- Last Updated on Monday, 10 September 2012 12:35
- Written by Patti Lavell
- Hits: 1753
Getting to Key West is straightforward and not difficult but there are some choices to be made. Do your homework before leaving home to decide what best suits your personality and your budget.
You can either fly into Key West airport, which is rather small with a limited number of flights or you can fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale is about twenty miles north of Miami International but quite often the flights arriving there are less expensive than flights to Miami.
Miami or Fort Lauderdale to Key West
If you fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale you can rent a car and drive to Key West, which will take between four and six hours depending upon traffic. Much of the drive is one lane in either direction at a speed limit of 45 MPH. Although parts of it are tedious, the drive is very easy. Take the Turnpike south until it becomes Route 1 in Florida City. From there, you continue on Route 1; the only road headed south to Key West. When you arrive at the gates to the paradise known as Key West, you can either go left toward the airport and beaches or you can turn right toward Old Town. The island is only a few miles long so there’s no need to worry about getting lost. The biggest navigational challenge is coping with one-way streets.
Be advised that parking can be difficult, especially if your accommodations don’t provide off-street parking. In my opinion, a rental car is completely unnecessary in Key West. If you want to go somewhere that’s too far for you to walk or if you’re stumbling and unable to navigate the sidewalk, you can easily hail a traditional taxi cabs. There are also people who pull carts behind their bikes for tired pedestrians to climb up into. For a modest fee, they’ll take you anywhere on the island.
The Keys Shuttle
If you decide to fly into one of the northern airports and forgo the rental, you still need to find transportation to the island. There are a few limo services that are fairly pricey or you can book a seat on the less expensive Keys Shuttle (888-765-9997). Any of these companies will pick you up at either Fort Lauderdale or Miami airport and take you to any location from Key Largo to Key West. A limo will pick you up at your convenience while the Keys Shuttle runs on a per-determined schedule. If you choose the shuttle you may need to wait up to two hours after landing for the next departure. Limos will stop anywhere you’d like along the way to afford you the opportunity to stretch your legs and get a cocktail. The Keys Shuttle stops for gas, giving you the opportunity to get out and buy some adult beverages. Many shuttle passengers buy a Styrofoam cooler and then pack it with their favorite beverages and a bag of ice. This is what is known as “pre-gaming”.
Which airport you fly into and whether you rent a car will depend upon many factors. Be sure to research your options well in advance because rental cars and shuttle availability book quickly during peak times. Airfare becomes more expensive during these times too.
Ferry to Key West
Maybe you’d like to travel by water so that when you step onto the dock in Key West, you’ll already be in a laid back, island frame of mind. Key West Express Ferries (239.463.5733) transports passengers from Fort Meyers and, in season, from Marco Island. It’s an enjoyable trip that requires less time than driving (approximately four hours) and you have the convenience of relaxing with drinks and snacks from the bar while taking in the beauty of the turquoise waters.
Bus to Key West
If you’re on a tight budget or just want to save the bulk of your cash for crawling Duval Street, then consider taking a Greyhound bus from Miami. It’s certainly the least expensive way to travel from the mainland to Key West but it also takes the most time. It’s all a matter of preference but be advised that the buses make frequent stops.
A little bit of planning at the front end will make all the difference once you arrive in our island paradise.