All eyes may be on Key West when it comes to dreamy island honeymoon spots that are still on Florida soil, but half the charm of a getaway down south is the drive there. Turn your honeymoon into a three-day romantic roadtrip cruising down the 113-mile-long Overseas Highway — built along a former railroad and surrounded by water on both sides — where the only "tourist" attractions worth stopping for are the kind that involve both sand and sea.
A good road trip can't kick off without the proper fuel, so start the journey in Miami ordering locally roasted coffee and freshly made whole grain croissants from Wynwood favorite Panther Coffee. Take your goods to go or start the morning with a stroll by the neighborhood's street art-lined buildings, with over 80,000 square feet of walls covered in artwork that span out from the Wynwood Walls living art gallery. If you'd rather take a seat and savor breakfast with your new hubby, plop down at the retro-inspired Wynwood Diner and tuck in to one of the decadent breakfast dishes like the churro waffle or brioche French toast with bourbon crème Anglaise.
Now it's time to hit the road, but the first stop isn't too far from South Beach. A little over an hour away in the first key, Key Largo is a paradise for divers with its colorful coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove swamps, all set inside John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park.
Hop on board a chartered snorkel trip and explore why Key Largo has been nicknamed the "Dive Capital of the World," swimming above wrecks, reefs, and statues, including one of the most famous of them all — the bronze Statue of Christ of the Abyss.
For lunch, stop by Snappers, a local institution with a tiki bar perched on the pier above the water. The menu is based on what's caught fresh that day and delivered to the docks, so leave the decisions up to the fishermen. Better yet, if you have your own fresh catches, the restaurant can prep them just the way you like, serving your hard-earned fish in style.
Call it a night just half an hour away at the next key, Islamorada, whose name means Village of Islands since the spot sits on four islands. At this halfway point to Key West you'll find the waterfront Amara Cay Resort, where you can stretch out in a hammock on the sand as the sun goes down while sipping one of Sparrows Rum Bar's frozen favorites. Our pick is the Banana Split: an adult spin on this childhood dessert, blending rum with crème de banana, coco, pineapple, and orange. If you'd rather keep things light, the bar serves knockout yellowfin tuna tacos. For something more formal, take a seat at Oltremare and prepare for an Italian feast that fuses classics like frito misto with Florida flavor.
Photo: Courtesy of the Amara Cay
Sleep in and start the day in leisurely fashion Florida Keys-style with a full-on Southern brunch at Islamorada's Hungry Tarpon, a fish shack set on an old marina. Here, you can dine on classic buttermilk pancakes and homemade biscuits and gravy, as well as some of the more local-inspired house specials like the Purple Isle, stacked crepes stuffed with fried eggs and lobster (don't worry, calories definitely don't count once you've entered the Keys!).
Before your final stop in Key West, less than two hours away, spend some time basking on one of the two picture-perfect white sand beaches at Bahia Honda State Park in Big Pine Key. You can also get more of your snorkeling fix here with a trip out to Looe Key, where you'll swim over bright star and brain coral, and maybe even pass whale sharks and manta rays.
Check into The Marker on the marina in Key West's Old Town and ease onto island time with a late lunch. Take a seat on the patio at Croissants de France's Le Bistro and dig in to their baked treats and French-inspired fare like quiche Lorraine. After lunch, stroll down Duval Street and stop in one of the most iconic bars of them all, the 78-year-old Sloppy Joe's, where legends like Hemingway were once regulars. After a round of margaritas, it's time to catch the nightly ritual in Mallory Square, Sunset Celebration, a street party along the water with performers and food carts.
Key West is embracing its Southern roots more and more these days, and one of the best ways to capture a taste of this culture is at the two-story restaurant Firefly. The vibe here is low-key but the food still takes on a gourmet Southern spin. Sit on the top floor al fresco terrace and start with the fried green tomatoes with Brussels sprout slaw and hot bacon vinaigrette.
Photo: Courtesy of Key West Seaplane Adventures
Breakfast at Blue Heaven is a must in Key West, so end your honeymoon on a high note here dining on blueberry pancakes and Key West pink shrimp Benedict outside on the patio while the infamous roosters stroll around. It's also totally okay to start your cocktail tour of town early with a round of Bloody Marys.
Despite being on an island, you won't find a whole lot of beaches. But 70 miles off the coast you'll come to the Dry Tortugas, a series of seven small islands surrounded by shallow waters prime for snorkeling. A catamaran trip is one way to get here, but you can also throw in an element of sightseeing by hitting the sky by seaplane with Key West Seaplane Adventures. The trip takes about a full day, so if you don't have the time, there's plenty to do back on shore in Key West. Explore the Ernest Hemingway Home, where the writer lived for over a decade, or go gallery hopping sourcing pieces for your newlywed home at spots along Duval Street and Bahama Village.
After island hopping for the past few days, take a breather and stop for sunset cocktails and a romantic dinner at Louie's Backyard, an oceanfront Victorian home-turned-restaurant known for its local seafood and hand-picked produce grown just for the eatery. Then top off the weekend with dessert at a restaurant just as sexy as its name — Better Than Sex — and prepare for the ultimate in chocolate indulgence.