8 Best Scenic Drives in Florida For Your Next Sunshine State Vacation

As a third generation Floridian, I grew up in South Florida and explored hundreds of scenic drives in Florida and selected and crafted these cool, happy, and fun Florida road trips for travelers to experience the best of the Sunshine State.

Our fabulous and fun scenic drives in Florida include Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway, A1A, Florida Keys Overseas Highway (best way to drive from Miami to Key West), and many other Sunshine State drives. Enjoy Orlando getaways and leave the massive Caribbean cruises ports, while discovering the real Florida.

McCool Travel tip: stay off the major roads to experience the best things in Florida.

8 Best Scenic Drives in Florida For Your Next Sunshine State Vacation

1. Top USA Best Road Trip: Florida Keys Highway

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

Seven Mile Bridge on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway
the Seven Mile Bridge on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway is a highlight of Florida road trips

Although the entire Overseas Highway drive requires about 2.5 hours without stops, fun travelers should allow ample time to explore the quirky shops and restaurants, natural areas, beaches, and other Florida Keys attractions. 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 Kitchen in Key Largo.

Even after finishing 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 near Marathon. Send me a photo of it from your next trip.

manatee mailbox in Florida Keys decorated for Easter
I love seeing manatee mailboxes on my Florida scenic drives


McCool Travel Tip: Sombrero Beach (pictured below) in Marathon is one of the top Florida Keys beaches and a fantastic nature photo spot in Florida.

blissful scene of palm trees on white beach sand
take a break from your Key West road trip to visit Sombrero Beach in Marathon

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

maps of Florida Keys scenic Overseas Highway
Florida Keys map: amazing scenic road trip along Overseas Highway

For the Google Maps image above, 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 on your drive from Miami to Key West.


 

For more South Florida road trips, see The 8 Best Scenic Drives in South Florida Near Miami

2. Explore USA’s Oldest Land at Lake Wales Ridge

Beginning just south of Babson Park turn left (east) onto Murray Road and witness magnificent views of rolling hills. Between Lake Lenore and Lake Moody, I drove for several miles on red clay dirt roads among hundreds of acres of citrus tree groves.

Florida orange dirt road through citrus grove
Florida orange dirt road through citrus grove

Back on Murray Road, drive east to Pfundstein Road and visit 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 that the Lakes Wales Ridge is an ancient island on top of Florida. When most of Florida was under water, this area was a sandy, scrubby habitat. That explains why many unpaved roads in this area are white sand. Fascinating that just a few miles away are red clay dirt roads.

white sand roads near Lake Wales Ridge, Florida
Lake Wales Ridge is a sandy oasis in the middle of Florida

Continue exploring the small roads in the area—including more red clay dirt paths—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 seeFlorida Hills – Yes, Hills!

scenic drives in Florida: Lake Wales Ridge
scenic drives in Florida map: Lake Wales Ridge

McCool Travel Tip: Pretty much any car will do well on the red clay dirt roads in the citrus groves. The softer white sand roads can be a little more treacherous and requires a 4 wheel drive vehicle in places.


 

3. Highway A1A – Florida Coast Scenic Drive

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

highway A1A Florida Scenic Highway sign
A1A sign, Scenic Drives in Florida

That avenue, A1A is usually the closest street to the Atlantic Ocean along the entire 329 mile east coast of Florida, from Key West up to the Georgia border (Amelia Island). Driving north on A1A the ocean is on your right, except when blocked by buildings or when the road ventures 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 your car and within a few steps place your feet into the rejuvenating sand and water. The below scene is the Daytona Beach pier.

view of Daytona Beach pier from sandy dune
where to go in Florida: A1A Highway

But there are also stretches of highway A1A where the trees are otherworldly. You can even create your own Game of Thrones scene along this street on Jupiter Island.

oak tree lined street on Jupiter Island Florida
Florida’s version of the Dark Hedges along A1A Highway on Jupiter Island

4. Scenic Natural Florida and Bears in Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is the oldest National Forest east of the Mississippi River and the southernmost forest in the United States. This pristine area is only an hour drive from Kissimmee and the mega Florida theme parks.

The below map shpws 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 hiking trails and several off-road driving trails in Ocala National Forest park. Silver Glen Springs is a highlight for many visitors. Black bears are prevalent so be smart about the food you carry.

driving map of Ocala National Forest
Florida road trip ideas: Ocala National Forest map

McCool Travel Tip: Nearby Ocala is surrounded by horse farms and gorgeous Florida road trip scenes and has some beautiful areas to drive around. One popular drive is Highway 475 from downtown Ocala.

5. Fun Florida Scenic Drives Between Naples and Clewiston

The easy way to get from Naples to Ft. Lauderdale is I-75. I have driven I-75 many times but enjoy getting off the big highway and discovering scenic and FUN routes.

On one trip, 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.

convertible Ford Mustang on a sandy path in Florida Everglades
a nice off-the-beaten path Florida drive is easy to find

Traversing those small roads from Naples is 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 wayside parks with opportunities to view Lake Okeechobee—second largest freshwater lake in the continental US.

For one of our favorite places to stay near Fort Lauderdale, read our article about Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort and check for lowest room rates.

6. Explore the Solar System Without Leaving Florida

Did you know that you can drive through Venus and Jupiter while not ever leaving the Sunshine State? Florida also has a Saturn Elementary School in Cocoa (space city). There is a city named Neptune Beach, near Jacksonville. And of course Disney features Pluto, whether or not it is still part of the solar system.

map of Florida scenic drive from Venus to Neptune Beach
Florida road trip ideas: see Venus, Jupiter, and Neptune Beach

Although highway A1A (see above) is one of the best scenic roads to drive in Florida, I-95 is marked on the above map in the interest of speed. Consider stopping at Cape Canaveral to see where rockets are launched, and in Cocoa Beach where you can find other solar system related references like I Dream of Jeannie Lane.

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

During this galactic inspired Florida road trip, allow time to explore Daytona Beach and St. Augustine.


 

7. Drive From Miami to Tampa on Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway

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 (locally known as Calle Ocho). Calle Ocho is the heart of Little Havana and a definite must-see South Florida attraction.

Cuban pastries at Versailles in Little Havana Miami
fill up on Cuban pastries at Versailles in Little Havana

Driving west on Calle Ocho/Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway, after about 18 miles, you will pass Krome Avenue and enter the Big Cypress National Preserve (part of Everglades National Park). Many attractions here 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 farther west from Shark Valley, Loop Road is a primitive Florida road from the 1920s. 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 McCool grandparents lived near here (in the Big Cypress) for 20 years and this was their post office. Yes, many stories…

See more Miami scenic drives.

Ochopee Florida post office
Florida road trip ideas: USA’s smallest Post Office in Ochopee Florida

For one of our favorite places to stay in Tampa, read our article about Epicurean Hotel and check for lowest room rates at Epicurean Hotel.

8. William Barton Scenic and Historic Highway

The William Bartram Scenic and Historic highway is a gorgeous Florida road trip, just south of Jacksonville and along the St. John’s River. I have seen bald eagles and snapping turtles while driving through thick areas of live oak with moss. This is a magnificent area for astounding tree pictures.

thick moss covering oak tree in Florida
Florida scenic drive: William Bartram Scenic Highway

Bonus: Additional Florida Scenic Drives

Here are a few more recommended Florida road trips and we will add more later. Please leave a comment below with your favorite off the beaten path, hidden gem Florida scenic drives.

  • 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 fantastic stretches of powdery white sand beaches in the Florida panhandle.
  • 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.
brilliant white beach sand of Anna Maria Island beach Florida
make your feet happy with the luscious sugar sand at Anna Maria Island beach

Map of Florida Scenic Road Trips

Do you have any favorite Florida road trips or scenic highways in Florida?

Like this article? Add it to your favorite Pinterest board.

The best scenic drives in Florida deliver spectacular scenery, hidden gem destinations, and a break from busy highways for a happy Sunshine State vacation.

8 Best Scenic Drives in Florida was originally published on McCool Travel.com on October 11, 2016.

Sharing is caring!

67 thoughts on “8 Best Scenic Drives in Florida For Your Next Sunshine State Vacation”

  1. Florida has so many cool back roads to explore, but I didn’t realize they had Spanish moss too! I’m excited to try and find more of it on my next trip down there.

    Reply
  2. There is a route through the “back country” from Lake County to Ocala that is pure Florida, my Florida that is. I can’t give you the route, I don’t get to use it that much. But it consist of SR 44, Emeraldo Rd, and SR 25 up to SR 40. And if your heading to Jax on I 95 yearning for a bit of farm and forest. Jump off at 40, come east to 11 go north to Bunnell, pick up US 1 from there you can jump back on I 95 or travel on to St.Augustine Beach. We love our big roads for crossing the state in speed, but our “backroads” (old highways) are beautiful!

    Reply
  3. 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 😀

    Reply
  4. 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!

    Reply
  5. 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!

    Reply
  6. 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.

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

    Reply
  8. 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…

    Reply
  9. 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?

    Reply
  10. 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.

    Reply
    • 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!

      Reply
  11. 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 $ !)

    Reply

McCool Travel wants to know ...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: