Southwest Florida Back Roads Road Trip

My goal, as with most road trips, is to completely avoid interstate highways and find the most interesting roads (usually not appearing on maps).

This one day road trip started when I arrived at Orlando airport and Barbara at Avis gave me a free upgrade to a Mustang Convertible. I could not ask for anything more for $195 a week; yes, I found a rental car in Florida in February for under $200 a week (I am a smart traveler after all). Well, ends up that SiriusXM was free for the week.

Satellite radio, convertible, 80-90 degree days. Blissful!

Only one day in Southwest Florida because I was heading over to the southeast side of Florida for more Florida road trip fun.

Leaving MCO, I drove directly south to Boggy Creek Road (highway 530). When 530 splits, I went west, took surface streets, and landed in old town Kissimmee—where I found this:

Monument of States, Kissimmee Florida
Monument of States, Kissimmee Florida

This odd statue from the 1940s looked particularly magnificent during my visit with that blue sky and also spooky with those big black birds.

From Kissimmee, I followed 17 south, much as I did a few years ago on my Florida Hills road trip.

Well, now that it was early afternoon and I was warmed by the 85 degree temps for an hour (I left home that morning with snow on the ground), I was on the prowl for lunch. Two of my best BBQ experiences were in this area—ribs from a place called something like Fat Boyz in Mt. Dora and a pulled pork sandwich from James Browns in Avon Park.

So, BBQ was on my mind but I screeched to a stop when I spotted this taco trailer near Haines City.

Taqueria La Guadalupe, Haines City, Florida
Taqueria La Guadalupe, Haines City, Florida

Tacos for $1.50 and an ice cold Mexican soda. Sign me up for this lunch whenever possible!

Taqueria La Guadalupe, Haines City, Florida
Taqueria La Guadalupe, Haines City, Florida

Oh, good luck finding ANY mention of Taqueria La Guadalupe on Yelp or anywhere else on the internet. I tried. I can tell you that it is very near this place:

Taqueria La Guadalupe, Haines City, Florida
Taqueria La Guadalupe, Haines City, Florida

After the quick and yummy lunch snack, I continued on 17 south, explored a few side roads where you can drive through citrus groves—no picking!

citrus grove, southwest Florida
citrus grove, southwest Florida
citrus grove, southwest Florida
citrus grove, southwest Florida

By leaving numbered roads (like 17) I find cool things, like unpaved red clay dirt roads.

red clay dirt road, southwest Florida
red clay dirt road, southwest Florida

At a quick pit stop in Sebring, I had to be careful where I parked.

Sebring Florida golf cart parking
Sebring Florida golf cart parking

I even got a chance to drive through Venus.

Venus, Florida
Venus, Florida

During the late afternoon of my drive into the Ft. Myers area, the sky turned ominous. First I saw a faint rainbow over the pastures of what was once the Everglades.

stormy sky over Southwest Florida
stormy sky over Southwest Florida

Then the clouds really got angry.Bonita Springs Beach: McCool Travel

I was hoping to make it to the beach for sunset pictures but I spent too much time exploring the back roads. Oh, well.

The next morning, though, I was up (before) bright and early to catch sunrise at the beach. However, as you can imagine, sunrises are better on the east coast and sunsets are better on the west coast.

The colors were subdued but still glorious.

Bonita Springs Beach: McCool Travel
Bonita Springs Beach: McCool Travel

This beach was for the birds.

Bonita Springs Beach: McCool Travel
Bonita Springs Beach: McCool Travel

This bird does not match online descriptions of a black ibis so what the heck is it? Any ornithologists out there?

black ibis?: McCool Travel
black ibis?: McCool Travel

Even though the sun rose over land instead of the ocean, it was still a spectacular scene.

Bonita Springs Beach: McCool Travel
Bonita Springs Beach: McCool Travel
Bonita Springs Beach
Bonita Springs Beach

Does being at the beach make anyone else want freshly baked goods?

Using my trusty Yelp app, I found Sweet Odin’s Danish Bakery in Bonita Springs. I was not disappointed.

Sweet Odin's, Bonita Springs
Sweet Odin’s, Bonita Springs

Did you noticed those reasonable prices?

Sweet Odin's, Bonita Springs
Sweet Odin’s, Bonita Springs

The easy way to get from Naples to Ft. Lauderdale is I-75. I decided, of course, to take a much more scenic, and to me 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 western Everglades.

unpaved road outside Naples Florida
unpaved road outside Naples Florida

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).

In this area, near Clewiston, are parks with opportunities to view Lake Okeechobee—second largest freshwater lake in the continental US.

that canal is really Lake Okeechobee
that canal is really 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 was able to speak 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.

I continued driving into southeast Florida where I had more adventures including Opa Locka: Funny Name, Cool Architecture.

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