Ah, Miami traffic. It’s late afternoon when we hit Homestead, Florida, meaning it’s not Robert Frost but Google Maps urging us to take the road less traveled if we want to make our weekend escape to the Florida Keys a reality. Eschewing the solid red line that is U.S. 1, we choose Card Sound Road (aka County Road 905A), which winds down the top of Key Largo and passes Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge. “This refuge was established for American crocodiles in 1980,” I read aloud from Wikipedia to my husband, Chris, who’s at the wheel of our Flare Yellow Lexus LC 500 Convertible, “but it’s also home to giant Burmese pythons.” His eyebrows knit together.
Card Sound Road runs into U.S. 1 at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, and soon we’re in the bastion of beach kitsch that is Key Largo proper, passing billboards for motels and Key lime pie, fishing tackle and conch fritters. Across Tavernier Creek, on Plantation Key, we pull into Rain Barrel Village, an artists’ enclave where I buy my mom a mermaid tea towel as a gift.
In Islamorada, we reward ourselves for surviving the traffic with pints of Spiny Hopster IPA at Florida Keys Brewing Co. before checking into Cheeca Lodge & Spa, which opened in 1946 and added 11 oceanfront casitas this year. We watch the sunset, punctuated by swooping egrets, from a hammock.
The following morning, we feast on buttery pancakes at Robbie’s of Islamorada, the soundtrack of our meal the shrieking of kids feeding tarpon from the dock. Then we’re back in the Lexus and on the way to Marathon, where we meet injured loggerheads at The Turtle Hospital and learn about the nonprofit organization’s cutting-edge research and re-release programs. Lunch is just down the road at Keys Fisheries, where we split a monstrous lobster Reuben before continuing on to the region’s signature landmark, Seven Mile Bridge. The original bridge was constructed from 1909 to 1912 for Henry Flagler’s Over-Sea Railroad and was converted for automobiles in 1938. A modern, 6.79-mile iteration arrived in 1982. We park and go for a stroll along the 2.2-mile foot and bike path that runs parallel to the road, taking in the views.
Finally, we enter Key West, top-down, and steer straight for Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. We sprint down the southernmost beach in the continental U.S. and splash into the ocean, then dry off with a wander around Mallory Square and Conch Harbor Marina. The day is so sleepy, it feels like we have the town to ourselves. We roll happy-hour dice at General Horseplay (Chris wins a free cocktail) and have dinner on Duval Street, at Fritas Cuban Burger. On the patio, a few of Key West’s legendary wild chickens scamper around our ankles while we enjoy Cuban sandwiches and bracingly cold beer—a cheap, cheerful, delicious end to the trip.
2024 Lexus LC 500 Convertible
If you’re driving down to the Keys, a convertible is, well, key, and the Lexus LC 500—whose soft top folds down in just 15 seconds to allow wind-through-your-hair cruising—is the perfect choice to navigate the Overseas Highway. The Japanese brand’s flagship sports coupe comes standard with a roaring 5.0-liter V8 engine and 21-inch forged alloy wheels; the 2024 model also features an upgraded infotainment system with a 12.3-inch touchscreen (all the better to dial up some Jimmy Buffett). If you want beachgoers to do a double take, opt for the Flare Yellow or new-for-2024 Ultrasonic Blue Mica 2.0 exterior, which both gleam in the Florida sun.
From $106,550, lexus.com