If only there existed a magical road that took you over the seas and through the mangroves, to a place where the road ends and the party never stops! Oh wait, there is! If you haven’t taken a drive down US 1 from Homestead, FL to Key West, let me tell you, you’re missing out. This iconic drive is not only beautiful but filled with an endless supply of awesome little stops full of big adventure.
We go to the Keys a lot. There is so much to do and see, every time we make the trip we try out new things- sometimes we think hot damn that was so worth it, and sometimes we say, “yep, not again” good news for you, we already played guinea pig for you! We’ve got your road trip planning covered with our list of favorite stops on the road to paradise!
19200 SW 344 Street
Before you even get onto US1 you need to stop at Robert’s Fruit Stand. No, let me rephrase that you HAVE to stop at Robert’s. Started in 1959 by a nine year old version of Robert, trying to sell some of his father’s cucumbers on the very corner where the fruit stand now sits, you won’t be able to resist this world famous stop and its endearing family atmosphere. Robert’s sells an insane array of fresh and exotic fruits! It’s unlikely that you’ll ever stumble on another place like it! Stocked full of fruits like coconuts, mangos, dragon fruit, tamarinds, sapote (I had no idea what that was before I met Robert) and even passion fruit, and our favorite from our Puerto Rico trip guinepas- pick out something new to try and take it on the road with you. Before you go though, make sure you get a milkshake! Yep, a milkshake. Robert’s offers some of the craziest milkshake combinations you have ever heard of, crazy, and crazy good. Passion fruit milkshake anyone? Say yes!
Mile Marker: 102.8
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
This is an absolutely phenomenal park for scuba, snorkeling, kayaking, and paddle boarding! Camping is available here as well but hard as heck to get. If you want to spend the night(s) here you’ll need to plan in advance and make a reservation. We really love stopping here for a quick snorkel trip. For $29.95 plus gear rentals ( or you can bring your own) you get a 2.5 hour snorkeling trip (about an average of 1.5 hours of water time) and a chance to snorkel an absolutely gorgeous coral reef. We always see plenty of sea turtles, rays, and the occasional shark when exploring these waters! Don’t skip it!
Mile Marker: 97.5
This is a super cheesey stop, that I cannot rationally explain what makes it so awesome, but it is. I think it’s the sense of childhood nostalgia that a shop chock full of treasures from under the sea brings about that makes this place so much fun! Your can browse through rows and rows of all kinds of shells- so many tempting options that it’ll be hard to resist pick up one or two. Aside from shells you’ll find a ton of other goodies here, from post cards to home décor, there really is something for everyone here. While you’re here though, make sure to pick up a conch horn, you’ll need that to follow in the Key’s tradition of blowing it at sunset!
Mile Marker: 77.5
Robbie’s Marina & The Hungry Tarpon
If you’re looking for a stop that has everything Robbie’s is it! Food, check. Entertainment, check. Wildlife encounters, check, check.
After an active morning in the water at John Pennekamp, by now you’ll be hungry, and what better place to grab a bite than at the Hungry Tarpon. The food is good, not great, but you’re here for more than that. Eating here is all about the beautiful views of Lignumvitae Bridge and some of the bluest waters in the Keys, and for the hilariously entertaining opportunity to watch people “try” and feed the tarpon at the marina. Try? Try. A local gang of pelicans have caught on to this fun little tradition, and most people end up unintentionally surrendering their buckets of fish to these tenacious avians. They’re sneaking, demanding, and the battles that ensue between tourists and birds, makes for the best comedy show you’ve ever seen.
If you eat lunch there you can walk out onto the dock for free (buckets of fish cost extra, $3.25 each) and check out the scene up close. Walk all the way to the end of the dock, that’s where the biggest tarpon hang out- if you’re extra lucky you’ll get to spot their resident manatee who hangs around the marina. No feeding or touching the manatee though, these are highly protected species and interaction with humans only damages their chances of survival.
Mile Marker 47.0
Today you can drive over seven mile bridge, and you have to if you want to keep going to Key West. Running just parallel to the new bridge is the original, and a fantastic spot to work off your lunch with a bike ride or a walk. The views of the bridge are fantastic, and walking along it is like strolling back in time, all while looking down on the world’s largest natural aquarium.
Pigeon Key is also located at this location, we’ve never had the time to make the stop, but we have it on good authority that if you have the time you should stop, learn a little of the history, and hop into the water for some great shoreline snorkeling!
Mile Marker 36.8
Paradise found. This perfect little park has it all, white sandy beaches (a relative hard thing to find in the keys, surprisingly) a great location for paddling ( we love to bring the paddleboards here), a handy little marina if you’ve got a boat, and some amazing remnants of the past in the form of the old railway camelback bridge. You get major wins with both incredible sunrise and sunset views from this tiny strip of land. We truly love all the State Parks in the Keys but Bahia Honda is far and beyond our favorite. Camping here is an experience you’ll remember forever- book in advance, or you’ll be driving on by feeling disappointed.
Big Pine Key
Mile Marker: 30.2
Big Pine Key Traffic Light
You’re probably wondering why we chose to list a traffic light on our list of US 1 road trip favorites. We’ve got a good reason! This traffic light is the official entry point into the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge. These tiny little deer are no bigger than a large dog when fully grown and can only be found in the Florida Keys. They are genetically identical to white tailed deer with the tiny exception that these deer suffer from and adaptation known as island dwarfism- basically they have over a very long time genetically adjusted their size to match their environment- pretty neat huh! Due to habitat loss, and vehicular incidents these little guys are highly endangered, and spotting one is a real treat! Keep a keen eye out, especially if you’re driving through at dusk or dawn.
WARNING: The speed limits within Key Deer habitat is strictly enforced. Strictly. Pay attention to your driving and if you do spot a deer, pass them cautiously. These little guys need our help to insure they survive and thrive for years to come!
Lower Sugarloaf Key
Mile Marker: 17
We’re not telling you to do this, but we’re totally not, not telling you to do this. Technically there is a very large sign as you approach this bridge, known locally as, “The Jumping Bridge” that explicitly says in big bold letters, “NO JUMPING FROM BRIDGE”. I guess the best approach to this little gem is to consider what your momma always told you, “ If your friends all jumped off a bridge would you”? Consider your response and then visit our post on our New Year’s Day Adventure 2017 (coming soon) for specific directions on how to get here.
Mile Marker 5.1 (ish)
6810 Front Street, Stock Island
This one is sort of hard to find, but if you’ve stuck with us this far, and checked everything off our to-do list you’re probably starving by now. Fighting hungry tarpon, bathing along a beach and jumping or not jumping off a bridge can work up an appetite, and the best way to satiate that once you’re in Key West is with a gigantic hogfish sandwich from one of the very best restaurants in Key West. This place is a bit tucked away in an unexpected end of town, but you’ll be very, very glad you stopped!
Mile Marker: 0
This is the official end of US 1 and the very end of the Southern most road in the US! You made it, and hopefully had some fun along the way, but don’t worry the party doesn’t end here, it’s just getting started! Key West is its own treasure trove of activity and fun! Here are the basics to get you started planning, but keep an open eye, we’ll be unleashing a ton of posts over the next few weeks all about the Keys!
Thanks for sticking with us to the end!
We hope it helps you plan your next adventure! If you’ve already been to the Keys, and have your own list of secret spots, let us know, we’d love to try out some tips from our followers!
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