Key West, known for its stunning pristine white sand beaches and fascinating coral reefs, is located 190 miles away from Fort Lauderdale. This island city in the Florida Keys is home to the southernmost point of the US and promises a vacation like no other.
There is no direct ferry from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to Key West. You could drive to Fort Myers or Marco Island and take a passenger ferry from there. Alternatively, you could drive the entire way in about 4 hours via the Overseas Highway.
Read on to find out about how to reach Key West from Fort Lauderdale, the available ferry options, and our top tips to get to Key West in the fastest and most enjoyable way.
Is there a ferry from Fort Lauderdale to Key West?
|Marco Island-Key West
|Key West Express
|3 hours 30 minutes
|Fort Myers-Key West
|Key West Express
|3 hours 30 minutes
|Fort Lauderdale-Key West
While there's no direct ferry from Fort Lauderdale to Key West, you can board a ferry from the nearby ports in Marco Island and Fort Myers (both short drives from Fort Lauderdale), which will take you directly to the Island of Key West.
Unfortunately, the ferry doesn't allow vehicles, so you'll have to park your vehicle at Marco Island or Fort Myers. Once you arrive in Key West, you can either rent a car, hire a taxi or explore on foot.
Both crossings take about 3 and a half hours, so if you leave Fort Lauderdale early in the morning you'll be in Key West by afternoon, just in time for a chilled cocktail by the beach.
Fort Myers ferry runs year-round travel and the Marco Island ferry travels seasonally through the winter months, so check on the operator's webpage before setting off if you are traveling to Marco Island during the colder months.
How to reach Key West from Fort Lauderdale
The most convenient way to travel to Key West from Fort Lauderdale is to drive to either Marco Island or Fort Myers, leave your car there, and then take the ferry to the island.
Key West is a very walkable island, so you won't need a car to visit its famous sights. If you're looking for alternative options, you can even drive the entire way from Fort Lauderdale to Key West, which is a four-hour journey, or take a flight, as there are multiple options available between these two cities.
Getting from Fort Lauderdale to Marco Island
The drive from Fort Lauderdale to Marco Island will take about 2 hours, depending on traffic conditions. You will follow Interstate 75 (I-75) all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and head south to reach Marco Island, where you can board the ferry.
Driving from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers
Another alternative route is taking the ferry from Fort Myers, about a 2 hours and 15 minutes drive from Fort Lauderdale. Similar to driving to Marco Island, you will follow I-75, which will take you almost all the way to Fort Myers without any diversions.
Follow FL-82 west to reach Fort Myers and get on the ferry to reach the beautiful island of Key West.
Driving from Fort Lauderdale to Key West
If traveling by car the entire route, you'll get to drive through the scenic Florida Keys along US-1 South (with unparalleled oceanic views) to get to Key West. This drive will take you on the famous Seven Mile Bridge, and through the beautiful islands of the Florida Keys before you reach your destination.
Driving the entire way will allow you to keep your car in Key West, but it is likely that you won't use it much during your stay, so taking a scenic ferry ride is a great alternative which will allow you to leave your vehicle behind.
How long does it take to reach Key West from Fort Lauderdale?
If taking the ferry from Marco Island, you will first drive for 2 hours to reach there and then hop on a ferry ride that will take about 3 hours and 30 minutes.
The drive from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes, and the ferry ride will similarly take 3 hours and 30 minutes. So, whichever ferry you choose, your total travel time will be similar.
Driving directly from Fort Lauderdale to Key West will take 4 hours on the scenic US-1 with stunning ocean views to your left and right.
How much does it cost to travel to Key West?
* Prices calculated at the time of writing and apply to both Marco Island and Fort Myers ferries
* All prices are based on a single journey including 1 adult ticket
Key West Express is the sole provider of ferry services from Marco Island and Fort Myers to the picturesque Key West. You can purchase round trip tickets, or one-way tickets depending on your flexibility and schedule.
It's important to note that all passengers, regardless of age, are required to have a ticket. However, Key West Express offers discounted fares for children and seniors, check their website above for more detail.
Things you need to know about traveling to Key West from Fort Lauderdale
Taking the ferry from Fort Myers or Marco Island is a straightforward journey to Key West. That being said here are our top tips when it comes to preparing for a ferry ride to Key West:
- Bring a government-issued ID to board the ferry.
- The ferry between Marco Island/Fort Myers and Key West runs 7 days a week.
- If you suffer from motion sickness, make sure to bring your medication on board.
- Plant to be at the port around an hour before departure to avoid disappointment. According to the current schedule, boarding starts at 7am.
- Even though the ferries don't allow vehicles, you will find plenty of parking near the ferry ports in both Marco Island and Fort Myers.
Best time to visit Key West
Even though the Marco Island ferry travels seasonally during winter, the Fort Myers ferry runs year-round so you can visit Key West any time of the year.
Though Key West is known to be a rather expensive destination, traveling in both the fall and summer months is recommended for a budget-friendly trip, although the summer months are prone to hurricanes and other tropical storms.
A lot of tourists flock to Key West to soak up the warmth of its winter sun, making November until March a pretty busy time to visit as well. With vast beaches, cocktails by the pool for days, and events like the Southernmost Regatta and the Key West Food & Wine Festival, no wonder the winter months are a fan favorite!
Things to see once you reach Key West
Whether going to museums and art galleries is more your speed or you're just looking for a beautiful view to relax across from, you're sure to find what you're looking for in Key West!
- Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum - Situated across the Key West Lighthouse is the historic home of the infamous Ernest Hemingway. A celebrated author and personality, his French-colonial residence turned museum is one of the top places to visit on the island!
- Smathers Beach - With an expansive shoreline, Smathers Beach is the perfect place to hang out during your time on the island. A popular destination for water sports and adventure excursions or lounging on a picnic blanket under the coconut trees, if that's more your beat.
- Southern Most Point of the Continental USA - One of the most famous destinations on the island is the buoy that marks the southernmost point of the Continental USA. With beautiful ocean views, it's a must-do for any tourist that makes their way to Key West!
- Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park - Centered around a fort that dates back to the Civil Rights Era, this state park is known for its scenic landscapes, trails, and snorkeling opportunities.
- Duval Street - Known to be the heart of the island, Duval Street runs across the breadth of Key West and is home to some of the city's best shops, pubs, and attractions.
While there isn't a direct ferry from Fort Lauderdale to Key West, you can easily drive to Marco Island or Fort Myers to board a ferry that will take you to the island.
The journey is scenic and offers amazing opportunities for sightseeing and relaxation, making it a great way to reach the sunny paradise of Key West.