Some people love it, some people hate it, but most agree that the drive along the Overseas Highway (i.e., U.S. 1) from the South Florida mainland to Key West is like no other road they've ever traveled. Key West has a great airport with regular flights on gay-friendly Cape Air
to Fort Myers, Sarasota
, and Tampa
, and on other airlines to Miami and elsewhere, and you definitely don't need a car once you're in Key West. But driving this 105-mile route (from Key Largo to Key West) reveals plenty of breathtaking views of the water and the serene beauty of the Florida Keys
. This is a long drive, and it can get a little boring at time. Also, it's mostly two-lane, so if you get stuck behind somebody slow, there's not much you can do about it, except maybe pull off someplace interesting for a break to admire the view, or perhaps for a meal at one of the many engaging restaurants along the route (I like the Bass Pro World Wide Sportsman complex
on in Islamorada, about 80 miles from Key West or 25 miles from Key Largo - it's a big, touristy sporting goods store packed with butch fishing enthusiasts, and there's a lively waterfront restaurant, Islamorada Fish Company
, adjacent). Without heavy traffic, expect it to take 3.5 hours to drive this route from Miami, and 4.5 hours from Fort Lauderdale, although it's certainly possible to make it faster if you don't hit traffic congestion.
I took this particular photo while driving northbound on the Overseas Highway, along the bridge between Big Pine Key and tiny Bahia Honda Key. The view is of a now defunct, older bridge that runs roughly parallel to the new one I'm driving on. Here's the satellite view. Remember the name Big Pine Key - it's home to the endangered Key deer, which are protected in part by the strict enforcement of a 45 mph daytime speed limit and 35 mph nighttime speed limit. Fail to obey this limit, and you're certain to get a ticket.