Wanderlust America

A perfect road trip on Florida Highway 1

The Florida Highway 1, the southernmost leg of U.S. Highway 1 and sometimes also called “The Highway That Goes to Sea” is a modern wonder. The road that follows the trail was originally blazed in 1912 by Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railroad and stretches from Miami to Key West. Today, drivers can travel this highway in less than four hours from Miami. Drivers will be able to experience the natural beauty of the ever-changing scenery of the seas and the vast wilderness that borders the roadway. Let us delve further into what makes Florida Highway 1 stand out.  

Overseas Highway

History of Florida Highway 1

Before 1935, the Overseas Highway was the East Coast Railroad line. However, after a Labor Day hurricane caused great damage to the original railway infrastructure along the route, the railroad ceased all its operations. The Florida Highway 1’s construction started a year or so later. The foundation included some of the original railway spans as well as specially constructed columns.   

When Florida Highway 1 was completed in 1938, it marked the beginning of an incredible adventure for North American drivers, who could now travel 113 miles of roadways and cross 42 bridges to travel from Miami to the southernmost part of Key West. In 1982, 37 bridges were replaced with wider spans, that included the well-known Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon.   

Things to do- Your perfect Road Trip Guide

The Florida Highway 1 is just as it sounds, overseas. It means, you will be able to see some magnificent views and also have stretches of road with nowhere to stop. However, as long as you’re prepared to drive this Florida Highway 1, you are sure to have a memorable experience.  

The first Key you’ll find on one of your travels on Florida Highway 1 is Key Largo. If you are looking to find a place to stretch your legs, you can stop at the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail. Spanning mile markers 54.5 to 58.5 bayside, the eight-foot-wide Grass Key Bikeway is landscaped and furnished with a split rail fence as well as bollards in order to prevent automobile access. The Heritage Trail is a paved recreational path that features crossways between the bay side and ocean side and includes benches, an art bicycle rack, and a limestone sign.  

Next, you will hit Islamorada, where you will pass the very extensive History of Diving Museum. This is a fun stop that is filled with diving artifacts and gadgets that were used a long time ago. It is also a great place where you can learn about human beings’ attempts to explore under the sea.   

Marathon will be the next Key that you will be passing, and it will mean that you are halfway to Key West. The Dolphin Research Center over here is worth a trip. You can spend an hour learning all about the incredible sea mammals or spend the day swimming with them as well. What is so great about the Dolphin Research Center is that conservation and education are at the core of everything that they do. You can be rest assured that these animals are being treated right and you will leave wanting to keep them protected.   

At the edge of Marathon, the famous Seven Mile Bridge starts as well. This is the largest segmental bridge in the world and separates the middle and lower keys. You should take in the sights while you are driving along this long stretch as they are truly incredible.   

The next main Key you will hit is of course Key West. It will mean you have made it to the end of your Florida Highway 1 adventure. Once you have been able to make it so far, it is worth heading till the end of the island, so that you can drive the entire length of Florida Highway 1.   

Key West

Food and Stay

An important lesson to keep in mind while driving on Florida Highway 1 is to never start your trip hungry. Between the long stretches of overseas highways and slow-moving traffic, it can be a long time between one stop to the next. However, once you make it to the Keys, there are some great places to stop to get a bite to eat for yourself. The conch fritters at Alabama Jack in Key Largo are a must-have. The no-frills seafood is served at their roadside location. However, if you’re only looking for a snack, you won’t be able to resist the cool slice of Lime Pie or you can try a slice at Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen, which is also located in Key Largo. You can time your trip down or back during breakfast or lunchtime for a stop at the 50-era diner in Marathon, the Wooden Spoon, where you will find excellent service and great food.   

Once you reach Keys, there are plenty of great hotels, resorts, and Bed & Breakfasts that line Florida Highway 1. If we assume that Key West is indeed your final destination, then there are plenty of budget hotels that you can stop over in time to get some sleep. You might even end up liking the place so much that you wind up staying there longer. Gilbert’s Resort and Marina are located around mile marker 108 on the bay side. It is on the water just like everything in the Keys and should cost you around $100-150 a night, depending on the time of the year.   

If you are able to make it to Islamorada and need a place to stay, you should try the Rainbow Bend Fishing Resort. Over here rooms will cost you somewhere between $80-$150 per night but may vary depending upon the season you come in. The resort also offers on-site fishing, swimming, and diving tours along with everything else.  

In Marathon, you can try the Sea Dell Motel, which is situated between mile markers 49-50. The rooms at Sea Dell should cost you around $100 per night. It is also a great spot to stay overnight as the motel is located pretty close to a whole lot of Marathon attractions such as Bahia Honda State Park, the Dolphin Research Center, and fishing and diving excursions. 

Bahia Honda State Park


You are sure to hit traffic if you are looking to head down over Keys during the weekend. One of the flaws of Florida Highway 1 is the single lanes in either direction. This, as you can imagine, slows down the pace of the traffic immensely. However, there are quite a few things you can do to avoid this traffic such as leaving at off-peak hour. If you leave early in the morning or late at night, it will help you ensure that the four-hour trip doesn’t end up taking you eight hours. Winter months do tend to attract more tourists.  

Florida highway traffic


  • Florida Highway 1 is not just your average freeway so please pay attention to the rules of the road.   
  • The speed limits are highly enforced on the highway and fluctuate quite frequently.  
  • Despite the speed limits of 40-55 mph, traffic moves at a relatively slower pace due to motorists entering and leaving the highway constantly. 

You can also read: Blue Ridge Parkway 

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