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Miami to Key West pre-cruise

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Hoping I got the right forum for this question. . .

 

Next February we are taking a Wednesday cruise out of Miami and thinking of coming in early to spend some time in Key West. First thought was to fly directly to Key West but prices are very high. . .now looking at flying round trip to MIA (or FLL), renting a car and driving down the Keys. According to google maps, it should take three hours, fifteen minutes (about 30 minutes longer out of FLL), and I bet it is a gorgeous drive. The original plan was just to drive once (from Key West back to Miami) the day before the cruise; under the new plan, we would have a car the whole time we are there.

 

We would arrive in Miami on a Saturday morning (red eye) then drive back Tuesday afternoon. Don't know exactly where we are staying, but intend to be near/in Key West

 

I've only been to Key West once on a cruise so don't know what I'm getting into...does this make sense? Thinking it is an obvious choice, but after a very stressful day with a rental car in Italy, now am a little more cautious. Also had some friendly folks talk me out of renting a car at the cruise port in LA to drive to Las Vegas, explaining that on my weekday arrival, it would take a number of hours to just get out of the city!

 

Thanks,

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Posted (edited)

MIA/FLL is a nice drive for much of it once you're in the keys - though some parts are nothing special. Driving through the busy sections of Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon is like driving in any really dense commercial area of Anytown, USA but the bridge crossings and the lower keys are really nice.

 

One thing to consider is after you leave the mainland, it's one lane for much of the last 100 miles. 3.5 ish hours is on a good day - on a bad day it can take 6 (I drove down on that bad day once). Saturday morning can be a very busy time to travel down the Keys depending on what time ff year, but Feb is a less busy time.

 

There's lots of inns / B&Bs in KW and it's my preferred way to stay. I like to be a short bike ride away from Old Town.

Edited by CT Sean
too many spaces

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MIA/FLL is a nice drive for much of it once you're in the keys - though some parts are nothing special. Driving through the busy sections of Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon is like driving in any really dense commercial area of Anytown, USA but the bridge crossings and the lower keys are really nice.

 

One thing to consider is after you leave the mainland, it's one lane for much of the last 100 miles. 3.5 ish hours is on a good day - on a bad day it can take 6 (I drove down on that bad day once). Saturday morning can be a very busy time to travel down the Keys depending on what time ff year, but Feb is a less busy time.

 

There's lots of inns / B&Bs in KW and it's my preferred way to stay. I like to be a short bike ride away from Old Town.

 

 

 

Cool, thanks for the info! Sounds similar to a drive down hwy 101 here on the west coast. Currently looking at a direct flight that lands at 6:15 am. Might be a little groggy, but should be able to get out of the city before most folks are up.

 

 

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We frequently travel by car to Key West. What the above reader said about the trip is true. I'd add that it is hard to judge travel time because if there is a wreck, traffic can back up badly. The other thing is that because there is only one road in and out, you will see the same scenery twice as you go and return.

 

You can do a variation at the northern end of Key Largo when you return to Miami by taking the Card Sound Road instead of staying on One. It is less traveled, but is about six miles longer. Card Sound Road does have a high bridge that has a spectacular view. There is a toll. The last we did it, the toll was a dollar. Card Sound Road meets up with Highway One again just before Florida City.

 

We like to stop and eat along the way. There are many, many restaurants. Two of our favorites are the one just outside the big Bass Pro Sports store at Mile Marker 81 in Islamorada. The other is Island Fish Company in Marathon. Both are on the right hand side as you head south.

 

February is high season, so popular restaurants can be busy.

 

Key West has many fine eateries and numerous selections of hotels and inns at which to stay. There are a variety of price points from budget to luxury.

 

There's a lot to do in Key West, If you are there only one day, your time will be very busy, so as the Key West fan that I am, I hope you will come back sometime when you can stay longer.

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If you're landing at 6.15 AM, you should have smooth drive down, maybe even arriving early enough to hit Blue Heaven for breakfast. If not stop by Sunday for brunch (if you're into that sort of thing). Make a reservation for Sunday though, they get busy.

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Allow a minimum of 3.5 hours drive from Miami and 4 hours from Fort Lauderdale. Even early in the morning there will be some congestion and traffic moves slowly through the Keys on weekends. Saturday’s are check in day at weekly rentals, so expect some delays.

 

February is peak season here, so I don’t understand the comment about it being “less busy.” Expect Key West to be very busy and traffic to back up in the towns.

 

I assume you sleep on red eye flights and are comfortable driving 4 hours after the flight. Be careful. The road is overcapacity these days and accidents are common.

 

You might want to look at Tripadvisor’s Key West Forum which has a top question link with information about the drive.

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Thanks for all the info. We have pulled the trigger and bought tickets...but based on price, got tickets that will put us in Florida Thursday morning. Since we have more time, now considering the idea of spending two days to get to Key West. Figure that would give us plenty of time to stop and sight see, plus I am also a little concerned (as a previous posted pointed out) about being a bit fatigued after the cross county red eye.

 

 

If we did split the drive into two days, any recommendation of a worth while area to spend the night?

 

 

Thanks

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Since its your first time driving down to KW, count on it taking more than 3.5-4 hours.

 

If you plan on stopping halfway, imho the two places that make the most sense is either Key Largo or Islamorada. Of those two, KL is overdeveloped with the typical tourist traps, imho and Islamorada is much more laid back with more of that that "Keys" vibe

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Both Key Largo and Islamorada are good choices, depending on what you might be interested in on a stop down. Key Largo is definitely more commercial.

 

Key Largo is the self proclaimed diving capital of the world

Islamorada is the self proclaimed sportfishing capital of the world

In case either of those "titles" appeals to you.

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If part of your goal is to minimize the drive, I would stay in Key Largo.

 

Since Key Largo is on a single larger island, the views from the main road are not as scenic as areas further south with many bridges. However, once you get off the road, the waterfront hotels, restaurants and bars are as beautiful as anywhere in The Keys.

 

The next day you can get an early start and enjoy the nicest 2 hours of the drive to Key West. As I mentioned above, the TripAdvisor Forum has lots of good information including a link about the drive.

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This is way more than enough time to get to, and enjoy, Key West. We drive down for long weekends, as many do. This is pretty much "normal." Get your car and just make the drive. It's really not that bad and goes quickly because the drive is pretty and unique. I would just drive straight through, personally, and get it over with.

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Thanks everyone for all the advise and information. This has been helpful for me.

 

For what it's worth, here is our plan: after landing in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday morning, we will travel to Islamorada where we rented an ocean front condo in a resort for two nights. Thought long and hard about this stop and the final decision revolved around price as we got the condo for under $300 per night with a great location and amenities. Figure this will give us a couple days to unwind to start our trip and we will have a car to explore the area.

 

We will then make the balance of the drive to Key West where we will stay for three nights; there the same $300 price point will get us a room in a 2.5 star hotel, or a 150 SF apartment near Duval street. Haven't decided to up the budget for those nights or not, realizing that we probably won't be spending much time in our room.

 

Also realized that we are planning late for our trip... based on what I've been seeing and reading, sounds like I should have been working on a place to stay about a year in advance!

 

Cheers,

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Seems like a good plan.

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We will then make the balance of the drive to Key West where we will stay for three nights; there the same $300 price point will get us a room in a 2.5 star hotel, or a 150 SF apartment near Duval street. Haven't decided to up the budget for those nights or not, realizing that we probably won't be spending much time in our room.

 

 

You can find decent hotels in that price point in February - we've stayed at the Duval Gardens B&B and Southernmost Inn on Upper Duval for that $300 budget and found both to be very nice.

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You can find decent hotels in that price point in February - we've stayed at the Duval Gardens B&B and Southernmost Inn on Upper Duval for that $300 budget and found both to be very nice.

 

 

 

Thanks! I checked these out and both have great locations and reasonable prices. Will investigate further.

 

Google is funny - when I first pulled the places up, I got room rates for next week, which are less than HALF of the February rate. I’m not laughing, google.

 

 

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5 nights in the Keys - you've made an excellent decision!:p

 

Islamorada:

- have lunch or dinner at Lazy Days

- find the tile art store

- feed the tarpon at Robbies Marina

- Try to catch Michael Trixx show at the Lorelei

- Worldwide Sportsman Store

- Snappers Restaurant - not sure how much of it is open yet after the hurricane

- Maybe go back up to Key Largo and do a snorkel boat trip to Pennekamp State Park

- Theater of the Sea

 

Key West is another list entirely!:)

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Great list. Everything is open now. We were at lazy days very shortly after the hurricane actually.

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To me, the view of the ocean from the deck at Lazy Days is the highlight - food is very good, too!

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OK, not getting into the argument of where to stay - everyone has a different idea. But here are a few ideas about the trip to-from Key West:

 

 

I would stop at Snapper's (close to MM 100) and have lunch. In Islamorado, Lor-e-lei's is a neat place - on the right-hand side as you're driving to KW. So is the Islamorada Fish Company, which is a great outdoor restaurant right on Florida Bay.

 

 

Continuing on, in Marathon there is the Sunset Bar and Grille, again on the ocean at Knight's Key, right beside the 7-Mile Bridge. Go on about 10 miles down, to Big Pine Key, and drop in at the wonderfully funky No Name Bar - OUTSTANDING pizza (put it in your GPS or you'll never find it!) While you're at No Name, see the tiny Key deer which hang out near here.

 

 

Still not to KW yet - stop at Geiger Key 13 miles from KW (again, use your GPS to find it, directly on the Gulf.) And finally, right before you hit Key West, duck into the Hurricane Hole for EXCELLENT fish!

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Great advice has been given, but let me add a couple of things to the discussion. When renting a car to drive to Key West, make sure you get a SunPass so you can use the toll road for the fastest and easiest way there and back. You will enjoy the drive on US 1 during the day as there is plenty to see and plenty of places to stop.

When getting into Key West, be very careful on parking the car as lots of places are permit only for the residence. Parking lots are available but can be costly as well, and do get busy.

Be sure to check out different place for Happy hour as several offer great deals on HH menu. Enjoy your trip.

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Thanks everyone, this is all great info!

 

 

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We are planning on doing something similar in May right after our cruise. We disembark on May 5, so I thought we would rent a car and drive down that day. Then stay the night of the 5th and 6th, drive to Miami on the 6th to fly home (we would book late flights), does it sound doable? If not then we would just spend one night in Key West and one night in Miami.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions on where to stay that accommodates 3 ppl? Most of what I find is for 2ppl. There are actually 5 of us, but it is 2 couples and a child (well, she is 16 ;))

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We are planning on doing something similar in May right after our cruise. We disembark on May 5, so I thought we would rent a car and drive down that day. Then stay the night of the 5th and 6th, drive to Miami on the 6th to fly home (we would book late flights), does it sound doable? If not then we would just spend one night in Key West and one night in Miami.

 

Its doable

 

Does anyone have any suggestions on where to stay that accommodates 3 ppl? Most of what I find is for 2ppl. There are actually 5 of us, but it is 2 couples and a child (well, she is 16 ;))

 

There are plenty of places that will accommodate three or more people. Wonder if you are looking strictly at B&B's or boutique guest houses.

There are the usual Sheraton/Hilton/Marriott chains on the west end of the island. They're nice but if you are looking to stay closer to the Historic District, take a look at the Maragitaville Key West Resort, Ocean Key Resort, Hyatt Residence Club Sunset Harbor and Simonton Court. On the quieter end of Upper Duval, there's the Southernmost Point and the affordable Blue Marlin. All of them have two bed rooms - the Hyatt has 2 BR suites if that works better for you. Duval Street is a tad over a mile long - you can walk from one end to the other in 20-25-ish minutes at a normal walking pace

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There are plenty of places that will accommodate three or more people. Wonder if you are looking strictly at B&B's or boutique guest houses.

There are the usual Sheraton/Hilton/Marriott chains on the west end of the island. They're nice but if you are looking to stay closer to the Historic District, take a look at the Maragitaville Key West Resort, Ocean Key Resort, Hyatt Residence Club Sunset Harbor and Simonton Court. On the quieter end of Upper Duval, there's the Southernmost Point and the affordable Blue Marlin. All of them have two bed rooms - the Hyatt has 2 BR suites if that works better for you. Duval Street is a tad over a mile long - you can walk from one end to the other in 20-25-ish minutes at a normal walking pace

Thanks! I was searching on Booking , Orbitz etc. Places seem to pop up one day and then are gone, then the next day they are back. Seems like they were mostly showing me the boutique hotels. I did find the Blue Marlin last time I checked, I will try going directly to the hotel site instead of a 3rd party. Thanks again for the suggestions.

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We are planning on doing something similar in May right after our cruise. We disembark on May 5, so I thought we would rent a car and drive down that day. Then stay the night of the 5th and 6th, drive to Miami on the 6th to fly home (we would book late flights), does it sound doable? If not then we would just spend one night in Key West and one night in Miami.

 

Does anyone have any suggestions on where to stay that accommodates 3 ppl? Most of what I find is for 2ppl. There are actually 5 of us, but it is 2 couples and a child (well, she is 16 ;))

 

I'm definitely not an expert on Key West, but since I started this thread, and have been researching Key West heavily, figured it would throw my thoughts in! Will be able to provide more feed back after February, but don't think you want to wait that long.

 

Personally, we are trying to spend as much time out of Miami as possible, so I would recommend two nights.

 

For places to stay with multiple folks, I usually start my search on AirBnb. I didn't find a lot available in old town Key West for my visit, but since you are starting earlier, and if you are willing to look into new Key West (near the airport), you should have more options. As you get further south, it seems like the places got smaller, more expensive, and parking becomes difficult. With five folks total, I'd also suggest looking for a place with a kitchen.

 

FWIW, we ended up renting a room with a pool front patio area at a small hotel on Duval street and are paying over $400 a night. We relied heavily on reviews from Trip advisor (and other sources) and decided that location was the most important thing...blowing our budget in the process:D.

 

Good luck with your search, and hopefully to locals can give you some better advise.

 

Cheers,

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Thanks. This has been a great thread to read through. We decided a number of weeks ago that instead of staying in Miami for two nights before our cruise that we would try the Florida Keys. We are staying at the Hampton Inn in Key Largo. Should arrive Thursday evening around 7 p.m. in Key Largo and then the next day plan to start early and drive down to Key West, explore for 3-4 hours and then drive back and make stops along the way like Robbie's and have dinner in Key Largo that night (probably Key Largo Conch House). Leaving Key Largo for Miami early that next Saturday morning.

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Though you have me tempted to spend one night, that first night, in Key West and the second in Key Largo! Thanks for all the tips.

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I'm definitely not an expert on Key West, but since I started this thread, and have been researching Key West heavily, figured it would throw my thoughts in! Will be able to provide more feed back after February, but don't think you want to wait that long.

 

Personally, we are trying to spend as much time out of Miami as possible, so I would recommend two nights.

 

For places to stay with multiple folks, I usually start my search on AirBnb. I didn't find a lot available in old town Key West for my visit, but since you are starting earlier, and if you are willing to look into new Key West (near the airport), you should have more options. As you get further south, it seems like the places got smaller, more expensive, and parking becomes difficult. With five folks total, I'd also suggest looking for a place with a kitchen.

 

FWIW, we ended up renting a room with a pool front patio area at a small hotel on Duval street and are paying over $400 a night. We relied heavily on reviews from Trip advisor (and other sources) and decided that location was the most important thing...blowing our budget in the process:D.

 

Good luck with your search, and hopefully to locals can give you some better advise.

 

Cheers,

 

Kind of surprised. We can always find rooms during high season cheaper than that but we prefer to stay on the Upper Duval end - quieter but only a 20-ish minute walk to Mallory Square

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Thanks. This has been a great thread to read through. We decided a number of weeks ago that instead of staying in Miami for two nights before our cruise that we would try the Florida Keys. We are staying at the Hampton Inn in Key Largo. Should arrive Thursday evening around 7 p.m. in Key Largo and then the next day plan to start early and drive down to Key West, explore for 3-4 hours and then drive back and make stops along the way like Robbie's and have dinner in Key Largo that night (probably Key Largo Conch House). Leaving Key Largo for Miami early that next Saturday morning.

We have stayed at the Hampton Inn Key Largo a couple of times, and loved it. Just up the North side of the highway is

The Fish House and we love their dinners. Have a great time!

View behind Hampton Inn.

thumb_IMG_3598_1024.jpg.26eda096191f2d52f63c69670d6c2708.jpg

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Thanks. Looks great. Yes. Have read good reviews and seen cool videos of the Hampton Inn online. Looking forward to staying there!

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I'm definitely not an expert on Key West, but since I started this thread, and have been researching Key West heavily, figured it would throw my thoughts in! Will be able to provide more feed back after February, but don't think you want to wait that long.

 

Personally, we are trying to spend as much time out of Miami as possible, so I would recommend two nights.

 

For places to stay with multiple folks, I usually start my search on AirBnb. I didn't find a lot available in old town Key West for my visit, but since you are starting earlier, and if you are willing to look into new Key West (near the airport), you should have more options. As you get further south, it seems like the places got smaller, more expensive, and parking becomes difficult. With five folks total, I'd also suggest looking for a place with a kitchen.

 

FWIW, we ended up renting a room with a pool front patio area at a small hotel on Duval street and are paying over $400 a night. We relied heavily on reviews from Trip advisor (and other sources) and decided that location was the most important thing...blowing our budget in the process:D.

 

Good luck with your search, and hopefully to locals can give you some better advise.

 

Cheers,

Thanks for the suggestions. We want to stay in the historic area, we don't need a kitchen - no cooking while on vacation especially if we are only spending 2 days/ 1 night there. I booked 2 rooms at The Blue Marlin. Total is $322 and it has pretty good reviews. If I find something better I can cancel with no penalty. It does not seem like I will find anything in our price range, in the area we want that also allows a child.

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Thanks for the suggestions. We want to stay in the historic area, we don't need a kitchen - no cooking while on vacation especially if we are only spending 2 days/ 1 night there. I booked 2 rooms at The Blue Marlin. Total is $322 and it has pretty good reviews. If I find something better I can cancel with no penalty. It does not seem like I will find anything in our price range, in the area we want that also allows a child.

 

You'll like the Blue Marlin - we stayed there the first time we went to KW. Has that 50's vibe from the outside but rooms are modern. Its only a block from Duval, a short walk to the Southernmost Point buoy and around the corner from stop #11 on the Old Time Trolley route. Nice walk down Duval to Mallory Square. Continental breakfast is served out by the pool but for something more substantial, go to the Southernmost Beach Café - neat to see the cruise ships sailing in. Louie's Backyard is one block east and serves great food with an even better view of the ocean.

 

Just confused again about your comment about finding a place that allows children......

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You'll like the Blue Marlin - we stayed there the first time we went to KW. Has that 50's vibe from the outside but rooms are modern. Its only a block from Duval, a short walk to the Southernmost Point buoy and around the corner from stop #11 on the Old Time Trolley route. Nice walk down Duval to Mallory Square. Continental breakfast is served out by the pool but for something more substantial, go to the Southernmost Beach Café - neat to see the cruise ships sailing in. Louie's Backyard is one block east and serves great food with an even better view of the ocean.

 

Just confused again about your comment about finding a place that allows children......

Good to hear a review of the Blue Marlin!

re children - I keep looking at places in the historic area and a lot of them are a max of 2 people per room, and a big chunk are adults only.

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