Key West is located south of Miami, at the end of a chain of islands called the Florida Keys. It is the southernmost point of Florida and is connected to the mainland by US Route 1. To the west is the Gulf of Mexico, while Cuba and the Caribbean islands sit to the South.
You can't take a ferry directly from Miami to Key West. Instead, you can drive to Marco Island or Fort Myers and take the passenger ferry to Key West from there. You can also drive from Miami to Key West along the Florida Keys Overseas Highway.
Read on for a round-up of all of the travel information necessary to make the journey from Miami to Key West, with information on the best routes and travel tips.
Is there a ferry from Miami to Key West?
There is no direct ferry from Miami to Key West, but it is possible to drive to either Marco Island or Fort Myers and board a passenger ferry to Key West from there. Marco Island is the closest port from which you can take a ferry to Key West.
The passenger ferry from Marco Island takes 3 hours 30 minutes and departs once a day, at 8 am. Marco Island is located on the Gulf Coast, a 110-mile drive from Miami.
Alternatively, the passenger ferry from Fort Myers departs once a day at 8am and takes about 4 hours. Fort Myers is located further up the Gulf Coast from Marco Island, a 160-mile drive from Miami.
You cannot take your car on any ferry to Key West, but you can leave your car at a parking lot near the ferry docks. Both ferries operate year-round and are operated by Key West Express.
Both of the passenger ferries can be delayed if there are unfavorable weather conditions such as storms, gales or high seas. In hurricane season (August to October), the ferry will not sail if there is a high chance of a hurricane.
How to reach Key West from Miami
It's an easy drive to both Marco Island and Fort Myers from Miami, and you'll pass through some stunning nature reserves en route. It is easier and faster to drive to Marco Island than Fort Myers to take the ferry, unless you want to visit the latter city for a particular reason.
Alternatively, you can drive 170 miles from Miami, crossing all the Keys. You can also fly to Key West International Airport from Miami using an American Eagle regional jet.
How to drive from Miami to Key West
It's a straightforward drive from Miami to Key West, which takes around 3 hours and 30 minutes. Take Ronald Reagan Turnpike south out of the city past Zoo Miami, and merge onto US-1 at Florida City.
Cross the Southern Glades and Barnes Sound before reaching the northern keys at Key Largo. Keep driving over the miles-long bridge, over turquoise waters speckled with islands and sand flats.
With the huge expanse of the ocean on either side, head down through Florida Bay through Big Pine Key and Sugarloaf Key before reaching Key West.
How to reach Marco Island from Miami
The journey from Miami to Marco Island takes about 2 hours and crosses an easy distance through Everglades National Park.
You may experience traffic while exiting Miami, which is known for its traffic jams. During the weekends and in high tourism season, traffic might slow you down while approaching Marco Island, which is a luxury destination.
Follow FL-836 west out of Miami and turn onto US Highway 41 to continue west through the Everglades and Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area.
Once you reach Collier Seminole State Park, take a left onto San Marco Road, which goes directly to Marco Island.
How to drive from Miami to Fort Myers
The journey takes 2 hours and 30 minutes to Fort Myers, covering 160 miles. The drive passes through Big Cypress National Preserve and heads west towards the Gulf of Mexico coast.
Follow Florida Turnpike north out of Miami and then get on I-75 N. Follow this road through the swampy land of Big Cypress National Preserve, then hug the coast on I-75 until you can take exit 138 to arrive in Fort Myers.
How long does it take to reach Key West from Miami by ferry?
|Option||Route||Drive Time||Ferry Duration||Total Travel Time|
|Driving||Miami to Key West||3 hours 30 minutes||No ferry||3 hours 30 minutes|
|Passenger ferry option A||Marco Island to Key West||2 hours||3 hours 30 minutes||5 hours 30 minutes|
|Passenger ferry option B||Fort Myers to Key West||2 hours 30 minutes||3 hours 30 minutes||6 hours|
Your journey length will depend on where you choose to catch the ferry from, so the entire journey including driving to the ferry port and the ferry journey could range from around 5 hours and 30 minutes to 6 hours.
Remember to add extra time to check-in to the ferry from your departure port, which can take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. Check the exact check-in time for your journey in advance.
Marco Island is located 110 miles west of Miami, which takes 2 hours to drive. The ferry journey to Key West takes 3 hours and 30 minutes on top of that. If you allow for driving and check-in time, the total time for this journey will take approximately 7 hours.
Fort Myers is located 160 miles west of Miami, which is a drive of 2 hours and 30 minutes. The ferry journey to Key West takes about 3 hours and 30 minutes to complete. Allowing for driving and check-in time, the total journey time for this option will take around 8 hours.
Driving directly from Miami to Key West takes 3 hours and 30 minutes without stops and possible delays, so this is the fastest way to reach the island. However, the Marco Island ferry is the fastest ferry option and offers a memorable travel experience across the clear waters of the Gulf Coast.
If you factor in the price of gas, the cost is likely to be comparable for taking the ferry from Marco Island as to driving directly from Miami.
How much does it cost to take the ferry to Key West?
|Marco Island to Key West||Key West Express||$185|
|Fort Myers to Key West||Key West Express||$185|
*Prices are calculated at the time of writing for 1 adult, round trip.
Which ferry port should you choose as your destination in Key West?
There is only one ferry port on Key West which both ferries arrive at. The Key West Bight Ferry Port is conveniently located to explore the islands, in close proximity to the main attractions.
For instance, it is 1 mile from Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and just 2 miles from the southernmost point of the continental United States. Higgs Memorial Beach Park and Smathers Beach are 2 miles from the port, while Fort East Martello Museum and Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden are 3 and 4 miles away, respectively.
Things you need to know about taking a ferry to Key West
The fares and timetables are fixed for the Key West Ferry, so you can plan ahead for your trip whatever the season.
Here are our top tips when it comes to preparing for a ferry ride to Key West:
- Check ahead for weather conditions, particularly in hurricane season (August to October), as any bad weather threats can cause delays.
- Always double-check the exact check-in and embarkation times with the ferry operator or booking agent.
- Boarding begins at 7 am at each location and the ferry departs at 8 am, so it's best to arrive early.
- You cannot take your car on either ferry, but you can park your car nearby for a small fee.
Best time to visit Key West
Key West is popular all year round and tends to get busiest during summer holidays during the peak tourism season. However, Key West is known for its mild temperatures even around winter, so expect the island to generally be busy.
Does the ferry to Key West run all year round?
The Fort Myers ferry runs all year round, while the Marco Island ferry only runs seasonally (check their website as the timing may vary).
When is the best time to travel to Key West?
Key West weather stays mild throughout the year with winter temperatures around 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit, meaning that there are crowds even in the colder months. If you want to enjoy water-based activities, opt for warmer months as some operators won't be open when the water is colder.
The hot season lasts between June to October with the temperature reaching 90 degrees at times. It is best to avoid August-October since this is the hurricane season.
Summer is a busy time for events, with the Annual Key Lime Festival in June-July, Hemingway 5K Sunset Run & Paddleboard Race in July and Key West Lobster Fest in August.