Orlando is home to thrilling theme parks such as Universal studios and Disney, so no wonder its a really popular family destination! Whereas Key west is the ultimate island destination as Floridas southern most point it's has a warm climate, crystal ocean & gorgeous coral reefs make it a popular destination for snorkeling & diving!
A road trip between the two is the ideal way to experience both a thrilling family destination and a relaxed island lifestyle in one vacation.
How long is the drive from Orlando to Key West?
A drive between Orlando & Key West takes approximately 6.5 hours and spans 393 miles! To put things into perspective Key west is just 90 miles north of Cuba and many local legends say you can even see the bright lights of Havana from Key West. I would never suggest taking this trip in one go, without stop overs, especially because there is so many great places to see enroute!
Map of Orlando to Key West Road Trip:
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Related Read: 30 BEST Things To Do With Kids Key West, FL
Is it a scenic drive between Orlando & Key West?
Absolutely! The drive between Orlando & Key west will take you on the scenic coastal highway US 1 and Floridas A1A if you go via Hutchinson island. Then there is the seven mile bridge, which takes you over coral reefs.
And, if you haven't rented a car yet, you'll want to compare car rental rates in Orlando before you leave. We recommend getting a quote at least a few days prior to your trip.
Orlando to Key West Road Trip Itinerary:
- Fort Pierce (St Lucie County)
- Hutchinson Island
- Jupiter island (Home to Celebrities!)
- West Palm Beach
- Fort lauderdale
- Key Largo
- Marathon Key
- Key West
Related Read: Best Time To Visit Key West
If you have a family or are just a couple of adrenaline junkies, there will surely be something to excite you in Orlando.
From the Iconic Disney World Resort, to Universal Studios and even GatorLand! When we went to Orlando, we chose to head to Universal Studios & Gatorland partly because our kids weren’t really young and partly because we felt Universal Studios kept more people in our group happy. If your heading to Disney, check out the Vacation club Saratoga springs resort and if you have Autistic children this Magic Kingdom Autistic guide will help.
Universal Studios Orlando:
Universal Studios Florida is an iconic and ever so Awesome theme park in Orlando. Having opening back in 1990, the park has grown from strength to strength & is now world renowned for its movies & TV themed rides. In addition to it’s entertainment shows, areas, shopping and character encounters!
Here is a list of Attractions you must see:
- Studio Tour.
- Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem.
- Volcano Water Theme Park
- Special Effects Show
- Transformers: The Ride-3D.
- Jurassic World: The Ride.
- Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride.
- Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey
How long should you spend at Universal Studios?
Universal Studios is not too large and can be squeezed into one day! However, if you are visiting during peak season, then you may wish to spend 2 days to avoid missing out.
If you have longer I would recommended staying at least 1 day for each Universal Orlando Theme Park. So that would be three days, which is a fantastic amount of time to really explore everything. Purchase a Park to Park Pass to get the best deal.
How many Theme Parks are at Universal Studios?
- Universal Studios Florida
- Universals Island of Adventure
- Universals Volcano Bay (Waterpark)
Gatorland Theme Park (Orlando)
After a couple of wild at Universal Orlando parks, we decided to mix it up a little and head to the “Alligator capital of the world”. Nestled inside a 110 acre wildlife preserve is a fun packed entertainment resort with allows you to get up close & personal with some crazy crocs!
- Animal Encounters
- Photo Opportunities
- Gator Wrestling (Gator Wranglers getting to grips with 6-8 feet alligators)
- Gator shows (Gator Jumparoo, the gaters jump high out of the water to grab food from the trainers hands.
- Petting Zoo – Where you can observe some cutter & gentler animals!
Kennedy Space Centre
Located just one small step from Orlando, is Kennedy Space Centre! (It can be reached by by car in 1 hour.)
This is probably one of the most iconic attractions in the area. Kennedy Space Centre has been the primary launch centre for NASA human powered flights, since 1968.
Rocket Garden Square at Kennedy Space Centre.
Canaveral National Seashore:
While in the area you should also check out Canaveral National Seashore located on a barrier island around 15 minutes north of Kennedy Space centre. It is a recreational Paradise of natural beauty. Perfect for hiking, fishing, Kayaking, swimming, camping & even horse riding!
Be sure to check out, the sea turtle conservation & the interactive exhibits around the park. Suitable for all ages.
Related Read: 20 Best Clear Water Beaches in Florida
2. Fort Pierce (St Lucie County)
Road Trip Route: Hop onto one of the most scenic driving roads in the U.S.A, Florida A1A which runs along the east coast from Cape Canaveral Seashore to the barrier island of Hutchinson.
Fort Pierce, is know as the Sunrise City and has been the hub of St. Lucie County for over 100 years! Located on the "Treasure Coast," it is named after the famed sinking of a Spanish treasure fleet in 1715.
JonathanPuello | Wiki Commons
Attractions at Fort Pierce:
Here you can find a variety of interesting exhibits which include Navy seal Vehicles, Weapons and artifacts.
This area has a 340 acre park & long beach and is really popular with swimming & surfing!
Here you will find paintings by the 20th-century painter, a Fort Pierce native.
Heathcote Botanical Gardens is a Sub tropical botanical gardens which features a large collection of tropical bonsai.
Fun fact: Fort Pierce is one of the oldest communities on the east coast of Florida.
3. Hutchinson Island
Road Trip Route: From Fort Pierce hop back onto gorgeous A1A and drive down to Hutchinson Island.
Hutchinson Island is known for idllyic beaches, vast nature preserves and parks. It consists of two barrier islands on the coast of Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River counties in Florida.
William “Patrick" | Wiki Commons
The two islands which make up Hutchinson, (North & South Hutchinson) are separated by the Fort Pierce Inlet. While at Hutchinson island you can just enjoy the drive on A1A or dive into one of the popular activities.
Things to do on Hutchinson Island:
- Drive coastal highway A1A
- Go Turtle watching at Jensen Sea Turtle Beach
- Relax at Stuart Beach
- Dive into some water-sports such as Kite surfing, wake boarding (Next level are a good provider)
- Florida Oceano coastal centre.
Florida Oceano Coastal Centre is marine life nature centre and a interesting place to learn more about the local sealife
Jensen Beach to Jupiter Inlet Aquatic Preserve:
At the end of A1A you will come to Jenson Beach to Jupiter Inlet Aquatic Preserve. The area is 37 miles long and encompasses 23,000 acres. This is a great place to explore, go fishing or even rent a clear bottom kayak which is a really unique experience.
4. Jupiter island (Home to Celebrities!)
Jupiter Island is a barrier island located in Martin County, Florida. The town is part of the Port St. Lucie and is home to many famous celebrities.
Which celebrities live on Jupiter Island?
Jupiter Island famous residents include Tiger Woods, Celine Dion, Burt Reynolds, Greg Norman, Alan Jackson and some of the Bush family. Burt Reynolds actually called Jupiter "The best place on earth"
- Tiger Woods: The championship golfer lives on Jupiter Island, and also owns The Woods, a restaurant in Jupiter’s Harbourside Place.
- Michael Jordan: Jordan lives in Bear’s Club, and is co-owner of a restaurant in Jupiter.
- Kid Rock: The rap-rocker turned Southern rocker and now a Republican political hopeful, bought a house in Jupiter Inlet Colony
- Olivia Newton-John: The pop sensation and “Grease” star, spends her “Summer Nights” at her home in Jupiter Inlet Colony.
Fun Fact: Jupiter Island has no post office, as all mail comes from Hobe Sound on the mainland.
Things to do on Jupiter Island:
- Relax at Juno Beach.
- Go Wildlife spotting at Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge.
- Visit the Famous Blowing Rock Preserve.
- Jonathan Dickinson State Park
Jonathan Dickinson state park is the largest state park in south east Florida and contains a variety of natural habitats: sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, mangroves, and river swamps. Over the 11,500 acres there is plenty of camping opportunities and plenty activities to do including canoeing, hiking, picnicking and cycling.
- Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum
The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse is a quaint lighthouse which stand at 33m and was built in 1853. There are 105 steps to the top and panoramic views once you get there!
Where to eat on Jupiter island?
There are some really great ocean front restaurants on Jupiter island. But be aware that most are more pricey than the rest of Florida!
Guanabanas - Seafood, cocktails and live music!
"Terrific place for ambiance!!! On the river, great views and a cool south Florida vibe!
It gets really crowded later in the night, so if you are with family/kids just be aware of the crowd and the noise level goes up."
Insider Tip: If you want to save cash its BYOB (Bring your own booze!).
Location: 960 N Hwy A1A
Jupiter, FL 33477
Large menu selection, delicious appetizers and a good ambience. Overall, a great outdoor place to dine on the river.
Location: Address: 915 NW Flagler Ave, Stuart, FL 34994, United States
5. West Palm Beach
Road Trip Route: Hop back onto coastal highway 1 and head down to West Palm Beach.
West Palm Beach is arguably the most underrated city in Florida! In the shadow of big dogs like Miami and Orlando, West palm beach offers a nice blend between the two cities. Here you will find captivating street art , tongue fizzling food tours, shops, bars and clubs.
West palm beach florida. Source: Getty Images
Things to do at West Palm Beach
One of my favourite places to visit in West Palm Beach. Here you will find over 150 classic video games and pinball machines, the $15 entrance fee includes unlimited free games!
- Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens
Ann Norton Sculpture gardens has a unique display of stone sculptures which will captivate the imagination.
- Norton Museum of Art
- A cultured display of international, impressionist art.
- Kravis Center
- Theatre will dance, opera and concerts.
Places to Eat at West Palm Beach:
Some great places to eat at West Palm Beach include, mouth watering tapas from The Blind Monk and tasty treats from the traditional Swedish Coffee Shop Johan Joes. I highly recommended a Palm Beach food tour which offer 13 different tasting options!
6. Fort Lauderdale
Road Trip Route: Hop back onto the coastal highway A1A for a sunset drive down to Fort Lauderdale and then Miami!
The main strip of Fort Lauderdale is a promenade running along oceanside highway A1A! Here you will find many with upscale outdoor restaurants, bars, boutiques and luxury hotels!
Fort Lauderdale florida. Source: timeout/shutterstock
Things to do at Fort Lauderdale:
- East Las Olas Boulevard
East Las Olas Bouelvard is Fort Lauderdale's premier destination for shopping, dining, events, entertainment, galleries and things to do.
- Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
Bonnet House is on the U.S National Register of historic places. If you visit here you will be magically transported to the beginning of the 20th Century, back to the days of gracious living, charm and whimsy!
Great for hiking through swamps and lagoons.
Dive right into the history of the great swimming legends, see pools, trophies and other sports memorabilia.
WELCOME TO MIAMI! Experience the energy, the culture and of course the Miami Lifestyle. A popular way to see all the sights is via a tour , this is a nice way to learn about the city, get your bearings & see all the great attractions.
A Drive down Ocean Drive, will really open your eyes to Miami's art deco style and reveal it’s colors. There is also, lots of great places to eat here, family activities and even a vibrant Nightlife along the main strip.
With so many attractions to choose from in Miami, it’s hard to know where to start. Miami Zoo, is a good place to keep everyone happy, suitable for families, couples and even groups of friends!
Miami Zoo, as a large selection of some of the most exotic wildlife in the world! It also hosts a variety of fun packed & interesting activities & animal exhibits. You can explore the zoo on foot alone, take a guided tour and even a comfortable driving tour over the 750 acres of land!
After a big day touring the city & getting wild at Miami Zoo, you should spend a morning at the famous Miami Beach. The wide beaches run from North Shore Open Space Park, through palm fringed Lummus Park, all the way to South Pointe Park.
South Beach – Is one of the most Iconic parts, popular with models, movie stars and celebrities. A great place to check out.
Marlins Field Baseball:
Another option instead of Miami Seaquarium, is to head to a Ball game at Marlins Field Ball Park. Catch a Major league Baseball match or even take a tour round the facility.
How long should I stay in Miami?
Miami is such a vibrant, diverse city you could easily spend over one week here and still not experience everything! But I recommended three days as a minimum to really get the most out of the city!
For our full Miami Itinerary check out: Florida Itinerary 10 Days: Epic!
8. Key Largo
A road trip from Miami to Key West, is one of the most scenic and breathtaking driving routes in America!
It will take you over the famous overseas Highway 1, and meander through over 40 islands before reaching Key west. The journey is around 1hr 15 mins to Key Largo from Miami then another 4 hours along highway 1 to Key west.
Things to do at Key Largo:
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
The John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the first undersea park in the United States. It was created in 1963 to protect and preserve the only living coral reef in the nation.
Encompassing over 178 nautical square miles there is plenty of activities to dive into. Here you can kayak, snorkel, and dive independently or to join one of the snorkelling, scuba, or glass bottom boat tours.
Ever wanted to swim with Dolphins? Here is the perfect place. Dolphin Cove is on the northernmost point of the Key Largo. There you will find a five-acre lagoon where visitors can swim and interact with cute dolphins.
dolphin cove florida. Source: dolphinsplus.com
Coral Reef Diving
No visit to the Keys would be complete without trying some diving or snorkelling. Rainbow Reef Dive Center is a popular provider which offers dive trips to Key Largo, Pennekamp State Park, and the Upper Florida Keys.
They are Blue Star Certified, which means there goal is to educate divers and snorkelers in low impact practices that protect the marine ecosystem.
Where to Stay?
Jules Undersea Lodge:
Jules Undersea Lodge is place your imagination can run wild. A former research lab, its now an underwater lodge where guests can reserve overnight or just for a three hour adventure!
There are two hotel rooms which is offers views of reef fishes, tropical angel fishes and even barracudas! The hotel also offers plenty of snorkel and dive packages.
Jules Undersea Lodge
Fun Fact: Aerosmiths Steven Tyler once stayed here!
Reserve well in advance as there are only two hotel rooms on offer, check the best prices here: How to find the Best Hotel Deals??
9. Marathon Key
Marathon Key is the ideal place to spring board yourself to go and explore the other islands. The area also has a local population which combines art & culture in the most fantastic way!
Marathon Key beaches
Things to do at Marathon Key:
Dolphin Research center
The Dolphin Research Center has a 90,000-square-foot series of saltwater lagoons and is home to several dolphins and California sea lions. Here you can swim with dolphins, watch high-flying acrobatics and learn about the dolphin research.
The Turtle Hospital is a small non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of endangered sea turtles, and is entirely supported by the interest. As it is a working hospital you must take a guided educational program to visit.
One of these visits will give you a tour of the facility and turtle rehabilitation area. The educational experience lasts around 90 mins and includes a presentation. You can also feed the turtles.
Educational Programs run daily at: 9 am, 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm, 3 pm, and 4 pm
Watch the Baby sea turtles during nesting season at Canaveral National Seashore, on your road trip between Orlando & Key west.
How much does it cost?
The Turtle hospital tour is quite pricey at $25 for adults and $12 for children, kids under 4 go free. However, it all goes to a good cause.
Crane Point Museums & Nature Center
Crane Point Museum, Nature Center and Historic Site is a non-profit natural history museum and nature center. If you take the guided tour on the golf cart you will learn alot of interesting stuff about floridas history and marine wildlife. A great place to spend 2-3 hours.
Where to eat at Marathon Key?
Marathon Key has some really great places to eat, here are some favourites below:
Offers breath taking ocean views from its laid back terrace, making it ideal for a sunset dinner.
Location: 1200 Oceanview Ave End of 15th St, Marathon, FL 33050-2115
This restaurant is happy hour heaven with great cocktails, local cuisine and a relaxing bayside vibe.
There massive burger is a signature treat!
Location: 1994 Overseas Hwy Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club, Marathon, FL 33050-2127
This places offers some of the tastiest foods in the keys, all of it is made from scratch and they give really generous portions. Highly recommend dishes are the French onion soup, fish of the day any style, lamp chops and the tender duck. The prices are fair.
Location: 57784 Overseas Hwy Rainbow Bend Resort, Marathon, Grassy Key, FL 33050-5626
10. Key West
Wohoooo! You've finally made it to Key west, the southern most point in the U.S.A!
Fun Fact: Many famous writer have called Key West home including Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, and Tennessee Williams. Key West continues to attract many artists today with its Bohemian and tolerant atmosphere.
Can you see Cuba from Key West?
Cuba is 90 miles south of Key West and although many local legends say they can see the bright lights of Havana, this is a myth!
Things to do at Key West:
- Visit the Southern most point in the U.S.A - FREE Activity
- Mallory Square
Head to the vibrant Mallory Square, a Waterfront square with restaurants, shops and a great atmosphere. There are plenty of old town trolley tours and ghost tours around the area.
Mallory Square Keywest sunset
Head to Mallory Square during the evening for its nightly sunset festivals!
- Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
The epitome of Spanish colonial architecture and former home of the great writer Ernest Hemingway.
- Duval Street
In Key West, Duval Street is home to a vibrant collection of hole-in-the-wall bars, art galleries, historic haunts, funky shops, outdoor cafés and plenty of places to people watch!
Where to Stay at Florida Keys?
I would recommend, staying on the Keys for at least a few days to one week+. As the area spans over 100 miles, so there is plenty to explore. Many tourists choose to stay in Marathon Key, which has a wide selection of resorts & a vibrant culture!
For a selection of Hotels & resorts, at Marathon Key, check out our special search here
As Marathon Key, is such a small & popular area places tend to sell out fast! Book well in advance to avoid disappointment.
Festivals & Events at Florida Keys:
It makes sense to check what events & festivals may be happening in the Florida Keys area, during your vacation. There is always plenty going on & lots to explore.
A really Unique festival is the Underwater Music Festival 2019: Florida Keys July Spectacular!
One of the talented mermaids playing her fishy flute. Florida Keys Underwater Music Festival.
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