Are you thinking of driving from South Beach to Key West? Indeed, this is an epic road trip.
There are two realistic ways to get from South Beach to Key West (Mile Marker 0). Option 1: You can drive along US-1 for 169 Miles. Without stopping or traffic, the entire journey takes about 3 hours and 45 minutes. Indeed, it is a really beautiful drive with lots to see along the way. Option 2: Take a plane from Miami International Airport. With security and line ups, and an airport change, it’ll take about the same amount of time to get there. For the purposes of this story, we’ll assume you’re driving in a convertible!
Stop #1 In South Beach: The Savoy
The eagerly awaited beachfront boutique Savoy Hotel on Fifth Street in South Beach is now open for 2020. The Savoy Hotel got a multimillion-dollar renovation post-Hurricane Irma destruction in 2017. The new 31 suite property is the perfect location to start a relaxing Florida vacation. Also, you can indulge in some Miami fun before heading down to the Florida Keys.
The Savoy pool deck is tastefully painted in brightly colored floral prints. Also, there are lush trees surrounding the two pools and daybeds. A serene vibe from the small tiki bar with great tropical drinks and lite bites makes it a very inviting setting for couples, friends or families. Quite different from some of the Miami pool parties bumping live music, this beachfront property offers a laid back and low key pool scene.
This Art Deco building with a beach modern feel has oversized suites that provide ample space to both sleep and lounge in your room in the separate living area with some suites offering up to two balconies and separate bedrooms. The Savoy provides chairs on the beachfront and are completing a cafe, restaurant and meeting space set to open in late 2020.
South Of Fifth
“South of Fifth” on South Beach is one of Miami’s best places to see, on your way to Key West. Rent a Deco Bike and ride along the beach path to South Point Pier stopping for a lobster roll at the Lobster Shack or some soft shell crab tacos at Lolo’s Surf Cantina. Jump in the ocean and spend a lazy afternoon at the beach, then pull up a chair at Smith and Wollenskys’ outdoor bar for sunset which is sure to be the best spot in town to end the day. With so many restaurants to choose from in walking distance you have your pick of some of Miami’s favorites including Joe’s Stone Crab, Prime 112 and Red Steakhouse.
Make sure to spend a day off the beach at the Standard Spa indulging in a yoga class, the hammam, a massage or facial and the best bay views from their pool deck.
Don’t miss their new Japanese style restaurant, Izakaya Residency at the Lido Bayside Grill. Indeed, it offers a spot for friends to have drinks and umami-packed bites. In the style of its spa and stunning waterside views, the menu is inspired by locally sourced seafood and seasonal produce. Plays on citrus and fermentation appear throughout the menu. It also, it includes a boundless raw bar, chilled dishes, fried options, a steamed selection, and grilled offerings. Unlike anything in the immediate area, Lido’s Izakaya is the ideal destination to enjoy picturesque sunsets, Japanese-inspired plates, and drinks.
Now you are ready to hit the road to the Florida Keys to find Kokomo. The beautiful water views along the bridges and the bits of the Everglades National Park you pass by make the drive itself a top experience on the trip.
Key Largo at Bakers Cay
First stop Key Largo at Bakers Cay, a Hilton Curio property. Recently reopened after a multi-year closure from the recent hurricane, the property is back and better than ever. Located waterfront overlooking the Gulf of Mexico it is the premier hotel in the area. The property has two heated swimming pools, adults-only and family-friendly with waterfalls and a pool bar surrounded by outdoor games like bocce, ping pong, and bicycles making it a great place to enjoy a sunny Florida day.
There are two beaches on-site that offer very different experiences. Coconut Beach is perfect for those looking for activities such as paddle boarding, kayaking, fishing, parasailing, and jet-skiing. Do check out its world-class water sports center. If lounging under a palm tree in the shade with a novel is more your style, choose one from the collection. You’ll find the collection in the lobby. So, pull up a chair on hammock beach. You can lay in the bay or alongside it and let your worries melt away. Further, you can listen to the sounds of the water and watch the schools of fish swim by.
The water is so clear you can just gaze out and see fish, without your snorkel gear or goggles. If you do want to venture out for a snorkel or dive, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is the top location in the area and well worth a day trip. You can also do an everglades airboat tour or swim with the dolphins nearby.
The waterfront restaurant at Coconut Beach, Dry Rocks, offers its own Patron tequila. Also, it has a great selection of tacos and casual bites. Coupled with swings, live music, fire pits, and high top tables its a relaxed, no reservation destination. Calusa, the fine dining restaurant serves up a fantastic breakfast buffet with an omelet station. Then, in the evening is the best spot for the sunset on a property offering a fine dining New Orleans style menu.
The indoor fitness center has state of the art equipment. Also, there are multiple event spaces for both conferences and weddings. Many of the rooms offer waterfront views. And, if you opt for the fourth floor on the Hammock side, your balcony looks directly out to the bay over the trees below. The beds are extremely comfortable and they have designed the rooms with some unique beach artwork and decor.
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen
While you’re in Key Largo make sure to visit Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen. Check out the alligator tenders, local fish like mahi-mahi, and their famous key lime pie. After trying several in the keys it was unanimous that theirs was the best. Sundowners is another favorite. There, you can sit out along the water enjoying oysters, dogfish, and a Key Lime graham cracker rimmed martini. For sunset views and a scenic outdoor bar, Marker 88 is a must and offers a more upscale experience.
Moving On to Key West (Mile 0)
After you have lived the good life in Key Largo continue heading south. Take the time to really soak it in by stopping along the way at national parks or beach fronts to take a walk along a boardwalk. Alternatively, take some photographs of the little strings of islands out in the ocean. To be sure, the Florida Keys is the only place offering such a setting in North America. Before arriving in Key West stop at a local favorite at Mile Marker 10. Geiger Key Marina Fish Camp Restaurant, on the “backside of paradise” offers the last bits of total solitude.
You made it From South Beach to Key West
Positioned just off Duval Street you have several options for accommodations. Ranging from the Hyatt Centric along the water on one side near the historic pier to the Casa Marina Key West, a Waldorf Astoria Resort near the Southernmost Point. For those looking to stay in that laid back mood, you can also opt for Sunset Key Cottages. Indeed, they have their own private island just a five-minute boat ride from town. The property has its own beachfront, tennis courts, and pool. As well, there is a fine dining establishment Latitudes with coveted reservations.
If there’s only one thing you do, take the boat over at sunset. You will enjoy a cocktail and dinner while taking in the 360-degree water views. Back in town, everyone congregates along Mallory Square and Sunset Pier at the end of the day before heading to Duval street to bar hop among the hundreds of watering holes. Top ones include Green Parrot, Margaritaville, Sloppy Joes, Willie T’s, and Irish Kevin’s. If dinner and martini is more your style try Louie’s Backyard or Prime Steakhouse.
Historic Pier in Key West
During the day, the Historic Pier is a great place to walk around and shop. Or perhaps, you can watch the giant Tarpon swimming alongside the docks when they feed them at 4 pm. Sip on coffee from the Cuban Coffee Queen while shopping at the many conch and shell souvenir shops. Also, you can listen to live music pouring out of bars and restaurants. Otherwise, explore the various diving, fishing, sailing and snorkeling options all along the docks. Check out The Ernest Hemingway House, Truman’s Little White House, and Fort Zachary Park. To be sure, these are all great places to see while you’re in town. Last, make sure to try Kermit’s chocolate-dipped key lime pie on a stick.
Once you’ve officially made it up and down Duval Street, to the Southernmost Point for a photo and soaked up some sun, you may feel ready to head back. Or, perhaps as many of the locals say, they came for a visit and never left once they found Kokomo.
Julie Leventhal is a writer and public relations specialist with a love for fashion and travel. She regularly pursues numerous opportunities to elevate her enjoyment of both through her journalism and public relations work with travel brands, start-up companies, retail brands and charity events. She has contributed articles to publications including Luxe Getaways, Luxury Living and Social Life Magazine.