Last Updated on December 21, 2023

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A road trip from Orlando to Key West is a great way to see the best places in Florida, the sunshine state.

There are two major routes to do this incredible journey: either through the west coast or through the east coast of Florida.

Better yet, you might want to take one route while heading to Key West and the other while going back to Orlando and make a complete South Florida circuit out of it!

Regardless of the route you take, an Orlando to Key West road trip can be a fantastic adventure, taking you through some beautiful and varied scenery, and allowing you to explore various attractions along the way.

 

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aerial view of Downtown Miami roads and buildings

 

 

Photo credit – Unsplash by Amie Humphries

people and tourists in Walt Disney Resort Orlando

1. Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando

While you are already in Orlando, why not make the most of this trip by visiting some of Orlando’s most iconic stops first before heading down south the Key West, yeah?

Visiting the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando is a magical experience for children and adults alike.

Spanning over 25,000 acres, this iconic destination boasts four theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom – each offering a captivating realm of rides, attractions, and beloved characters.

The Resort’s attention to detail, from Cinderella’s Castle to futuristic pavilions, dazzling parades, fireworks displays, and live shows, all create an immersive atmosphere.

Whether you’re soaring through space, dining with princesses, or embarking on a safari, Walt Disney World Resort weaves dreams into reality, leaving an indelible mark and creating treasured memories that last a lifetime!

2. Universal Studios Florida, Orlando

Universal Studios Florida in Orlando is an exhilarating realm of cinematic thrills and immersive entertainment.

This dynamic theme park invites visitors to step into the movies, where iconic characters and blockbuster adventures come to life.

From heart-pounding rides like “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” to high-energy shows like “The Blues Brothers,” the park offers a tapestry of experiences spanning multiple genres.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter transports fans to the enchanting realm of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, while cutting-edge technology makes attractions like “Transformers: The Ride-3D” and “Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon” a sensory marvel.

With its vibrant atmosphere, Hollywood-inspired streetscapes, and a mix of live shows and state-of-the-art simulations, Universal Studios Florida might just be that kick you need for an exciting journey ahead!

Going to Universal Studios Orlando? You can book your tickets here 👇

Universal Orlando Park to Park Tickets

 

 

Lift off of Apollo 16 space craft in Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island

3. Kennedy Space Center, Merritt Island

If you are a science or space fanatic, or traveling with kids, the Kenedy Space Center on Merritt Island is a stop you must make – even if it is for a quick 30 minutes.

The Kennedy Space Center is a gateway to the wonders of space exploration and a testament to human achievement.

As NASA’s primary launch center, it has witnessed historic moments like the Apollo moon landings and Space Shuttle missions.

The center offers a blend of education and inspiration, allowing visitors to explore the past, present, and future of space travel.

From awe-inspiring rocket displays, like the Saturn V at the Apollo/Saturn V Center, to interactive exhibits and astronaut encounters, Kennedy Space Center offers an immersive journey into the cosmos.

Touring the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit and standing beneath colossal launch pads is definitely an experience that must not be missed!

Traveling to Kennedy Space Center? Take a look at this tour 👇

Kennedy Space Adventure with Transport from Orlando

 

 

4. Canaveral National Seashore, Titusville

Canaveral National Seashore near Titusville is a pristine coastal haven where nature’s beauty unfolds along untouched shores.

This protected reserve encompasses a diverse ecosystem of beautiful beaches, salt marshes, and mangrove forests, creating a sanctuary for wildlife and a serene escape for visitors.

Canaveral National Seashores provides nesting grounds for sea turtles and vital habitats for various bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.

With limited development, this is also one of the best places where you can experience the sunshine state’s natural coastline in its purest form.

5. Heathcote Botanical Gardens, Fort Pierce

Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce is a tranquil oasis where the wonders of nature and art converge.

Spanning five acres, this enchanting garden showcases an array of lush landscapes, themed gardens, and carefully carved sculptures.

The James J. Smith Bonsai Collection, the Butterfly Garden, the Reflection Garden and the Garden of Lights are all incredible spaces curated with patience and care, making Heathcote into the magical wonderland it is.

With its blend of botanical splendor, artistic expression, and a sense of tranquility, this hidden gem will truly rejuvenate your road trip spirit!

Surfing waves at Fort Pierce Inlet State Park

6. Fort Pierce Inlet State Park, Fort Pierce

Nestled along Florida’s stunning Atlantic coastline, Fort Pierce Inlet State Park offers a captivating blend of natural beauty and recreational opportunities.

Spanning over 340 acres, this is one of Florida’s premier state parks encompassing beautiful beaches, sand dunes, and diverse coastal habitats.

The park’s namesake inlet provides an ideal setting for fishing, boating, and observing marine life.

For history lovers, Fort Pierce Inlet State Park is also important as it was once the site of a World War II training camp.

7. West Palm Beach, Florida

West Palm Beach, is a coastal city seamlessly blending urban sophistication with natural beauty.

Nestled along the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, this vibrant destination has a lot to offer.

Downtown Clematis Street and Rosemary Square are always abuzz with live music, offering a variety of splendid dining, shopping, and entertainment options.

The Norton Museum of Art is also one of the best places for its dynamic blend of artistic genres, from European masterpieces of Monet and Picasso to contemporary creations.

The city’s cultural scene also thrives at venues like the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts.

With its blend of arts, live music, nature, and urban charm, West Palm Beach is a great place to rest, reenergize or even spend a night on your Florida Keys road trip!

panoramic view of Miami Beach including the roads, buildings and beach scene

8. Miami Beach

Miami Beach is a renowned coastal paradise that embodies the vibrant spirit of South Florida.

Nestled along the Atlantic Ocean, this iconic destination is celebrated for its pristine sandy shores, turquoise waters, and a captivating fusion of cultures.

The Art Deco Historic District, Ocean Drive, and Lummus Park are all the best places to admire the architecture, enjoy the nightlife and live music and slow down and watch the world go by!

The city’s cultural scene thrives with art galleries, museums, and live performances, and its diverse neighborhoods, from trendy South Beach to upscale Bal Harbour, offer a rich tapestry of experiences that are worth experiencing as a part of your Orlando to Key West road trip.

9. Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel, Miami

And while you’re passing through the Miami area, might as well stop by and experience the Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel!

This iconic attraction offers a breathtaking perspective of Miami’s skyline and coastal beauty.

Rising gracefully above Bayside Marketplace, with climate-controlled gondolas it’s a true delight to look at the shimmering waters of Biscayne Bay, and the city’s architectural wonders beyond it, including Downtown Miami – all from a bird’s eye view.

Whether day or night, the Skyviews Miami Observation Wheel offers the perfect opportunity to capture memorable photos, making it a special part of this epic Florida road trip from Orlando to Key West!

Great egret bird sitting above a stick in the water at Everglades National Park

10. Everglades National Park, Miami

It is a widely known fact that the most exciting land-based popular activities in the famous Everglades National Park happen from the Miami side.

So while you are here, might as well spend a night or two extra and make the Everglades an extended part of your epic journey, no?

Here, you can embark on a guided tour to glide through sawgrass prairies and encounter alligators, wading birds, and other wildlife.

Eco-adventurers can explore nature trails like Anhinga Trail, where herons and alligators share the spotlight.

This National Park is also a premier spot for birdwatchers.

Canoeing or kayaking through mangrove tunnels and waterways or taking a stroll along the Gumbo Limbo Trail are all popular activities to choose from!

Looking for an amazing Everglades experience? Check out this tour!

Florida Everglades Airboat Tour and Wild Florida Admission

 

 

11. Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale

Once you have had enough of Miami, do not forget to make a pit stop at the iconic Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale!

This vibrant and stylish destination combines upscale shopping, dining, and cultural experiences like live music, lined with chic boutiques, art galleries, and designer stores.

The boulevard also comes alive with an eclectic mix of international cuisines, ranging from fine dining to charming cafes, making it a culinary mecca for foodies as well!

a palm tree and a gazebo in a pier at Key Largo FL, USA

12. Key Largo

And finally, it is time to hit Florida’s famous Keys!

But before you reach your destination of Key West, there are some other Key islands that might be worth exploring too.

Key Largo, the largest and northernmost of the Florida Keys, is best known as the “Diving Capital of the World”.

Its crystalline waters are a playground for snorkelers and scuba divers, offering mesmerizing encounters with vibrant coral reefs and marine life, especially around the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park – the world’s third-largest barrier reef!

Key Largo is an ideal setting especially if you are interested in water sports like snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and paddleboarding.

13. Florida Barrier Reef

The Florida Barrier Reef, a hidden gem beneath the crystalline waters off the southeastern coast of Florida, is a stunning marine ecosystem.

Stretching along the Atlantic coastline, this lesser-known reef system is the only living coral reef in the continental United States!

Snorkelers and scuba divers are treated here to an enchanting world of color and movement, with coral gardens, shipwrecks, and underwater caves waiting to be explored.

So while you are on the scuba diving or snorkeling leg of this Florida Keys road trip, you might want to check out a guided tour of the Florida Barrier Reef as well!

Turquoise waterfront of Florida Keys in Marathon, Florida

14. Marathon Key

Marathon Key is best known for Sombrero Beach and its white sands invite sun-soaked days and leisurely picnics, while water sports like snorkeling, fishing, and kayaking abound.

The iconic Seven Mile Bridge connects Marathon Key to neighboring islands, providing panoramic views and a scenic drive or bike ride, making it just the most idyllic stopover on your journey right before the bustling scene at Key West’s Duval Street!

🏨 Looking for a place to stay in Key West? Take a look at the 11 Best Key West Adults-Only Hotels post!

aerial view of Orlando highway on a sunset

 

 

Photo credit – Unsplash by Dan Dennis

a white tiger in Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, FL, USA

1. Busch Gardens, Tampa

To start off your Orland to Key West road trip through the west coast, why not visit Busch Gardens Tampa?

With over 300 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, the park offers a unique fusion of adrenaline-pumping rides and captivating animal exhibits.

Visitors can experience world-class roller coasters like SheiKra and Montu, all the while contributing to Busch Gardens’ commitment to conservation and education.

Exhibits like the Serengeti Plain allow guests to observe exotic animals like giraffes and zebras in a habitat mimicking their natural environment.

Whether seeking high-speed adventure or a close encounter with fascinating creatures, adults and children alike can enjoy the well-rounded and exhilarating experience of Busch Gardens in Tampa.

Book your Busch Gardens tickets here 👉 Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Admission Ticket

 

 

2. Sawgrass Lake Park, St. Petersburg

On your next pit stop on this journey, consider Sawgrass Lake Park, situated in St. Petersburg.

This serene natural oasis invites visitors to immerse themselves in the beauty of Florida’s unique wetland ecosystem.

Spanning over 400 acres, with the expansive Sawgrass Lake as its centerpiece, the park is renowned for its sprawling sawgrass marshes, abundant wildlife, and diverse bird population.

An elevated boardwalk meanders through the heart of the park, offering a captivating opportunity to observe the intricate web of life that thrives in this pristine environment.

Whether birdwatching, hiking on nature trails, or simply enjoying the peaceful ambiance, visitors can connect with nature and escape the bustle of urban life at this hidden gem of the Sunshine State.

photo os Sunshine Skyway Bridge in St Petersburg Florida over Tampa Bay

3. Sunshine Skyway Bridge, St. Petersburg

The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is an iconic and breathtaking feat of engineering that spans Tampa Bay, connecting St. Petersburg and Terra Ceia in Florida.

Stretching over 4 miles in length, this cable-stayed bridge is renowned for its stunning architectural design and panoramic views.

While on your road trip, this bridge will be a captivating part of your journey, providing sweeping vistas of the bay, the Gulf of Mexico, and the surrounding landscape!

4. Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve

Located on the Gulf Coast, Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve is a coastal gem encompassing over 24,000 acres of diverse marine and estuarine ecosystems.

This protected area, located 35 miles from Tampa, features lush mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and tidal flats, and is a vital habitat for various species of fish, birds, and other wildlife.

Boating, kayaking, fishing, and birdwatching are popular activities here, making for an adventurous, yet education-filled experience!

pathway to Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota Florida

5. Siesta Key

Siesta Key, nestled on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is a renowned tropical paradise celebrated for its pristine beaches, soft white quartz sand, and crystal-clear turquoise waters.

This barrier island, located just southwest of Sarasota, offers a serene and idyllic escape for ocean lovers.

Siesta Beach has also been often proclaimed as the best beach in the United States.

Its powdery sand feels cool underfoot even on the sunniest days, making it a popular spot for relaxation, picnics, and water sports.

The island’s charming village boasts a vibrant arts scene, eclectic shops, and a variety of breakfast and dining options.

This is a great destination for kayaking, paddleboarding, and exploring its mangrove-lined waterways.

Nature preserves like Point of Rocks provide a glimpse into the area’s diverse ecosystem, while the Siesta Key Drum Circle captures the island’s laid-back and creative spirit, making it a great place to spend some time while on your Orlando to Key West journey through the west coast!

6. Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates, located in Fort Myers, are a historical treasure that pays tribute to the ingenuity and creativity of two of America’s greatest inventors, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

The estates encompass beautifully preserved homes, lush gardens, and a museum, offering a glimpse into the lives and accomplishments of these remarkable men.

Thomas Edison’s home, laboratory, and botanical research gardens reflect his innovative spirit and contributions to technology and science.

Henry Ford’s winter retreat, neighboring Edison’s estate, showcases his passion for invention and industry.

The estates provide an immersive experience, featuring a guided tour that delves into the inventors’ legacies and the era they lived in.

This is a great stop on your Key West road trip, for some inspiring travel back in time!

Photo credit – Unsplash by Drew Darby

Aerial view of the beach in Sanibel Captiva Island

7. Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island, nestled on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is a tranquil haven celebrated for its unspoiled natural beauty and pristine beaches.

Renowned for its unique east-west orientation, Sanibel’s shores are a treasure trove of seashells, attracting beachcombers and collectors from around the world, especially to the famous Bowman’s Beach.

The island is a sanctuary for wildlife, with the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge providing a vital habitat for birds, reptiles, and marine life.

Nature enthusiasts will love its mangrove estuaries and wetlands through kayaking and wildlife watching.

For a peep in history, visit the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village offering a glimpse into the island’s past, while the Sanibel Lighthouse stands as a beacon of maritime history.

8. Tamiami Trail, Big Cypress National Park

The Tamiami Trail, a scenic highway connecting Tampa to Miami in Florida, traverses through the heart of the Big Cypress National Preserve, offering travelers a captivating journey through a unique and diverse wilderness.

This ecologically significant region encompasses over 700,000 acres of swamps, hardwood hammocks, and cypress forests, providing a vital habitat for an array of wildlife.

The Tamiami Trail is a gateway to the Big Cypress National Preserve which is home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, including elusive Florida panthers and wading birds.

Outdoor enthusiasts can explore the preserve through nature trails, birdwatching, and wildlife photography.

9. Ten Thousand Islands, Everglades National Park

The Ten Thousand Islands, a mesmerizing labyrinth of mangrove islands and waterways along Florida’s Gulf Coast, form a unique and enchanting natural wonder.

This sprawling expanse of estuaries, bays, and channels is a haven for biodiversity, harboring a rich tapestry of marine and avian life,  including wading birds, eagles, roseate spoonbills, and bottlenose dolphins and manatees, and thriving in its shallow waters.

Nestled within the Everglades ecosystem, the Ten Thousand Islands offer a glimpse into an unspoiled wilderness.

Exploring the Ten Thousand Islands reveals hidden coves, beautiful beaches, and serene water trails, accessible by kayak, canoe, or boat.

This is a great stop that absolutely must not be missed on your Orland to Key West journey through the west coast!

a palm tree and panoramic beach scene at Bahia Honda State Park

10. Bahia Honda State Park

Once you finally enter the Florida Keys, Bahia Honda State Park should be your first stop!

This is one of the best state parks in Florida, known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and diverse marine life, boasts some of the most picturesque with powdery white sand and vibrant turquoise blues in the region.

The historic Bahia Honda Rail Bridge, a remnant of the Overseas Railroad, adds a touch of nostalgia and also serves as a unique vantage point for the park’s panoramic views.

You can hike through nature trails, spotting native plants and wildlife, or engage in water sports and popular activities like kayaking and paddleboarding.

This state park’s underwater wonders also make it a prime spot for water sports like snorkeling and scuba diving, revealing a vibrant underwater world teeming with coral reefs and marine creatures.

11. Southernmost Point, Key West

Finally, when you arrive at your much-awaited destination, Key West, a visit to the southernmost point in the continental United States is a must.

This famous painted buoy, brightly adorned with colorful markings, perched just a mere 90 miles from Cuba, offers not only a geographical distinction but also a sense of connection to the broader Caribbean region.

Tourists flock to this spot to take photographs and soak in the panoramic views of the ocean.

So beware – this great place might be more crowded than you expected!

While the buoy itself is a popular attraction, the Southernmost Point is also surrounded by nearby attractions, shops, and restaurants adding to the lively atmosphere.

hands of a car driver on a steering wheel on a road trip
Orlando to Key West Road Guide

 

 

 

 

Travel Resources

 

Book Your Next Trip!  For Accommodations and short-term rentals, I recommend Booking.com as they are the best in the business when it comes to rates and places to stay.

To Book Activities- For activities, I suggest booking with Viator, they have thousands of 5-star activities to choose from!

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