, and we only had to fill up once! Gas in May 2021 cost $2.81 per gallon. Gas prices fluctuate, as we all know, but I was actually pleasantly surprised at that price. Island prices (on everything) can be much higher than usual, so I was expecting gas to be well over a dollar more than that.
I believe prices in the Keys are more reasonable than most other islands because of the Overseas Highway. Most islands are not connected to a mainland, so everything has to be shipped to it. Thanks to the Overseas Highway, things like gas and groceries can be driven to the Keys instead of shipped by sea.
Read next: My Top 10 Road Trip Tips
Want more about Florida and the Keys? You can find it all on my United States Page!
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