We don’t have mountains and most of our roads have no excuse to curve, but Florida still has scenery that is worthy of viewing through your windshield.
The trick to finding scenic drives in Florida is to find the undeveloped backroads and to appreciate scenery that is often subtle rather than dramatic.
Some of these scenic backroads can be used as alternatives to interstate highways. Others are good for folks with mobility issues who take scenic drives as a way to enjoy nature. Some of these are only a few miles long. Others will take you all day, or even longer.
Florida is rapidly urbanizing and losing its Old Florida charm, but here are several Florida scenic roads you can still enjoy.
SCENIC DRIVES IN SOUTH FLORIDA
Along the Indian River Lagoon from Stuart to Fort Pierce
The long, wide lagoon leaves a sliver of land for hundreds of miles along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Naturally, we are drawn to the beach and scenic A1A. But the other side of the Indian River Lagoon is worth exploring too. And because the lagoon is wide enough to discourage the building of lots of bridges, the western shore is a different world from the beach communities. You’ll find an Old Florida flavor here, especially on the 20-mile scenic drive between Stuart and Fort Pierce.
Jensen Beach and Fort Pierce both have attractive water-front downtowns and there are a few parks and museums to explore along the way. Here’s a guide with more details about this scenic road along the Indian River Lagoon.
As you head north of Stuart, this route becomes the the Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway.
The Cracker Trail across rural Florida
This is Florida cow country, stretching from Fort Pierce to Bradenton. There are moss-draped oak trees, a “ghost town” (just a historic marker and a boarded-up mansion on the Kissimmee River), a funky Southern-style vineyard and the beautiful Highland Hammock State Park.
I would call this route pleasant rather than stunning; just a two-lane rural highway with some interesting stops along the way. It follows SR 98 and SR 64 and is the route used every year by the annual Cracker Trail Ride, a re-creation on horses and wagons of an 1800s Florida cattle drive. Here are details on this scenic drive through cow country.
A nearby addition or alternative is to take US 27 north at Sebring and drive the 40-mile long Ridge Scenic Highway, which extends to Haines City, and includes rolling hills as the rides the top of the Lake Wales Ridge.
Through the Everglades on the Tamiami Trail
When it comes to scenic drives, Florida has something unique: The Everglades, because there are no other Everglades in the world.
You can drive to the Gulf Coast on Alligator Alley and get there faster, but the Tamiami Trail gets you closer to the Everglades and there are several worthwhile stops along the way.
If you have time, stop at the Shark Valley entrance to Everglades National Park, famous nature photographer Clyde Butcher’s gallery, several Everglades boardwalks and picnic areas and the world’s smallest post office. From Broward or Palm Beach, you can even do this as a day trip with a return via Alligator Alley.
Here are details on the Tamiami Trail scenic drive.
Into the Everglades on Loop Road
Loop Road can be experienced in conjunction with the Tamiami Trail, but because of the rustic nature of the road, it takes several hours.
Loop Road is a 24-mile-long two-lane road that parallels Tamiami Trail through the Everglades. The eastern seven miles are paved and after that, it’s gravel or dirt. In the summer, parts of the road can be under water. All year, the place teems with wildlife – alligators, birds, otters, deer, even the rarely seen Florida panther. It’s part of the Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge.
There are a few places to stop and take a hike and several scenes that are a photographer’s delight, including the decaying remains of Pinecrest, which looks like a ghost town but still has a handful of inhabitants.
Here’s a detailed guide to driving scenic Loop Road.
The Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys
The drive down the Keys is unique in that it combines both ocean and gulf views, with lots of wildlife sightings, tiki bars, interesting roadside stops and an only-in-the-Florida-Keys ambiance.
Most guidebooks agree: the Overseas Highway is Florida’s premier scenic highway.
As you cross the many bridges on the highway, you can gaze out and be dazzled in all directions.
Our guide to the Overseas Highway takes you mile marker by mile marker through the Keys, highlighting the best places to stop.
Along A1A with ocean views in South Florida
A1A hugs the Atlantic Coast from Amelia Island to Miami, but some sections pass through commercial districts full of traffic, fast-food restaurants and big-box stores. The prettiest parts of A1A – no surprise here – are the least populated sections.
In South Florida we recommend these two sections of A1A:
- Delray Beach to Palm Beach.
- Stuart to Cocoa Beach along Hutchinson Island. (Here’s a guide to cruising Hutchinson Island.)
SCENIC DRIVES IN NORTH FLORIDA
A1A in Flagler County
Our favorite section of A1A, which has many beautiful sections along the Atlantic Coast, is the 30 mile stretch between Ormond Beach and Matanzas Inlet. For beauty and history and its lack of dense development, it is unsurpasse in the entire state.
Here, you can drive 20-some miles without a traffic light and find nearly empty beaches with free parking. As you head north, you enter a canopy of magnificent live oak trees that is a route through a Florida you probably thought was gone forever.
Beyond the scenic beauty, though, this area has so many interesting state parks and historic sites that you can take all day or several days to explore this stretch of Florida A1A.
Details of driving A1A from Ormond Beach to Matanzas Inlet.
The Ormond Scenic Loop
One of the most beautiful stretches of road anywhere in Florida is north of Daytona Beach in an area rich with parks and historic sites and overlaps with the stretch of A1A identified above.
The Ormond Scenic Loop includes spectacular ocean views as well as sections where the live oaks and Spanish moss form a cathedral ceiling. Here’s more about the Ormond Scenic Loop.
The Ormond Scenic Loop is 30-plus miles and takes you through beautiful forests, along waterways and creeks full of native birds and along the Atlantic Ocean, with spectacular beach and dune views. There are historic sites, hiking trails, parks, beaches and unspoiled scenery the whole way.
It doesn’t take long to make the drive, but you can easily spend all day at it if you stop along the way — and you should. With its minimal commercial development and its many historic sites, it’s a day in Old Florida.
The Ormond Scenic Loop connects to the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway (see below,)
A little further north, 45 miles of interconnected roads wind through countryside just south of Gainesville, past great stops like Micanopy, Paynes Prairie State Park and Cross Creek. It’s called the Old Florida Heritage Highway.
Scenic drives in Ocala National Forest
The Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway connects Silver Springs and Ormond Beach, running through the communities of Forest Corners, Mill Dam, and Astor along SR 40, and Salt Springs and Altoona along SR 19, all within Ocala National Forest. While it was designated as a National Scenic Byway, the road is straight and the scenery is not dramatic.
Within Ocala National Forest is a network of logging roads that take you deep into the lonely woods. You can drive hundreds of miles of unpaved access roads that criss-cross the forest.
These roads are ideal for meandering and perhaps stopping to have a roadside picnic, photograph wildlife, pause at a scenic prairie or admire a hardwood hammock emerging from wetlands. Bring a forest road map and GPS (or compass) and use this useful guide Motor Vehicle Use Map 2020. Most roads have markers that correspond to the map.
SCENIC DRIVES IN FLORIDA PANHANDLE
The Big Bend Scenic Byway links a big national wildlife refuge, three state parks, three historic lighthouses, one of the best beach islands in Florida and picturesque fishing towns.
It winds through an area that sees fewer tourists, and offers rustic Old Florida delights at every turn–from black bears to white squirrels.
Here are details about the Big Bend Scenic Byway.
Scenic 30A in the Panhandle
The coastal highway State Road 30a passes by the charming planned communities of Seaside, pastel-patterned Watercolor and the funky beachside community of Grayton Beach.
It’s a beautiful drive with views of coastal “dune lakes” and distant beaches. There are three state parks near this road, all worth exploring: Topsail Hill State Park, with its towering dunes, perfect beach and rare freshwater coastal dune lakes; Grayton Beach State Park, whose beach that has been named #1 in the nation by a top beach ecologist; and Eden Gardens State Park, with beautiful landscapes and a fascinating history.
Did we miss your favorite Florida scenic drive?
Please use the comment field below to suggest additions to this guide or tips for travelers.
Notes from the editor:
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Veteran journalists who worked together at Fort Lauderdale’s SunSentinel newspaper, Bonnie and Bob founded FloridaRambler.com in 2010 to explore the natural, authentic Florida, writing about their natural interests in hiking, biking, paddling, RV and tent camping, wildlife, unique lodging, dining and historic places.
Friday 16th of September 2022
Do you have any information about you-pick citrus groves?
Monday 19th of September 2022
Hi Bliss, we don't have a list of citrus u-pick farms, but you may be able to find one here: https://www.fdacs.gov/Consumer-Resources/Buy-Fresh-From-Florida/U-Pick-Farms
Monday 20th of June 2022
You all are missing some of the prettiest parts if Florida in Hernando and Citrus counties. Miles of beautiful hills and all the chain of lakes. Just gorgeous. Should be on the map.
Monday 20th of June 2022
Thanks for the tip, Kate. Do you have specific roads or routes to recommend? Sounds lovely!
EDWARD LOUIS DILLARD JR
Thursday 30th of December 2021
Jungle Trail in Vero Beach
Thursday 30th of December 2021
Thank you! Great suggestion. I've added information on the Jungle Trail, which I had written about in a separate article on Vero Beach.