Living in a state surrounded largely by water means an abundance of two things: beaches and beautiful drives. It’s not unusual to find a bridge, like the Sunshine Skyway, hoisted hundreds of feet above sea level, giving drivers an expansive view of the waters below.
So you can imagine there’s plenty of competition for the title of “most scenic drive in Florida.” Last year, online publication Thrillist came out with a list of the country’s most scenic drives in all 50 states and they named the Florida Keys’ famous Seven-Mile Bridge as the winner.
“The open blue sea stretching out on all sides might get a little repetitive when you’re looking out the window, but it’s easy to appreciate the novelty of driving one of the longest bridges in the world,” wrote Thrillist’s Aaron Miller.
While that feels a bit dismissive of the water’s beauty, we talked with our newsroom to find some of the state’s best scenic drives, those that include long stretches of water and those that don’t.
Florida’s 26 Scenic Highways
Florida actually has 26 state-designated Scenic Highways throughout the state.
Those include Pensacola’s Scenic Bluffs, a 70-mile section of U.S. 41 or the Tamiami Trail, and the state’s A1A scenic highway. The highways fall throughout the span of the state and include areas near many of Florida’s prominent cities, like Gainesville and St. Augustine.
Designated scenic highways offer resources for travelers, like maps and special events.
Tallahassee’s Canopy Roads
Florida’s landscape differs incredibly when you drive from north to south. Miami offers more of a tropical landscape, with palm trees, beaches and heat.
But in Tallahassee, there’s more of a traditional Southern landscape, with big trees and a different kind of green.
That is especially true of Tallahassee’s nine official canopy roads, forming a total of 78 miles of distance.
Highway 98 was an often-recommended path for travelers coming through Florida’s Panhandle. But now it is perhaps best known for the damage it suffered from Hurricane Michael.
The drive is close to a number of natural sites, including Wakulla Springs State Park, Apalachicola and St. George Island.
Still, much of Highway 98 was affected by Hurricane Michael, with segments torn up by the high winds of the storm.
Clearwater Memorial Causeway
On bad days, the Clearwater Memorial Causeway is simply a lengthy obstacle to the beach.
But for many, it’s a place to walk, bike or look at birds.
The bridge is about half a mile long and people have even made videos of their experiences driving across the structure.
The Sunshine Skyway is an iconic bridge in the Tampa Bay area. A drive on I-275 is not complete without a trip over this structure.
Views from the Skyway are close to incomparable, but the bridge comes with a tragic reminder of its past.
In 1980, a portion of the former bridge fell into the water after a boat struck one of its support columns. The accident killed 35 people, many of whom were riding on a Greyhound bus that day.
Courtney Campbell Causeway
A bridge spanning Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, the Courtney Campbell Causeway was designated as a scenic highway in 2005.
The bridge has a trail along its southern side, offering places for visitors to walk and observe wildlife.
This highway may not be what you first think of when the word “scenic” comes to mind, but it was deemed a scenic highway by the state of Florida.
Editors and reporters in the newsroom said the road’s wide, open space and lack of “visual pollution” contributed to its calming atmosphere.
Fort Island Trail by Crystal River
This drive was described by one editor as a good way to clear your head. Another said this was a drive full of twists and turns, a bit adventurous for Florida’s typical, flat landscape.
The road winds by the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and past Fort Island Trail Park before coming to Fort Island Beach. Take the path for a spin if you like.