Florida is a diverse state, both culturally and geographically. Although the highest point in the state doesn’t reach far above sea level, the 1,350-mile-long peninsula undoubtedly offers some of the most beautiful and varied drives in the US. Here are our top 10 choices for scenic routes through the Sunshine State.
The Florida Keys
The famous Seven Mile Bridge is located in the Florida Keys along this route. The bridge was constructed between 1909 and 1912, and remains to this day among the longest and most famous in the world. Connecting the beautiful islands from Islamorada to Key West, this drive is nothing but relaxing, offering views of turquoise waters and island mangrove trees.
Just half an hour west of Stuart exists a beautiful road called Martin Highway, or county road 714, but to the locals it’s known simply as ‘The Grade’. This historic, 12-mile road is shaded by a canopy of hundred-year-old oaks and is surrounded by cow pastures, orange groves, swamps, and woods, just as it was when it was found by the earliest settlers. The Grade ends in Okeechobee County, where Lake Okeechobee, one of the largest freshwater bodies of water in the US can be explored.
A1A (Beach Front Avenue) runs alongside the Atlantic Ocean from the Georgia border all the way down to Key West, traversing the entire east coast of Florida one tiny beach town at a time. Start the trek at St. Augustine and travel through Daytona Beach, Melbourne and the beautiful small towns of Vero Beach, Jensen Beach, Hobe Sound and Jupiter, collecting seashells and sampling Key Lime Pie along the way.
The Scenic Highway
The stretch of highway from Sebring to Loughman along route 17 is known as “The Scenic Highway.” On this road, travelers are exposed to historic communities and rural agriculture, which central Florida is known for. Winding along the Lake Wales Ridge, SR 17 provides scenic vistas and access to lakes, natural areas, citrus fields and unique Florida attractions. Traveling along The Scenic Highway will help to promote and preserve the local culture, plus it will provide you with a taste of what Florida was like in the early 1900s.
The Green Swamp
The headwaters of the Peace River, Withlacoochee River, Ocklawaha River, and Hillsborough River are found in The Green Swamp, which lies west of Highway 27 and near State Road 471. Google Maps and cell phones do not work well in much of this area, so plan the trip accordingly ahead of time. Stop and take time to explore the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve where cypress tree stumps, fern, moss and a variety of bird and amphibian species can be found.
From Tallahassee to White Springs and through Suwannee River State Park, forgo the dull interstate drive and opt for the scenic east-to-west coast route of Highway 90. Along the way are the Suwannee River, High Springs, White Springs and Live Oak – all beautiful, charming rural towns. Take a dip in the nearby crystal clear waters where manatees can be spotted, and enjoy the polite hospitality of North Florida culture while traversing the state.
The Big Bend Byway
The Big Bend Byway is truly a unique drive – much of the route cuts through public lands with no fences. Wildlife, including deer, hogs, turkey, black bear, bobcat, otter, and alligator appear frequently. Because the road turns from asphalt to gravel in areas, and wildlife tends to suddenly cross the roadway; the speed limit in certain segments is very slow. The route goes through Tate’s Hell State Forest, Apalachicola National Forest, and the Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area.
Coral Way is a canopied road that stretches from downtown Miami through Coconut Grove to Coral Gables and beyond. Large oak trees along the road shade travelers from the brutal Florida sun. Stop by Coconut Grove for shopping options and Coral Gables for great dining. The Biltmore Hotel is also along this route. The National Historic Landmark was built in 1926 and it boasts a championship golf course, spa, and lavish swimming pool.
Sunshine Skyway Bridge
The Sunshine Skyway Bridge spans just over four miles and connects St. Petersburg to Tampa across the Tampa Bay via Interstate 275. The bridge is architecturally significant and provides a beautiful view of the bay and its surrounding waters. Yellow steel cables soar above the route, and at night are stunningly back lit, appearing as beacons.
South Beach may be the most recognized locale in Miami, Florida, with Ocean Drive being the highlight of it. Located on the Atlantic Ocean between First and 15th street, Ocean Drive has graced the screen of The Birdcage, There’s Something About Mary and Scarface, along with many other iconic contemporary movies. The fitness path along the beach is also filled with models, runners, skaters and beautiful people. The Art Deco buildings are also a stand-out attribute along this flashy, festive drive.
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