Should You Fly or Drive Into Key West? Pros and Cons

Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on June 19, 2024.

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When planning our trip to Key West, we had a decision to make early on- do we fly into Key West or do we drive into Key West?

No matter how we looked at it, there were pros and cons associated with each. While we ultimately decided to fly into Fort Lauderdale and make the drive in, we thought we'd take a look at all of the reasons why you may (or may not) want to fly or drive!

Why You Should Drive Into Key West from Mainland Florida

Florida Keys Bridges

Flying into Miami or Fort Lauderdale before heading down to Key West has a number of advantages- many of which are why we did exactly that on our first trip to the Keys.

First, and most obvious, if you have extra time, you get to enjoy either (or both) of those cities and their respective beaches, attractions, food and beverage scene, and more. Start in Fort Lauderdale, drive to Key West, and end with a night or two in Miami? Well, that is the best of all worlds!

Art Deco Hotels in Miami

Likewise, having not one, but two airports to consider flying into opens up your route options, times, and prices- including routes on many popular carriers that service many cities in the USA daily. When price checking, we found rather reasonable routes with great times into Fort Lauderdale that made flying into the mainland an easy choice.

When flying into Key West directly on the other hand, you may find flights are quite limited. Our flights to Key West from Pittsburgh are just two days a week on Allegiant, and if you miss one, say, due to a canceled flight from the weather (which many flights were due to a bad tropical storm moving in when we arrived), your entire vacation may be at risk. This is always the risk with flying budget carriers with infrequent routes, and is especially true in Key West.

Mrs Macs Key Lime Pie

From there, the drive down to Key West features a number of potential stopping points to round out a trip, like Biscayne Bay, the Everglades, and the other Keys outside you can check out along the road to Key West.

During our drive down and back from Key West, we stopped at some fun spots like Bahai Honda, Robert Is Here fruit stand, Hogfish Bar & Grill for a killer meal of hogfish (admittedly, only a short drive from Key West proper), and Key lime pie spots like Blond Giraffe and Mrs. Macs Kitchen- all things we would have otherwise missed flying into Key West.

Why You Should Fly into Key West Directly

End of US-1 in Key West

Of course, flying into Key West has several benefits to consider as well.

First, you will land, quite literally, minutes outside of the business district. No three-hour-plus drive (each way) from Miami or Fort Lauderdale is needed. In fact, we spent more time driving down to the Keys than we would've spent flying from Pittsburgh directly! Being able to exit the airport and be in the business district of Key West in minutes certainly has its perks.

A tangential bonus to this, for those who do not want to explore other Keys at least, is you may not even need to get a car at all. Apart from visiting Fort Zachary Taylor on the way out of Key West (easily reachable via a long walk, bike ride, or an Uber), we didn't use our car in Key West at all.

Sunset in Key West

Since the drive took the better part of the day, and flying into another city meant we added more time to our trip, those who want to visit Key West alone can spend all that extra time and money enjoying the destination or saving cash outright.

Considering we only spent two nights in Key West and three on the mainland, with four or five nights in Key West, we could've done much more there, be it water sports, fishing, or visiting Dry Tortugas- all things we elected to miss on our quick visit.

Hemingway House

Although I am glad to have made the drive down from the mainland to see many of the attractions along the way, I have to admit, the return trip got fairly boring in a hurry. A mix of rain on our drive out and limited stopping points did have me questioning whether it would have been better to fly directly.

So, What is the Better Option?

Marina in Key West

Now, we have to ask, is there a better choice between driving to Key West or flying? Honestly, we could go either way. It really depends on what you want to get out of your trip!

Personally, I like going to Miami and other attractions nearby like the Everglades. Throw on that there are way more flight options into Miami and Fort Lauderdale which mitigates the risks from the infrequent direct flights, and we can certainly see the allure of driving.

But if I was just popping down to Key West for a long weekend, was on a budget and found a good flight deal, or really wanted a robust Key West experience (and to avoid what could otherwise be a fairly boring drive on the return), I could see picking into flying into Key West directly in some cases- particularly if you've already seen enough of all of the highlights on the drive on a previous visit.

Only you can really tell what pros and cons you would be okay with here as what may make the most sense for you may not make sense for someone else.

Did you fly or drive into Key West when visiting? What did you like (or not like) about the choice? Comment below to share!

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About Jeremy

Jeremy from Living the Dream

About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.

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