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The Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West

The highway that goes to sea has much to see along the way!

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The Overseas Highway: Miami to Key West
Photograph by Yvon Maurice/Moment Open/Getty Images

The Overseas Highway, the southernmost leg of U.S. Highway 1 and sometimes called the Highway That Goes to Sea is a modern wonder. The road, that follows a trail originally blazed in 1912 by Henry Flagler's Florida East Coast Railroad, stretches from Miami to Key West.

The railway ceased operation after severe damage to the infrastructure in a 1935 hurricane. Construction of the highway began in the late 1930s. Its foundation included some of the original railway spans as well as the coral bedrock of individual keys and specially constructed columns.

When it was completed in 1938, the highway marked the beginning of an incredible adventure for the North American motorist who travel 113 miles of roadway and cross 42 bridges to travel from Miami to the southernmost point in Key West. In 1982, 37 bridges were replaced with wider spans, including the well-known Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon.

In 2002 the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail was added, which includes the Grassy Key Bikeway. Spanning mile markers (MM) 54.5 to 58.5 bayside, the eight-foot-wide Grassy Key Bikeway is landscaped and furnished with a split-rail fence as well as bollards to prohibit automobile access.

The Heritage Trail is a paved recreational path along old Flagler railroad bridges and the Florida Department of Transportation right-of-way that features crossways between bayside and oceanside. Stretching from MM 106.5 to MM 0, the trail includes interpretive trailheads designating attractions and other public areas on and off U.S. Highway 1 – as well as benches, an art bicycle rack and a limestone column sign with an Overseas Heritage Trail map.

Today, motorists can travel the highway in less than four hours from Miami. However, drivers should allow time to experience the natural beauty of the ever-changing scenery of the seas and wilderness bordering the roadway, and the magnificent sunrises and sunsets.

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