Are you wondering if you should visit Key West or Miami on your next vacation?
What if we told you it’s possible to travel to both?
That’s right, you can visit Key West on a day trip from Miami. The distance between the two Florida cities is only 165 mi (265 km). A day trip is not only possible, but also the road through the Florida Keys is one of the most scenic drives you’ll ever experience.
All you need to have a blast is this travel guide and some planning.
One day in Key West is enough to discover the main attractions. You can roam the charming Old Town, explore the quaint museums, go on a snorkeling tour, and sample scrumptious dishes.
A day trip from Miami to Key West is easy to organize, and the panoramic drive down south is worth the journey alone.
To maximize your visit, we’ve prepared this guide for you. It’ll show you our most practical tips on how to plan the perfect day tour of the southernmost U.S. city.
Let’s jump right in!
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How to Get from Miami to Key West
You can travel to Key West from Miami in a few different ways. We’ve described each of them below:
|Mode of Transport||Duration||Book via|
|Car||From 3 hours 15 minutes (in each direction)||Discover Cars|
|Bus||From 3 hours 55 minutes (in each direction)||Omio|
|Bus Tour||Approximately 13 hours||Get Your Guide|
|Bus Tour + Snorkeling||Approximately 13 hours||Get Your Guide|
|Airplane||From 1 hour 5 minutes (in each direction)||CheapOair|
Traveling from Miami to Key West by Car
Our recommended way of traveling to Key West from Miami is by car.
You’ll need at least 3:15 hours to reach the last inhabited island in the Florida Keys if you drive non-stop. However, we suggest you plan a few stops along the way.
It is worth driving from Miami to Key West as the road between the two Florida cities is one of the most jaw-dropping, scenic drives in the United States.
42 spectacular bridges connect the Florida Keys – where Key West is located – to the mainland. The Overseas Highway divides the Mexican Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. The coastal views and the countless shades of blue will make your drive unforgettable.
The longest and most stunning of the bridges is the Seven Mile Bridge. The shortest one is Harris Gap Bridge, measuring only 37 ft. (11 m).
If you don’t have your wheels, you can find the best rental prices from Discover Car here.
Visiting Key West from Miami by Bus
Buses take between 3:45 and 4:30 hours to get from Miami to Key West.
Greyhound runs between Miami International Airport and Key West International Airport at 4:10 AM and at 11:10 AM.
Flixbus departs from Miami Beach at 7:00 AM, and stops at Downtown Miami and Miami International Airport. Their buses arrive at the intersection of Caroline Street and Grinnell Street in Key West at 11:40 AM.
The return bus, which allows you to spend enough time in Key West, departs at 5:00 PM on weekdays and at 6:10 PM on weekends. It reaches Miami around 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM, respectively.
The ticket costs $24.99 per leg and you can book yours via this link.
Going to Key West from Miami on a Tour
Joining a tour to Key West from Miami is the easiest and most fun way to travel between the two cities.
Our recommended bus tour will take you to the southernmost town in about 3:30 to 4:00 hours. You’ll have 6 hours to explore Key West, before heading back to Miami.
The trip includes a guided tour of Key West’s highlights. Afterward, you’ll have enough time to continue the exploration on your own.
Alternatively, you can opt-in for a ride on the conch train, a sightseeing trolley, a glass-bottom boat, or a snorkeling trip.
Flying from Miami to Key West
The flight time between Miami and Key West is 1:05 hours.
Unfortunately, the direct flight back to Miami leaves only several minutes after arriving in Key West. For this reason, traveling between Miami and Key West by plane is not suitable for a day trip.
If you decide to spend the night in the southernmost city of the United States, check out our guide with the best places to stay in Key West.
What to Do in Key West on a Full-Day Trip from Miami
Now that we’ve covered the practicalities of getting there, let’s get to the exciting stuff!
Have in mind that although we’ve included most of the city’s attractions, you probably won’t have time to visit all of them in one day in Key West.
We suggest you explore only what interests you the most. At the end of the day, if you like Key West on a day trip from Miami, you can always come back.
Explore the Florida Keys Barrier Reef
Key West is home to the third-largest barrier coral reef in the world and the only one in the continental United States. This is one of the most mind-blowing facts about the Florida Keys.
The Florida Reef extends between Miami and the Dry Tortugas National Park. Nearly 1,400 species of marine plants and animals live in the barrier reef.
Additionally, you can dive to 23 artificial reefs in the waters of the Keys.
Don’t forget to grab your snorkeling or diving gear, and explore the spectacular underwater world on your day trip to Key West from Miami.
Next to the stunning underwater wildlife, you can also search for sunken treasures at the Florida Keys Shipwreck Trail.
The easiest way to explore the underwater world of Key West is by joining this spectacular snorkeling tour.
Discover the Shipwreck Treasures Museum
Key West’s history is closely linked to salvaging shipwrecks. That’s how locals made their wealth in the 1830s.
Due to the busy trade routes between the East Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea, the strong currents, and the dangerous reefs, cargo ships sunk frequently.
The business of salvaging, auctioning, and reselling the treasures was so successful that it turned Key West into the biggest and wealthiest Floridian city. It even became the richest American city per capita.
Sadly for locals, in 1921, the wrecking courts closed, ending the profitable industry.
Today, you can relive Key West’s glorious past at the Shipwreck Treasures Museum.
Learn the Secrets of Truman’s Little White House
The Little White House in Key West was the summer residence of several U.S. presidents.
The list includes Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter.
The president who stayed the longest in Key West was Harry S. Truman. He occupied the house on 11 occasions during his presidency and five more times after he left the office.
The beautifully preserved house can tell more than a few surprising stories. Join the guided tour of the Little White House to learn the best ones.
Visit the Hemingway Home & Museum
One of the most famous Key West residents was Ernest Hemingway.
The acclaimed writer lived in Key West in the 1930s. In this period, he wrote “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, “To Have And Have Not”, “Islands in the Stream”, and “Green Hills of Africa”.
The house Hemingway occupied was the first home in Key West to have luxuries such as running water and a swimming pool.
On his move to the Florida Keys, the Nobel Prize-winning author brought with him Snowball, a white six-toed cat. Today, the Hemingway Home and Museum has between 50 and 60 permanent six-toed cuddly residents.
If you want to explore the writer’s legacy, including the decedents of his polydactyl furry pet, grab your ticket for the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museums here.
Take a Photo at the Southernmost Point of the Continental U.S.A.
Key West is famous for being the southernmost point of the contiguous United States.
A simple monument stands at the Southernmost Tip of the Continental U.S.A. It’s located exactly 90 mi (145 km) north of Cuba.
The buoy is a favorite photo op for everyone visiting Key West, and is especially busy at sunset.
If you prefer to avoid the crowds, visit the southernmost point as early in the day as possible.
Check Out the Mile 0 Marker
The Overseas Highway US 1, which connects Key West to the mainland, starts with MM 0 (Mile Marker Zero).
You’ll find the marker at the corner of Whitehead Street and Fleming Street in Key West’s Old Town.
Mile markers serve as addresses along the Overseas Highway and are a BIG thing in Key West.
Different souvenirs featuring “Mile 0” are the most popular memorabilia in the gift shops in the Keys.
Explore the Civil War Forts
Key West is home to three Civil War forts:
- Fort Zachary Taylor at the west tip of the island.
- Fort East Martello near the Key West International Airport.
- West Martello Tower next to Higgs Beach.
If you have time to visit only one of them on your day trip to Key West from Miami, we recommend Fort Zachary Taylor.
Not only you’ll get to enjoy the well-preserved historic attraction. You’ll also have the chance to walk the trails and sunbathe on the gorgeous beach under the fort.
Hit the Beaches
The best Key West beaches are on the Atlantic Ocean’s side of town.
Peculiarly, the sand is imported from the Bahamas.
The most popular beaches include:
- Smathers Beach.
- Rest Beach.
- Higgs Beach.
- Straw Hat Beach.
- Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
Climb the Key West Lighthouse
The historic Key West Lighthouse is 72 ft. (22 m) tall and accessible via 88 steps. You’ll find it across the street from the Hemingway House Museum.
From the top, you can enjoy spectacular views of Key West. Note that it can be very windy on the top of the lighthouse.
Discover Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House
A staggering monumental building from 1891 houses the Key West Museum of Art & History.
The imposing structure is an example of Richardsonian-Romanesque architecture, typical for Federal institutions from the late 19th century.
In the past, the magnificent red-brick structure was home to the island’s customs office, postal service, and district courts. Later, it housed the U.S. Navy.
Today, two of the building’s floors host different exhibitions, representing two centuries of Key West’s history, art, people, and events.
Encounter the Key West Chickens
A crazy fact about Key West is that there are more chickens in the city than there are residents.
A rooster crowing at dawn and a hen with her chicks crossing the main Duval Street is a usual sight in the City of Key West. The free-roaming chickens have been living on the island for decades.
We challenge you to count how many chicks you encounter on your Key West day trip from Miami!
Ride the Key West Conch Tour Train
If you want to cover more ground on your Key West day trip from Miami, catch the fun Conch Tour Train.
You’ll not only have the chance to immerse yourself in the vivid atmosphere of Key West but also gain inside details from the knowledgeable and entertaining guides.
The Conch Train drives a 75-minute loop through the streets of the Old Town.
Here are the four train stops and the attractions near each one:
- Conch Tour Train Station: Duval Street (there are also amenities at this stop, should you need them).
- Sails To Rails Museum: Key West Bight Marina, Sails To Rails Museum, Ferry Terminal.
- Front Street Depot: Key West Aquarium, Shipwreck Treasure Museum, Mallory Square, Memorial Sculpture Garden, Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Little White House, Audubon House.
- Truman & Duval Depot: The Lighthouse, Hemingway Home & Museum, Southernmost Point, Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory.
Food Tips for Your Day Trip from Miami to Key West
If you hadn’t packed your own food, you have to try the local cuisine in Key West.
The Florida Keys are famous for several delectable dishes. The food scene features Cuban and Bahamian flavors, as well as many sea creatures.
Below, you’ll find the most typical dishes which you can sample in almost any Key West restaurant:
- Conch. The most common way to eat the mollusks is as conch fritters. Other tasty dishes include conch salad and fried conch steak.
- Stone crabs. You can eat your portion of juicy stone crab claws warm with melted butter, or chilled with mustard sauce.
- Lobsters. The Florida Keys lobsters have sweet and tender tail meat. Steamed, boiled, or grilled, cover them with melted butter for the ultimate culinary seduction.
- Pink shrimp. The Key West pink shrimp is the sweetest among its relatives. Order them sautéed, steamed, or battered and fried, and served with savory sauces. Alternatively, try the succulent shrimp burgers.
- Smoked fish dip. You can try the staple appetizer of the Keys in every restaurant. The dip usually contains mahi-mahi, cobia, Spanish mackerel, wahoo, and kingfish.
- Key Lime Pie. The staple dessert of the Keys is sweet and sour, and will satisfy even the most fastidious gourmand. You can order the scrumptious dessert in every café and bakery in Key West.
Now You Know How to Plan the Best Day Trip from Miami to Key West
And there you have it – everything you need to know about planning a day trip from Miami to Key West.
The southernmost U.S. city is a mesmerizing place to visit. From heart-pumping snorkeling spots to fascinating museums, and from mind-boggling vistas to delectable dishes, Key West has it all.
Even if you only spend a few hours there, check out our Key West travel guide for more battle-tested tips.
Now, it’s your turn:
What’s the first thing you want to do in Key West?
Let us know in the comments below.