When we where invited on a press trip to Hawk’s Cay in the Florida Keys I was really excited not only about the fun we would have with the family swimming with dolphins and relaxing in the beautiful resort but also about the drive. The Overseas Highway, which spans the 113 miles and connects Florida’s mainland with the Florida Keys, is one of the most scenic roads in the USA and the only road in Florida that has been declared an All-American Road by the National Scenic Byways program administered by the Federal Highway Administration. Ending at mile 0 in Key West the Overseas Highway is much more than the road to Hemmignway’s Conch Republic, this incredible engineering feat features 42 bridges that connect the island including a 7 miles stretch where you feel like you are flying over the water: the Overseas Highway epitomizes is a destination in itself.
Having lived in Miami for over 10 years the Overseas Highway brings back memories of driving down for the weekend to Islamorada with my cousins where we would spend most of the day in a boat and most of the afternoon drinking in the sand bars. This time I was driving down with my family from Southwest Florida and was really looking forward to sharing this wonderful driving experience with them.
I really enjoy driving: there’s just something primal, exhilarating and liberating about feeling the strength of the motor as I put my weight on the pedal and seeing the world rush past me while I focus on the road ahead. When you drive a road like the Overseas Highway the driving experience can be just as memorable as your actual destination.
In my single days we would drive from Miami to Islamorada, spend the day and drive back at night. For this family trip, however, we wanted to take it slow and really enjoy the road trip and what the upper and middle keys have to offer so we made a couple of stops along the way staying in Key Largo, Islamorada and Duck Key. You can check out our article about things to do with kids in the Upper and Middle Keys here.
For our road trip I had the opportunity to test drive the 2016 Mazda 6 and the Overseas Highway was certainly a great road to drive it on. This is a car with personality, a car that you can really enjoy driving; the Mazda6’s standard manual transmission is fun to use, its optional automatic delivers quick gear changes and this 4 door sedan’s design is sporty and sleek. You can really see that this car has been designed and engineered taking into account that some parents want the safety and comfort of a sedan along with the fun and excitement of a sports car and the Mazda 6 achieves this without compromises and give you the best of both worlds.
Coming from Southwest Florida we decided to take the more scenic two-lane Tamiami Trail (US 41) instead of the faster 4-lane Alligator Alley (I-75). Crossing the Big Cypress National Preserve along the Tamiami Trail takes you closer to the scenery and got us into that road trip state of mind. The first town after leaving the mainland is Key Largo. Filled with strip-malls Key Largo is the largest of the islands and quite uninteresting but as soon as you leave it behind the scene quickly changes: the 4 lane road turns int 2 lanes and there’s lush vegetation bordering the road along with the ever changing scenery of the sea and plenty of places to stop and have a picnic along with quaint restaurants offering fresh fish and key lime pie. We cruised along the highway zipping over bridges spanning marvelous expanses of green-blue waters, the moonroof open and the warm, salty breeze blowing away our cares and welcoming us to “island time”.
Since the Overseas highway is, for the most part, a two lane highway with a 55mph speed limit (or lower) I used the adaptive cruise control a lot and was impressed with how responsive it was. I was able to just relax and enjoy the beauty along the route even when I was stuck behind a line of cars.
With a sportier look than most other four door sedans the Mazda 6 is a great family car for those looking for more than a family car. I was pleasantly surprised with how stylish and elegant the interiors, the dashboard and the center console’s design are and the materials and quality are impressive for a car of this class. The back seats are roomy and the kids had enough space to feel comfortable and have enough distance between each other so that there where no issues (we are happy to report we did not hear the “my brother is touching me” complaint once during this road trip).
When you are looking for a family car safety is very important and the Mazda 6 has a 5 star overall safety rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. With 5 air bags including side, head and rear head airbags along with 4-wheel ABS disc brakes, brake assist, electronic stability control, daytime running lights, child safety locks, integrated turn signal mirrors and traction control, this is a car you can trust with your most priced possessions. The Mazda 6 we where driving also included upgrades like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and forward collision warning with automatic braking.
A USB port and Bluetooth come standard. Base trims with the automatic transmission get an upgraded infotainment system with a 7-inch touch screen, a rearview camera and Pandora Internet radio compatibility: all of the tools that we needed to make this a truly unforgettable road trip.
We spent 4 days island hopping around the upper and middle keys and we really enjoyed our time on the road making lots of pits stops and easing into the relaxing atmosphere of the Florida Keys. This was a truly memorable family trip and that was in great part possible because we had the right car, a car that combined comfort and safety and made the trip fun!
As we pulled into the our driveway I realized how many great memories we had created inside this car in the last few days and was also surprised to find how little we had spent on gas! (The 2016 Mazda6 gets an EPA-estimated 26/38 mpg city/highway, which is very good for the class.)