The Overseas Highway is a 113-mile (181.9 km) highway carrying U.S. Route 1 (US 1) through the Florida Keys to Key West. Large parts of it were built on the former right-of-way of the Overseas Railroad, the Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway. Completed in 1912, the Overseas Railroad was heavily damaged and partially destroyed in the 1935 Labor Day hurricane. The Florida East Coast Railway was financially unable to rebuild the destroyed sections, so the roadbed and remaining bridges were sold to the state of Florida for $640,000.
Since the 1950s, the Overseas Highway has been refurbished into a main coastal highway between the cities of Miami and Key West, offering travelers an exotic roadway through a tropical savanna environment and access to the largest area of coral reefs on the U.S. mainland. Many exotic animals such as the American Alligator, American Crocodile and Key Deer inhabit the tropical islands of the Florida Keys.
Are you planning to take a drive on the world-famous Overseas Highway, Florida? If yes, then this article will help you plan a perfect trip to this scenic Florida Keys highway.
Popularly known as the ‘Highway that Goes to Sea’, the Overseas Highway is currently the one way to travel between Florida mainland and Key West via land. What makes this Key West highway an amazing road trip destination are the gorgeous ocean views, the 42 amazing Florida Keys bridges, and the tourist attractions in Miami and Key West.
From stunning coral and limestone islets to the most delicious seafood restaurants, this 113 miles of Florida Keys road is a great place for a weekend road trip. Moreover, this is the only road in Florida to be designated as the All-American Road by the US Federal Highway Administration.
Wondering what you can do on your Overseas highway road trip? Don’t worry, we have you covered. In this article, we will be covering all the information on this Florida Keys scenic highway including the length of the highway, the best stops to make, where to stay on the overseas highway, and more.
How Long is the Overseas Highway to Key West?
The Overseas Highway is a part of the U.S. highway 1 to key west, a 2,370 miles long road that spans the entire east coast. The U.S. highway 1 in the Florida Keys is known as the Overseas highway which is approximately 113 miles long.
The highway runs from Key Largo to Key West and features 42 stunning bridges and is the southernmost leg of the U.S. highway 1. It spans the open waters of Florida Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico.
If you are driving on this route, it will take you around 2.5 – 3 hours to drive from one end to the other end of this Florida highway.
Why Did They Build the Overseas Highway in the Keys?
This Florida Overseas Highway was originally built in 1912 by the millionaire Henry Flagler as a Railroad and was popularly known as the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad.
The railroad connected Miami with Key West and was constructed in 7 years. The train route included lots of bridges and land-based tracks and the first train to run on this route was in 1912.
Unfortunately, after two decades, the railroad was damaged by the 1935 hurricane. As a result, the railroad operations were stopped followed by severe erosion and damage during the Depression era.
After 3 years, in 1938, the Overseas Highway was built over the original railway spans. Over the years, the highway has been damaged and renovated multiple times due to hurricanes.
The last renovation was done in 1982 when 37 original bridges were replaced by wider and heavier spans including the famous Seven Mile Bridge.
How Long is the Longest Bridge on the Overseas Highway in Florida?
The Seven Miles Bridge is one of the most famous and the longest bridge on U.S. Highway 1 to Key West with a length of 6.79 miles.
The bridge connects Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to the Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. It is considered one of the longest bridges of the Florida Keys that has been rebuilt several times over the years because of the frequent hurricane damage. The current version was built in 1982.
How Many Lanes is the Overseas Highway?
Florida Keys highway is generally narrow and features only two lanes of traffic due to all the bridges. Most visitors are distracted by the scenery so it can be a little congested on this highway.
If you are driving your car or renting a car, be careful on the highway and drive carefully, especially if you are a tourist.
Overseas Highway Map
If you are looking for a Florida Overseas Highway Map, this is the one for you!!! We recommend putting your starting and ending point on your GPS to get up-to-date overseas highway map driving times and distances.
But this still gives you a good Overseas Highway map so you can get an idea of what it looks like before you visit!
Best Stops on the Overseas Highway
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Mile Marker 102.5)
Do you love coral reefs? If yes, then one of the best places to visit on your Key West Overseas Highway road trip is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
This is the first undersea park in the United States where you can enjoy snorkeling to admire the gorgeous coral reefs found here. Divers from all over the world visit this Florida Marine Life Sanctuary to observe the vibrant and colorful shallow-water corals here.
That’s not all, there are mangrove trees and tropical hammocks to enjoy here as well. However, the main attraction is snorkeling and diving here. If you wish to remain dry, then you can take a glass-bottom boat tour to admire this beauty.
Trust me, this is one of the most gorgeous state parks in Florida Keys that you cannot afford to miss.
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park (Mile Marker 84.9)
For geology lovers, one of the best stops on the Key West Highway is the Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park.
Once a quarry for a stone called Keystone, this state park is home to stunning walkways where visitors can enjoy a self-guided tour. The best thing about this park is that it still features the old quarry equipment so, one of the best things to do in Islamorada is admiring the equipment and exploring the fossils here.
On a trail, you will come across the fossilized reef that will leave you in awe. Plus, there is quite a unique flora and fauna to admire here. If you wish to learn about Florida’s industrial history, then plan a visit to this state park when you are driving in the Florida Keys.
Seven Mile Bridge (Mile Marker 47)
Seven Mile Bridge is one of the most famous bridges of the Florida Keys that connects several gorgeous Florida islands including Big Pine Key and Bahia Honda Key.
This amazing bridge connects Knight’s Key to the Duck Key and offers stunning views of turquoise water, fishing piers, and mangrove trees.
Out of all the Florida Keys bridges, you certainly cannot skip the Seven Mile Bridge which also happens to be one of the longest bridges in the world at the time of construction. This is one of the top attractions that you must visit in the Lower Keys on your Overseas Highway Florida road trip.
Mile Marker 0 in Key West
Of course, when you are traversing the U.S. Highway 1 in the Florida Keys, you have to visit the end of the road, Mile Marker 0 in Key West.
The southernmost American city features 19th-century charm including palm-shaded streets, gingerbread houses, a waterfront sunset celebration, and a warm community. There are several amazing things to do in Key West such as enjoying the culinary scene, visiting eco-friendly attractions, touring the home of Ernest Hemmingway, and so on.
The best thing you could do in Key West is interact with the locals and enjoy the local cultural experiences that are offered here. And of course, don’t forget to click a picture with the iconic Mile Marker 0 signboard in this charming city.
Bahia Honda State Park (Mile Marker 37)
One of the best places to visit when you are driving in the Florida Keys is Bahia Honda State Park.
This state park is known for its gorgeous sandy beaches, clear blue water, beautiful sunsets, and stunning Florida Key scenery. There are a lot of things to do at this beach park such as bird watching, snorkeling, nature trails, and more.
Bahia Honda State Park is connected with the Florida Keys road which makes it easier for tourists to visit this gorgeous oasis.
The park is open from 8 AM to sundown, 365 days a year, and is quite cheap to visit as well. Here, you can camp and make the most of the gorgeous beaches which are perfect for bathing, relaxing, and sand-castle building.
Overall, this is a must-visit place on your Overseas Highway drive.
Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
On your Key West Highway road trip, make sure to explore the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail which is a popular attraction in Key Largo.
This heritage trail features several bridges and pathways from Flagler’s Railroad system. Currently, there is 90 miles of transportation corridor which is going to be 106 miles soon.
The Florida Keys Overseas heritage trail is a bicycle and pedestrian-friendly trail and is perfect for skating, bicycling, hiking, and other fun outdoor activities. From this trail, you can visit many amazing attractions such as the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary, Everglades National Park, and more.
Honestly, if you are looking to indulge in a few outdoor activities or want to visit the beautiful state parks in Florida, then do stop here on your Overseas Highway drive.
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen (Mile Marker 99)
If you are driving on Route 1 in the Keys, then one of the best places to make a stop is Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen.
This is one of the best restaurants in Key Largo for breakfast and is named after the owner’s mother who prepares delicious food. Opened in 1976, this place is quite famous for its specials that include a glass of Champagne. The ambiance of this place is quite warm and inviting and the service is impeccable, which is likely to make you fall in love with this place.
A few breakfast dishes that are a must-try here are Mrs. Mac’s Famous Mornwich which is a pita filled with eggs. Other things that you might want to order here for breakfast or lunch are Juans Caramel Bacon Waffle, beef hot dogs, Philadelphia steak sandwiches, and more.
Trust me, if you want good food on your Florida Keys highway road trip, then you have to make a stop here.
Turtle Rehab Center (Mile Marker 48.5)
Located in Marathon, Turtle Rehab Center is a great place to visit on the Florida Overseas Highway, especially if you love turtles.
This is a small non-profit which focuses on the rehabilitation of sea turtles and visitors can take a guided tour of this place. It acts as a veterinary hospital for the injured and sick sea turtles of Florida.
Earlier, the hospital was a hotel whose motel rooms have been converted into staff quarters so that they can care for the turtles 24 x 7. A guided tour of this turtle hospital will show you how fragile marine life is and gives visitors a chance to interact with these beautiful creatures.
If you are taking a Florida Keys road trip, then reserve your tour in advance. It is one of the best things to do in Marathon and is a great way to learn about sea turtles and how they are rescued and released back into the ocean by this amazing organization.
Where To Stay Along The Overseas Highway
Tranquility Bay Resort
One of the top places to stay on the Key West Overseas Highway road trip is Tranquility Bay Resort in Marathon FL.
This beachfront resort features charming guestrooms and beach ensuites that include all the basic amenities. Beach homes also offer an en suite kitchen and most units include a private balcony that overlooks the ocean.
The resort is also home to three pools that include an adult-only pool and a heated pool for kids. Plus, you have in-room spa services and an on-site fitness room available to make use of. Interested in water sports? If yes, then you can enjoy paddle boarding and kayaking here as well.
Most importantly, the resort is close to several main attractions including Curry Hammock State Park where you can enjoy hiking, beaches, and swamps. So, if you are looking for perfect accommodation on the Overseas highway, then Tranquility Bay Resort is a good choice.
Cheeca Lodge & Spa
Another great waterfront property to check out on the Florida Keys road is the Cheeca Lodge & Spa. This luxury resort in Islamorada is located on 27 acres of gardens and a private waterfront.
The property features a lot of high-end facilities such as an on-site spa, a fishing pier, a golf course, multiple swimming pools, a fitness center, three restaurants, and more. This is why it is one of the best places to stay on your family vacation to the Florida Keys.
The rooms at this resort include a balcony with gorgeous views of the resort and the ocean. You can chill in the room watching movies on the 42-inch TV, use the free WiFi, and so on.
Trust me, if you are looking for a luxury resort to stay in on your road trip to Key West, then Cheeca Lodge & Spa is a good option.
Playa Largo Resort & Spa
Playa Largo Resort & Spa, located in Key Largo Florida, is a bayfront resort that is a great place to stay on your Overseas highway road trip.
Featuring stunning views of Florida Bay, a year-round outdoor pool, a hot tub, private cabanas, fire pits, and a boat marina, this resort is perfect for couples and families. They also have full-service Ocean spa services, a salon, and a fitness center where the guests can pamper themselves and stay fit.
Moreover, guests can indulge in water sports by using kayaks, paddle boards, boating, and other fun activities available in the resort. Most importantly, each room in this resort features a seating area and a dining table and some also include a private balcony for amazing bayfront views.
If you are looking for a luxury experience on your fun road trip to Key West, then do stop at Playa Largo Resort & Spa.