Here is the discussion
I'd vote for the Key West Express as well. Especially in season. Make reservations.
Sanibel Island to Key West is about 300 miles and 5-6 hours driving. The drive down the Keys, from Key Largo to Key West is about 114 miles. If you have never driven on the Overseas Highway (US Route 1), it is a must do experience. There are lots of interesting places to stop and things to do. If you are going just to see Key West, the Key West Express, http://www.seakeywestexpress.com/default.htm is probably the more efficient way to go. If you have a few days, driving down can be a lot of fun. Just put in "Sanibel Island to Key West" into Google maps and you will get good directions. I usually take I-75 and the Florida Turnpike. Yes, there are some tolls, but they are are a lot easier than the alternatives. If you do drive, stop at "Robert is Here", http://www.robertishere.com/ , which is in Homestead.
Thanks Ken, we finally get to do something we've never done & always wanted to do. "Roberts " looks interesting. Will have to try a key lime milkshake.
Easily 6+ hours .. alot of the 114 miles down the keys is a VERY slow 30 mph speed limit .. that frustrates a lot of folks .. I personally would not do it if I had known how long it really takes .. ferry is the the best bet to do key west imho.
Based on advice from this forum we opted to do the Keys as a separate vacation and we're very glad we made that choice.. Unless you have at least 4-5 days to spend driving over and exploring the Keys, I would wait. The Key West Express sounds like another option, but then you are stuck in Key West and you won't be able to other towns.... seeing only Key West would mean you miss out on lots that the Keys has to offer.
I would agree with MurexKen that the drive down to the Keys on US is one of the most amazing and scenic drives in the whole country, and I've driven a LOT of scenic routes. jsottowa and Lisa make the point that in season, you need time. If all you want is quick look at Key West, the ferry is your best bet. If you want to see the Keys, then the 4-5 days are what you should plan, minimum. Bahia Honda is day (or 2) by itself, as if getting out to Ft Jefferson from Key West. Personally, I think off season is the best time to do the Keys because of reduced traffic, but it's just a 2 lane road, so one accident and your toast regardless on the time of year. And it's a drive you want to do on a fine, sunny day. Just amazing.
I love taking the Key West Express, but recommend spending at least one night. I don't think there is enough time to get the feel of Key West if you go down and back on the same day. We have stayed in Courtyard Marriott near the airport. Free shuttle downtown and back to the boat and free breakfast. Courtyard will even deliver your luggage to boat at 4 PM after check-out. I have also stayed at B & B's nearer to center of town--that was fun, too.,
I agree with both sanibeltravler and Lisa....Key West deserves to have more than a few hours spent there. IMO...."old Key West" is where you want to be. Only a few hours spent there will not afford you to do more than just scratch the surface and you probably will come away not liking it very much....If you could take the Express down and stay at least one night, I think you would get a better feel for what it is all about. I think the idea of the Express is an experience in itself...(although, I have never done it, but would love to). You could also take a hopper flight down right into Key West....any way you get there, you would be amazed at Key West....It is quirky, artsy, fun, great food, things to do, entertainment, walk or bicycle to everything. I have found that you either LOVE Key West or HATE it. But, spending only a few hours is not enough time there.
If you do decide to stay there, there are plenty of accomodation types....I would stay at one of the bed & breakfast or boutique hotels. 90% of these are beautiful, pool, lush surroundings, and are all part of the KW experience
It can be a very long drive. I too would stay at least a full day. Find a cute B&B in "Old Town" and you can just park the car and walk just about anywhere. : )