Our fabulous and fun scenic drives in South Florida explore smaller roads with inspiring views and that connect popular destinations like Key West, Miami, and Naples. These best South Florida road trips include Florida Keys Overseas Highway, Tamiami Trail, A1A, Ocean Drive Miami Beach, and some surprises.
As a third-generation Floridian and since learning to drive in Carol City—now called Miami Gardens—many years ago (do not ask how many!), I have explored and discovered countless Florida scenic roads and in this McCool Travel article share local favorite road trips from Miami and all over South Florida.
Most South Florida visitors miss transformational opportunities to experience natural Florida beauty, scenic views—plus less traffic congestion.
McCool Travel tip: when possible, stay off the major roads in South Florida. Major roads in and near Miami are not scenic and do not represent the fun things to see in South Florida. Oh, and wear some fab sunglasses to protect your eyes and to look cool.
The 8 Best Scenic Drives in South Florida Near Miami
1. Florida Keys Highway – Drive From Miami to Key West
The Florida Keys Overseas Highway is one of the world’s best 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. See also our Great Key West Tips.
McCool Travel tip: I like to drive on Card Sound Road in one direction on the Miami to Key West road trip. Stop at Alabama Jack’s—for a taste of Old Florida, Conch Republic style—or Mrs. Mac’s for fresh fish and a key lime shake. >>> For more Florida Keys road trip trips, see 8 Great Spots to Visit in the Florida Keys
2. Classic Scenic Drive Miami: Ocean Drive, South Beach (Miami Beach)
One highlight of world-famous South Beach Miami 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 scenic drive 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.
McCool Travel tip: Visit Star Island off MacArthur Causeway—one of the best driving roads in Miami—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 $25 million.
>>> See the McCool Travel article 7 Fun Scenic Drives in Florida
3. Florida Scenic Highway 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.” Florida scenic highway A1A is usually the street closest to the water. A1A runs from Key West to the Georgia border, along the east coast of Florida, and is a wonderful US coastal scenic drive. A portion of A1A is a National Scenic Byway. In many places in Florida, 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 then the rest of Florida.
>>> See the McCool Travel article Along the South Florida Waterfront
4. Road Trip From Miami to Tampa: Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway
OK, there is more to South Florida than the ocean. Tamiami Trail—a scenic drive between Miami and Tampa—is a great scenic drive starting in downtown Miami on Brickell Key and soon becoming SW 8th Street (aka Calle Ocho); Calle Ocho 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 in this area are operated by the Miccosukee Indian tribe.
Shark Valley Loop Road (at 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. The world’s smallest post office is a few more miles west in Ochopee. Side note, my grandparents lived near here (in the Big Cypress) for 20 years. Yes, many stories…
>>> This book about Tamiami Trail stories looks interesting!
>>> See the McCool Travel article 5 Fun Ways to See Tampa Florida
5. Miami Scenic Drive: Rickenbacker Causeway
About the only nice thing I can say about I-95 is that it ends at the entrance to Rickenbacker Causeway. Ten times a week for four summers I traveled across Rickenbacker to my college internship at the Fisheries Center on Virginia Key. Rickenbacker Causeway leads to Key Biscayne, Virginia Key (with Seaquarium), Cape Florida Lighthouse (at Bill Baggs State Park), 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 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 and 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.
6. Old Cutler Road in South Miami
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 scenic drive in Miami 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.
7. Southern Everglades to Flamingo Visitor Center
The beauty of the everglades is that different areas have different personalities. A drive across Alligator Alley (between Fort Lauderdale and Naples) is different than Shark Valley (see #4 above). The southern Everglades drive between Florida City and Flamingo is 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, bring bug repellent and sunscreen.
8. Explore South Florida Neighborhoods
OK, it is difficult to pick only one more South Florida scenic drive. 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 Fort Lauderdale canals, Intracoastal waterway, or cruise to nowhere.
Instead, I will choose South Florida’s 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 others ethnic Miami neighborhoods, including Little Haiti, Little Tel Aviv, and Little Moscow. Explore the various Romanian restaurants and churches in greater Fort Lauderdale. 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.
>>> See the McCool Travel article Opa Locka: Funny Name, Cool Architecture
Even better, I certainly have not been to every cool place in Florida and things change over time. I, for one, miss the voodoo store in my childhood South Florida neighborhood but, thankfully, Cuban bakeries and bodegas remain.
McCool Travel tip: when driving between South Florida and Virginia, I like to shop at Costco stores in South Florida. There I buy case of Materva (a Cuban soft drink) and other items only found in South Florida stores.
Do you have any favorite road trips in South Florida and Miami scenic drives?
If you visit South Florida during Christmas, see Fun Florida Tropical Christmas Decorations
Here is a Google Maps of South Florida scenic drives.
See our tips for avoiding tolls when driving between Orlando and Miami.
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