Please note that we were working with Visit Florida on parts of this trip. Full disclosure at the bottom of the post.
To give a quick overview of our trip, we flew into Miami and spent 16 nights travelling around the state of Florida, visiting Miami, the Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale, Anna Maria Island, Crystal River, Panama City Beach and Pensacola Beach, before travelling to Louisiana and spending a couple of days in New Orleans. We covered 1825 miles in total. I will be doing blog posts on each destination we stayed in, as well as some practical trips for planning and going on a road trip with young children (mine are 8,6 and 3).
We spent three glorious days soaking up the sun and fun in Miami. But soon it was time to head on to our next destination… The Florida Keys.
Route Miami to Key Largo- 69 Miles… 1 hour 15 minutes
The Keys have always been a destination that we have wanted to visit as a family. Both Jon and I have wanted to drive across the iconic 7 mile drive ever since we got together (many years ago now!). However as we only had a limited time to visit The Keys as part of our Florida Road Trip we decided we wouldn’t drive all the way down to the farthest point of The Keys, Key West. I would love to visit there one day as I have heard it is amazing, but on planning our route we decided that we would head down to Key Largo- 69 miles and 1 hour 15 minutes away from Miami.
Key Largo is both the first island and town of the Florida Keys to be reached from the Overseas Highway to Key West. Driving over some of the bridges to get to our destination I felt a little pang of excitement, it felt like we were driving towards perfection.
We had just two nights to explore the beauty of The Keys but we still managed to pack a lot in. Here is my guide on things to do in and around Key Largo, especially if you have a limited time like we did.
THINGS TO DO IN THE KEYS WITH KIDS
HAVE A SUNSET DINNER ON THE BEACH (WE WENT TO BAYSIDE GRILLE).
The Keys are known for their beautiful sunsets so we knew we were in for a treat, but we weren’t fully prepared for how stunning they were actually going to be. On checking into our hotel on the first evening (more about where we stayed below), the receptionist mentioned about a place called Bayside Grille which had live music and tables right down on the beach.
We raced there as the sun was already setting and I am so glad we did, we got a table right on the beach in the sand and the sunset was the most beautiful I have ever seen. The kids played on the beach while we listened to live country music (I love country music!) and I am not embarrassed to admit I got a little tear in my eye. It was one of my favourite evenings I have ever had. The tacos were amazing too, but they do all sorts of different types of food, with seafood of course being the speciality.
TAKE A DRIVE ALONG THE ICONIC SEVEN MILE BRIDGE
Even though the iconic seven mile bridge is still a good 60 miles (about 1 hour 15 minutes away) from Key Largo, we were prepared to make the trip because it is somewhere we have always wanted to visit. Bizarrely both Jon and I love the design of bridges, perhaps we need to get out and find some new hobbies (!), but nether the less we were really excited to drive along it.
There are actually two bridges in this location. The modern bridge is open to vehicular traffic; the older one only to pedestrians and cyclists. It is a sight to behold but I must admit it made me feel a bit funny driving across it- I can’t describe it but I just felt a bit nervous and I have no idea why. It’s worth the trip if you like that sort of thing, we took our drone up and it was incredible to see it from the air.
We literally made the trip to go across and then went back and headed for dinner, but it was 100% worth it and the kids also had a little nap and some downtime in the car after a morning splashing about in our hotel pool.
HAVE PANCAKES AT MADE 2 ORDER.
Another meal recommendation from the lady who checked us in was Made 2 Order in nearby Islamorada. From the outside this little restaurant looks absolutely nothing special, so much so that we wondered whether to bother going in at all. But head around the back and you will find the most delightful little terrace overlooking the beautiful canals of The Keys.
It was so kid friendly with the staff just being brilliant with them (the Mickey pancakes were a great success too!), plus they had the usual colouring etc for them too.
Such a beautiful spot to start the day with a tasty brunch. Jon and I also had pancakes which were delicious.
HAVE DINNER AT MORADA BAY RESTAURANT
I know that food is a bit of a reoccurring theme here, but we found another beautiful spot for dinner on our way back from Seven Mile Bridge. Morada Bay in Islamorada is a restaurant and beach cafe right on the beach, with coloured tables and a relaxed vibe.
There was live music playing, it was really busy but with a fun relaxed vibe, and yet again we managed to grab a spot that meant we could drink and eat while the children played on the sand, with the most beautiful sunset in the background.
The Keys are famed for their seafood and Morada Bay was no exception, there were loads of fish options on their menu, although I had the Morada Bay Chicken Curry, and it was probably my favourite meal of our whole trip.
VISIT JOHN PENNEKAMP STATE PARK AND GO ON THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT TOUR.
John Pennekamp State Park is a large park near Key Largo which is well worth the trip. It contains the first undersea park in the U.S., John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses approximately 70 nautical square miles.
But there are also lots of fun things to do on land too, such as lovely walks, a playground, plus lots of places to picnic and chill out and enjoy the sunshine. There are a couple of small manmade beaches by the water. We grabbed a take out pizza and sat in the sunshine and it was one of my favourite memories of our trip. You do have to pay for parking in the state park, but once in there, it’s a lovely place to spend the day.
There is also a fantastic glass bottom boat tour ‘The Spirit of Pennekamp’ which offers a 2.5 hour tour to the park’s coral reef. We decided to book this on a bit of a whim as we had a spare few hours in the morning before we left for our next destination, it cost us approximately $82 dollars for our family of 5 (under 3 are free). It was good fun, but both Jon and I got really sea sick. The waves were so choppy and we spent the entire time trying not to be sick- Jon at one point was green! We don’t normally get sea sick, so the waves must have just been very choppy that day.
Still it was great fun, really educational for the kids, and both Maddie and I love sitting and looking through the glass bottom at all the marine life below. I definitely recommend it, but if you get sea sick make sure you take an anti sickness tablet!
WHERE WE STAYED
During our time in Key Largo we stayed at the Ocean Point Suites. It is a beachfront resort that offers guests a variety of activities like tennis, swimming and nature trails. This all-suite resort features spacious Key Largo condo rentals overlooking the Atlantic Ocean; an ideal destination for enjoying the relaxing breezy days and abundant sunshine in the Florida Keys.
Our suite was one of the biggest of our trip, essentially it was more like an apartment than a hotel room, with two bedrooms and a lovely view, as well as a great sized kitchen area (although we didn’t use this other than to store drinks in the fridge). The decor wasn’t particularly stylish, but it was clean and comfortable.
I think the thing with a road trip is that often you don’t maximise your stay in a hotel and you don’t really get to know it, we essentially use the rooms as a base and spend most of our time out of the hotels exploring, especially when we only have a limited time in a destination.
However our impressions of our time in Ocean Pointe Suites was that it was clean and comfortable, with lots to do. There were a lot of American families there who seemed to be on vacation and making the most of all the amenities of the resort. We all needed a bit of down time after a busy stay in Miami so we spent the majority of one of our days in The Keys in the pool, which was great. A fantastic size, the kids enjoyed splashing around in it so much. There was a great pool bar there as well which served snacks and drinks.
We hired a car for the duration of our trip from Hertz. We were actually working with Hertz on this trip, and were loaned the car in exchange for some content but we have used them on a few different trips now and we always find them to have fantastic service and are reliable. (Find out more info on Hertz here)
Check out the video I made of our time in Miami and The Keys…
PART THREE OF OUR ROAD TRIP COMING SOON… FORT LAUDERDALE
NB We were working in partnership with Visit Florida on parts of this trip and some of our accommodation and activities were given to us in exchange for content. Check out their website for lots more advice and inspiration for planning your road trip.