8 Sensational Scenic Drives in Florida For Your Next Sunshine State Vacation
The best scenic drives in Florida deliver spectacular scenery, hidden gem destinations, and a happy break from busy highways for happy and fun Florida road trips.
These fabulous and fun Florida scenic drives include Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway, A1A, Florida Keys Overseas Highway—the best way to drive from Miami to Key West—and many other Sunshine State drives.
Discover the real Florida—enjoy Orlando day trips and skip those massive cruise ports.
I personally explored hundreds of scenic drives in Florida and crafted these cool, happy, and fun Florida road trips for people to experience the best of the Sunshine State. I grew up in Miami and am a third generation Floridian.
8 Sensational Scenic Drives in Florida For Your Next Sunshine State Vacation
Florida Keys Overseas Highway: Best Florida Road Trip
The Overseas Highway is one of the world’s best road trips—probably the best US coastal scenic drive—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?
Although the Florida Keys scenic highway drive requires about 2.5 hours without stops, fun travelers will 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.
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.
Explore USA’s Oldest Land at Lake Wales Ridge
Here is a super fun scenic drive in Central Florida, through red dirt and white sand. Of course you do not have to drive on the sand roads but they are also there to see. Much better scenery than along the major highways!
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.
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.
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.
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, see our article: Florida Hills – Yes, Hills!
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.
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.”
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 of the Daytona Beach pier.
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.
Scenic Drives in Central Florida: Natural Florida and Bears (Oh, My!)
Ocala National Forest is the oldest National Forest east of the Mississippi River and the southernmost forest in the United States. Wow, that is nice. This pristine area is only an hour drive from Kissimmee and the mega Florida theme parks.
The below map shows the primary north-south route (SR 19) through Ocala National Forest but the east-west route (SR 40) is also magnificent. Much of SR 19 is also the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway. 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.
Fun Florida Scenic Drive 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.
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—the 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.
Fun Scenic Drive in Florida: Explore the Solar System
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.
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.
During this galactic inspired Florida road trip, allow time to explore Daytona Beach and St. Augustine.
Scenic Drive From Miami to Tampa – Tamiami Trail
OK, there is more to South Florida than the ocean. Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway, 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.
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.
For one of our favorite places to stay in Tampa, read our article about Epicurean Hotel.
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.
Bonus: Additional Florida Scenic Drives
We will update our list of best scenic drives in Florida as we explore more of the Sunshine State. Here are a few more recommended Florida road trips. 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. Also, I love that people can park right at the beach when heading south from Anna Maria Island, at Cortez Beach and Coquina Beach. It is an excellent coastal drive.
Map of Best Florida Scenic Road Trips
Do you have any favorite Florida road trips or scenic drives in Florida?
See also our Ultimate US Coastal Scenic Drives Resource Guide
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