The fastest way to reach Key West from mainland Florida is via an hour flight from Miami. While this may be the quickest route, it lacks the satisfying adventure that can only come from a road trip along Florida Keys’ Scenic Highway; US-1.
Stretching along the string of islands that lead to the Key West archipelago off the southern tip of Florida, the US-1 is an incredible 106 miles long and crosses 42 bridges on its winding way. While the journey should only take roughly 2 hours on a straightforward drive, the urge to stop and photograph every small detail en-route from Key Largo will inevitably prolong the ride. Shimmering emerald waters, inhabited by dolphins, drift off dreamily into the distance, while tropical islands are dotted like occasional, yet welcome pit stops on your road map.
Every adventure has its beginning and the eco-friendly Key Largo is yours. Its name is derived from its key-like shape and, to get the most out of the area, we recommend you find your sea legs and embrace the waters. The area is renowned for its excellent diving spots which take you to wreckages, like the 1733 Spanish galleon ship and the infamous USGCGC William J. Duane. Dolphins and stingrays inhabit the surrounding waters, while Key Largo can also lay claim to having the world’s largest artificial reef and whether you’re alone or with your family, the dive difficulties are suited for all ages and skills. Back on land, Key Largo’s botanical beauty is everywhere for all to see, from its swaying palm trees to its protected plant life at the Botanical State Park. The Key Largo Marriott Bay Resort is engulfed within a crowding of greenery, complementing its otherwise simple style. The hotel is close to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef National Park and its rooms have a traditional elegance that encompasses bold colours and elegant, dark wood furnishings.
Little Palm Island
The smallest of a trio of islands stepping away from the US 1 highway in a westerly chain, Little Torch Key is just over halfway towards Key West. Reached by a private motor yacht service, Little Palm Island is sequestered away on its own archipelago and it’s previously hosted presidents and high profile celebrities. Guests can use Little Palm Island as a platform to explore the other nearby islands, such as Big Pine Key with its National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge which can be explored by bike, or the Blue Hole walking trail, which takes you along alligator and deer occupied paths. Travel further down the over-water highway towards Key West and you will come to Sugarloaf Key, a crescent loop-like island which is perfect for kayaking adventures and fishing.
If you roll into Key West at the right time, you might feel like you’re an extra looking on at a remake of the Twilight Zone. Psychics, jugglers and food vendors crowd Mallory Square for the nightly sunset-celebration-come-festival, where locals and visitors contribute to what is an intriguing and entertaining cultural experience. Away from the waters, the land claims its own prized attractions. The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, where the author lived between 1931 and 1939, is an intriguing landmark that is seemingly suspended in time to preserve its majesty. If you are an avid reader and fan of Ernest Hemingway, we also recommend lunch at the Blue Heaven, where Hemingway used to referee boxing matches when he wasn’t writing his classic novels. Round off the cultural adventure with a picnic at Fort Zachary Taylor, or enjoy the wide range of dining venues in main Key West.
The Reach, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is the perfect blend of Caribbean playground and Key West natural beauty, complete with spacious rooms and access to the sister property, Casa Marina. The hotel overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and channels the relaxed ambience of Florida and is the ideal end to the ideal adventure experience.