Road Trip: Tamiami Trail & Overseas Highway No. 1
Like most kids who grow up on this continent, my first travel adventures were road trips with my family during the summer holidays. Now, as an adult, road trips have become few and far between.
So, for that reason, I was excited to include a coast-to-coast road trip on my recent visit to Florida. Coast to coast? Yup. That would be from the Gulf Coast to the Atlantic Ocean.
Now, there are two ways to get from Tampa (on the Gulf Coast) to Miami (on the Atlantic Ocean). The quick and fast way is over the interstate (I-75). There’s also the more scenic route: the Tamiami Trail (that’s Tampa → Miami). Guess which route I took?
The Tamiami Trail cuts right through the middle of the Everglades. My intent was to stop here and there and do a bit of looking around, maybe take a walk or short hike through the swamp.
It didn’t happen. Because it rained. A lot. All the way from Fort Myers to Homestead, in fact.
So instead I saw a lot of this.
And my motivation to stop and get out of my rental car and do some exploring dwindled the farther I got from Tampa and the closer I got to the Florida Keys.
What I did do was make a mental note to one day come back with my tent and sleeping bag and leave myself enough time to stop over for a couple of nights. Camping in a swamp ― how cool would that be? I was impressed enough with what I did manage to see between swipes of my windshield wipers to know I would enjoy a closer look at the United States’ largest subtropical wilderness.
Enough about what I didn’t see in the Everglades.
I am happy to report that the weather cooperated once I got into the Florida Keys. The sun shone for the entire drive and the temperature hovered around 80°F for my entire visit. As evidenced by the next photo.
The Florida Keys is an archipelago of more than 1700 islands (called “keys”) strung like a broken string of pearls below the Florida peninsula. Forty three of the keys are connected by the Overseas Highway No. 1 ― a 200-km length of roads and causeways stitched together by bridges. A lot of bridges. A lot of long bridges. This one here is called the Seven-Mile Bridge. I learned that it’s exactly seven miles long by carefully watching my odometer.
Every key has a name. Some are well known (Key Largo, Key West), some are pretty original (Teatable Key, Bahia Honda Key, Sugarloaf Key), and some, well, it seems like they ran out of inspiration (No Name Key).
The keys vary in size and development. The bigger ones are lined with roadside diners, restaurants, and motels, and the odd strip mall; the lack of big box stores and fast food chains made it feel like I had stepped back in time about 40 years. Other keys are so small they have only a few houses, and no commercial development at all. The smallest keys are completely undeveloped.
As you drive along the Overseas Highway, you are never far from the water. In addition to the street address, directions are given as “Mile Marker [fill in a number],” Bayside or Oceanside (with Key West being Mile 0). So, MM 59 Bayside faces Florida Bay, and MM 73 Oceanside faces the Atlantic Ocean. Nifty, huh?
The Florida Keys is known as a destination for fishing, snorkeling, and diving ― none of which I do ― but if you are looking for an idea for your next road trip, I can highly recommend a drive along the Overseas Highway. As road trips go, it’s pretty spectacular.