scenic drives in Florida: Seven Mile Bridge

7 Fun Scenic Drives in Florida

Florida is so much more than Disney World and a massive building to checkin for your Caribbean cruise. Allow me to introduce you to some amazing scenic drives in Florida.

Hint: when possible, stay off the major roads.

 

7 Fun Scenic Drives in Florida

Florida Keys

The Overseas Highway is one of the world’s great scenic drives and the only road to Key West. The 113 mile (182 km) drive between Key Largo and Key West crosses 42 bridges, including Seven Mile Bridge—guess how long that bridge is.

scenic drives in Florida: Seven Mile Bridge

Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys Overseas Highway

Although the drive would take 2.5 hours without stops, allow ample time to explore the quirky shops and restaurants, natural areas, beaches, and other attractions in the Florida Keys. To assure your Florida Keys road trip will be spectacular, it is tradition to make a pit stop at Alabama Jacks and/or Mrs. Macs in Key Largo.

Even after getting my Key Lime Shake from Mrs Macs, I do not feel like I have reached the Conch Republic until I see the decorated manatee mailbox. Send me a photo of it from your next trip.

manatee mailbox in Florida Keys, scenic drives in Florida by Charles McCool of McCool Travel

manatee mailbox in Florida Keys

McCool Travel Tip: Florida Keys beaches are not great but Sombrero Beach in Marathon is really nice.

 

scenic drives in Florida: Sombrero Beach in Florida Keys

Sombrero Beach in Marathon, Florida

For more Florida Keys and Key West information, please see:

8 Great Spots to Visit in the Florida Keys 

8 Great Key West Tips

Road Trip Sights: Manatee Mailboxes

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

 

scenic drives in Florida: Overseas Highway, Florida Keys

On Google Maps, I requested driving directions between Manatee Bay, FL and Key West, FL. Enter Alabama Jacks instead of Manatee Bay, when going to Card Sound Road.

Lake Wales Ridge

Beginning just south of Babson Park I turned left (east) onto Murray Road and was greeted with magnificent views of rolling hills. Between Lake Lenore and Lake Moody, I drove for several miles on red clay dirt roads amid hundreds of acres of grapefruit tree groves.

scenic drives in Florida: red dirt road in citrus groves

Red Clay Dirt Road in Lake Wales Ridge, Florida

Back on Murray Road, I drove east to Pfundstein Road and stumbled upon the Tiger Creek Preserve, where I learned that I was in the Lake Wales Ridge and could hike along the 1,300 mile Florida Trail. I also learned (these visitor centers love to educate) that the Lakes Wales Ridge is an ancient island or peninsula atop of Florida. When most of Florida was under water, this area was a sandy, scrubby habitat. That explains why many of the unpaved roads in this area were white sand. Fascinating that just a few miles away are red clay dirt roads.

Lake Wales Ridge, Florida

Lake Wales Ridge, Florida

Continue exploring the small roads (including more red clay dirt paths) in the area, like Lake Reedy Blvd, Lake Arbuckle Road, Old Frostproof Road, and Rucks Dairy Road before ending up at CR64.

Driving southwest on CR64 towards 17, I found James Brown’s Famous Flames BBQ in Avon Park. I had a huge pulled pork sandwich, which must have weighed a full pound. It may have been the best pulled pork sandwich I have ever had; the pork was so tender and delicious. Oh, and the peach cobbler was outstanding.

For more information about the Lake Wales Ridge area, please see:

Florida Hills – Yes, Hills!

scenic drives in Florida: Lake Wales Ridge

McCool Travel Tip: Pretty much any car will do OK on the red clay dirt roads. The white sand roads can be a little more treacherous and may require a 4 wheel drive in places.

 

A1A

Growing up in South Florida, the tagline jingle for one local station I constantly heard was Jimmy Buffett’s “Strolling along the avenue that’s known as A1A.

highway A1A, Scenic Drives of South Florida

A1A sign, Scenic Drives of South Florida

A1A is usually the closest street to the Atlantic Ocean along the entire 329 mile east coast of Florida, from Key West to the Georgia border. Driving north on A1A the ocean is on your right, except when blocked by buildings or when the road has to go inland. A 72 mile stretch of A1A is a National Scenic Byway.

At many spots, the ocean is steps from A1A and you can just park and get your feet wet and sandy.

scenic drives in Florida: A1A in Daytona Beach

Scenic Drives in Florida: A1A Highway

But there are also stretches of A1A where the trees are otherworldly.

A1A Highway, Scenic Drives in Florida

A1A Highway, Scenic Drives in Florida

For more Florida Keys and Key West information, please see:

8 Great Things to Do in Daytona Beach

8 Great Places to See Miami Like a Native

NOTE: The recent storm, Hurricane Matthew, damaged some of A1A in Flagler Beach.

 

Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is the oldest National Forest east of the Mississippi River and it is the southernmost forest in the United States. Black bears are prevalent so be smart about the food you carry.

I have shown the primary north-south route (SR 19) through Ocala National Forest but the east-west route (SR 40) is also magnificent. The Yearling Trail, north of the 19/40 intersection, traverses area settled by the Long family before 1900.

There are many other hiking trails and several off-road driving trails in the park. Silver Glen Springs is a highlight for many visitors.

Scenic Drives in Florida: Ocala National Forest

Scenic Drives in Florida: Ocala National Forest

McCool Travel Tip: Ocala has some beautiful areas to drive around. It is surrounded by horse farms and gorgeous scenery. One popular drive is Highway 475 from downtown Ocala.

 

Naples to Clewiston

The easy way to get from Naples to Ft. Lauderdale is I-75. I decided, of course, to find a much more scenic and FUN route.

Driving a series of surface streets and small roads with names like Oil Well Road and County Line Road, I was able to skirt along the northern edge of the southwestern Everglades.

scenic drives in Florida: small roads near Naples

scenic drives in Florida: small roads near Naples

scenic drives in Florida: small roads near Naples

scenic drives in Florida: small roads near Naples

Traversing those small roads was a lot of fun and highly recommended. I ended up in Clewiston, where I hopped on highway 27 south to Alligator Alley (highway 84).

Near Clewiston are parks with opportunities to view Lake Okeechobee—second largest freshwater lake in the continental US.

scenic drives in Florida: Lake Okeechobee

scenic drives in Florida: Lake Okeechobee

Yes, it looks like a canal. If you click on the image to view a large version, you should see more water on the horizon. The “canal” is actually part of the lake. I spoke with an on-site engineer who told me the water level is so low that islands have appeared. The islands are submerged when the water level is normal.

Florida Galactic Trail

Did you know that you can drive through Venus and Jupiter? There is also a Saturn Elementary School in Cocoa (space city). There is a city named Neptune Beach, near Jacksonville. And of course Pluto is prominent at Disney.

scenic drives in Florida: Venus, Jupiter, and Neptune Beach

scenic drives in Florida: Venus, Jupiter, and Neptune Beach

While driving up the coast, I recommend A1A (see above), of course, but I-95 is marked in the interest of speed. Consider stopping at Cape Canaveral to watch where rockets are launched and in Cocoa Beach where you can find other solar system related references like I Dream of Jeannie Lane.

scenic drives in Florida: I Dream of Jeannie Lane in Cocoa Beach Florida

I Dream of Jeannie Lane in Cocoa Beach, Florida

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.

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

Calle Ocho, Little Havana, Miami, Florida

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…

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

smallest Post Office in USA: Ochopee Florida

Bonus Scenic Drives in Florida

William Bartram Scenic and Historic highway. Gorgeous scenic road along the St. John’s River, just south of Jacksonville. I have seen bald eagles and snapping turtles while driving through thick areas of live oak with moss (great area for tree pictures).

Scenic Drives in Florida: Anna Maria Island beach

along the William Bartram Scenic Highway

Cross Creek. Cross Creek is the historic homesite of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, winner of the Nobel prize for literature for The Yearling. From Micanopy, drive 346 east and then 325 south. Along 346 you will see a River Styx sign which is worth a photograph. There are many lakes and preserves in the area.

30A. Highway 30A follows the Gulf of Mexico coastline for 28 miles westward from Rosemary Beach. The area continues to develop but there are some really nice stretches of powdery white sand to relax.

Cracker Trail follows the historic trail used to herd cattle across the state. Cracker refers to the crack of the whip made by the cowboys. From the east, the Cracker Trail mostly follows highway 98 to state road 66 to state road 64. When you get to Bradenton, make sure you visit Anna Maria Island beach, with the softest and whitest sand I have seen anywhere. Let me know if you agree.

Scenic Drives in Florida: Anna Maria Island beach

Scenic Drives in Florida: Anna Maria Island beach

 

Please also see:

8 Great Scenic Drives in South Florida

8 Great Fun Florida Road Trip Stops

Other Florida scenic roads sources:

Florida Scenic Highways

Scenic Byways in Florida

Take These 12 Country Roads In Florida For An Unforgettable Scenic Drive

 

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

Scenic drives in Florida include gorgeous ocean views, one of the world's best scenic drives, history, horse country, fascinating landscapes, and hills.


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7 Fun Scenic Drives in Florida was published October 11, 2016

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42 Responses to “7 Fun Scenic Drives in Florida”

  1. mappingmegan November 30, 2016 at 7:20 pm #

    The Overseas Highway is one of my favorite drives – we were fortunate enough to be based in Florida for a year and enjoyed many of these scenic drives – spotting manatee letterboxes was my favorite hobby 😀

    • McCool Travel December 14, 2016 at 8:07 am #

      Love the quirky letterboxes in Florida. I know you had a wonderful time living there. Thank you for the note, Megan!

  2. mags October 21, 2016 at 11:57 pm #

    I’ve lived in Florida for 11 years now and I didn’t know about some of these. I love the drive to Key West though!

    • McCool Travel October 23, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

      Hello Mags. I bet you know some other ones that I do not know about. That is what is cool about travel. Always new stuff to explore and discover.

  3. Debbra Dunning Brouillette October 21, 2016 at 9:29 pm #

    I was able to travel through the Keys from bottom to top in July, which was an amazing road trip. I’d welcome the opportunity to take more scenic drive in the state of Florida. There is no lack of things to do and see in the Sunshine State!

    • McCool Travel October 23, 2016 at 5:25 pm #

      You are sure right, Debbra. Exactly what I am trying to tell people. Florida has so much natural beauty and you are not seeing much of it on the interstates and toll roads.

  4. Melody & Taylor Pittman October 20, 2016 at 9:33 pm #

    These are great drives! After living in Florida for two years I have only made a dent in what all there is to see. I am especially fond of the A1A drive… I take A1A from Vero Beach to Melbourne all of the time. It is beautiful!

    • McCool Travel October 21, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

      Magnificent scenery. Nice fish tacos in Melbourne Beach, too. 😀

  5. Debra Schroeder October 20, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    The only problem with posts like these, Charles, is that now I HAVE to go to Florida and take a scenic drive. 🙂 LOL on the I Dream of Jeannie Lane sign.

    • McCool Travel October 21, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

      Hey, you will have to find some more for me. Great street, huh?

  6. Vyjay Rao October 20, 2016 at 2:43 am #

    These drives hold the promise of something invigorating and exciting. I love long drives especially when you have such wonderful landscapes. The Manatee mailbox is really very cute.

    • McCool Travel October 21, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

      Ha, thank you. I did an entire article on manatee mailboxes, back in the day. Fun stuff.

  7. MoreTimeToTravel (@MoreTime2Travel) October 19, 2016 at 10:02 pm #

    What varied typography and so much to see!

  8. Donna Janke October 18, 2016 at 8:59 am #

    I have yet to explore much of Florida. All of these road trips look great. I especially appreciate your tips. Saving this for the future.

  9. Doreen Pendgracs October 17, 2016 at 10:19 pm #

    Thx for this great post. I thought I knew Florida quite well, but you have certainly shown me some spots I’ve yet to check out.

  10. Carole Terwilliger Meyers October 17, 2016 at 8:08 pm #

    Great drives all, but nothing beats the Overseas Highway to Key West. I do hope to do that one again someday.

    • McCool Travel October 18, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

      That is a great one. Love driving into the Caribbean Sea but not getting wet.

  11. Noel Morata October 17, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

    I think I’ve done about three of these drives and now I really need to go back and do the rest!

    • McCool Travel October 18, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

      Sounds good to me. I need to go back to Florida and discover more!

  12. Carolina Esguerra October 16, 2016 at 10:32 pm #

    We’ve only done 3 of these in our 7 months in 3 years in Florida! Love that red dirt road!!!

    • McCool Travel October 17, 2016 at 7:29 am #

      Thank you for the note. I am sure you have found some other epic scenic drives in Florida.

  13. A Taste for Travel (@atastefortravel) October 16, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

    I didn’t know that the beaches in the Florida Keys were not that great so thanks for the tip about Sombrero Beach! It sounds like my kind of place

    • McCool Travel October 17, 2016 at 7:28 am #

      Sombrero Beach is gorgeous. Key West visitors are often surprised that the beaches are so rocky.

  14. Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren October 16, 2016 at 5:36 pm #

    I love taking road trips but have yet to drive through Florida! Great guide, thanks for sharing. Happy travels 🙂

    • McCool Travel October 17, 2016 at 7:27 am #

      Thank you for reading. Hope you will check out scenic Florida some time.

  15. suereddel October 16, 2016 at 3:46 pm #

    So many terrific places to drive in Florida. I love the A1A route down to Key West and going to Fort Desoto near St. Pete’s.

  16. Dean October 15, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

    I love a road trip and I will keep these in mind if I get back to Florida.
    It was hard to concentrate on the article after you mentioned key lime shake though! Maybe move that to the end of the post…

  17. Els Mahieu October 15, 2016 at 11:41 am #

    This is great! I’ve often considered Florida as a break from European winter, but didn’t know what to see apart from Miami and the Keys (not really interested in Disney) Looks like there is plenty to see! Thanks Charles! This winter break is already booked, but maybe next year?

    • McCool Travel October 15, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

      Indeed, so much to see. Most visitors stick to the main roads and I love exploring the fun, small roads. Very scenic and relaxing. Well, as long as you avoid the gators. 😀

  18. Becky October 15, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    These are actually helpful to me…Hertz has some great one-way rental car deals between VA & FL so I definitely want to include a great drive along the way. Did you have a #1 favorite? I think the Galatic trail is probably most in line with my final destination.

    • McCool Travel October 15, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

      So right about the one-way deal. Right now for under $10 a day, even from as far north as Buffalo, NY. Oh, my favorite? Too tough to choose. I love driving along the water (so A1A and Keys highway) but also love dirt roads. It was fun hacking a way between Naples and Clewiston on unnamed roads. My favorite will be the next one!

  19. Brianna October 14, 2016 at 10:24 am #

    The drive from Miami to Key West is one of the most stunning drives in the country!

  20. Nick Wright October 14, 2016 at 2:19 am #

    Love Anna Maria- so much so that we bought a timeshare .and try to get every year. Last year “did” the Keys and then drove up to Anna via Lake Ochinobe. Not sure yet when we are coming next (depends partly on £ v $ !)

    • McCool Travel October 15, 2016 at 10:23 am #

      Outstanding, Nick. Thank you for the note.

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