Miami acts as the main gateway to southern Florida, and as one of the coolest cities in the US it’s a great place to start a trip. Most of the action takes place in Miami Beach rather than downtown, and Collins Avenue is really at the heart of things. Miami Beach Historic District is home to the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world, with many of the buildings now turned in to hotels and clubs. Coined ‘Millionaires Row’, Collins Avenue is the place to be and be seen in Miami.
From Miami it’s only a little over 50 miles until you leave the mainland and hit the Florida Keys, a chain of picture-postcard coral cays that run over 100 miles southwest to Key West. The first town you’ll hit is Key Largo, a world away from the bright lights and glamour of Miami, and the contrast is one of the town’s appeals. Key Largo is a sleepy affair in comparison to her northern neighbour, where the pace of life is slower and the atmosphere is altogether more relaxed. This is one of the best locations in the US for deep sea fishing, and diving is also popular.
Driving in Florida is easy, with spacious roads that are well signposted, and it’s easy to slip in to a relaxed pace as you travel through the Keys. Miami itself is like many large cities in the US and can experience terrible congestion, so it’s best not to rely on a car here, but the journey following Highway 1 south from Miami to the Keys and through the islands towards Key West is a real pleasure. One of the highlights is Seven Mile Bridge, spanning one of the longest gaps in the islands roughly half way down the Keys. The original bridge dates back to 1909, and once a year in April the main bridge is closed for a few hours to allow for the annual Seven Mile Bridge fun run to take place. The views from the bridge are superb.
As you travel through the Florida Keys be sure to stop regularly, and randomly, wherever takes your fancy. There are plenty of excellent locations for snorkeling and diving, hire a boat at one of the marinas and take to the water, or just chill on the beach for a while. It’s easy to follow the main highway through the Keys, but getting off the highway to explore the islands turns the journey in to an adventure.
At the very end of the Florida Keys is the town of Key West, the southernmost point in continental USA and one that is closer to Havana in Cuba than Miami. The town has a relaxed feel year-round but really comes to life in the winter months, when the tropical climate attracts the jetset crowd from around the US. The trendy set from Miami make Key West their winter party hangout, and it’s an ideal place to chill out for a few days after travelling through the Keys. The Old Town of Key West is a major draw, with buildings dating back to the 1880’s and an air of history that’s perfectly charming. Look out for the birthplace of Pan Am, the airline which started here back in 1927 for mail delivery between Key West and Havana.
While many visitors to Florida head to the theme parks of Orlando, the southern part of the state is home to some fascinating corners, and the drive from Miami to Key West is a great way to get a little off the beaten track.
Don’t miss…Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West, a historic landmark and one of the most famous bars in the US - a great place for a cool beer on a hot day
Don’t miss…head to one of the numerous shopping centres in the Miami area to grab yourself a bargain – clothes and electronics are popular
One to avoid…parking in Miami is an expensive business, with valet parking being anything up to $60 a day - collect your car after your stay here and head out of town
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