If you can’t locate U.S. 1 on a map and follow it south to Key West, you shouldn’t be driving. Figure three hours once you go through Florida City at the terminus of the Florida mainland. Just keep going south on the big numero uno and don’t take the cutoff to the Card Sound Bridge unless you want to visit the Ocean Reef Club. That route is quite desolate in some stretches and adds about 7 miles to the trip. The road is being widened to four lanes, so you might hit some construction. The 18-mile stretch from Florida City to Key Largo can be challenging due to the possible presence of inebriated and/or impatient drivers, so only pass in the two-way zones when it’s clearly safe. You’ll find plenty of gas stations available beginning in Key Largo, and the gas is usually cheaper than at the rip-off stations in Florida City.
Key West International Airport
(EYW) is served by US Airways, Delta and American Eagle. You’ll have to hunt for direct flights that don’t connect through Miami or other mainland cities. You don’t want to fly to the airport in Marathon and take a shuttle because it’s about a 50-mile drive. Of course, private aircraft can land in Key West, a popular way for celebrities and the wealthy to arrive.
Don’t feel like driving all the way to the end of the Florida peninsula and three more hours along the U.S. Overseas Highway? Here’s an alternative, Key West Express
ferry from Fort Myers Beach. Located about a two and a half-hour drive south of Tampa off I-75, just take the hop to Key West by boat. It’s air-conditioned, features sundecks, a snack bar, big-screen TV and cocktails. By the time you get to Key West four hours later, you’ll be ready to party instead of fighting fatigue and a long-drive backache.
If you rent a scooter, moped or electric cart, don’t take your eyes off the road and don’t be in a hurry. Too many vacations get short-circuited due to avoidable accidents. We’ve seen people whipping in and through and around crowds on Duval Street who didn’t seem to be sure of what they were doing. That due diligence said a scooter is a way big fun to see Key West. Do not drink and drive one of these things; even if you survive you’re going to get a ticket.
Less expensive than cabs are rickshaw-like pedicabs. Essentially large tricycles with a two-passenger seat in back, you’re depending on the strong back-and-leg power of youth. At least there are no gas fumes when the pokey contraptions are in front of your car.
Duval Street is packed with attractions, but it’s also a tad over a mile long. That can be plenty tiring after that fourth margarita, so there are lots of taxis prowling. Hail one, or call one on your cell, but be aware that, even though the rides are always short, the rates aren’t.