Road Trips in Florida
By Gary McKechnie
There are about 4 million miles of roads in America but only a fraction of those can deliver a 100 percent authentic Florida road trip. And with a variety of high-test two-lane drives, Florida road trips might just be the best road trips of them all. From coast to coast and from Pensacola to Key West you’ll discover a mix of coastal roads, long stretches atop the Lake Wales Ridge, and forest roads that shoot like blacktop arrows through the green pines.
So pull out a map, choose a starting line, and get rolling.
Start Your Engines!
Florida and driving are intertwined. From early land speed records set along the Atlantic Coast to the high-octane energy of today’s Daytona 500, driving is part of our nature.
Where records were broken and history made is a road that’s ready to be explored.
Oceanfront A1A is a road best experienced with the top down, the sound up, and the odometer rolling over. The two-lane strings a line along the Atlantic Coast for hundreds of miles, but rather than embark on a marathon motoring tour, it’s just as pleasing to separate the highway into sections. With wonderful beaches, barrier islands, and historic communities along the way, you can divide trips by any number of destinations; Amelia Island to St. Augustine, St. Augustine to New Smyrna Beach, New Smyrna Beach to Melbourne and so on down the line until you’ve arrived in Key West.
At the end of the line, make a U-turn and discover Florida’s interior via highways bypassed by interstates in the 1960s. Few drives are as pleasing as you travel through a region nearly frozen in time -- especially the combination of highways 441, 27, and 78 that encircle Lake Okeechobee on the northern fringes of the Everglades.
Further north, Highway 27 connects Lake Placid, Sebring, and Lake Wales. Motorists who discover this stretch of road along the Lake Wales Ridge enjoy state parks, museums, art galleries, shopping, theatres, lakes, and rolling hills of citrus.
North of Orlando, Highway 19 is literally a drive in the country as it sneaks into the Ocala National Forest where lakes, crystal clear springs, and hiking trails are a natural attraction for anyone who loves the outdoors.
This only scratches the surface.
The Best of the West
Florida road trip enthusiasts ready for a double dose of great driving fill ‘er up and head to western Florida where two highways deliver completely different, but equally unforgettable, driving experiences. Interstate 10 is the fastest route between Jacksonville and Pensacola, but it takes a back seat to its more laid back predecessor, U.S. 90. This is a link to Florida’s past and a present for motorists yearning to experience Old Florida as they drive through a land of magnolias, oaks, rolling hills, and antebellum homes and discover charming towns like Madison, Monticello, Quincy, and DeFuniak Springs.
South of U.S. 90 is one of America’s best road trip roads: US 98. From Pensacola to Carrabelle, this is western Florida’s version of A1A, hugging the waterfront as it glides along the Gulf Coast. Where the land drops south, the road follows suit. Where a bay appears, a bridge spans it. At times the road is only a few feet from the water, even closer when high tide covers the mud flats.
It’s all in Florida and it’s all waiting for you. Happy motoring!