Mini Guide To The Florida Keys

Looking for your next travel destination? look no further! The Florida Keys has it all.

Florida Keys backpacking

The Florida Keys Quick Facts

There are over 1700 islands that make up the island archipelago of the Florida Keys, extending from the Southeastern tip of Florida – starting from about 15 miles South of Miami.

The Islands are known by groups: the Upper Keys, the Middle Keys, the Lower Keys and the Outlying Islands.

Geologically, the Florida Keys are exposed parts of the coral reef which have cemented over time! Some of the islands have been exposed for so long that sand has built up around them creating barrier islands! Scenery and wildlife is top notch, however do not expect miles of rolling beaches. I was surprised! There are a few however, the wild and wonderful Sombrero beach being my favourite.

The Overseas Highway is the single main road in the keys that runs 113 miles, connecting 43 of the islands. There are 42 bridges in total!

The longest bridge is the Seven Mile Bridge and it is amazing! You feel like you are flying over the ocean! It was built in the late 1970s and it connects Knights Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower. In March 2008 this bridge was closed to traffic as it was deemed unsafe and construction later began on a new bridge which now runs alongside it. The old bridge is still open to pedestrians, and is my favourite spot for a stroll or a cycle!

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Must Dos in the Florida Keys

  • Watch the sunset from the Seven Mile Bridge! Read about why it is a must do here. 
  • Visit Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Feel inspired at The Ernest Hemingway house and museum
  • Play some volleyball on Sombrero Beach
  • Snorkelling and Diving – there is lots of great diving around the keys. Pop in to a dive centre and book a trip with a registered instructor. If you are in the Marathon area I recommend Hall’s Diving. If you prefer snorkelling, just grab a snorkel and go!
  • Water-sports – Paddle boarding, kayaking, kite surfing
  • Fishing – There are heaps of opportunities to rent a boat or go on fishing excursions. Ask at your hotel for recommended guides.

Florida Keys

Florida Keys

Travel & Transport

You can either fly into Key West International, Miami or Fort Lauderdale – depending on where you are staying.FL is usually cheaper, but is around 45 minutes further away than Miami.

Renting a car is really a must, and I would most certainly rent from the airport. When you are there, driving is the best option, but a bike is a really good way of zipping around and most of the road has a bike-path or wide pavements for cyclists. There is also a bus service running which I haven’t used but heard it is good – Great if you think you might have a few cocktails!

Florida Keys

Weather

The climate is tropical, which means the average summer high is 32° C and average Winter high is 24° C. Rainy season is late May to mid October.

Hurricane Season – The major downside to the location and of being so close to the water are the potential of hurricanes and flooding. The official hurricane season begins on 1st June and ends on 30th November. The highest potential for storms is between mid-Aug and mid-Oct. Despite this, the weather over the summer is beautiful!

When should you go – The weather around Easter time is perfect – I recommend March-April for a visit. This is peak season however so prices are considerably higher and hotels book up way in advance! If you are on a tight budget, a last minute getaway in the summer – June/July – will give you better prices and the chance of some super duper weather. If you are going to opt for this time of year, make sure you check the forecast before you book, and expect some showers.

Florida Keys

Where To Stay

But firstly, which Key to choose? Although driving through the Florida Keys only takes about two hours, each destination offers something slightly different.

  • For divers, the whole area offers incredible dives, however the Key Largo in the Upper Keys is probably your best option – it is also a great option for a short stay as it is nearer the mainland.
  • For a tropical retreat opt for the Middle Keys, where you will find Sombrero beach and many lush resorts and restaurants.
  • Key West in the Lower Keys is great for history, with museums and shops a plenty, and perfect for a road trip or longer stay. You can read my guide to Key West here! 

Accommodation in the Florida Keys is generally expensive. Be sure to book before you go, even if you decide to do an impromptu road-trip – you’ll be surprised how hard it is to find something when you are there. There are heaps of places to stay, however, and the prices vary considerably from Summer to Winter (Winter being more expensive) so bear this in mind. Expect to pay $65-$95 per night for most ‘budget’ places, and after than prices skyrocket. Many places only offer 4 night+ stays, but you will find they come complete with a kitchen, so this cuts costs on food.

I recommend the following:

Sleep on a boat! Air BnB offers lots of boat rentals in the Florida Keys, which are sometimes cheaper than hotels. Often you will find that the boat is on anchor in the harbor, and your host will take you out to it via a dingy. This is a really great way to have the full keys experience! We did this for our first night in the keys, and it was so perfect.

Upper Keys:

Budget bungalows – Sunset Cove Resort

Mid-range – The Pelican, Drop Anchor Resort

Lux – Casa Morada

Middle Keys:

Budget – Lime Tree Bay 

Lux – Little Palm Island (your own private island – over 16’s only)

Lower Keys:

Camping – Bahia Honda State Park (one of my favourite places in the Keys)

Budget – Parmers Resort

Lux – Eden House , The Paradise Inn (adults only)

Florida Keys

florida keys backpacking guide

I hope you have enjoyed reading this luxury backpacking guide and it has inspired you. If you have any questions about the FL Keys or recommendations please comment below!

Florida Keys

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