Florida Keys Scenic Highway

Details

  • DesignationAll-American Road (2009)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesRecreation, Scenic
  • LocationFL
  • Length106 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Florida Keys Scenic Corridor Alliance
Statewide Byway Partners
Florida Scenic Highways
Florida Byway Map Download
With small mangrove islands dotting the seascape near Islamorada
Public domain. Photo

Overview

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.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

110 Miles and 43 Keys! The Florida Keys Scenic Highway, Florida’s only All-American Road, stretches 110 miles across the alluring islands of the Florida Keys, conjures up many imagines in the minds of its travelers-palm trees swaying in the tropical breezes, miles of ocean vistas, recreational adventures to delight and enchant and an island culture unparalleled in the world.The Florida Keys Scenic Highway is the stretch of US 1 that travels through some of the nation’s most spectacular tropical scenery from Mile Marker 110, north of Key Largo, to Mile Marker 0 in Key West, the southernmost point in the continental United States.

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.

Panoramic, scenic views are in abundance along the Florida Keys Scenic Highway. Catch glimpses of dolphins swimming with their young, manatees gracefully floating in the shallow waters and endangered birds peacefully gliding through the brilliant blue sky. A remarkable number of endangered wildlife live in or migrate through the Florida Keys including the Florida Manatee, Key Deer, Osprey, Bald Eagle and Green Sea Turtle. The unique features of the coral reef and mangroves make it a habitat for thousands of fish, crustaceans, mammals and sea creatures.

As travelers make their way south across multiple bridges, there are plenty of reasons to take things slowly. In Key Largo, experience marine life via a glass-bottom boat tour, the 30,000-gallon aquarium at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park or a full-on scuba or diving excursion. Then in Marathon, walk across the famous Seven Mile Bridge.

When it comes to dining options, Keys restaurants are as varied as the plant and animal life. Visitors should start with breakfast at Doc’s Diner in Key Largo, a family-owned spot with homemade pancakes, waffles and filling breakfast skillets. Along the way, nosh on roadside snacks, and by dinnertime you’ll be in Key West, where you can indulge in seafood with a sunset view.

Driving down the highway where the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico meet is an unparalleled experience, with the shallow sandy shelf of clear water reflecting bright turquoise, emerald, and aquamarine waters stretching out as far as the eye can see. The reef keeps the near-shore waters calm, and relaxation sinks in as you find beaches and palm trees swaying in the tropical breeze. And the bridge crossings bring you the sense of being out on the island chain in a way that only driving through the Keys can. Travelers will see and experience outstanding natural beauty, world-class fishing and diving, festivals, beaches, sunset celebrations, state and national parks, water sports, historic sites, museums, island cuisine, sunshine, tropical atmosphere, and friendly people that enjoy the laid back lifestyle that is the Florida Keys.

Driving Directions

Begin the byway south of Florida City on US-1 as you leave the mainland. Continue on US-1 from Key Largo to Key West. The byway, also known as the Overseas Highway, is lined with mile markers every mile, like most every other highway in America. Awareness of these markers is useful as residents of the Keys refer to them continually. When asking for directions in the Keys, the answer likely will be that the spot being sought is at, just before or just beyond a mile marker number. The GPS coordinates for the FKSH are as follows: the Northern limit is Latitude: 25 degrees 19.139 and Longitude: 80 degrees 38.722. The Southern limit is Latitude: 24 degrees 32.794 and Longitude: 81 degrees 47.849.

Points of Interest

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

    The first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles. While the mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks in the park's upland areas offer visitors a unique experience, it is the coral reefs and their associated marine life that bring most visitors to the park. Many enjoy the view of the reef from a glass-bottom boat tour, but visitors can get a closer look by scuba diving or snorkeling.

  • Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center

    Rescues, rehabilitates, and releases native and migratory wild birds that have been harmed or displaced. Provides or locates a humane shelter for those birds that cannot be released and educates the public on the importance of coexistence with all wild bird species. Sanctuary sits on five acres of bay front with a variety of habitats, flora, fauna and over 100 birds.

  • USS Spiegel Grove

    In 2002, the Key Largo community rallied to sink the 510-foot retired Navy ship as the backbone of a new reef ecosystem six miles offshore.

  • Long Key State Park

    Swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking. Beach is handicap accessible.

  • Old Town Trolley Tours of Key West

    A 90 minute, fully narrated, sight seeing tours operation out of Key West with twelve stops for on/off re-boarding.

  • Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park

    Formed of Key Largo limestone, fossilized coral, this land was sold to the Florida East Coast Railroad, which used the stone to build Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad in the early 1900s. After the railroad was built, the quarry was used until the 1960s to produce exquisite pieces of decorative stone called Keystone. Today, visitors can walk along eight-foot-high quarry walls to see cross sections of the ancient coral and learn about the quarry and its operation, an important part of Florida's 20th century history. Samples of the quarry machinery have been preserved at the park. Visitors can enjoy the natural attributes of this island while strolling five short self-guided trails. The Visitor Center features educational exhibits about the history of this site.

  • History of Diving Museum

    Over a span of forty years, Drs. Joe and Sally Bauer acquired one of the world’s largest collections of diving helmets, hand-operated air pumps, armored suits, lights and other accessory gear, plus memorabilia, prints, photographs, books, film and video. Their passion took them to virtually every corner of the world and the Museum’s collection now represents the contributions of more than 30 countries to diving history. As their research evolved and collections grew, the Bauers were inspired by the idea of using their collection—which had become one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world—as the basis for a museum to share their knowledge and passion for diving history with the public.

  • Crane Point Hammock

    Take a walk back in time through our 63 acres of hardwood hammock. Crane Point Museum & Nature Center is a non-profit organization in Marathon, Florida in the heart of the Fabulous Florida Keys featuring a museum of natural history and beautiful nature trails throughout a 63-acre hardwood hammock. This nature reserve contains evidence of pre-Columbian civilization and was once the site of an Indian village. Fish pedicures, geocaching, plant nursery, birding, Marathon Wild Bird Center and more.

  • Bahia Honda State Park/ Coral Reef Park

    Featuring an award-winning beach and historic bridge, Bahia Honda State Park at mile marker 37 in the Florida Keys has become a favorite destination for visitors to our island paradise. The park, encompassing over 500 acres and an offshore island offers some of the best snorkeling and beachcombing in Florida. The concession service provider offers a complete gift shop, snack bar, kayak rentals and daily snorkeling tours to the fabulous Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.

  • Mel Fisher Maritime Museum

    Extensive collection of artifacts from 17th century shipwrecks, such as the Henrietta Marie, Nuestra Señora de Atocha and Santa Margarita.[1] Also included are the shipwrecks and artifacts of The Santa Clara, a Conquistador-era galleon (1564), The Guerrero & Nimble. A rotating gallery exists on the second floor of the museum and is currently displaying an exhibit or artifacts belonging to Cuban Rafters, Balseros, who arrive to Key West in hand-crafted vessels. Terrestrial archaeological sites include The African Cemetery of Key West, located on Higgs Beach.

  • Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

    The Center features over 6,000 square feet of interactive and dynamic exhibits including a mock-up of Aquarius, the world's only underwater ocean laboratory. Colorful marine artwork depicting the deep sea, coral reef, and mangrove shoreline decorates the outside wall of the Center. Explore exhibits interpreting the ecology of Keys' habitats, from the upland pinelands through the hardwood hammock and beach dune. Travel down to the mangrove shoreline, where you can enter the sea to learn about the seagrass flats, hardbottom, coral reef, and deep-shelf communities. Stop in the Center’s theater to catch “Reflections of the Florida Keys,” a short film on the diverse ecosystem of the Florida Keys by renowned filmmaker Bob Talbot. Be sure to check out the Mote Marine Laboratory Living Reef exhibit, which includes a 2,500-gallon reef tank with living corals and tropical fish and other displays that highlight the coral reef environment.

  • Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

    Ernest Hemingway lived and wrote here for ten years. During that time, he wrote seventy percent of his lifetime works. Visit this National Historic Landmark, Literary Landmark and recognized by the Library of Congress for its importance in U.S. History. Grand Architecture, Lush Gardens, Educational Tours, Book Store/Gift Shop and the world-famous Poly dactyl (six-toed cats).

Itinerary

  • Unwind in the Floriday Keys

    Starting on U.S. Route 1 near Jewfish Creek, where the byway separates from the mainland Florida. As you approach Key Largo, stop at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Explore the 30,000 gallon aquarium or experience marine life via a glass-bottom boat tour. For those who want to get even closer to these astonishing marine creatures and reefs, take a scuba or diving excursion!

    Continue for about 16 miles along Route 1 to the town of Islamorada for a true feel of life on the Keys. History lovers will enjoy a trip to the History of Diving Museum or the Indian Key State Historic Site. If you’re interested in fishing, this town has many opportunities for exciting water excursions.

    As you drive along the byway, stop in one of the many key towns such as Layton, Key Colony Beach, and Marathon for a taste of the Keys. Keep an eye out for some of the Key’s specialities such as Key West Pink Shrimp, Conch Fritters, Stone Crabs, Hogfish, Key Lime Pie, and more.

    After a filling lunch, discover the famous Seven Mile Bridge in Marathon. The bridge connects the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys and was among the longest bridges in the world when it was built. Although cars now use a new bridge, be sure to stop at the Old Seven Mile Bridge, which is one the National Register of Historic Places with it’s world famous fishing pier, jobbing, and walking route.

    The byway continues from the Seven Mile Bridge for 38 miles to Key West. Enjoy stunning sites of the Atlantic Ocean along the way and uncover the unrivaled beauty of the Florida Keys. If you are a fan of museums, be sure to stop by the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum, the Key West Lighthouse and Keepers’ Quarters Museum, and the Schooner Western Union Maritime Museum at Key West’s Historic Seaport. As the day comes to a close, head to the Mallory Square Dock for the nightly Sunset Celebration, a classic Key West Attraction featuring musicians, arts and crafts, jugglers, psychics, and more.

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