How long does it take to drive the Overseas Highway?
Crossing turquoise waters, journeying above coral reefs and cutting through stunning tropical islands, the Overseas Highway offers one of the most scenic driving experiences on the planet.
It roughly takes about 4 hours to drive the entire length of the Overseas Highway. We suggest putting more time aside for a couple of breaks and amazing detours. The best would be to set aside about 8 to 10 hours to drive the Overseas Highway one-way.
If you love sunny, silky beaches and taking a dip in the turquoise ocean waters, you will want to drive the Overseas Highway from its beginning to its end. Read on to find about how long it takes to drive the Overseas Highway and the best way to do it.
How long does it take to drive the Overseas Highway
The final section of US Highway 1, the Overseas Highway zips between the idyllic islands of the Florida Keys as it links the city of Miami to the most southerly point in the state, Key West. Along the way, there are a wealth of mini paradises to stop off at, great eats and beaches to relax on.
If that wasn't enough, drivers also get the satisfaction of cruising over the Seven Mile Bridge (guess how long it is...), which has been featured in films including James Bond's Licence to Kill, True Lies and 2 Fast 2 Furious. A road trip that's both badass and beautiful? Sign us up.
Allowing for traffic, it takes roughly four hours to drive the Overseas Highway one-way. However, it's worth giving yourself more time than this to explore the many gems along the way.
With a couple of fun stops and a break for a leisurely local lunch, we would recommend eight to ten hours driving the Overseas Highway.
Although if you were powering straight through you could go there and back in one day, the best way to do it is to start in Miami and spend a day driving down, then enjoy a night in Key West sipping cocktails in front of a fabulous sunset.
Best place to stop along the Overseas Highway
As we said, there are a whole host of amazing places to stop off at along the Overseas Highway, but which ones you choose and which activities you take part in will influence how long it takes you to drive from one end to the other.
Realistically, you'll probably need more than a day if you're going to do justice to all of our favourites listed here, but all of the bigger islands do have some hotels, so if you did want to take your time and make a few days of it then go ahead.
Go diving in Key Largo
While the traditional lure of the Overseas Highway may lie in the sweeping views of the coast, don't underestimate the magic of what's lurking beneath those crystal clear waters too.
If you love being in the sea then you're going to want to stop almost as soon as you start driving, with a visit to Key Largo.
Roughly one hour and 20 minutes from Miami and the first island you come to on the road trip, Key Largo is a haven for snorkelling and diving, with a world-class reputation.
In addition to natural reefs, it also offers some phenomenal wreck-diving, as well as parasailing, kayaking and paddle boarding.
If you prefer to stay above water or on dry land, there are also glass-bottom boats, wildlife centres and a bit of good old sunbathing to indulge in.
Estimated stop time including an activity: 3-4 hours
Enjoy a delicious lunch in Islamorada
Traditionally the sport-fishing capital of the Florida Keys, Islamorada is now fast gaining a reputation as a foodie-haven - so we can think of nowhere better to stop for a spot of lunch.
Actually a series of six small islands incorporated into one 'village,' Islamorada boasts a huge selection of great restaurants serving up fresh seafood and shellfish with stunning views across the very seas that it came from.
If you did want to do some fishing first and catch your own lunch, many of the restaurants will be only too happy to cook it for you afterwards.
Estimated stop time: 2 hours
Marvel at the wildlife in Marathon
Contrary to the name of this stretch of the Overseas Highway, it's not runners but animal lovers that will really enjoy a pitstop in Marathon.
In an area of the US well known for its wildlife, the island excels itself, boasting a Dolphin Research Centre, an aquarium where you can feed stingrays, and the Crane Point Museum and Nature Center, which includes a wild bird sanctuary.
The real highlight of the island though is the totally adorable Turtle Hospital, which rescues, rehabs and releases sea turtles.
If you want to really maximise the cuteness then time your trip to coincide with one of the centre's public turtle releases, which are advertised on their website. Prepare to fall in love!
Estimated stop time including a tour of the turtle hospital: 3 hours
Things to know that can impact your driving time
Like with any road trip, there are a few variables that may affect how long it takes to drive the Overseas Highway on any given day. Obviously, hiccups such as accidents will slow you down substantially, but on a day to day basis these are the ones you need to know about:
The Overseas Highway can get very crowded, with the traffic sometimes dropping to a snail's pace. Generally, the slowest part will be getting out of Miami, where the rush hour runs from approximately 7 am to 9.30am; on weekends, it will be easier to get out of the city but the Keys themselves will be busier.
In general, the maximum speed here peaks at 55 mph on the bridges and 45 mph on the islands. Not only are the speed limits infuriatingly low, but they are also strictly enforced, with a number of speed traps to catch drivers out.
This area of the United States is prime territory for some pretty serious tropical storms, with August and September the most likely times for this kind of event to hit. Needless to say, strong winds and pounding rain can play havoc with your journey time.
After a hurricane, access to some of the Keys is often temporarily cut off as the bridges on the Overseas Highway are closed in order for them to be inspected.
Of course, visiting at this time of year doesn't mean there is guaranteed to be a hurricane, or even a storm, but it is something to bear in mind. Fortunately, they do come with a lot of warning so if you're traveling during these months then you may wish to have a backup plan.
Tips to drive the Overseas Highway in the shortest possible time
If you can, we suggest choosing a weekday but getting on the road super early so that by the time rush hour hits you're already safely on a beach.
Our advice is not to try and speed it up by breaking speed limits and instead just take it easy and enjoy the views - it's rare to come across a road like this!
Even long after hurricane season, if there's somewhere you particularly want to visit - be it a whole island or a particular restaurant - it's well worth having a quick look online to see that it's still operating as usual.
The Overseas Highway lives up to its name in the fact that it is indeed overseas; with the majority of it perched above the water, there are stretches of road with no access to gas stations or service facilities.
With that in mind, make sure you have a quick glance down at your dashboard each time you arrive onto an island.
Even if you don't need to use the bathroom it may be a good idea to stop when you can anyway, as you don't want to get caught short while you're stuck in a traffic jam.
Happy traveling - and don't forget your goggles!