The Overseas Highway

Think of it as the Highway from the Mainland to Margaritaville

The Overseas Highway, stretching over the azure waters of the Florida Keys, offers a driving experience unlike any other in the United States. For a travel writer with a penchant for exploring unique roadways and a love for the ocean’s boundless beauty, this route is a journey through paradise. Officially designated as U.S. Route 1, the Overseas Highway connects the islands of the Florida Keys, from Key Largo to Key West, presenting travelers with stunning ocean vistas, access to world-class water activities, and a taste of the laid-back island life. Here’s an exploration of the Overseas Highway, a route that promises sun, sea, and sky at every turn.

We Hope You Like Ocean Views

The Overseas Highway spans approximately 113 miles, with 42 bridges leaping from key to key in a series of graceful arcs. The most famous of these is the Seven Mile Bridge, one of the longest bridges in the world and a marvel of modern engineering. This highway is a testament to human ingenuity and resilience, built on the foundation of Henry Flagler’s old Florida East Coast Railway, which was destroyed by the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. Today, it serves as a vital artery, connecting the mainland to the heart of the Keys and offering unparalleled views of the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.

A Journey Through the Keys

Traveling the Overseas Highway is as much about the destinations along the way as it is about the journey. Each Key has its unique character and charm, offering a variety of experiences from the natural wonders of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo to the literary heritage of Key West, home to Ernest Hemingway’s residence and museum. The drive itself is punctuated by breathtaking ocean views, inviting beaches, and the chance to spot marine life such as dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat. And don’t forget to watch for the section of the old bridge that James Cameron “magically” blew up during the filming of True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis.

When to Visit

The Overseas Highway can be enjoyed year-round, thanks to the Florida Keys’ warm climate. However, the best time to visit is from November to May, when the weather is cooler and less humid, and the risk of hurricanes is minimal. This period also coincides with a variety of outdoor festivals and events, offering travelers a glimpse into the vibrant culture and community of the Keys.

Must-Visit Stops Along the Way

  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park: The first undersea park in the U.S., offering snorkeling, scuba diving, and glass-bottom boat tours.
  • Bahia Honda State Park: Known for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, and excellent snorkeling opportunities.
  • Key West: The southernmost point of the continental U.S., famous for its sunsets, historical sites, and lively Duval Street.

Where to Stay and Dine

The Keys offer a wide range of accommodations, from luxury resorts to cozy beachfront cottages. The Little Palm Island Resort & Spa on Little Torch Key offers an exclusive, adults-only island retreat. For dining, the culinary scene in the Keys features fresh seafood and Caribbean influences, with iconic spots like Blue Heaven in Key West providing a unique outdoor dining experience amidst roaming chickens and lush foliage.

Navigating with Care

The Overseas Highway is a journey to be savored, with a speed limit that allows drivers to enjoy the scenery safely. Caution is advised, especially on the narrower sections of the road and bridges. The highway also crosses through several environmentally sensitive areas, so travelers are encouraged to respect wildlife and marine habitats, contributing to the preservation of the Keys’ natural beauty.

In Conclusion

The Overseas Highway offers a unique blend of natural beauty, engineering marvel, and cultural richness, making it a bucket-list journey for travelers seeking the sun-drenched allure of the Florida Keys. From the thrill of crossing vast expanses of open water to the joy of discovering the islands’ treasures, this highway in the sky is a reminder of the adventures that await when we venture beyond the horizon.

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