The Overseas Highway, also known as “the highway that goes to sea,” carries US Route 1 from Miami through the Florida Keys to Key West.
It’s one of the longest overwater roads in the world, with 42 bridges, and the only way to get to Key West via land. It’s the backbone of the Florida Keys, spreading through a 113-mile (182km) drive, surrounded by pristine waters and a paradise-like setting.
If you’re thinking of driving the full length of the highway, then you’re most likely planning to stop off along the way. Even so, how long would a point-to-point drive take without any stops?
You can drive across the Overseas Highway from Miami to Key West in 3-4 hours, keeping to the speed limits of 35-55 mph. Along the route, you’ll find many places where you can stop off and take a rest. Once at Key West, there are ample dining options and public entertainment available, making for the perfect overnight stay.
What is the speed limit on the Overseas Highway?
The speed limit on the Overseas Highway ranges from 35mph to 55mph, so you won’t be able to rush your journey.
Given it’s a long drive, you’ll run through areas that are sparse and unpopulated, where the limit rises to 55 mph, and others that are highly populated, where the limit lowers to 35 mph.
The Overseas Highway also features traffic cameras, so make sure to stick to the given speed limits.
You’ll also encounter areas with both one and two lanes running each way, and the time of day you’re driving will determine the speed you can drive at.
Also, watch out for impatient drivers, who will sometimes speed around slower tourist drivers.
Is the Overseas Highway busy?
During the weekends and peak times, driving on the overseas highway can get very busy. This is especially true for the Miami side of the highway.
Peak times include rush hour, which runs from roughly 7 am to 9:45 am and 6 pm to 9 pm, and also on weekends. If you’re driving outside of these times, this can help you drive across the Keys much faster.
For best travel times, complete the route in the evening after 8 pm and before 8 am.
Overseas Highway mile-markers
The Overseas Highway features green mile markers that locate addresses and attractions related to the nearest mile marker.
These include shops, beaches, creeks, lakes, and many other attractions spread throughout the Keys.
Marker 0 begins at the Southernmost point of Key West, continuing North until mile marker 127.5 of Florida City mainland.
How many Florida Keys are on the Overseas Highway?
The Florida Keys features five main regions and 44 linking islands. From North to South, these regions are as follows.
- Key Largo, the largest of the Keys. It is known as the dive capital of the world.
- Islamorada is a sports fishing hotspot with a scenic bay and pristine ocean views.
- Marathon, the center of the Keys, is famous for its seven-mile bridge and enjoyable sea life activities.
- Big Pine Key has great beaches and is known for swimming and shallow-water diving.
- Key West, the final key, is a mixture of 19th-century charm and modern entertainment, making for unforgettable evenings.
Activities and events are going on at each location all year round, so if one takes your eye, then be sure to read up on the upcoming events so you can stop off on your drive and have a great time!
Arriving at Key West
Your final stopping point along the Overseas Highway will be America’s southernmost continental city, Key West. At this point, if you were to turn around and drive back to the starting point of the highway, this will take another 3.5-4 hours of driving time.
It’s unlikely you’re going to be doing this, and if you want to stay overnight on your trip, then Key West is a great place to do so!
Key West has approximately 25,000 year-round residents and is renowned for its artistic community. Additionally, it’s a great place to spend the evening after a long drive, with varied dining at all price points.
Also, in the main tourist point of the city, Mallory Square, activities are thriving. It’s the perfect setting for the nightly sunset celebration, with unparalleled, unforgettable views, skilled street performers, and food carts.
If you’re in the mood, there’s a sunset dinner cruise with a tropical-themed buffet available for you to enjoy!
Driving on the Overseas Highway during hurricane season
When deciding the time of year to drive the Overseas Highway, it’s sensible to consider the implications of hurricane season.
Throughout the years, due to hurricanes and tropical storms, the highway has been renovated multiple times. During these times, some areas of the Keys will be shut down as bridges and buildings are inspected and repaired.
Regardless of this, there are still plenty of events going on during hurricane season.
Hurricane season begins in June and lasts until late November. However, late August is the time of year that poses the largest hurricane threat, and during this time, many vacations have been cut short due to storms.
Fortunately, advanced weather notice is readily available, so keep up to date to avoid this happening to you.
If you’re planning on driving on the highway fresh after a hurricane, stay cautious and aware of potential storm debris on the road.
Preparation for your drive
Follow these tips to make sure your drive goes as smoothly as possible:
- General car checks, such as oil and water, and making sure your tires are properly inflated.
- Fill the tank with gas, although there are gas stations at every major and some smaller towns along the highway.
- Take lots of water and snacks for the drive.
- Grab a map of the Keys, and you’ll see all the locations you can visit, which can be very handy when finding locations to stop off at, especially if you’re playing it by ear! Google Maps will also show place names.
- Along the route, there won’t be any stops specifically for toilets, but there are plenty of businesses open for you to visit. You’ll have to pay to enter any National Park, though.
Driving on the Overseas Highway can be a joy to behold. Open the car windows, feel the sea breeze passing by, and for those lucky enough to own a motorbike, the drive has been described as paradise on earth!
It’s a lengthy drive, and there are things to consider, such as which locations to stop off at along the Keys, and how long you plan on driving over the day period.
Driving one way will take 3-4 hours, and a round trip takes up to 8 hours, so if you’re planning on driving there and back within a single day, you’ll be missing out on a whole new world that can comfortably take up to a week to explore.