Driving Through the Florida Keys

Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 02:13 PM
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Driving Through the Florida Keys

I'm trying to get some info on what it's like to drive from Miami to Key West. Some of my questions are: (1) is it a toll road to drive through the Keys, (2) is it a 2 or 3 lane highway [in one direction], (3) generally, what's traffic like in January, and (4) is it easy to access rest stops, gas, food, etc. along the way?
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 02:36 PM
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look at on street view in google maps...its a concrete highway that happens to be over water sometimes. I was amazed at how much was actually over land. services are plentiful.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 03:16 PM
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It is not like an interstate or limited access highway. The parts on land are lined with business -- the most shell shops and tshirt shops you've ever seen in your life. You endure the strip shopping malls and ticky-tacky structures to enjoy the magnificent bridges and causeway sections.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 03:39 PM
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Just to be clear - it's one lane in each direction.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 04:53 PM
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Some additional comments.

One of the most scenic drives in the U.S. the communities en route have excellent restaurants, fun activities and unique shops. Do not race through and miss the best part of the Keys. Many threads here discuss favorites along he way.

Overseas Highway is two lane, can be slow moving, has some dangerous segments, and unpredictable drives. Allow plenty of time, because you won't make quick progress.

The experience is worth the effort. Have fun!
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 05:48 PM
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Well, you might suffer a little road rage as you cruise along at 25 mph (if you're lucky) waiting for a passing zone for mile after mile. And if you like bait stores you'll be ok.
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Old Sep 22nd, 2013, 09:20 PM
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I thought it was going to be a lot more scenic than it was. I envisioned the entire drive being just like the portion going over Seven Mile Bridge--all sea and sky. (And that part of the drive was quite scenic.) Well, most of it is Neopatrick and 330east describe--tacky stores and bait shops. And there's also a lot of foliage where there aren't shops, so you can't see the ocean even when you know it's right there.

I'm still glad we drove from Miami to Key West, but I don't ever need to do it again.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 03:15 AM
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There are things to do along the way if you are not in a big hurry. A little research found us a neat place to stop for breakfast, and we enjoyed stoppjng to look around and feed the tarpons at Robbies in Islamadora. We also drove into Pine Key to catch a glimpe of one of the endangered Key deer at the wildlife refuge. There was also a neat little walking trail there. Just plan on it taking about half of your day and don't try to go both ways in the same day if you want to spend any time in Key West.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 04:50 AM
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And take some water and snacks in case of an accident that leaves you sitting for a while.
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Old Sep 23rd, 2013, 01:45 PM
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Good info everyone! I'm taking a trip in the beginning of December of this year and will take note of all of this!
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Old Sep 24th, 2013, 04:36 AM
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I did this drive last January and will do it again (to Islamorada) this coming January. AGree with much of what has been written above.

For those planning a similar trip, a popular stop, especially for those stocking up for food supplies, is Robert Is Here, a petting zoo/fruit stand on steroids, a few blocks off the main route from Miami to the Keys, in Florida City. They offer some unusual (for non locals) exotic fruits not often found in Florida markets. Prepare for crowds, and for prices that are not in the "bargain" realm.

http://www.robertishere.com/xcart/home.php





My second recommendation, far more exciting and unusual, is for people making this drive on a weekend. If you are longing to discover an antidote to the Publix and Winn Dixies that smear the South Florida food shopping map, head to this weekend market for a different kind of experience, and a bright light among the adult book stores and seedy strip malls lining the route around Homestead.


This sprawling "farmer's" market, comprised of various hangar-like pre-fab sheds, is just to the right of the main drag, Dixie Highway, on the right side for those heading south to The Keys.

From the ranchera music and to the stands selling dried jamaica (Hibiscus flowers), Western/cowboy boots and fresh Salvadoran cheese, this is the closest I've come to the feeling of being "south of the border" while in Florida.

Many patrons are agricultural workers and their families, along with many families who make the drive south from the Miami area to shop and socialize. While it may help to speak Spanish, people were warm and welcoming on the day of my visit last winter. Go more for the atmosphere than the bargain pricing. Well worth an hour or two. Free parking in (crowded) lots. Lots of stands selling everything from pinatas to tacos de carne asada to licuados de tamarindo, along with bags of dried chilies, Cds of ranchera music, and packs of Mexican Coke (made with sugar!) Separate sheds house furniture vendors, but we did not need a new mattress at that time, so skipped that area.


Not much information online; often referred to as Redlands Market, you will spot it on the right as you head south near 24420 South Dixie Highway in the Homestead area, vicinity of Princeton, Fla.

24420 South Dixie Highway, Princeton, Florida
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Old Sep 24th, 2013, 06:15 AM
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Great info, eskcrunchy. That sounds like a cool market. I heard Robert is Here makes great smoothies, too.

One could easily make a whole day of just driving down to Key West, which for most tourists is the destination. I was surprised by my research about how much there is to see and do in the different keys and wished we had more time to explore.

My best advice is get that laid-back Key attitude going and chill out! I think Key West deserves two nights if you take the trouble to drive down.
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Old Sep 24th, 2013, 07:13 AM
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I loved the drive from Miami to Key West! I was trying to remember the name where we stopped for fresh fruit milkshakes and I just read a few posts up it is Robert is Here! We also loved stopping at Bahia Honda State Park and wished we had more time to spend there. John Pennecamp State Park is another good stop!
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Old Sep 25th, 2013, 03:26 AM
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Thanks all. Comments are very helpful.
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Old Sep 25th, 2013, 06:56 AM
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My advice is to make the drive during daylight hours when you are fresh and alert. When i made the drive a few years ago I was a bit freaked by all news about head-on collisions. It's frightfully common.
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Old Oct 7th, 2013, 05:02 PM
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Definately stop at Robbies (77mi) if I am not mistaken. 3$ for loads of fun.

Bahia Honda Beach is one of the better beaches on the Keys for sure. You have to pay to get in there and cannot re-enter after leaving once.

Snorkeling/diving on the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary is an awesome experience. Went with the Looe Key Dive center and snorkeled for almost 2.5 hours at two different spots, seen Dolphins and Turtles, and the equipment was decent, too.

Besides all the other default touristy stuff, I would always go back to the Butterfly Conservatory on Key West - lovely, and you can re-enter during all day.

The cheapest gas station to be found is the very last big one right before you enter the way onto the Keys. 3,27$/gallon for regular last week, the next Shell station was 3,31, Miami roughly 3,45++, and on the Keys it's getting more and more expensive the further you go for obvious reasons.

Drive during day light, although the light during sunset is awesome. Be prepared to overtake if necessary, it's not a toll road and mostly one lane only. Groceries are definately more expensive than in Miami, probably at 10-20%.
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Old Oct 14th, 2013, 07:16 PM
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Hi ekescrunchy , Once more I read one of your postings with interest and pleasure,
There is a joke here in Miami, where I live , that is applicable it goes

" I love Miami it is so close to the USA"

Cheers
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Old Oct 15th, 2013, 01:19 PM
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I was surprised by the lack of water views too. I had envisioned seeing the water for most of the drive as well. We loved stopping at Robbie's though. Feeding the tarpon was a lot of fun - pretty affordable entertainment for three bucks. I was hoping to see some Key Deer on Big Pine Key, but no such luck. For everyone who has gone to the wildlife refuge, are they fairly easy to see there? I'd love to check that out when we go back.
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Old Jan 1st, 2015, 08:33 AM
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topping for poster inquiring about the drive to The Keys from Miami area
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Old Jan 1st, 2015, 09:41 AM
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Places I like to stop -

The African Queen - we used to stop at the Holiday Inn Key Largo to stretch our legs a bit once we actually got in the keys. Now it looks like they are cruising her again -
http://africanqueenflkeys.com/

John Pennekamp State Park - we used to stop to snorkel but a lot of families just enjoy the sunshine at the beach
http://pennekamppark.com/
Beach and picnicking -
http://pennekamppark.com/activities/

Divers Direct - we used to stop to walk around and see if there was anything new we wanted. This is where we bought our first snorkel bags and gear
http://www.diversdirect.com/scuba-di...go-dive-shops/

The wood carver - I don't remember where he was located, but we'd stop to see what was new. We bought a carved black bear for the mountain place when I saw it and wanted it but didn't want to deal with getting it home. He shipped it home for us for free. Maybe someone else knows who or where he is.

***Islamorada Bass Pro shop *** - Always stopped here to walk around, look at the fish in the tank, see what was on sale and usually bought some new shoes and/or clothes. Ladies clothes are upstairs, on the way to Zane Grey's

***Zane Grey's Lounge, on the second floor - always stopped here for drinks and their smoked fish dip. Came back many times during the week to watch the sunset from the 2nd floor porch, enjoying everything on the menu but especially the coconut shrimp

Capt. Anne Baxter - always went out with Capt. Anne on her boat. She was a retired park ranger and no one knew the area better. Eco-tour, snorkeling tour, snorkeling tours that became ecotours because the waves were too high...
http://easyadventures.net/
I think she's retired but definitely take a charter out and get out on the water

Feed the tarpon at Robbie's -
http://www.robbies.com/tarpon.htm

Bahia Honda -
http://bahiahondapark.com/

There's more to do but we pretty much repeated our favorites from that list. Lots of time hanging out in the sun, snorkeling, eating and relaxing.

We'd go down to Key West for the day, although I have taken a long weekend trip to Key West. I just enjoyed hanging out in the mid-keys more.

http://www.basspro.com/webapp/wcs/st...b=3&storeID=21
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