Tampa to Key West: 15 Places to Visit on the Way
By Jill Martin
There are many sources of inspiration for travelers on a road trip from Tampa to Key West. Explore natural Florida at these fifteen off the beaten path pit-stops.
No visit to Florida would be complete with a citrus tour and Mixon Fruit Farms is one of the best. Take a tram tour through an orange grove, sample fresh juice, and don’t leave without a cone of their famous Orange Swirl ice cream.
Walk the beaches of the Shark Tooth Capital of the World and look for black, brown or gray spots in the sand. Chances are good that you’ll find a little souvenir to take home. They range in size from 1/8” to 3”.
3. Sanibel Island
It’s $7 to cross the causeway to the barrier island of Sanibel, but it’s worth it! This is one of the top shelling spots on the entire planet and you can find the most amazing specimens right on the shore.
4. Fort Myers Beach
AARRRRR you a pirate at heart? Then set sail aboard Pieces of Eight, a magnificent 65-foot replica Spanish galleon pirate ship! Embark from Salty Sam’s Marina and pillage and plunder in the Gulf of Mexico. Spy dolphin, too.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Take a self-guided tour along the elevated 2.25-mile boardwalk through the swamp and you’ll no doubt experience Natural Florida!
6. Everglades City
Savor authentic Florida favorites including a fantastic grouper sandwich at this local favorite, Camellia Street Seafood. When you see the pink VW Beetle out front, you’ve found it.
The Post Office
Pull over and pose for photos at the smallest post office in the United States. Blink and you’ll miss it! It’s right on US 41.
Clyde Butcher Museum
His black and white photography of the Everglades is simply astounding. Stop by his museum and be inspired; look for gators in the pond in the parking lot!
Stroll the paths, run in the grass, eat ice cream by the lake – this 37-acre tropical paradise is ideal for family downtime. Try shrimp tacos or a lobster roll at their onsite Mango Café.
Knaus Berry Farm
Angel food cakes, apple crumb pies, but the star is their famous cinnamon roll (sometimes too hot for the plastic bag, so you’ll get them on a cardboard lid). It's open from early November till Easter, so make sure your Tampa to Key West road trip occurs during this time before you plan a stop.
This place will make you go, “hmmmm?” It’s one of the world’s most intriguing mysteries: How did one man carve and maneuver more than 1,100 tons of coral rock? He said he knew the secrets of the pyramids. What will you say?
Everglades Alligator Farm
Hold a gator. Ride an airboat on the everglades. Pet a snake. This is your typical mom’s nightmare, but the kids love it. Reward your bravery with a creamy and cold strawberry milkshake at Robert Is Here fruit stand right up the road.
10. Downtown Cardsound
Instead of US 1, opt to take Cardsound Road ($1 toll) to Key Largo because this is where you’ll find Alabama Jack’s. It looks like a dive from the outside – and it is – but don’t be afraid. This waterfront restaurant has the best conch fritters you will ever taste, along with conch salad, fish sandwiches and sweet tea.
11. Key Largo
JJ’s Big Chill
This true tropical escape features amazing bay views, beautiful sunsets and a pool area complete with cabanas. Spend $10 on food and you can swim all day. Cabana rentals are extra (and a blissful splurge).
Wild Bird Sanctuary
Follow along their boardwalk past hawks, owls and other beautiful birds, all the way to the Florida Bay where each day at 3 p.m., they feed the hungry locals – namely pelicans, egrets and herons.
The Turtle Hospital
This unassuming building on the side of US 1 is a hospital for injured turtles. There’s even an ambulance out front for rescues. After the tour, you can feed the "residents."
14. Big Pine Key
Key deer are about the size of a Labrador and they are found nowhere else in the world. At the very end of Key Deer Boulevard is a neighborhood where you’re almost guaranteed to spot a few.
15. Key West
When in the Keys, do as the locals do – eat key lime pie. And eat it at Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe. For a delightful treat, get it frozen on a stick, dipped in rich Belgian chocolate.
You've made it from Tampa to Key West! Welcome to paradise.