10 Best Mile Markers in the Florida Keys

July 11, 2015

Winter in Florida brings prime weather for road trips. Buck the trend (and the traffic) by flying to Key West and driving north along Route 1. Preferably with the top down.

Best Florida Keys Road Trip | Key West Mile Marker 0 | Key West Legal Rum
Key West, Mile Marker 0 Believe it or not, it wasn’t until 2013 that Key West — where drinking is the unofficial sport and the motto is “where the weird go pro” — got its first legal rum distillery. Opened by chef, pro kiteboarder and now distiller Paul Menta, Key West Legal Rum uses Florida sugar cane and other local ingredients, and Key limes are sourced from friends’ trees via Facebook. ­Barrels are salt­water cured by taking them down to the ocean for a dunk. Taste one of the rums for free or sample all six varieties for $10.75, souvenir shot glass included. Devil’s Rum is the all-natural answer to Fireball and the Real Key Lime Rum is perfect for classic Cuba Libres. Find a bottle you like? Take it home; the rum is currently distributed only in Florida. Lori Barbely
Best Florida Keys Road Trip | Key West Mile Marker 0 | Glazed Donuts
Key West, Mile Marker 0 Also worth a look Key-lime-pie donuts at Glazed Donuts and turtle races at Turtle Kraals — if your turtle takes top honors, you could win up to $500. Lori Barbely
Best Florida Keys Road Trip | Key West Mile Marker 0 | The Marker Resort
Key West, Mile Marker 0 Where to Stay For couples, The Marker Resort ($295 a night) is close to the action on Duval Street. Opened in 2014, the Marker features free rum punch in the lobby and a “Conchierge” to help with all your planning needs. Casa Marina ($259 a night) is the family favorite in Key West — kids love the sand-sculpting classes. Lori Barbely
Best Florida Keys Road Trip | Key West Mile Marker 0 | Six Toed Cat
Key West, Mile Marker 0 Also worth a look A fried lobster BLT at the Six Toed Cat restaurant (shown) and yoga on the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.
Best Florida Keys Road Trip | Key West Mile Marker 0 | Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail
Mile Marker 0-106, Key West to Key Largo Save the hassle (and a few bucks) and tour Key West on two wheels instead of four. Parking can be expensive, so skip the car rental at the airport until it’s time to ride north. Bike rentals on the island are as low as $10 a day, and the isle’s small size (less than 8 square miles) and mostly well-organized street grid make it easy to navigate. As an added bonus, cyclists pay lower entry fees than cars into state parks, like Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. But the bike doesn’t have to stop there. The Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail parallels U.S. 1 from Key West to Key Largo, and the paved trail is perfect for ­riding. It’s easier to stop and gawk at the small keys just off the coast than it is in a car, and picnic spots are plentiful. You’ll even find a few campgrounds along the way. Get closer to nature while you burn some of those excess Key-lime-pie calories. Lori Barbely
Best Florida Keys Road Trip | National Key Deer Refuge | Big Pine Key
Big Pine Key, Mile Marker 30.2 Spend some time in the National Key Deer Refuge and you’ll likely get some face time with the endangered Key deer. ­Standing 2 to 3 feet tall and weighing 50 to 80 pounds, these deer are the smallest in North America and have little fear of ­humans, which makes them easy to see. Drive down Key Deer Boulevard, stopping at the wildlife trails and the Blue Hole, a freshwater lake (bring bug spray and keep an eye out for ­gators and bald eagles). Or take Watson Boulevard over to No Name Key, where you’ll likely spot these cuties nibbling plants in someone’s front yard. It’s ­tempting to feed them, but doing so is a fine-worthy ­offense. Lori Barbely
Best Florida Keys Road Trip | Islamorada | Mile Marker 84
Islamorada, Mile Marker 84 Nothing good can come from a dare, right? In 1972, Tiki John, bar manager of the Holiday Isle Resort Tiki Bar, proved that wrong when he used up the contents of the storeroom to create the original rumrunner cocktail. Snap the obligatory selfie with the statue commemorating the drink, then grab a seat at the bar overlooking the ocean. The conch-fritter appetizer is plentiful enough for a meal and will save you a few bucks, so get the extra floater of rum in your slushy concoction — just don’t plan on driving anytime soon. And that’s fine because a nearby cluster of bars, including ­Kokomo — yes, that Kokomo, ­supposedly — makes for a quintessential barefoot Keys bar crawl, complete with live music and dancing in the sand. Lori Barbely
Islamorada, Mile Marker 82 Where to Stay Cheeca Lodge provides a chill midway spot to spend a few nights. The resort appeals to families who return each year. Repeat guests like George H.W. Bush can’t be wrong. From $186 a night, Lori Barbely
Best Florida Keys Road Trip | Islamorada | Mile Marker 82-87
Islamorada, Mile Marker 82-87 Hear us out. We know selfies are a silly trend, but when you see a giant lobster statue like the one at the Rain Barrel Village (mm 86.7), just embrace the absurd. The giant shark outside Mangrove Mike’s Cafe (mm 82.2) begs for a Sharknado selfie, and the oversize conch at the Theater of the Sea (mm 84.5) screams ­Florida Keys. Lori Barbely
Best Florida Keys Road Trip | Key Largo Chocolates | Mile Marker 100
Key Largo, Mile Marker 100 Never been to Key Largo Chocolates? Let the cashier know, and you’ll be offered three samples: white and dark Key-lime chocolate and rum chocolate, all shaped like feet. Little chocolate feet might not sound appealing, but when cashier Sharon explains that they pay homage to the Keys’ barefoot lifestyle, suddenly it makes sense. But the chocolates are just part of the story. Walking into the store is a tad overwhelming; perhaps it’s the neon pink and (Key-) lime decor, but more likely it’s the choices: Ice cream, fudge, Key-lime pie on a stick, Key-lime pistachio bark, and chocolate alligators all vie for your dollars. Have your dentist on speed dial and sit out front to decide which is your favorite. Lori Barbely
Best Florida Keys Road Trip | Homestead | Mile Marker 127
Homestead, Mile ­Marker 127 It’s a fruit stand. It’s a petting zoo. It’s a milkshake store. The family-owned Robert Is Here is all of the above. Tales of milkshakes lure you in, but while you wait for your super-thick shake to be shook (you’ll be grateful for the provided spoon), there’s plenty to see. Browse the fruit stand and load up on pricey locally grown tropical fruit, from tamarinds to mameys to sapodillas (the staff will even cut your fruit on the spot if you just can’t wait). Also, snag salsa, hot sauce and marmalade, and use the tiny tasting spoons to try more than a dozen varieties of honey. At the free petting zoo out back, watch goats do battle for dominance, get eyeballed by emus and see tortoises make baby tortoises. Don’t worry; you’ll hear them announce your number over the PA when your Key-lime shake is ready. Closed in September and October to prep for the winter farm season. Lori Barbely

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