It might seem like it would be difficult to travel to an archipelago of 800 islands, but one of the great things about the Florida Keys is that they're connected to mainland Florida via the Overseas Highway. If you're traveling from further afield, you can take a ferry from the mainland or fly into the Keys direct (depending on where you're coming from) or via Miami, Orlando or Jacksonville. It's worth noting that the archipelago is divided into four groups: Upper Keys, Middle Keys, Lower Keys and Outer Keys.
Getting to the Keys by car
The Overseas Highway is a 113-mile long road (including 42 bridges) that connects Miami with Key West, the southernmost island. It takes about 4 hours to drive to Key West from Miami on a good day, but the road can get pretty congested so don't be surprised if you end up adding an hour or two to your journey. Even if you do get stuck in traffic, at least the views are pretty! The Overseas Highway is one of the most scenic drives in the US and offers incredible views of the islands and glistening seascapes. Make sure you keep an eye on how fast you're driving as the speed limits are strictly enforced and change regularly depending on road and traffic conditions.
Getting to the Keys by bus
Greyhound operates services between Miami International Airport and Key West with pick-ups and drop-offs at major tourist hubs along the way including Key Largo, Islamorada, Marathon and Big Pine Key. The bus journey to Key West takes around 4.5 hours, give or take, depending on the traffic. It’s worth booking ahead of time as it can get busy, especially in peak season. One way tickets start at $25.
Keys Shuttle and Florida Keys Express Shuttle run door to door services from Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports to Key West and you can request pickups and drop-offs anywhere in between. There are multiple services seven days per week. Again, make sure you book in advance as there are only twelve seats available on the shuttle.
Getting to the Keys by air
There are two main airports in the Florida Keys: Key West International Airport and Florida Keys Marathon International Airport. You can fly direct to Key West and Marathon from most major airports in Florida including Orlando, Miami and Lauderdale. You can also fly direct from several other cities in the States. From the airport, you can take a shuttle or taxi to your hotel.
Getting to the Keys by ferry
If you’re travelling from mainland Florida, you can take a catamaran to Key West from Ft. Myers Beach or Marco Island with Key West Express. The crossing takes about 3.5 hours and is usually a couple of hours quicker than driving. An adult ticket costs $112 one-way or $172 return (or $142 return for travel between Monday and Thursday). You can only travel as a foot passenger or with a non-motorized bicycle (for an additional fee of $76). There’s a small cafe, bar and comfy seats on board, but make sure you get out on the deck to get some fresh air and soak up the views.
Getting around the Keys
Don't worry if you don't have a car. The islands are small and setting off on foot is a great way to explore the quaint streets, cafes, restaurants and historic buildings, particularly in Key West. There's also a great public bus network throughout Key West, Stock Island, Lower Keys, Marathon and mainland Florida.
If you're up for the challenge, you can cycle along the archipelago on the Overseas Heritage Trail. The only thing to note is that some sections of the trail involve crossing or sharing the road with cars on busy sections of the road. If you don't fancy this, you can always rent a bicycle for the day and stay on the island tracks instead.
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