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If you are trying to get from Tampa to Key West, you may be wondering if you can do it by ferry, and the answer depends on a few factors.
Key West has always been a popular destination spot for travelers from all over the world. And, for plenty of Floridians. But getting there can be a bit complicated, depending on how you want to travel, how quickly you want to get there, and how much money you want to spend.
You can’t take a ferry from Tampa, Florida to Key West, Florida but you can get there in other ways by boat, such as taking a ferry from Fort Myers, taking your own private boat, or taking a cruise ship that lists Key West as one of its ports of call.
For those of us who want to find our way down the coast of Florida, there are several options available and all will have different pros and cons. Sorting through the logistics can feel overwhelming, so having all of your options listed in one place, with the timelines, prices and locations will help you be able to decide which method of traveling from Tampa to Key West is going to be best for you.
I recently found myself trying to navigate my way between Tampa and Key West – believe me – it wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it was going to be. Florida is a large state, and trying to come up with the most economical and efficient way to get from these two popular places was a challenge, but one that I eventually mastered. I found I had several options when I wanted to travel from Tampa to Key West, and I’ve put them all together so I can share them with others who want to make this same trip.
Is There a Ferry From Tampa to Key West?
The state of Florida is one of the most popular destination vacation spots in the world, and for good reason. From white sand beaches, to world-class restaurants and theme park attractions, there is literally something for everyone in this state.
One of the most popular places for people to visit is the southernmost tip of Florida, the area lovingly known as Key West. It has been a favorite of travelers for years, and there are a variety of ways one can make it to this place of paradise.
If you are traveling to Key West from Tampa, there is no direct ferry service, though you will not be at a loss for other optional ways to travel between these two popular Florida spots.
Let’s look at your various options of travel, some that are still by boat and some that can offer you options to travel by land or by air.
1. You Can Take a Ferry From Fort Myers
Though there is no direct ferry that goes from Tampa to Key West, there is a ferry option if you are willing to get yourself there.
The port city of Fort Myers, Florida has its own ferry line. These ferries run from Fort Myers to various port cities up and down the coast of Florida daily and at different times, depending on the season and the demand.
Fort Myers is about 150 miles south of Tampa, and you can get there by car or bus line. There is ample parking at the ferry port, but be prepared to pay a per day price that you should factor into your budget.
The bus terminal is right across from the ferry port and may be a better option, unless you need to have your car when you return.
The ferry from Fort Myers to Key West takes about five hours and is a wonderful way to travel by water down the Florida coastline.
The Key West Express operates all year long and is an ideal way to enjoy the trip to Key West from Fort Myers. There is plenty of deck space to enjoy the views, a well-stocked refreshment bar, and air-conditioned indoor seating for those who wish to travel in a climate-controlled environment.
Though the price will vary depending on the time of the week and the season, expect to pay around $95 for a one-way ticket to Key West from Fort Myers.
2. You Can Take Your Own Private Boat
Another option you have if you want to travel by boat from Tampa to Key West is to take your own craft and navigate the seas on your own.
Depending on what type of boat you have and what time of year you wish to travel, the time from Tampa to Key West will vary. Most boaters assume the trip will take somewhere between 15 to 23 hours but again, this will vary greatly.
For example, a sailboat will take substantially longer than a speed boat, especially depending on the winds and tides. A large fishing vessel with double engines may take as little as 15 hours, but will run into trouble if the weather becomes a factor.
If you decide to travel to Key West from Tampa in your own boat, be aware of impending weather issues that could slow or even drastically affect your travel plans. A bright blue sky day in Tampa may look very different as you sail down the coast closer to the Caribbean.
You will also want to make sure you have an excellent GPS system and navigation tools in place before you embark on a journey like this one. Even expert boat captains have been known to lose their bearings and end up in places they didn’t mean to be.
Charting your own course down the coast of Florida from Tampa to Key West can be quite the experience as long as you have a realistic timeline, have the proper resources in place, and know how to navigate waters you may not be familiar with.
3. You Can Take a Cruise Ship That Lists Key West as One of Its Port of Call
If you were hoping to be able to take a ferry from Tampa to Key West but found out you can’t, there is another option that might be even more fun!
There are a number of cruise lines that leave from the port of Tampa and travel all over the waters around it. Some of the cruise lines head toward the water of the Gulf of Mexico, while others travel down Florida’s coast toward the Caribbean islands.
For those cruise lines that are heading to the Caribbean, Key West is a popular stopping point, often being the first port of call.
Many cruise ship guests love the option of stopping in Key West before heading out to farther islands. Because Key West isn’t always easy to get to by other modes of transportation, seeing “The Keys” is often done while on a cruise ship vacation.
Cruise ship vacations can last anywhere from a couple of days to more than a week. Depending on your budget and time constraints, you may decide you only want to visit Key West and perhaps one other spot, or you will continue your journey to farther ports such as the Bahamas or Aruba.
The typical cruise ship itinerary that includes Key West will likely stop there as its first port of call from Tampa. You can expect to arrive in Key West within a day of setting sail.