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Florida is a great place to drive through. Though you won't see the hills you see up north, you will experience the fresh salt air, the back roads, the "old" unspoiled Florida. If you are driving from the north once you reach Florida's border expect at least a 7 hour trip until you reach Miami. But why not tour it?
Take your time. This is probably the only way you can experience Florida's natural beauty. We have given you a choice of 5 tours. By no means are ours the last say, but you will find these scenic Florida road tours fun and worthwhile.
Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway
Starting Point - Pensacola, Fl
Explore historic downtown Pensacola or visit the Florida National Museum of Naval Aviation, (850) 452-3606, where you will find numerous displays tracing the history of flight from wooden planes to the Skylab module. The museum is one of the largest in the world with an adjoining IMAX® Theater presenting big-screen aviation films that make you feel like you're in the cockpit. The museum's Florida attractions include flight simulators and tours led by retired aviators with first-hand experience. Visitors to the museum must use the west entrance to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, at the end of Blue Angel Hwy. Head west on U.S. 90 to U.S. 98. Follow U.S. 98 then turn left on Barrancas Ave. (S.R. 292), which becomes Gulf Beach Hwy. Follow Gulf Beach Hwy. then turn left onto Blue Angel Hwy. (U.S. 173).
Starting Point - Gainesville
While traveling the looped trail, visit the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park, (352) 466-3672, located 10 miles east of U.S. 441 in Cross Creek, Fl (take C.R. 346 to C.R. 325), and reconnect with the past. Meander through the historic home and farmland where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Yearling, lived and worked from 1928-1953.
Just a couple of miles north of Micanopy along U.S. 441, stop and stretch your legs at Payne's Prairie Preserve State Park, (352) 466-3397. This 21,000-acre park has a national reputation for its abundance and diversity of wildlife, including buffalo. The park offers wonderful recreational activities such as hiking, biking, horseback riding, paddling, fishing and camping.
The Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Highway is an educational, relaxing and family-friendly 166-mile loop beginning at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, (321) 861-0667. The nature and beauty along this roadway is something to experience first-hand.
From S.R. 405, head south on S.R. 3, just five miles past S.R. 528, to join "The Boat Lady" of Island Boat Lines Water Taxi & Tours, (321) 302-0544, in Cocoa Beach, Florida to get a true appreciation for the abundant natural assets of the Indian River Lagoon Estuary System, which runs along this scenic corridor. Approximately 2,200 species have been identified in the lagoon, making it the most diversified estuary in North America.
Return to S.R. 528 east that turns south to become S.R. A1A and drive approximately 60 miles to Sebastian Inlet State Park, (321) 984-4852. Sebastian Inlet includes the McLarty Treasure Museum, the site of a Spanish salvors' encampment, and also offers great snook, redfish, bluefish and Spanish mackerel fishing from the jetties, beach or the Indian River. Other activities include surfing, sun bathing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking and a ranger-led boat cruise to the first wildlife refuge in the U.S., Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, (772) 562-3909. Though facilities are limited at the National Wildlife Refuge, located just off S.R. A1A on Historic Jungle Trail, as part of the Centennial Celebration of Pelican Island and the National Wildlife Refuge System in 2003, a boardwalk and observation tower to view Pelican Island, Fl, two trails and restrooms were opened. Access to Pelican Island itself is not allowed, but viewing the island by boat, canoe or kayak, as offered by a number of local businesses provides excellent, up-close bird watching and photography opportunities
Leaving Sebastian Inlet State Park, drive south on S.R. A1A about five miles to the town of Orchid, Fl, turn west on S.R. 510, then after two miles turn north on U.S. 1. Stop five miles up the road for lunch on the open-air, riverfront patio deck at Captain Hiram's, (772) 589-4345, just off U.S. 1, in Sebastian.
After a relaxing meal, drive north 20 miles on U.S. 1 and make a short detour in to visit the Brevard Zoo, (321) 254-9453.
Turn off U.S. 1 on Suntree Blvd. for a half-mile, then turn right on Wickham Rd. The Brevard Zoo, Florida's newest and most interactive zoo, is just three miles down the road, with a zoo train, free-flight aviary and "Expedition Africa" that includes giraffe feeding.
From the Brevard Zoo, return to U.S. 1 north to Titusville to wrap up your adventures on the Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Highway.
Starting Point - Key Largo
Palm trees, tropical beach huts and sandy roadsides grace the 106.5 miles of Florida Keys Scenic Highway connecting the world-famous island-hopping Florida Keys along U.S. 1 to Mile Marker 1 - the southernmost point in the Continental United States. With the gentle turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the majestic Atlantic Ocean on the other, you will travel over forty-three bridges from Key Largo to Key West. The "Seven Mile Bridge," located at Mile Marker 47, is more than 35,000 feet in length. With more than 800 keys, most of them uninhabited, this drive offers breathtaking sights so have your camera ready!
Follow U.S. 1 south to Key West (98 miles south of Key Largo) for a visit to Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park, (305) 292-6713, located at the end of Southard St. This National Landmark covers a total of 87 acres and was one in a system of seacoastal forts initiated in the 1800's to prevent hostile invasions. Take a ranger-guided tour and hear tales of its past or browse the fort on your own. Then, enjoy one of the best Florida beaches in Key West.
While this area is known for its scenic and recreational abundance, it is also rich in culture and history. Key West was home to many literary greats including Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Robert Frost and Thornton Wilder. But the author most often associated with Key West was Ernest Hemingway, who penned For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Farewell to Arms and To Have and Have Not during his 10 years living there. The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, (305) 294-1136, is now a National Historic Landmark museum and a "must-see" location during your visit to Florida.
Starting Point - NaplesThe Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway, crossing the southern tip of Florida, runs east on U.S. 41, beginning south of Naples, through 50 miles of breathtaking scenic landscapes of the Florida Everglades filled with sawgrass and a tropical wilderness like no other in the United States. The Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway covers a small portion of the 275 mile Tamiami Trail, which reaches from Tampa to Miami and is considered among the world's great engineering feats. Opened in 1928, the Tamiami Trail was constructed while working in 95-plus degree heat, fog-like humidity and alligator-filled swamplands. The trail took almost a dozen years and $8 million to complete, including almost three million sticks of dynamite and an ox named "Blue."
Take a short detour from the Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway, to enhance your trip through the area by visiting Everglades National Park, (239) 695-3311, using the northwest entrance. Turn south on C.R. 29 at Carnestown (31 miles east of S.R. 951) and drive three miles into Everglades City then follow the signs to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. The visitor center offers natural history exhibits, park information, and passes. Canoe rentals and a narrated boat tour are also available, (239) 695-2591.
Other points of interest along the Tamiami Trail are the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, (239) 695-4593, located just west of Copeland, Fl on S.R. 29, north of the Tamiami Trail. Thirty-two miles west of C.R. 29, Shark Valley Tram Road, (305) 221-8776, on the northern border of Everglades National Park lies in the heart of the "river of grass" that stretches 100 miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico. The 15-mile tram road (not open to private vehicles) offers a narrated tram ride providing one of the best opportunities to view the spectacular wildlife and birds, such as alligators and the endangered snail kite, in Everglades National Park.
Only 15 miles further west, just before you reach the end of the Tamiami Scenic Trail, you can stop at Miccosukee Indian Village, (305) 223-8380, and take a tour through the history, culture and lifestyle of the Miccosukee Indian Tribe. With airboat rides, a museum, restaurant and gift shop, it's a fun and educational way to wrap up your day.
All Designated Florida Scenic Highways:
NORTHWEST FLORIDA ("THE PANHANDLE"):
A1A Scenic & Historic Coastal Byway (Composed of the three Scenic Highways: 1.) 1A Ocean Shore Scenic Highway 2.) A1A River & Sea Trail Scenic Highway & 3.) Historic A1A Scenic Highway
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