Miami > Key West > Fort Myers (by ferry) > Tampa
Has anyone toured here?
Safety - does the overseas highway accomodate bicycles?
Weather - what can I expect at the end of June?
Accomodation - hostels? camping options?
Any information is appreciated as not having much luck searching the web.
I have always dreamed of seeing the keys, but not from an enclosed car seat, I want to feel the air and smell the smells and hear the noise.
I'm having some of the same issues. I've purchased the Adventure Cycling maps that are some help. What I'm having trouble figuring out, though, is how to get my bike to Key West. I was planning on coming down by train, but there's no station within a day's ride of a ferry terminus. The shuttle from Miami doesn't permit bikes; the ferry might, depending on space. Greyhound requires that the bike be boxed. I'm hoping to start my trip during the 2nd week of June.
I have ridden the keys several times. I love it. There is trail most of the way, but sometimes you are on the road. There are many campgrounds. I don't know of any hostels. I am not sure how to get your bike to Key West. We drove down. I have a wonderful husband that sags for me. Good luck. I hope you can figure it out. I love it. Have fun.
I rode with a friend during the first week of March from Palm Beach to Key West along the coast; then, by ferry to Fort Meyers; then biked back east across the state to Palm Beach. This sounds like a similar route. However, in June the weather will be, no doubt, very different. I found it very hot, especially near Key West, and it was still the cold season. It is possible that in the Keys you might not have quite the oppressively hot/humid weather that mainland Florida is famous for. I just don't know.
Safety -- I was very pleasantly surprised by how safe and comfortable the riding was over most of the distance. The rumors I had heard all said Florida would be dangerous and unpleasant, so I was pleased to learn that things really have changed a lot, particularly in the Keys. Indications of change: we saw long stretches where brand new bike paths were being built. We had to go around construction crews at some points. We found several of the bridges in the Keys where a *second* bridge had been built just for pedestrians and cyclists to provide more comfortable travel.
From Miami to the Keys we headed along the ACA route but got a bit off it, as I recall. We followed a very pleasant two-lane road with tolerable traffic for a long ways -- Old Cutler Rd. Eventually we got to Route 1 and rode along a path following that. Finally, we got to a place where Route 1 was completely torn up and it looked like we'd have to ride in a road with severe traffic -- at that point we went only about 100 m west of the gas station where we found ourselves -- and there was a completely quiet road. I'm not sure what it is called, but it looks like maybe it's the old route 1 and it is now a highway for only public transportation busses -- i.e., we had it to ourselves. It ran all the way south into the heart of Homestead a couple blocks from the hostel.
One stretch of road stands out as an exception: Card Sound Road from the mainland near Homestead, Florida, to Key Biscayne, the first Key. This is an absolutely straight, flat road; it is two lanes wide with no shoulder or useable edge of the road; and it has consistent traffic on it. Cars and trucks can not pass a cyclist without going into the opposite lane, so we had a number of trucks and cars slowing down and grinding along behind us until they could pass. At one point, we saw a car going the opposite way pull out to pass traffic and come at us in our lane at super high speed -- it pulled back in before getting to us, but it was a bit nervous for us. This road is a serious obstacle. If you take it, please be alert. Use a rear-view mirror if you can. Don't mess with it if a car doesn't slow down; get off the road. The alternative road to the keys from mainland Florida is US 1 and it is a very, very large highway. For whatever reason, cyclists avoid that road so I assume it must be worse than Card Sound Rd.
Places to stay -- There is a hostel in Fort Lauderdale (we stayed with a WSL host instead) and in Homestead. The Homestead hostel is wonderful and very much worth the visit. Great people, great food, wonderful lodgings. (no air conditioning, though, that I could tell, if that matters to you.) We weren't going to camp, so didn't look or see camping; but, I'm pretty sure it's available.
The ferry from Key West to Ft Meyers leaves in the evening and arrives late. Be prepared with a light to ride where you need to be at the end of the trip. The ferry people are very familiar with bikes; there is no problem bringing one on board -- they wheel bikes into the place they can be for the trip.
Can't think of anything else useful; let me know if I've left out anything obvious. Hope some of this helps.
Thanks rabike and Andrejs for your comments. I guess I could ride the train to Miami, bike down, take the ferry, then bike back East. I especially appreciate the comments about the traffic and route. Rabike, any chance of your doing it again with your husband sagging? :).
I forgot to mention the east-west part of the route we took. Following the ACA route for a while was interesting through rural countryside. But we deviated from the route to head due east and wound up following the major highway (#80) all the way across. The important point would be that this is as bad as it gets -- high-speed trucks and lots of them -- but the riding wasn't that bad on a good shoulder the whole way. We happened to have a horrendous headwind all the way east, but otherwise it wasn't bad. Following the ACA route gives you much, much more pleasant surroundings and, since you'll be headed to Miami, you can ride to Ft Lauderdale (I think that's where it leads) and then follow the coast down. Riding along the coastal route is fun imho. Pictures: http://tinyurl.com/684tqr2
hi Helen, Have done Ft. Meyers to Miami all the way to St. Augustine several times, the trip is an awesome ride. Miami is a very busy and glamourous city, yes there is a hostel but not much luck with camp grounds, becasue of the size of the city I have always stayed in hotels, pick up a hotel guide at any gas station or Mcdonalds and they are loaded with coupons.It does take quite some time to get thru miami but when you get to homestead, you have two options for road travel, i have always chose the road less travelled,(old dixie hwy) which takes you into John Pennakamp state park,Key Largo nice for camping.has showers, And yes when on this road, do not stop to look at the sleeping green couches, the aligators do come out to sun themselves but for the most part are harmless.
Going south there are several camp grounds that are listed on the ACA maps which I found very helpful. Mostly bike path thru this section. The long key state park about 35miles south is fantastic, quiet and you camp right at the atlantic ocean, cannot get better than that, caution there is only one restaruant in that town and it is closed on monday, be prepared to take some food with you or you are eating at the gas station. Has showers.
Go south about 65miles and you go over the 7 mile bridge, make sure you stop and look over as the dolphins and stingrays are beautiful. there is a beautiful camp ground on stock island (boyds key west) that has a pool, pricey but nice, Camping is great,has laundry and a few restaruants in the neighborhood and you are 2-4 miles from Key west. Key west is a very busy tourist town, too many tourist for me now but store keepers are very freindly, store fronts are bright and cheery and lots to see. Make sure you lock your bike and learn to drink margarita's. There is only one road to Key West and it is well travelled, ride safely. I have never had any traffic problems. Remember there sometimes is a lot of debris on the roads from winds and previous hurricanes that you may have to watch for, always seems to be lots of nails on the road, usually get one flat each time I travel this route.
Weather in june is hot and humid, temps will be in the 90's all month, please use a 60spf or higher sun screen. Evenings can be cool although I have never needed anyting warmer that shorts and a t-shirt all month. Remember Key west is not cheap, plan for this.
The ferry to Ft Meyers runs daily, takes 3 hours and usully is a rough ride, you can eat or watch TV until you arrive, they are very good with cyclist, and be prepared to go thru homeland security. If you arrive in ft.meyers at night you will need a head lamp, very dark, no street lights. just a lot of reflectors. there are a couple of camp grounds east on Ft. meyers beach but hard to find at night, I reccomend a host or go west, several cheaper hotels along the way especially on US41.
As far as i am aware there is no ACA map west to Tampa, prob a road map is the best, just cannot travel on the Freeways. Tampa is a large city, i always go to Clearwater beach, a very nice beach and you get the warmer gulf stream winds. Water is usually warmer.
Hurricane season does not start until August and usually only effects the coastal towns, keep that in mind. Hope this helps a bit, wish I was going again.
I hired a car in Orlando airport and dropped it off the next day in Key West. Cost was $55. I took the front wheel off and put the bike in the trunk and folded the back seats down. The advantage was I could stop off at campsites along the way and check milages to cycle each day coming back. The flight with bicycle Orlando to key West was $200, so the car hire option was best. In June it'll be very humid, with mosquitoes, so consider taking a motel where possible. Enjoy your trip!