There is something exciting about the thought of driving over 100 miles along a highway consisting totally of 100 islands and 42 bridges. That is what the Overseas Highway, also known as Hwy 1, is all about as it links the metropolis of Miami with the delightful artistís haven of Key West. Although the destination is important, itís all about how you get there that makes it extra special!
Living in Miami, Key West is considered a close neighbor, but the journey along the two-lane highway, where the speed limit rarely exceeds 40mph, can take up to three hours each way. Nonetheless, Miami residents regularly pop down for lunch! If you are planning to drive down, whether for a day or longer, hereís what to expect.
First of all, if you are not crossing a bridge, which is the best chance to get a look at the road ahead, the view can be very disappointing. The highway is lined with businesses, motels, private homes, boat charter offices, and fast food outlets. Thereís even a McDonaldís at Marathon Key! Even the bridge barriers can spoil a good view of the sea on either side of the bridge unless you are traveling high up in an SUV.
When the Florida Turnpike ends at Florida City and joins the US 1, the first leg of the journey borders the Everglades, along a causeway through the saltwater marshes and swamps. The route was first built in the early 20th century as the Overseas Railroad and was destroyed by a category 5 hurricane in 1935. Some of the original truss bridges are now used as fishing piers while other bridges were rebuilt when the road was constructed in 1938.
Milemarkers on the Overseas Highway
The road is measured and landmarks are located by a mile marker system. Milemarker 0 is right in Jackson Square, Key West, while Milemarker 127 starts the countdown, just south of Florida City.
Key Largo is the first of the Florida Keys. It is home to the Dagny Johnson Hammock Botanical State Park as well as the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and is a haven for kayakers and eco-tourists as well as considering itself the Diving Capital of the World. The Visitor Center at Milemarker 106 is a good place to stop and pick up some literature about the drive and the final destination, Key West.
The next significant Milemarker is MM88 at Plantation Key. Most of the larger communities have guest houses and motels where visitors can stay overnight and go fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving in the clear warm waters. Game fishing for tarpon and snook is always popular. You can even swim with dolphins at the Theater of the Sea Marine Mammal Park or enjoy the Olympic-sized swimming pool at Founders Park at Milemarker 84.5.
Islamorada actually covers six small islands including Lignumvitae Key (Milemarker 78) where a small and rare shrub, the lignumvitae, thrives. Islamorada is nicknamed the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, and with good reason.
After passing Milemarker 67 on Long Key State Park, Marathon is the halfway point of the epic journey, and many people quit and decide to spend their time in this family-friendly resort. The Marathon City limits go as far as Milemarker 47, the start of the Seven Mile Bridge.
MM 33 at Big Pine Key is in a much quieter area and, along with most of the Lower Keys, offers quaint resorts and individual holiday homes. Eventually most people are glad to reach the final bridge onto Key West, a delightful Caribbean-style city with plenty of shops, hotels and bars where the party runs nightly from sunset to dawn.
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Day Trips Around Orlando Florida