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Driving from FLL to Key West

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My neighbor in L.A. owns a home in Key West that she is nice enough to share with all of her friends and neighbors. So, we are finally off in 2 weeks with another neighbor couple to visit Key West!

In short, place to stay, and things to do already accounted for.

We are, however, flying into FLL, spending the night there before renting a car and driving down to Key West. We have never been to Florida, much less the Keys, so I thought it would be fun to take the long drive down Florida's Highway 1 (I have driven California's Highway 1 at least 30 times in my life!).

Have only a couple of questions.

The first (seen this question before on these forums, but am still confused) is the route to get there from Fort Lauderdale (airport area), and how to deal with the toll roads. And what I have heard is a sunpass, which I don't have. And I don't want to have an issue driving a rental car and get a ticket or have to pay an extortionate daily fee for this 5 or so hour trip.

So . . . can I avoid taking the toll roads, or is there at least one lane that has a real person taking money?

The second request is suggestions of places to stop on the long highway down to Key West. My plan (which always is subject to my husband's belief that one should never rise before noon when on vacation) is to pick up the rental around 10 and start the road trip down at that time. So stopping for a bite part way or to relieve ourselves of morning coffee or to see something truly magical or cool as we drive down would be ideal.

I welcome all comments from the sublime to the ridiculous.

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