Florida Keys Scenic Highway

The Florida Keys Scenic Highway is definitely one of a kind. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico stretching out as far as the eye can see, it winds through vistas of natural beauty, areas rich in history and legend, views of spectacular sunrises, sunsets, sparkling stars and moonlight. It’s a highway where travelers from all over the world experience their own adventures in paradise–many come for a visit and never go home.

The southern section of US 1 is part of “the old national road” that started in Maine and traveled down the East Coast to Florida. Its predecessor routes were primitive roads built in the 1880s to connect pineapple farms around old Key Largo to docks where crops were transported to the mainland. Before that, the only way to travel in the Keys was by boat.

The Florida Keys Scenic Highway travels through some of the nation’s most spectacular scenery. While it’s not part of an old Bob Hope and Bing Crosby movie, folks in the Florida Keys still describe the stretch of US 1 from Key Largo to Key West as the “Road to Paradise.” From the moment you reach the top of Key Largo’s Jewfish Creek Bridge on US 1 traveling south, the feeling of escaping the pressures of daily life by traveling to “the islands” overtakes you. Come experience outstanding natural beauty, world-class fishing and diving, festivals, sunset celebrations, state and national parks, water sports, historic sites, museums, island cuisine, sunshine, tropical atmosphere, rich cultural heritage and friendly people that enjoy the laid-back lifestyle of the Florida Keys.

The Florida Keys are a “melting pot of cultures” and they accommodate the multi-lingual and international guests that frequent the islands. Historically, Bahamian and Cuban influences have been dominant since people from these nearby islands have been traveling to the Keys for hundreds of years. Culture, music, art, architecture and cuisine of the Keys are steeped in these island traditions. Come experience the splendor of this byway, and find a feeling of beauty and relaxation in a one-of-a-kind location found no where else in the world.

Departure: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida 
Destination: Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, Florida 
Time to allow: 1 day 

Any time of year, explore the coral reefs in the Upper Keys from a glass-bottom boat. Visit a bayside marina, feed giant jumping tarpon, and have a picnic and swim on an oceanside beach. Meet a dolphin face-to-face in the Middle Keys before seeing how modern man provided access to the island chain. Stay in Marathon or camp at Bahia Honda, then enjoy a nature trail and view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico from the glorious old railroad bridge before taking the modern bridge South to Key West. Get the camera out for the Southernmost Point and keep it handy while touring Hemingway’s Home and the Key West Lighthouse. Climb to the top for spectacular island and ocean views; picnic at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park before stretching out on the sandy beach, snorkeling, and touring the Fort. Then sail into the sunset on a schooner.

Start: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

Key Largo’s star attraction is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – the first underwater preserve in the United States. It is the only coral reef in North America and is home to over 55 types of coral, sponges, shrimp, crab, sea turtles, lobsters and eel, as well as over 600 species of fish. The glass-bottom boat tours carry passengers through the park’s reefs where they can view this abundant underwater wildlife. The land base includes a 30,000-gallon salt-water aquarium and hosts other activities include snorkeling, diving, boating, camping, kayaking, fishing, swimming and picnicking.

Stop 1: Florida Keys History of Diving Museum
Directions from previous place: Follow Mile Marker signs to Mile Marker 83.

Distance from Previous Site: 19.5 miles / 31.2 km 
Travel Time from Previous Site: 26 minutes 
Suggested Time at This Site: 1 hour 

At the Florida Keys History of Diving Museum, the international story of 3,000 years of underwater exploration is told and the special role that the Florida Keys played is celebrated. Stroll through numerous exhibits with hundreds of rare dive helmets, armored dive suits, old navy gear, ancient diving machines, and an atmosphere decompression chamber, as well as photographs and oral history.

Stop 2: Robbie’s Marina
Directions from previous place: Follow Mile Marker signs to Mile Marker 77.5.

Distance from Previous Site: 5.5 miles / 8.8 km 
Travel Time from Previous Site: 8 minutes 
Suggested Time at This Site: 30 minutes 

Robbie’s Marina, with a beautiful view of the bay, captures the Old Keys lifestyle. It’s always feeding time at the dock, where you can get a bucket of bait fish and hand-feed dozens of tarpon, some up to six feet long. Boats, kayaks, and tours are all available to see dolphins, sea turtles, eagle rays, sharks, osprey and egrets. Fishing charters are ready and waiting, whether you want deep-sea or flats fishing in the “back country.”

Stop 3: Anne’s Beach
Directions from previous place: Follow signs to Mile Marker 73.5.

Distance from Previous Site: 4 miles / 6.4 km 
Travel Time from Previous Site: 6 minutes 
Suggested Time at This Site: 1 hour 30 minutes 

At Anne’s Beach, stretch out on the sand and slip your toes into the turquoise water to enjoy a swim in the calm, clear Atlantic Ocean while kiteboarders take advantage of the tropical sea breeze. See fishermen, stone crabbers, and lobster farmers capture their bounties. Linger along a secluded boardwalk and picnic at shaded tables among the native mangroves.

Stop 4: Dolphin Research Center
Directions from previous place: Follow signs to Mile Marker 59, bayside

Distance from Previous Site: 14.5 miles / 23.2 km 
Travel Time from Previous Site: 20 minutes 
Suggested Time at This Site: 2 hours 

The Dolphin Research Center was founded in 1946 as a marine research and educational facility, and is home to a family of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions. Enjoy educational tours and shows in their bayside theater. Enter the exciting world of the dolphins by participating in a playful, structured, interactive program. Call ahead to reserve a deep or shallow water dolphin encounter.

Stop 5: Pigeon Key
Directions from previous place: Follow Mile Marker signs to Mile Marker 47, bayside.

Distance from Previous Site: 12 miles / 19.2 km 
Travel Time from Previous Site: 20 minutes 
Suggested Time at This Site: 2 hours 

Walk or bike to Pigeon Key on the historic Overseas Highway Bridge to see the 5-acre island that served as a base camp for the hundreds of men who built the Key West Extension of the Railroad. The 100-year-old tin-roofed, wood clapboard buildings are now a museum. Visitors find many photo opportunities on the historic bridge and tropical island. Snorkeling and picnicking are also a pleasure at this unique location.

Stop 6: Bahia Honda State Park
Directions from previous place: Follow Mile Marker signs to Mile Marker 37, Oceanside

Distance from Previous Site: 10 miles / 16.0 km 
Travel Time from Previous Site: 12 minutes 
Suggested Time at This Site: 1 hour 30 minutes 

Bahia Honda State Park is home to one of the top “Top Ten Beaches in the United States” and offers camping, fishing, diving, snorkeling, hiking and kayaking. Walk onto Flagler’s Historic Railroad trestle and enjoy the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico views. Relax on the beach, take a swim in the calm, clear water, explore the nature trail, or picnic in one of the pavilions. For a few hours or a few days, the park has year around appeal.

Stop 7: Southernmost Point
Directions from previous place: Follow Mile Marker signs to Mile Marker 0. Turn left from Truman Avenue (FKSH) onto Whitehead Street and drive seven blocks to its end at South Street and the Southernmost Point marker.

Distance from Previous Site: 37.6 miles / 60.2 km 
Travel Time from Previous Site: 1 hour 
Suggested Time at This Site: 15 minutes 

The Southernmost Point marker is one of the most photographed landmarks in the United States. The giant yellow, red, and black striped, buoy-shaped monument marks the Southernmost Point in the Continental Untied States, noting that Cuba is only 90 miles away. The site also commemorates the brave Cubans who drowned trying to reach the land of their dreams, “The Leader in Democracy.”

Stop 8: Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Directions from previous place: Located .25 miles south of Mile Marker 0. Return on Whitehead Street driving eight blocks to the corner of Olivia Street.

Distance from Previous Site: 0.35 miles / 0.6 km 
Travel Time from Previous Site: 2 minutes 
Suggested Time at This Site: 1 hour 

Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum is where one of America’s most honored authors called home for more than 10 years and visited frequently in his later life. He found solace and great physical challenges fishing the turquoise waters surrounding Key West. Tour the rooms and gardens that inspired the most prolific period of the Nobel Prize winner’s career, and meet the living descendants of his legendary six-toed cats.

Stop 9: Key West Lighthouse and Keepers’ Quarters Museum
Directions from previous place: Located .25 miles south of Mile Marker zero. Walk across Whitehead Street from previous stop.

Travel Time from Previous Site: 1 minute 
Suggested Time at This Site: 1 hour 

Key West Lighthouse and Keepers’ Quarters Museum is the 15th-oldest surviving lighthouse in the United States and was brought to its present height of 86 feet in 1894. Visitors can climb 88 steps to the balcony for a spectacular view of the island, the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and tour the Keepers’ Quarters that hosts a lighthouse Fresnel lens large enough to walk into, historic instruments, maps, and photos depicting its rich maritime history.

Stop 10: Fort Zachary Taylor State Park
Directions from previous place: Located .6 miles from Mile Marker 0. Continue from previous stop on Whitehead Street driving three blocks. Turn left on Southard Street and follow the signs to the park entrance.

Distance from Previous Site: 0.25 miles / 0.4 km 
Travel Time from Previous Site: 5 minutes 
Suggested Time at This Site: 2 hours 

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park is named for its Civil and Spanish-American War Fort. On a guided tour or on your own, be sure to bring a camera for the incredible view from the top of the Fort of the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. BBQ in the shade of trees, or lay out on the sandy beach. Snorkel and see reef fish, coral, lobster, sponges and stingrays in the calm, clear water.

Stop 11: Schooner Western Union Maritime Museum
Directions from previous place: From previous stop return on Southard Street to Whitehead Street and turn left. Drive three blocks to Caroline Street and turn right. Drive four blocks to William Street and turn left (see public parking lot to your right and the Schooner Western Union straight ahead). Located 0.75 miles from mile marker 0.

Distance from Previous Site: 1.25 miles / 2.0 km 
Travel Time from Previous Site: 8 minutes 
Suggested Time at This Site: 2 hours 

Take a sunset sail on one of America’s oldest working wooden schooners, built in Key West in 1939. Be part of the show coasting past the Mallory Square Sunset Celebration into the tranquil waters of the Atlantic while the fiery sun disappears from view.

End: Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
Travel Time from Previous Site: 5 minutes 

The journey on the Florida Keys Scenic Highway, parallel to the Overseas Heritage Trail, is an incomparable destination itself. Seeing the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico out either window is an unparalleled experience, their shallow shelf of clear water reflecting bright turquoise, emerald, and aquamarine. The reef keeps the near-shore waters calm as evidenced by boats of all kinds on the horizon. The tempo slows and relaxation sinks in as palm trees sway in the tropical breeze. And the bridge crossings bring you the sense of being out on the island chain in a way that only traversing the Keys by land can.

Total Distance Traveled : 104.95 miles / 167.9 km

Shop At Chaparral Motorsports

  • Motorcycle Tires

    Shop for discount motorcycle tires from the leader of motorsports. Find the best tire deals online.

  • Motorcycle Helmets

    Find a great selection of motorcycle helmets from top brands for Men, Women and Kids.

  • Motorcycle Parts

    Superior selection of motorcycle parts for ATV, dirt bike, street bike, sport bike and scooter. You won't find a better selection anywhere else.

  • Motorcycle Jackets

    The best selection and deals on motorcycle jackets for Men, Women and Kids can be found at Chaparral Motorsports.

Speak Your Mind

*