Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Virginia Key, Scenic Drives of South Florida

8 Great Scenic Drives in South Florida

Most people do not associate scenic drives with visits to Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and South Florida. Since learning to drive 30 years ago there, I have found many scenic drives in South Florida and will share a few local road trips with you in this article.

Hint: when possible, stay off the major roads.
Since learning to drive 30 years ago in South Florida, I have found some wonderful scenic drives. Here are 8 great scenic drives in South Florida.

 

8 Great Scenic Drives in South Florida

1. Florida Keys

The Overseas Highway is one of the world’s great scenic drives and the only road to Key West. The drive between Key Largo and Key West crosses 42 bridges, including the Seven Mile Bridge. Take time to explore the quirky shops and restaurants, natural areas, beaches, and other attractions in the Florida Keys.

McCool Travel Tip: I like to drive on Card Sound Road in one direction.

 

Florida Keys sign, Scenic Drives in South Florida by McCool Travel

Florida Keys Scenic Highway sign

 

Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys, Scenic Drives in South Florida by McCool Travel

Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys

 

2. Ocean Drive

One highlight of famed South Beach is seeing and being seen along Ocean Drive. Located between 1st and 15th Streets along the Atlantic Ocean in Miami Beach, Ocean Drive is the Miami you see on TV (like Miami Vice) and in movies (such as The Birdcage and Scarface). The fitness path and beach on the ocean side is packed with models, sun bathers, skaters, walkers, and runners while the commerce side has art deco buildings, neon lights, shops, bars, and restaurants. On busy nights, it is faster to walk along Ocean Drive, as it becomes a virtual parking lot.

Miami Beach lifeguard stand, Scenic Drives of South Florida

Miami Beach lifeguard stand

 

McCool Travel Tip: Visit Star Island off the MacArthur Causeway entrance to Miami Beach from downtown Miami. Ask the guard if you can do a quick drive around the island; I have never been denied. If you want to buy one of the homes, prices start at $20 million.h

 

Star Island, Miami Beach, Florida, Scenic Drives in South Florida by McCool Travel

Star Island, Miami, Florida

 

Quirky South Florida, Star Island mailbox, Scenic Drives in South Florida by McCool Travel

Quirky South Florida: Artsy mailbox on Star Island

 

3. A1A

Growing up in South Florida, the tagline jingle for one of the radio stations was Jimmy Buffett’s “Strolling along the avenue that’s known as A1A.” A1A is basically the street that is closest to the water. It runs from Key West to the Georgia border, along the east coast of Florida. A portion of it is a National Scenic Byway. In many places, US1 and A1A are the same road. When they are separate roads, I almost always choose A1A. Some highlights north from Ocean Drive include Bal Harbour (where extremely wealthy South Americans shop on weekend visits), Haulover Beach (official public nude beach and fishing excursions), Aventura, and North Miami Beach. Further north is Broward county (Lloyd State Park and Hallandale beaches are two favorites!), Hollywood, Ft. Lauderdale, and the rest of Florida.

highway A1A, Scenic Drives of South Florida

A1A sign, Scenic Drives of South Florida

Miami Beach from the air, Scenic Drives in South Florida by McCool Travel

drive close to the water, instead of on I-95

 

4. Tamiami Trail

OK, there is more to South Florida than the ocean. Tamiami Trail, a road between Tampa and Miami, begins in downtown Miami on Brickell Key and soon turns into SW 8th Street (aka Calle Ocho); it is the heart of Little Havana and a definite must-see. Driving west on Tamiami Trail, after about 18 miles, you will pass Krome Avenue and enter the Big Cypress National Preserve (part of the Florida Everglades). Many attractions are operated by the Miccosukee Indian tribe. Shark Valley Loop Road (and the Shark Valley Visitor Center) is part of the Everglades National Park and a great place to see gators in the later winter and spring. A little further west is a primitive road from the 1920s called Loop Road. Road conditions may be treacherous but I always see amazing wildlife (including giant gators) along it. Ochopee, a few more miles west, is known for having the world’s smallest post office. Side note, my grandparents lived near here (in the Big Cypress) for 20 years. Yes, many stories…

Calle Ocho, Little Havana, Scenic Drives in South Florida by McCool Travel

Calle Ocho, Little Havana, Miami, Florida

 

Ochopee Florida post office, Scenic Drives in South Florida by McCool Travel

smallest Post Office in USA: Ochopee Florida

 

5. Rickenbacker Causeway

Ten times a week for four summers I traveled across Rickenbacker Causeway to my college internship at the Fisheries Center on Virginia Key. About the only nice thing I can say about I-95 is that it ends at the entrance to Rickebacker. Rickenbacker Causeway leads to Key Biscayne, Virginia Key (with Seaquarium), Cape Florida Lighthouse, and Crandon Park. I love the views of Brickell Avenue and downtown Miami, especially at night. Stiltsville can also be seen from Key Biscayne and Cape Florida. A special treat is eating a take out meal from La Carreta (in Key Biscayne) on the sand facing the twinkling lights of Brickell—or on the other side facing the vastness of Biscayne Bay. South Florida is not known for having hills. The highest natural point is only 40 feet above sea level. One of the highest points in South Florida (outside of buildings) is from the top of the bridge. At a whopping 78 feet, it is popular with cyclists.

Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Virginia Key, Scenic Drives of South Florida

Rickenbacker Causeway, Scenic Drives of South Florida

 

6. Old Cutler Road

Driving south from Rickenbacker Causeway, turn left (first left!) on S. Bayshore Drive, not US1. S. Bayshore Drive goes past Vizcaya, through Coconut Grove (both are worth a stop—or a whole week’s visit), and then turns into Old Cutler Road. This drive is a treat. You might get sick of seeing countless massive banyan trees, stone houses, and overall quaintness—but probably not. You will pass the exclusive Ransom Everglades School, Fairchild Tropical Gardens, Matheson Hammock Park, and Charles Deering Estate but this is one of the best driving roads in Miami for me. There is even a surprise (sorry!) massive traffic circle that is almost reminiscent of a European city.

South Florida banyan tree, Old Cutler Ridge Road, Scenic Drives in South Florida by McCool Travel

South Florida banyan tree on Old Cutler Ridge Road

 

7. Southern Everglades, Flamingo Visitor Center

The beauty of the everglades is that different areas have different personalities. A drive across Alligator Alley (between Ft. Lauderdale and Naples) is different than Shark Valley (see #4 above). The southern Everglades drive between Florida City and Flamingo is other-worldly; like a tropical lunar landscape. You will see pine trees, which is seemingly odd for the Everglades. This is the extreme southwest part of Florida and you will see unusual fauna like roseate spoonbills and maybe even crocs and gators together. Most of the drive is simply beautiful and peaceful, as most visitors do not venture to this southern end. Be smart and do it! Also, make sure to bring bug repellent and sunscreen.

see wild alligators in Everglades on Scenic Drives in South Florida

see wild gators on Scenic Drives in South Florida

 

8. Neighborhoods

OK, it is difficult to pick only one more scenic drive in South Florida. I could go with Krome Avenue which travels between the Everglades and the ever encroaching civilization, passing incredible produce stands. Or a boat tour, like of the Ft. Lauderdale canals, Intracoastal waterway, or cruise to nowhere.

Krome Avenue, Miami, Scenic Drives in South Florida by McCool Travel

Krome Avenue, a scenic drive along the Everglades

 

Instead, I must point out that South Florida has so many wonderful neighborhoods. Miami Beach has art deco and “old school” architecture, downtown Miami is now all glittery, the islands (Star, Hibiscus, Palm, Fisher) are where the wealthy live. Coconut Grove and Coral Gables are a couple of the oldest and most scenic areas. In Little Havana and Hialeah, you will see and hear more Spanish than English. There are many ethnic neighborhoods, including Little Haiti, Little Tel Aviv, and Little Moscow. There is a scattering of Romanian restaurants and churches in the Ft. Lauderdale area. It is fun to see older houses with fireplaces, like in Hollywood and Wilton Manors. Opa Locka has many Arabian themed buildings—but do not visit after dark! I love exploring the relative spaciousness of Miami Lakes and Weston.

 

Arabian architecture of Opa Locka, Florida, Scenic Drives of South Florida

Opa Locka, Florida, Scenic Drives of South Florida

 

Wynwood Arts District in Miami, Florida, Scenic Drives of South Florida

Wynwood Arts District in Miami, Florida

 

girl riding horse on street in Davie, Florida

cozy street in Davie, Florida, just 1 mile from I-75

 

Even better, I certainly have not been to all of them and things change over time. I, for one, miss the voodoo store in my childhood neighborhood—but, thankfully, the Cuban bakeries and bodegas remain.

 

Have you been on any scenic drives in South Florida? Do you have a favorite?


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There are 8 great scenic drives in South Florida. Since learning to drive 30 years ago in South Florida, I have found some wonderful scenic drives.

 

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52 Responses to “8 Great Scenic Drives in South Florida”

  1. Catherine Sweeney September 21, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    Great round up of scenic drives. My cousins lived in the Keys for many years and I can’t believe I never got around to visiting them there. I missed quite a ride!

    • McCool Travel September 21, 2016 at 9:07 pm #

      Hey Catherine. You should have visited. 😀

  2. Karen Warren September 21, 2016 at 1:20 am #

    I’ve never been to Florida but I’ve always imagined it as a massive concrete jungle. So it’s good to see that there’s lots of countryside as well – I love the look of the Tamiami Trail. And I’d never have guessed that there were places like Opa Locka.

    • McCool Travel September 21, 2016 at 8:22 am #

      Florida has a lot of variety. There are certainly concrete jungle areas and also real jungle areas (like the Everglades).

  3. The GypsyNesters September 20, 2016 at 11:57 am #

    Wow, guess we’ve spent more time in Florida than I thought. We have been on all of these. Got to say The Overseas Highway is an absolute classic. I’d say a must for everyone.

    • McCool Travel September 20, 2016 at 6:02 pm #

      You have been on Star Island? I am impressed. You probably partied with Madonna and Gloria Estefan, right? 😀

  4. suereddel September 19, 2016 at 10:36 pm #

    There are so many beautiful things to see in Florida. I’d love to do the trip to the Keys again. So many spots to stop for grouper and key lime pie!

    • McCool Travel September 19, 2016 at 10:46 pm #

      Mmmmm, grouper and key lime pie. You are talking my language, Sue.

  5. Carole Terwilliger Meyers September 19, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

    I adore the road to Key West. Can’t wait to do that one again. Last time I did it with the Beach Boys blaring.

  6. Noel Morata September 19, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

    I done a few of those roads and would love to do more in the future, great tips

    • McCool Travel September 19, 2016 at 5:00 pm #

      Thank you, Noel. I will meet you in South Florida!

  7. Carolina Colborn September 19, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    We spent three winters in Florida, Nov 2009 to March 2012. We’ve been to most of those scenic drives but didn’t quite get the details” hand mailbox or that banyan tree! Guess we have to go back!

    • McCool Travel September 19, 2016 at 2:14 pm #

      Most definitely. I found a few new mailboxes on my last South Florida trip.

  8. josiehousesit September 19, 2016 at 3:34 am #

    Hi Charles,
    My travels in and around Florida span many decades, starting in the 60s when my grandparents retired to New Port Richey. (It was a sleepy little place back then!) I’ve taken road trips with girlfriends, returned to take kids to Disney, and made an opinion on my preference — Gulf coast. One memorable trip was for business when I attended a conference in Miami and booked a hotel that turned out to be a lovely Art Deco place on South Beach.
    Thanks for sharing your lifetime of experience there — I want to do the A1A. Great pics!
    Regards,
    ~Josie

    • McCool Travel September 19, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

      Thank you for the note, Josie. I shall explore the Gulf coast more. Been there many times but just have not really heavily explored it.

  9. Jill Browne September 18, 2016 at 10:53 pm #

    Love those scenic shots but gators and crocs scare the heck out of me! Florida does seem to have a lot to see 😉

    • McCool Travel September 19, 2016 at 2:16 pm #

      Well, I can understand that. Truth, though, the people can be scarier. 😀

  10. uoprincess July 15, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    Love how you associate popular culture with the stops and that hand mailbox is the bomb!

    • McCool Travel July 16, 2016 at 10:12 am #

      It is a great mailbox. I took some travel writer friends by it last month. It is still there.

  11. Ami Bhat July 15, 2016 at 1:43 am #

    Wow, seems like you can take one weekend out and yet there is so much to drive around to. Nice

    • McCool Travel July 16, 2016 at 10:11 am #

      Yes, there is so much to see. I think I should do another South Florida road trip.

  12. Rob Taylor July 14, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    Some of these have been in my grand Florida plans for some time, as my favorite author (Tim Dorsey) has written some awesome stories that trek across these.

    • McCool Travel July 14, 2016 at 11:21 pm #

      Sounds great, Rob. Oh, I should definitely read some Tim Dorsey stuff.

  13. Sara Broers (@TravelWithSara) April 8, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

    Anytime I can drive along the water, I’m there! Nice round up of drives in southern Florida.

    • McCool Travel April 10, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

      Nothing like the salt water infused air in South Florida. Making me want to do another road trip.

  14. Patti Morrow January 17, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

    I’ve done a lot of these drives. I love road trips to Florida and make point to do them every year.

  15. MoreTimeToTravel (@MoreTime2Travel) January 17, 2016 at 11:48 am #

    Thanks for this lovely post. When I think about southern Florida, all I think about is I-95. I think I’ve been taking the wrong route.

    • McCool Travel January 18, 2016 at 6:49 pm #

      The non-highway roads are definitely more interesting.

  16. The Vicki Winters Show- January 15, 2016 at 8:57 pm #

    Nothing for nothing but I grew up in North Miami Beach, and went to U of M, and I don’t find it all that scenic (just my 3 cents). I do appreciate the work and effort that went into this post for sure. I’ll give you Rickenbacker and A1A, and maybe that little patch of Fort Lauderdale beach…..

    • McCool Travel January 15, 2016 at 10:34 pm #

      Objection registered. I will take A1A and Rickenbacker (and the other drives on my list) because I love them. Happy travels and Travel Happy!

  17. Donna Janke January 14, 2016 at 9:07 am #

    Great roundup of drives and stops along the way in South Florida. I haven’t spent any time in South Florida but this makes ma want to go right now and rent a car. Am saving this for future use.

  18. Janice Chung January 13, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    One day I’ll get back down to Florida and drive around. i’ll be passing your blog onto a friend who spent Xmas and New Year’s there and is going back every weekend until February. Great ideas!

  19. alison abbott January 12, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time on some of these drives-especially AIA between West Palm and Vero Beach. It’s so scenic, I love it. Driving it for over 4 decades!! it’s amazing to see the changes that have taken place, but still a lot of preserved land and beauty. I also like the drive to the Keys and can’t say I agree with the first comment, I thought there was lots of green space along the way. Opa Locka city hall is quite a building-looks like a shot from Morocco!

    • McCool Travel January 12, 2016 at 10:23 pm #

      Excellent. South Florida has some great areas to explore.

  20. mlblogsbillw March 2, 2015 at 11:40 am #

    We drove the Keys last fall and 95% of it is not scenic. Very disappointing.

  21. Tequesta Wiggins December 30, 2014 at 12:08 am #

    A wonderful article, Charles! I can see it all in your writing and you’ve made me homesick!

    • McCool Travel February 16, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

      Thanks, Tequesta. Always nice to return to SoFla.

  22. McCool Travel March 13, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    No comments?

    • Kelly September 15, 2015 at 5:32 pm #

      Spent a week in the Art Deco district of Miami Beach. Now my son Sean yes The Sean, is now living just 3 miles south of Aventura the Johnson and Wales University. I’ll have to check out some of these with cool tips next time I’m in the area

      • McCool Travel September 23, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

        Thank you for the note, Kelly. You will explore some great SoFla areas when visiting, I am sure.

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