The 18 mile section of Highway US1 that connects Florida City to Key Largo is referred to by locals as “The Stretch”. It is the beginning of the famous Overseas Highway that runs through the Florida Keys and ends in Key West.
Florida City is the last town on the mainland of Florida and the beginning of this iconic piece of freeway. The Overseas Highway is the only “All American Road” in the State of Florida and only 1 of 30 with this designation in the entire country. To receive an All-American Road designation, a road must possess multiple intrinsic qualities that are nationally significant and have one-of-a-kind features that do not exist elsewhere. The road or highway must also be considered a destination unto itself. That is, the road must provide an exceptional traveling experience so recognized by travelers that they would make a drive along the highway a primary reason for their trip.
The track begins as you exit Florida City. Here you will have two choices, either make a left hand turn at the Last Chance Saloon and proceed onto Card Sound Rd. or stay true to enter The Stretch. Cardsound Rd. has only two destinations available in this direction: Alabama Jack’s, a famous watering hole on a backcountry canal, and the very upscale, private Ocean Reef Club of Key Largo. The 18 mile roadway known as The Stretch is desolate of any business or activity but is dense with scenic beauty.
The Stretch was completed back in back in 2011 with a cost of 330 Million. The goal was to make the track as safe as possible and as scenic as possible. One of the most recognizable features of The Stretch is its concrete median barrier that spans the entire length of the roadway. It is painted Belize Blue which offers a colorful divider, but also reduces the number of accidents. The color was recommended by famous wildlife artist Wyland.
Other cool and environmental friendly features of the highway are underpasses that allow animals like crocodiles and panthers to cross safely underneath. Berms and fencing were also installed to prevent debris from entering the Florida Bay. A good portion of this fencing was recently damaged by Hurricane Irma. Other environmental measures were taken to allow the natural water flow to enter the Florida Bay without interruption.
Jewfish Creek Bridge
At The end of The Stretch and the entrance to Key Largo stands the Jewfish Creek Bridge, which due to its elevation creates one of the most scenic points on The Stretch and boasts an awesome aerial view of Key Largo. The Jewfish Creek Bridge is also the location of the yearly Key Largo Bridge Run Half Marathon which takes place on November 12, 2017. The event offer runners stunning views of the Florida Bay and the Barnes Ground.
The Stretch also referred to as the “Gateway to the Florida Keys” had created a wonderful driving experience for mobile visitors to the Florida Keys. The views are breathtaking and the closeness to nature makes this piece of highway a memorable experience in itself while you venture south toward Islamorada.