Are you considering the Key West Shuttle? If you are vacationing or snowbirding in Southwest Florida then the shuttle to Key West is the only real option for the trip.
Whether you’re a Fort Myers local or you’re taking a vacation in Southwest Florida, spending an afternoon or a few days in Key West is something you won’t want to miss out on. This eclectic, laidback island feels a lot like paradise on earth, leaving you feeling like you left the US and arrived on a Caribbean island.
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If you’re considering making the trip, your best travel option is likely to take a Fort Myers ferry to Key West rather than driving.
What is the distance from Fort Myers to Key West? What are the different travel options for making the trip and how long do they take?
We’ll look at these questions and more to help you find the best route from Fort Myers to Key West.
What Is the Distance From Fort Myers to Key West?
If you’re planning a trip to Fort Myers, it’s only natural to consider adding a small trip to Key West to check out the southernmost city in the continental US.
While the two cities don’t look terribly far apart on a map, though, you might be disappointed to learn just how long of a drive it is.
Luckily, there are other options when it comes to traveling between these two cities.
For most travelers, the Key West Express from Fort Myers will be the most affordable, fastest, and most enjoyable way to make the trip.
Fort Myers to Key West by Car Distance
Key West is only about 145 miles from Fort Myers, FL, as the crow flys.
However, traveling by car between these two Florida destinations will require that you drive for more than 300 miles.
In order to get to Key West from Fort Myers, you will have to drive east across Florida on I-75, head south past Miami, only to head west again to drive down US-1 S.
This means that driving from Fort Myers to Key West takes about 5 hours and 15 minutes!
If you end up passing through the Miami area at the wrong time of day, you could find that traffic makes your trip even longer.
Fort Myers to Key West by Boat Distance
When you choose to travel the distance from Fort Myers to Key West by boat, it’s a lot faster than driving because you can get there in a straight shot south across the Gulf of Mexico.
The trip from Fort Myers to Key West by boat is a little more than 100 nautical miles.
Key West Express is the major ferry service that allows you to travel between these two Florida destinations by boat. Their jet-powered catamarans can make the trip in about 3.5 hours traveling at speeds of about 40 knots (46 mph).
Fort Myers to Key West by Airplane Distance
It’s also possible to fly from Fort Myers to Key West.
You likely won’t find that this saves you any time and it is also the most expensive option.
There aren’t direct flights between the Fort Myers airport, Southwest Florida International Airport, and Key West. This means that you’ll be left with at least one layover, making the whole trip take longer than it would take even to drive by car.
For luxury travelers, you could choose to charter a flight from Page Field in Fort Myers to Key West International Airport. This makes for a quick flight of only about an hour, but the prices are steep to reflect the exclusive nature of the service.
Key West Express Fort Myers: The Essential Details
Taking the Key West Express from Fort Myers to Key West is a lot faster, easier, and more fun than making the long drive. The process of taking the ferry is simple, so if you’re new to boat travel, don’t fret.
In order to board, each passenger is required to have a photo ID. It’s also recommended that you make reservations ahead of time.
What is the Cost for the Key West Express?
Advanced 8 Day Purchase price
Monday-Thursday Adults and Seniors are $142 per person
Friday-Sunday the price for Adults and Seniors $152
No 8 Day Advance Purchase Full Fair
Seniors (62+) $162
Juniors (5-12) $122
Children (4 and Under) $73
If you are heading from Fort Myers to Key West, the ferry sets sail just north of Fort Myers Beach on San Carlos Island’s Matanzas Harbor. The service runs seasonally every day, departing at 8:00 am in order to arrive in Key West by noon.
Where is Boarding for the Key West Express?
Fort Myers Boarding is at:1200 Main Street
Fort Myers Beach, FL 33931
Key West Boarding is at:100 Grinnell St.
Key West, FL 33040
Boarding begins at 7:00 am and you must be onboard before 7:45 am.
When it’s time to head back to Fort Myers from Key West, the ferry departs at 6:00 pm. Boarding begins at 4:30 pm and you must be onboard before 5:30 pm.
You should plan on the trip taking approximately 3.5 between ports.
However, you should be aware that sea and weather conditions can impact travel time.
The ferry leaves Fort Myers in the morning and heads back in the early evening.
This means that you can easily spend an afternoon in Key West when you are visiting Fort Myers.
What to Expect on Your Ferry to Key West
There’s nothing quite like being on the open water. Taking the Key West Express between Fort Myers and Key West will offer you a unique experience complete with incredible views. When you take the ferry back to Fort Myers from Key West, you’ll also get to enjoy one of Florida’s famous sunsets.
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Traveling by ferry is a lot more comfortable than driving or flying. You can enjoy the fresh sea air, walk around the deck, stretch your legs, and even partake in the full bar and snack gallery onboard.
Can I bring my bike on the Key West Express?
Yes! You can even bring your bike on the ferry if you’re hoping to explore Key West on two wheels.
There are also opportunities to rent bikes in Key West as well.
Fort Myers Ferry to Key West: Taking the Key West Express Is Fast, Easy, and Fun
Rather than making the long drive all the way east to Miami and down US-1, consider taking a boat trip from Fort Myers to Key West.
Not only is this the fastest and most direct way to travel between the two locations, but it’s also the most enjoyable. Rather than sitting in a cramped, stuffy car for more than five hours, you can take in the fresh sea air and marvel at the gorgeous views on a lovely 3.5 hour trip to the eclectic island of Key West.
If you’re traveling to Southwest Florida, be sure to check out the rest of our vast library of resources about Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Key West Ferry Details
Key West Express operates a couple different high-speed catamarans out of Fort Myers Beach and one from Marco Island. We took the Big Cat out of Fort Myers Beach. With an early morning departure, you’ll arrive in Key West in time for lunch. You can return the same day, or stay a few days to really soak up the Key West ambiance. The Ferry usually heads back around 6:00pm, arriving at the Fort Myers Beach marina at around 9:30pm.
The current fare for a round-trip is $172 per person, with reduced fares offered for children and seniors. If you book at least 8 days in advance, you will receive a substantial discount ($142 currently Mon-Thru and $152 Fri-Sun), but the fare will be non-refundable (if you, or Key West Express, needs to cancel the trip, you’ll receive a credit for a future trip). Call or check the website for discount details.
Soft drinks, muffins, breakfast sandwiches, soft pretzels, hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza and other snacks are from the galley on a cash-basis only. Beer, wine and mixed drinks are also available at the bar and again this is cash only. If you prefer, you may bring your own breakfast/dinner on board with you.
On-Board the Key West Ferry
The ride on the Big Cat catamaran is very smooth and the interior is very comfortable. Inside seating is set up primarily with seats on either side of a table. This is especially nice if you’re traveling with a group and want to play cards or just socialize. The upper deck, with outside seating, has rows of seats (no tables). You probably won’t spend much time up on top, as it’s very windy and can be chilly once the catamaran gets moving.
During the 3-1/2 hour excursion, you’ll see passengers sleeping, playing cards, reading, watching one of the several plasma TV’s, eating and drinking
The Key West Express staff is very friendly and helpful. Before arriving at Key West, the staff will stroll through the cabin to pre-sell tickets on the Conch Tour Train. The Conch Tour Train is very popular, but I prefer the Old Town Trolley, which costs about the same and includes “on/off” privileges. It’s very helpful for first time visitors to learn the layout of Key West and identify places of interests for a future visit. And if you’re only visiting for the day, you’ll get a decent overview of the Key West lifestyle in a short period of time.
At Key West
If you visit Key West for just one day, you will have time to take a trolley tour, have lunch, do a little shopping on Duval Street, and possibly visit an attraction or two. Unfortunately, you will miss the sunset celebration that occurs daily at Mallory Square.
If you visit Key West for a few days, you will be able to better appreciate the Key West lifestyle, see a variety of attractions, sample several different restaurants and night spots, and perhaps go snorkeling, fishing or take a sightseeing boat tour.
A Couple of Tips
Arrive at the marina early for boarding. The best seats, along the windows, will be taken first. Whatever you do, don’t place your claim on a spot upstairs on the open deck. Once the boat gets moving, you won’t want to stay there. We recommend that you find your permanent seats inside — you can always go outside as you please. The same holds true for your return trip. As you check in at the Key West Ferry Terminal, you will be assigned a boarding letter (A, B, C, etc.). You will board in the order called.
You may want to take a sweater or jacket, especially if you tend to chill easily. The inside seating areas are air-conditioned and it can get a bit chilly.
Toll Free: 239-463-5733
Location 1: Key West Marina
1200 Main Street
Ft. Myers Beach, Florida 33931