If you want to get a taste of the Caribbean without leaving the United States, head over to Key West, one of the Florida Keys. Learn more about the city made famous by the Conch Republic and residents, Author Ernest Hemingway and President Trueman. Find out why you should day trip from Miami to Key West in this post.
Why you should do a Key West day trip from
Sure, Miami has plenty to do to keep tourists occupied and a day trip to Key West from Miami may not be doable if you’re only visiting Miami for a short break.
I initially had reservations about visiting Key West during my trip to Miami. I’d watched videos on YouTube and the ones that came up first didn’t inspire me to visit. But, after receiving an invitation to come along on a gifted Gray Line Key West Tour, I’m really glad I did visit.
Whilst maintaining an all American feel, Key West also has a unique mix of Cuban and Latino influences. The beautiful scenery and working class boathouses reminded me of my day trip to Sausalito over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Key West gives tourists a taste of the Caribbean without the need to leave the United States. The sand in Key West is even imported from the Bahamas! A great trip if you do not have chance to visit beautiful Bimini, small islands in the Bahamas which are also an easy distance to visit from Miami (read more about a day trip to Bimini here)
How far is Key West From Miami
The distance from Miami to Key West may be further than you think! Key West is the Southernmost of the Florida Keys, located 140 miles from Miami and the drive from Miami to Key West takes approximately 3 hours and 15 minutes. In fact, Cuba is closer to Key West than Miami, with Cuba located only 90 miles from Key West. Crazy isn’t it! Though, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t day trip from Miami to Key West.
Make sure you get a snap of the Key West Southernmost point statue so people know you’ve visited!
How to do a Key West Tour from Miami
Travel from Miami to Key West is all down to preference.
Driving to Key West is a fairly chilled affair if you do not hit any traffic, with miles upon miles of straight roads. Though, parking can be a different story entirely. If you are driving, it’s worth noting the car park next to Hilton Garden Inn is the only available free parking on Key West. Click here for the location of the free Hilton Garden Inn car park.
Whilst a tour to Key West saved any parking nightmares, I was sad that our tour did not stop at the Turtle Hospital we saw en route to Key West (I loved seeing the Loggerhead Turtles in Zante.) If you are driving to Key West, be sure to stop off at The Turtle Hospital to see the rescued turtles.
If you’re wondering how to get from Miami to Key West if you have not rented a car, there are tours available, such as my Key West Tour with Gray Line that will pick you up from or close by your hotel. Taking a shuttle bus from Miami to Key West enables you to zone out for a couple of hours, which given the early start is a good thing!
A day trip to Key West with Gray Line Tours Miami costs $75 per person and gives you plenty of time to experience Key West.
The tours start early, which can be a shock to the system if you’re suffering with jet lag and the pick-up bus to Key West generally starts around 6.30am.
If you haven’t had time for breakfast or you are looking for places to stop on the drive from Miami to Key West, our tour made a pitstop at Evelyn’s diner for a breakfast wrap. Though, you will come across the usual American fast-food diners on the way to Key West.
As with all Gray Line tours (read about my Gray Line Tour in NYC), our tour guide David had plenty of facts and stories to keep us amused.
We listened as we crossed the 42 bridges from Miami to Key West and took some snaps of 7 Miles Bridge, which David had the pleasure of telling us is the most photographed bridge on the East Coast.
Before we arrived in Key West, David talked us through some trips that can be added as an additional fee. Some great options for things to do in Key West:
Fun Things to Do in Key West
Key West excursions are about as varied as it gets, from watersports to beautiful butterfly houses!
Snorkelling in Key West Florida
If you are up for a spot of snorkelling, Key West is a great place to snorkel with the largest barrier reef after Belize and Australia.
The Gray Line Catamaran snorkel tour (children go free) costs adults $55 per person and includes unlimited drinks (cocktails too!) Though, you might be best to indulge in the drinks after the snorkelling!
Watersports Activities in Key West
Parasailing is also an exhilarating way to enjoy the day and costs ($59 adult per adult and $35 for children aged 6+.) Apparently, you do not even have to go in the water to enjoy it. If you want to zip around on a jet ski, the price is $130 for two for one hour.
There are other excursions such as the glass bottom boat (2hr duration $47 per adult $37 for children) and the Hop on hop off trolley ($39 per person, children $25 & infants go free) for the less adventurous.
The Old Town Trolleys – Key West Hop on/off Tour
The Old Town Trolleys are a great option if you want to tour round to see as much of Key West as you can. The tour guides are very informative and all have their own tales about Key West to keep you amused. We particularly enjoyed the stories told by Thomas, who’s accent we mimicked saying ‘buchi’ for the duration of our holiday in Miami. See for yourself on the video below:
With 13 stops in total, there is so much to see.
eautiful beaches in Key West
Stop ten on the Old Town Trolley Tour takes you to Casa Marina, Waldorf Astoria Resort. We popped into the resort to grab a drink whilst soaking up the scenery of the private beach area. Casa Marina looks like a great place to stay in Key West for those looking to visit Key West for longer than one day.
During our time at Casa Marina, we observed a host of wild animals around the resort from poolside lizards to Key West’s sacred animal, the cockerel. The cockerels became a sacred animal in Key West when traditional cock-fighting was banned and you will find them EVERYWHERE.
Wherever you explore in Key West you are sure to hear the cries of the cockerels or see them meandering around the streets. If you’re staying in Key West you won’t need to worry about setting an alarm clock or oversleeping!
Key West’s Butterfly House
Talking of wildlife, a great place to visit in Key West is the Butterfly House, which has a wide range of species of beautiful butterflies in various colours. With the blog name, The Life of a Social Butterfly a trip to Key West’s Butterfly House was a must!
The Schaus Swallowtail Butterfly, native to Key West, is one of 12 species of butterflies in the US on the endangered species list. Habitat destruction and the use of pesticides are the biggest cause for their decline. It’s interesting to learn about the various species of butterflies and see them fluttering around you. Amusingly, Adam acted like a scared schoolboy when a butterfly flew near him, which I found hilarious!
There are various birds also in The Butterfly House including flamingos. Though, if I’m honest, I wasn’t entirely agreeable about the small size of the enclosure for the wild flamingos.
Southernmost Point Sign
As I mentioned earlier in the post, how will people know you’ve visited Key West if you don’t get a picture next to the Southernmost point sign?! Ok, like me, you might see the queues to get a picture next to the sign and decide to give this a miss too! Luckily, I managed to grab a quick picture of the sign while people were changing positions!
When he wasn’t enjoying the many things to do in Bimini, Ernest Hemingway was most likely found residing in his Spanish Colonial home in Key West. Ernest Hemingway’s House is a place for cat lovers and to learn more about the celebrated American author.
President Truman’s Little White House
If you’re interested in US politics and history, the former naval base and winter White House for President Truman, now a Key West museum, may also be a place of interest for you to visit in Key West.
Explore Key West’s Original Harbour
Key West once had the biggest commercial fishing harbour in the East, with over 300 shrimp trawlers fishing two tonnes of fresh shrimp everyday!
Go back in time and see the harbour, which still has a very similar appearance to how it looked in 1950.
Why is Key West called the Conch Republic?
You may hear the term ‘Conch Republic’ spoken around Key West. This term is the name given to the original Key West natives, who were loyal to the British crown and fled to the nearest British colony after the war, The Bahamas. High food taxes resulted in the natives choosing to live off Conch sea snails and these natives later became known as the Key West Conchs.
In rebellion to a US border blockade, Key West declared itself the Conch Republic, a name that has stood the test of time. Although this rebellion occurred in 1982, to this day residents of the Conch Republic hold dual citizenship as Conchs and American citizens!
It goes without saying, if you’re looking for somewhere to eat in Key West, or more importantly, what to eat, conch salads, chowders and fritters can he found on almost every menu!
Sunset at Mallory Square
Rebellion aside, Key West is also known for having the most incredible sunsets. A sunset in Key West is such a celebrated event that every evening crowds gather to enjoy a drink in Mallory Square to watch the sun go down in Key West.
You can also bask in the unforgettable Key West sunset by enjoying a catamaran sunset cruise.
Party in Duval Street
Following sundown and after browsing the many boutique stores in Duval Street, a party atmosphere ignites. Experience live music and shows on Duval Street, Key West’s party street. Expect raucous bars, drag shows and non-stop cocktails!
Key West Day Trip
Getting to Key West from Miami couldn’t be easier. My Gray Line tour from Miami South Beach to Key West gave me ample opportunity to experience various things to do in Key West and learn about the fascinating history of the Conch Republic.
Key West offers a sweet ending to a day trip from Miami, make sure you sample a famous Key Lime Pie!
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