When it comes to hitting the road, Florida is hard to beat. Here are just some of the spectacular scenic drives in the Sunshine State.
For captivating sunsets and countless roadside attractions, take a drive over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and along State Road 699, known locally as the Gulf Boulevard, through the heart of St. Petersburg/Clearwater. At just under four miles, the Skyway spans the entire bay, with a backdrop of stunning, turquoise, pristine waters. To continue the adventure, head west along SR 699, with glorious views of endless oceans and beautiful beaches, including St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and Madeira Beach.
Take the famous US 1, otherwise known as the Atlantic Highway, which runs north from Fort Kent, Maine, down the east coast to Key West in Florida. Motoring enthusiasts should stop off at Daytona Beach, steeped in motor racing history and the place where world land speed records were broken by Brits Sir Malcom Campbell and Sir Henry Segrave. Today, you can still drive on the beach, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Drive east along the historic Tamiami Trail to Everglades City and discover some of Florida’s most breathtaking natural beauty and wildlife. Highlights include the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk in the heart of the Fakahatchee Strand, the largest bald cypress/royal palm swamp forest in the world, and the Marsh Trail, where you can climb the observation tower to spot flocks of birds in the marshes and mangrove estuaries of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Go even wilder with a side trip along the 27-mile unpaved Loop Road, home to river otter, alligator, dear, black bear and the elusive Florida panther.
New Smyrna Beach
Take time out on your Florida drive and discover the joys of New Smyrna Beach. You can even drive through the town and directly onto the beach. There are five miles of white sand here that drivers can cruise along, at a sedate 10 mph, parking up to sunbathe, surf and picnic. Head over the North Causeway, turn north on Peninsula Drive and drive to Smyrna Dunes Park to park up and explore this area of natural beauty. From there, come back south on Peninsula Drive and then connect to AIA (Atlantic Ave.), head south, crossing Flagler Avenue, and drive all the way to Canaveral National Seashore.
Immerse yourself in Florida’s history on a road trip in West Volusia at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement. It’s a living-history village of restored pioneer-era buildings, trade shops and Native American structures with exhibits of folk art and historical objects. From there you can travel through DeLeon Springs Park and learn about the first Floridians and the adventures of the Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon during his supposed search for the Fountain of Youth in the 16th century.
Florida Keys & Key West
Sit back and enjoy the sub-tropical paradise along the iconic Overseas Highway and across the famous Seven Mile Bridge en route to Key West, crossing the countless coral and limestone islets of the Florida Keys on the way. Take time to stop and admire the dramatic sunsets, and sunrises too, and take advantage of the many activities on offer, from snorkelling and diving to paddle boarding and kayaking.
Fort Myers & Sanibel
One of America’s classic driving routes, Route 41 passes through the heart of the Sunshine State from Miami to Tampa. Along the way, enjoy a pit stop at Fort Myers Beach, a wide stretch of sugar-sand sitting on a barrier island that’s around seven miles long. From here, it’s a short hop to the stunning islands of Sanibel and Captiva where you can stretch your legs and feel the warm sand between your toes.
Discover Crystal River
Take a detour to Crystal River, the Manatee Capital of the World and just 1 hour 30 minutes’ drive north of Tampa. In winter, more manatees gather at these natural springs than anywhere else in Florida. Over a thousand manatees seek the refuge of the warm water in the springs of Kings Bay but none is more famous than Three Sisters Springs. Part of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, this 56-acre sanctuary provides unparalleled sightings of hundreds of manatees from its boardwalk. Crystal River is also the only place in Florida where you can swim with these gentle giants.
Getting around Florida is easy when you hire a car from Hertz. The recently launched ‘Full on Florida’ US Road Trip Planner route will help you navigate around the best of what the Sunshine State has to offer. Simply pick up your car from any of the 300+ locations across the State.