It is said that “getting there is half the fun” of a vacation! Some people prefer to get there quickly by flying, avoiding the usual fatigue of the road. Others, however, prefer to enjoy the experience of traveling before reaching their destination, taking cars, buses, and trains that allow them to see the countryside and cities. If you’ve planned an exciting trip to Key West, you’re probably wondering how to get to Key West safely and quickly.
The best way to travel to Key West for you will be the one you can afford and that gets you there in your own time frame. Getting to Key West isn’t difficult, but its location off the southern coast of Florida does mean that some methods of travel won’t be available. For example, no trains run to the island, as most trains end their Florida journey in Fort Lauderdale. If you’re heading to Key West, there are options by boat, plane, or land vehicle.
Before you journey down that long chain of Florida Keys to Key West, be sure to book your boat excursions out to the sandbars or a dinner cruise with a knowledgeable and friendly crew at Key West Boat Trips today! Then, once you do arrive on the island, you’ll be all set to have fun.
So how are you planning to travel to Key West? Choose the best way to get to Key West for you from some options below:
Getting To Key West By Land – Tips & Routes
Thanks to the Overseas Highway, the Florida Keys are accessible by vehicle from mainland Florida in a variety of ways. Key West is the southernmost location of the continental United States, only 90 miles away from Cuba, and is the farthest south you can drive from the US mainland. You have the option of driving your own vehicle, taking a shuttle service, taking the Greyhound Keys Shuttle, and a variety of other ways. Some of the ways to drive to Key West include:
1) By Car
The most direct route over land to Key West is from Miami International Airport. To get to Key West from the airport, take LeJeune Road south to 836 West. Merge onto the Florida Turnpike South to Florida City, where the road becomes US 1. The route became the Overseas Highway, a 113-mile stretch of road built on the former Overseas Railway, which was destroyed by a hurricane in 1935. If you are driving from Miami to Key West, be sure to take in the view from the Seven Mile Bridge, the expanse of the Overseas Highway that houses the longest bridge in Florida, connecting Knight’s Key and Little Duck Key.
Drivers coming on their own should be aware that the area around Big Pine Key is a well-known speed trap for those exceeding the speed limits, so drive carefully. Drivers should also note that Florida City, off the Florida Turnpike South (not the Turnpike extension), is the last stop on Highway 1 before getting onto the highway with a few stops. The turnpike extension is used by visitors coming from Florida’s west coast area.
2) By Bus
The Greyhound Keys Shuttle has three scheduled daily departures from Miami to stops all along the Florida Keys. The shuttle departs from Miami International Airport and takes the Florida Turnpike route to the Overseas Highway.
Riding the bus gives visitors a chance to truly enjoy the stunning view over the ocean from the highway and the Seven Mile Bridge, and there are plenty of stops along the three-and-a-half-hour journey for photo ops. Riding while someone else drives the variable speed limits is also a great way to avoid the Big Pine Key speed traps!
3) By Shuttle
For a more personalized trip, the Keys Shuttle offers door-to-door shuttle service from Miami to the various Florida Keys destinations. Like the Greyhound buses, it also departs three times a day. The shuttle vans can accommodate up to twelve passengers. The shuttle service also provides private charters to the airports.
For a higher-end experience, book a Mercedes-Benz car or van through Florida Keys Shuttle to drive you directly to your door or to the airports. Some even stop off in the Big Pine Key area for some wildlife viewing.
4) By Tour
For those staying in Miami and not the Keys but wanting to spend a day on the islands, several tours are available from Miami to Key West in a single-day trip. As the trip from Miami to Key West is three and a half hours one way, this day trip is a 13-hour excursion, with half of that time spent on the road, occasionally hampered by varying speed limits.
Once there, visitors will have six hours to themselves to explore Key West before catching a ride back. Some tours even make stops for those who want to spend a day on the other Keys, such as the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center in the Big Pine Key area.
5) By Amtrak
With the destruction of the Overseas Railroad by the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, it is no longer possible to ride a train all the way to Key West. The last Amtrak station furthest south is in Miami, Florida. However, visitors can take the train from their point of origin to Miami and then proceed south by shuttle, bus, or car using the directions above.
Getting to Key West by Sea – Tips & Advice
What better way to get to an island than by sea? Visitors have the option of taking a public shuttle ferry or hiring a charter boat to take them down to Key West nearly any day of the year. Boats leave from both the Atlantic side in Miami and the Gulf side from Marco Island and head out into Florida Bay on a regular basis, many of which ferry passengers. Some options include:
1) The Key West Express
This high-speed ferry operates between the Keys and Fort Meyers Beach. It docks at the Key West Bight Ferry Terminal, within walking distance of several shops and the historical district. Duval Street and Old Town are also within a 15-minute walk of the docks. As with land travel, the journey down to Key West by boat takes around three and a half hours.
2) Fishing Excursions
Some private charters operate specifically for fishing purposes and take visitors from many of the cities, like Marco Island, along the Florida coast down to Florida Bay and the Keys for deep-sea fishing trips. Miami Charters operates motorboats and sailing vessels down to the Keys regularly.
3) Charter A Boat
Private boat owners occasionally operate ferry services for visitors looking to visit Key West by boat. Many travel down the Intracoastal waterways along both the Gulf side and Atlantic side of Florida. When booking a private boat, however, be aware that upon leaving the Intracoastal Waterway, international laws apply, so be sure your boat captain has permission to operate in international waters and has a complete Coast Guard certification.
4) Cruise Ships
Let’s not forget the most popular way to travel to Key West by sea, on a cruise ship! Both Royal Caribbean and Carnival lines dock in Key West. The majority of them leave out of Miami, and Key West only allows a certain number of ships to dock weekly to avoid overrunning the island with too many visitors at once, so check with your cruise line about Key West as a port of call when making your reservations.
Getting To Key West By Air – The Most Convenient Way
If you want to get to Key West quickly, traveling by plane is your best option. The flight from Miami to Key West International Airport takes less than an hour, and many nearby airports are now offering direct flights to Key West from most of the eastern half of the United States. Traveling by air is certainly convenient, although there may be some delays at the airports with check-in and flight delays. Some methods of air travel to Key West include:
1) Commercial Airline
All of the major airports in Florida provide direct service to Key West, such as Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport and many others. Several major airlines have direct service to Key West as well. Delta Airlines flies direct flights from Atlanta, and American Airlines flies directly from Nashville and Charleston.
2) Private planes
Private charters such as Air Key West and Keys Seaplanes offer a more personalized experience, with smaller planes flying down to Key West on your schedule. Keys Seaplanes offers floating plane services, and landing on the water just off the docks is quite a memorable experience!
Getting to Key West is part of the fun of visiting! Visitors who wonder how to get to Key West have many possibilities. Whether you choose to travel in your own vehicle, use a door-to-door shuttle service, the Key West Express, or fly, your trip to Key West has many different options for travel.
However you get to Key West, though, be sure that your travel arrangements fit well with your excursions and activities while you are there. If you plan to fly or sail into Key West, you might need a rental vehicle to get to all the activities you want to do. Check with your hotel to see if they offer shuttle services around the island.
During your time on Key West, be sure to book a boat tour with Key West Boat Trips and see the island from the water! The experienced guides and boat captains know just where to go if you want to see the sandbars, go fishing, or relax on a dinner cruise while watching the sun go down. With the right planning, travel arrangements, and budget, your trip to Key West will be one you will remember forever!