PHOTO: Yes, yes, yes. Get out in your Enterprise Rent-A-Car and drive the Florida Keys. (photo via Flickr/sumit_sachdeva)
Tell someone you’re going to the Keys and odds are they’ll ask about Key West. But with more than 113 miles of coral and limestone islands at your disposal, there’s more to the Florida Keys than six-toed cats and conch fritters.
Start your journey by getting in an Enterprise Rent-A-Car – and wouldn’t this be the time to rent something exotic? – and begin in Miami and head south on U.S. Highway 1, which links Key West, the southernmost Key, to the U.S. mainland.
You could drive it in an afternoon; after all, it’s just about a three-and-a-half hour drive from Miami to the end.
But that would mean missing out by stopping at some hidden – and not-so-hidden – gems along the way.
First Stop: Key Largo. Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart have long since left but the allure lives on, especially for divers, as the surrounding sea offers up historic shipwrecks and a few man-made coral reefs. Just 18 miles south of Miami, it’s an easy day trip to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Divers will want to have their picture snapped by the underwater statue of Christ of the Abyss (the original is located in the Mediterranean Sea) by the Key Largo Dry Rocks reef.
Second Stop: Islamorada. Drive 30 minutes south from Key Largo and you will arrive on Islamorada, a 20-mile long chain of islands known as the “sport fishing capital of the world.” The Gulf Stream brims with schools of tuna, sailfish and kingfish. Those who love fish, but not fishing, can buy a bucket of bait to feed the tarpon who swim close to the docks in search of a snack.
Third Stop: Marathon. Marathon, as the story goes, was named by workers who came to build Henry Flagler’s railroad through the Keys. The work was so back-breaking that workers called it a real marathon and the name stuck. Today, Marathon is a destination known for being family (and sea life) friendly. Visitors should stop by The Turtle Hospital, a veterinary hospital for sea turtles, where they can go behind the scenes and feed the residents, and the Dolphin Research Center, where visitors can swim with and learn more about these friendly ocean mammals.
READ MORE: Enterprise’s ‘Fill Your Tank’ Program
Fourth Stop: Bahia Honda Key. This quiet Key was once home to railroad workers. Today, it’s home to the Bahia Honda State Park and offers up a fairly untouched beach, thanks to being a bit off the beaten path. The park offers the chance to engage in a host of watersports, including snorkeling and kayaking, and has a campground for those looking for an outdoor adventure.
Fifth Stop: Key West. Key West is everything you want in a tropical destination and more. With quaint historic homes, a great restaurant scene, beaches galore and some pretty hot nightlife, what’s not to love? History buffs will want to check out the Little White House, President Truman’s winter home away from home, while anyone who’s ever read “The Old Man and The Sea” needs to swing by Hemingway’s former home to see how Papa once lived.