Tampa To Key West By Car – Places You Have To Visit
Have you ever dreamt about a road trip through Florida? If not, you might start dreaming about it now! The following route is a sample route that I drove during my Florida trip! Go from Tampa to Key West by car and visit unique locations and beautiful places you have to see!
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Florida – Tampa To Key West By Car And The Places You Have To Visit
When I made my Florida road trip, my friend and I joined me this time, planned two days for going from Tampa to Key West! Please be aware that if you want to do EVERYTHING, you might need a bit! It’s so easy to stretch the time over a few days if you’re going to spend some time at all these places! If you like, you could also do a separate road trip doing all this!
However, follow me, and let’s see where you would like to stop, stay, or skip!
Leaving Tampa* and head straight to the ocean. Take the I-75 and then turn to 789 and follow the sea for a while instead of taking the inner route. The other way would be faster, but if you want to see something and make an island-hopping, I’d suggest following the ocean route!
Did you know that Florida has more Keys on this side of the state? Not only the ones down to Key West! Well, that’s why I took the island route!
You are passing Bradenton and driving to Bradenton Beach*. It’s the perfect opportunity for a first stop and to stretch your legs at one of the beautiful beaches in the Gulf of Mexico. The white sand and the turquoise water won’t disappoint you.
Anna Maria Island
If you have enough time, make a detour to Anna Maria, and stay for a while at one of the gorgeous beaches in Florida. A seven-mile-long gem surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay, Anna Maria Sound, and Sarasota Bay.
The “Other” Keys Of Florida
After Bradenton Beach, or maybe you made it to Anna Maria, continue driving southbound. Now, you’re in the middle of the “other” Florida Keys, like Longboat Key or Lido Key, before the route leads you to Sarasota. All with beautiful beaches.
If you like to wonder about sea life, the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium would be a good possibility for a visit.
Are you hungry already? I believe Sarasota is quite an excellent chance to grab something to eat before you continue the journey! What about trying some Amish at Yoder’s or Der Dutchman, a real pie and dessert heaven!
From Sarasota, I’d recommend visiting one more Key. Siesta Key is officially America’s best beach! The unique sand doesn’t get hot in the sun because of its pure quartz, making this beach so attractive in the warm summer months.
The Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41)
However, when you leave Siesta Key, you’ll hit one of Florida’s Scenic Byways, the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41). Once again, this route might be a bit longer and slower than the fast four-lane I-75, but it’s for sure the more beautiful one! Do you want to know more about the Tamiami Trail and what to see where? Visit the Florida Rambler and read through the article “Tamiami Trail: Scenic drive exploring Everglades.”
Approx one and a half to two hours later, depending on how often you stop, you’ll arrive in Fort Myers. As I said before, it’s a bit faster when you don’t take the Tamiami Trail.
So my travel buddy and I followed that route to the south until we arrived in Fort Myers, where we stayed for our lunch break. A delicious meal we have found in a unique restaurant and bar, Ford’s Garage.
I haven’t seen such a crazy interior in a restaurant for a while. I loved it so much, and I could not get enough of it, Ford’s Garage, where the sinks are out of tires and the door openers out of gas station nozzles.
Of course, if you plan more than two days for the entire trip, you can stay a bit longer, even days longer, exploring the city and surroundings. Like Sanibel Island, Pine Island, Matlacha, Fort Myers Beach, or Cape Coral, all of them are worth a visit!
If you want to stay in this area for a while and want to live in a unique location, try the tiny homes in Matlacha Tiny Village*!
So after our lunch break, which gave us back some energy, we jumped back on the road and headed straight to Naples*. It was already late, but we arrived at the motel at the right time to have a little walk to the beach and enjoy a breathtaking sunset. I love the sun, especially when it meets the ocean, whether it is sunrise or sunset. I would recommend staying here overnight and enjoy the nightlife in Naples.
While we watched the sunset, we strolled the beach and explored the 5th avenue of Old Naples.
The 5th avenue is lined with mansions, tall palm, and banyan trees. When you walk the street up, you will find many restaurants where you could sit, chat, and eat and enjoy a warm night with a slight summer breeze.
Once again, you could easily stay here for a couple of days or a weekend! Visit Tin City and find some long-forgotten antique gems and handmade goods on this open-air market. Go there later in the evening, grab a drink, sit by the sea, and enjoy it!
Stroll the Avenues! Third and Fifth are probably the most popular ones! And don’t forget to watch the sunset from the pier or the beach! Or what about a Sunset Cruise*?
This part of the tour is at least as long as the one from Day 1. About four and a half hours from Naples to Key West if you don’t stop anywhere! But you drive right through the Everglades, and if you’re in Florida, this is a must-do anyways!
The Tamiami Trail leads you through the Everglades, so the only thing you need to do is follow the route!
You can book several tours using the GoMiamiCard and save a bunch of money!
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The Everglades’ free and inexpensive highlights are the Turner River Road to Upper Wagonwheel Road to Birdon Road, Kirby Storter boardwalk and picnic area, or the post office downtown Ochopee and Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk.
As always, if you like to explore more, you should take the time and stay here for a while! But keep in mind that it’s still a way to go to Key West!
For our trip, we decided to skip the Everglades entirely. We have seen so many incredible animals like alligators, all kinds of birds, manatees, and many more, so that we were happy with what we have seen in Sawgrass Lake Park in St. Petersburg.
We preferred to arrive as early as possible in Key West to have an evening stroll on Duvall Street and have a relaxed night.
Pin it for later
Well, that’s it! Two days for going from Tampa to Key West by car, stopping here and there, and visiting some incredible places!
What do you think? Would you go on a Florida road trip?
50 thoughts on “Tampa To Key West By Car – Places You Have To Visit”
I really hope I could also come to Florida to witness such beauty! Thanks for taking me there even it is just through this photos! ;love it!
Hi APK, you’re very welcome! Happy to bring a little bit traveling into your life! Even if it’s only by photos and words! Do you have any plans for this year?
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We’re planning on a similar trip next spring. I’ve saved it for planning 🙂
Hey Paula, that´s awesome. Florida in general is great for Spring Break. Don´t forget to download the ebook, so that you have some inspiration with you all the time!
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Pia, thanks for the info! Planning a trip for early March ’21. Looks like the weather should make this a good time to go. Am I wrong? We want to spread our trip out over several days (7-9 total) and trying to determine the best locations to spend the night or spend 2 nights. The route we are looking at is Tampa to Key Largo (not sure Key West is our vibe, seems it’s mostly nightlife driven etc. ) and then fly out of Miami. We did an airboat into the Everglades from Boca a few years ago, so could skip the Everglades and make more time for other things. Would love your advice. We are mid 50’s, like beautiful water, beaches, sunsets and good food. Would also like rec’s on accommodations. Nicer upscale preferred, but open to clean hidden gems with character.
Hi Kathy, thank you for stopping by and leave a comment here. That´s so awesome you can travel, especially with the current situation in the world. For me traveling is quite impossible atm but I hope that from April/ May it´s possible again.
Anyways, Florida, in general, is a great choice. The weather around March/ April is the best. Already warm enough to wear shorts, and tank tops, but not too hot! However, consider a hat or so, especially during the midday sun. Besides that, it´s just perfect. Also, you won´t have any issues with mosquitos yet. Later the year, they can be a plague.
If you´d like to stretch the route and spend a few days here, and some more there, I could imagine staying in or around Bradenton Beach could be a fit (beautiful clear turquoise water and white sand beaches), you also might get lucky with renting a beach house. Another longer stay could be Naples (again, beautiful beaches, with gorgeous sunsets, restaurants, and if you like a bit of shopping).
Unfortunately, I´m not familiar with accommodation in Key Largo, as I stayed in Key West whenever I´m there (I love Key West, but understand that it´s not everyone’s cup of tea). Feel free to check out the following (affiliate) link for some nice places to stay in Key Largo: https://bit.ly/39zFBgm
If you´d like to receive more details, or looking for someone who did all the planning, I´d be more than happy to put together an itinerary for you to make the best out of your trip! I usually charge a service fee for such kind of advice, if you´re interested feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com with the reference “Trip Planning” and we can discuss furthermore.
Ferry service is available to Key West from Ft. Myers. This trip is full day with overnight options available.
Great advice! Thanks a lot!
I’ve only been to Florida a few times. This road trip looks like fun! Thank you for sharing
If only I didn’t get horribly car sick! Those beaches look so lovely
I’m so curious to visit the Everglades! Thanks for all the info!
Naples looks like such a beautiful place! Love your pictures – I love it too when the sun meets the ocean, but for me, it better be sunset ‘coz I can’t wake up early!
What an awesome experience to have with a friend. I also love pit stops along the way to a destination to explore and discover new places.
Great article! I love this area!
Goodness the Tampa area is just soooo gorgeous with all those bright blue seas and sunsets! Driving this routes sounds way more fun that flying!!
Wow, the water on the beaches look so incredible! I wish I had driven into Key West instead of flying. We had such a lovely trip but flying OUT of the place was a nightmare!
This looks like such an awesome road trip! I’ve been to Key West for New Years Eve and loved everything about it but haven’t been anywhere on the inside part of Florida. Next time I’m in Florida I really want to do this drive!
I had no idea there were other keys in Florida, I’d only ever heard of Key West! Love this road trip guide, thanks for sharing! I go to Florida every year I love new road trip ideas!
I am so glad you posted this. We keep talking about going to the Keys but the direct flights are so expensive. We have considered flying into Tampa since it is so much cheaper. I will definitely be saving your post!
Perfect, Michelle! It´s a great idea to get into Tampa first! There are loads of things to do as well! Feel free to check out my post about What to do in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater Beach, too!
One of my dream destinations, this was super helpful to read! Plus your photos are so stunning!
Thanks for the excellent guide
Estella, you´re very welcome! 😀 Will go to Florida in the near future?
You stopped by my town! I live in Naples and it’s always nice to see through a visitor’s eye. Glad you’re loving Florida! 🙂
Haha, the world is so small sometimes, Jen. 😀
My husband would love to do a road trip but in the west coast. Looks like you had a really nice time
Hey Mav, I did have a good time. Thank you. If you are looking for some Westcoast inspiration come you could back later. I´ve been there as well and I want to write about that time, too.
Oh wow, the pristine blue beach of Brandeton is so inviting. Great choice of taking the longer route just to enjoy all these beautiful sights.
I haven’t been to Florida yet but when I will go, I will check again your post. i love your photos and how you organised them 🙂
Thank you Andrada, I try my best and hopefully get better and better with any new post. Feedback is always welcome! 🙂
The view is awesome. Gosh! that sink out of tires? Never think of that before. Unique and creative!
Absolutely CindyRina, I was stunned by the whole interior. I wish I would have taken a couple of more pictures. If you want to see more, I guess, you have to go there one day 😀
Thanks for stopping by!
I love the white sand of Bradenton beach. Looks like a great place to relax. Ford’s garage is real whacky. Love the ambience :). Sunset on a beach is something else, isn’t it ?
Sunset and sunrise, both are always special. I love to watch them.
I love it, it is our dream to do a road trip around America and your blog has some very good tips and information. I will definitely come back to see more 😀
Awesome! I´m happy that you like it. I have travelled a lot through the states in the past three years. East, West, Great Lakes, a National Park Tour and I have a lot more stories to tell. I will do so step by step. I will offer a Newsletter option to subscribe and get informed about new posts etc. soon. Feel free to come around again for that, too. 🙂
I really hope I could also come to Florida to witness such beauty! Thanks for taking me there even it is just through this photos! 🙂
Your welcome Anj, 😀 I´m glad you like it.
Florida has always been one of my dream destinations. Great blog post and photos, especially your Bradenton Beach photos 🙂
Sab, Florida is indeed a lovely place to visit, especially when you are looking for sun, beach and ocean.
Your pictures are stunning! I’ve never been to Florida but this article is definitely making me want to visit. Great post!
Thanks a lot Danielle. This part of Florida is definitely special. We were lucky to get to the beach right in time for sunset.
Your pictures are beautiful! I have been to Florida several times, but I’ve never been to the Tampa area. Now I want to go! I love going to interesting restaurants, too, so I would probably like Ford’s Garage. Sounds like a great trip!
Thanks a lot Stacy! Ford´s Garage is definitely worth a visit. Not only the interior is unique with a lot of attention to details but also the food was very good.