By Kara Franker
Put the top down and get ready to blast an island-inspired playlist — it’s time for a Florida Keys road trip.
You don’t need to pack much more than a swimsuit, flip-flops and a taste for adventure.
In the Florida Keys and Key West, there’s a lot to love. Rich in history, arts and culture, the area is also perfect for outdoor types, with eco-tours, snorkeling, scuba diving, sport fishing and more.
The 120-mile island chain is home to the continental United States’ only living-coral barrier reef, so it offers up unparalleled diving experiences.
Here are some of the best spots to visit on your Florida Keys road trip.
1. Key Largo
In Key Largo, snorkel your way through schools of brightly colored fish at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and visit the Spiegel
Grove, a sunken U.S. Navy ship that’s home to its own thriving underwater ecosystem.
Don’t miss Islamorada, the village of islands where backcountry sport fishing and saltwater fly-fishing were pioneered. Cast your reel on a charter vessel, or board an eco-tour boat and explore backcountry waters full of marine life like dolphins, manatees, and crocodiles.
Further south, in Marathon, history fans can see the Old Seven Mile Bridge, a section of Henry Flagler’s original Overseas Railroad—it’s also a prime spot for fishing or taking photos against a gorgeous backdrop.
4. Big Pine Key
In Big Pine Key, Bahia Honda State Park boasts an award-winning beach that’s perfect for swimming and sunbathing; if you’re up for an adventure, book a guide and go fishing for tarpon.
5. Key West
Lively Key West, Florida’s southernmost island and legendary home of Ernest Hemingway, hosts film festivals as well as regular neighborhood gallery strolls for art and entertainment lovers.
6. Dry Tortugas
Ok, so you can't actually get here on a road. But a plane or boat ride will land you at this 100-square-mile national park island cluster known as the Dry Tortugas. It's a great outing, for snorkelers, birders and adventurers of all stripes.