Taking a road trip through South Florida from Miami to Key West gives you the best of urban landscapes, nature, and stunning scenery. You can even drive over the water for miles and miles to the end of the United States. Here we give you a few tips on what to see along the way.
Miami’s Diverse Neighborhoods
An art deco building in Miami Beach
Everyone knows the beaches and art deco buildings of Miami. But outside of the stretches of sand and glamour of the clubs there are diverse neighborhoods that deserve a visit. The good news is that the city is made for driving and it is easy to get around with a car. Here are a few neighborhoods worth exploring.
- Little Havana: This large neighborhood is just to the east of downtown Miami. If you want to feel like you have traveled to Cuba without leaving the US, this is the place for you. You can find everything from authentic Cuban food and coffee to Latin art galleries and cigars. Calle Ocho is the main street where you will find Maximo Gomez Park known for the domino playing locals.
- Little Haiti: This rectangular part of the city sits north of downtown and is, as the name suggests, where many people from Haiti have settled. The Caribbean vibes of the neighborhood include fruit stands and colorful murals. You can find many restaurants serving food from Haiti and other Caribbean islands. The area is, alternatively, known for its record stores and dive bars.
- Ocean Drive: This street runs through the heart of South Beach Miami. It is parallel to Collins Avenue that has many of the hotels and clubs that South Beach is famous for. But you aren’t here for the clubs, right? Many of the buildings that make up the Art Deco Historic District are located along Ocean Drive. This is also the street to drive down for some great beach and ocean views.
- Miami Beach: This long, thin island is connected to mainland Miami by bridges, and it is what most people think of when they think of this city. In addition to glitzy South Beach, you can find art deco buildings and nightlife. This is the perfect area to cruise through in a rental convertible before hitting the beach.
South Florida Road Trip Route:
The Cape Florida Lighthouse on Key Biscayne island
Take a short drive across the Rickenbacker Causeway to this barrier island that has fancy hotels, beaches and wildlife in protected parks. You can find the best of south Florida distilled in one place here. You will drive through Crandon Park on Highway 913 where you will see things like birds, turtles and butterflies. At the other end of the island is Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park where there is the iconic Cape Florida Lighthouse. Key Biscayne is worth a side trip, if only to enjoy some salty ocean air at a slower pace than in Miami.
The historic Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables
We’re back on the mainland to a suburb just to the southwest of downtown Miami: Coral Gables. If old school glamor is on your agenda, this is the place for it. The Venetian Pool, open to the public, has been here since the 1920s. It features waterfalls, grottos and a backdrop of palm trees and is the only pool in the US to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you are looking to stay somewhere posh and unique, the Biltmore Hotel Miami Coral Gables is a beautiful building with its own golf course. And you can visit the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to see the kinds of flora and fauna that are native to the Miami area.
Sunset in the Everglades National Park
This giant area of tropical wetlands covering much of the southern tip of Florida is a must-see on your road trip from Miami to the Keys. Here you can see alligators and other endangered species like the leatherback turtle, Florida panther, and West Indian manatee. While there are two highways going through the wetlands, you will see more by taking a boat tour or walking the Anhinga Trail walkway. The Everglades Alligator Farm is just off Highway 1 on your way to the Florida Keys and is where you are sure to see some of these creatures.
The Florida Keys
A marker for the southernmost point in the continential US.
The archipelago of islands that make up the Keys stretches for nearly 120 miles into the Gulf of Mexico from the southern tip of Florida. There is so much to see and do between Key Largo, the first town you will hit on Highway 1, and Key West, the last. The highway travels over clear turquoise blue water and you will have multiple opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing and other water activities. Here are a few things to look out for based on which “key” they are near.
- Key Largo: Check out the diversity of ocean creatures at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. You can ride in a glass-bottom boat, snorkel, or kayak. Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge also will allow you to view the creatures in their habitat.
- Grassy Key & Marathon: Who wouldn’t want to swim with dolphins? You have your chance here at the Dolphin Research Center. If a beach break is what you’re after, head to Sombrero Beach at Marathon for some relaxation during your drive.
- Key West: This is the pot of gold at the end of the 120-mile-long rainbow. You will find plenty of tourist traps here, but also gems like the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where the famous author used to live. Duval Street is lined with bars and restaurants and you can watch the sun set from Mallory Square. And don’t forget to take a photo at the southernmost point in the continental US!
Now that we have reached the end of the US, we have also reached the end of our journey! There are so many places in the southern part of Florida to visit beyond what is mentioned, and the are all easily accessible by flying into Miami International Airport. Do you still need more inspiration? This YouTube video gives you a taste of what you can see on a Florida road trip. If you are convinced, take advantage of one of Sixt’s luxury car rental deals and cruise in style in a BMW 4 Series convertible or Mercedes-Benz E Class.