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  1. Default Help with Florida and Georgia trip!

    Hi all, I hope you can help me! This is my first post on this wonderful site (I've been a lurker for ages!).

    I have a couple weeks to take a little trip around Florida. The first half of the trip, from Key West to Savannah, is taking shape, but it's the return leg that's giving me problems - there's only so much I can find out from here in England, and I'd love some local knowledge to help me out. I'm not rushing, I'd much prefer interesting back roads to Interstates. Here's my (rough) 4 day plan:

    1. Savannah to Tallahassee: It's been suggested I avoid the 'fast' route via Jackson and the I-10, instead going via Waycross and US-84. Is that good advice?
    2. Tallahassee to Tampa: From the maps, US-98 seems a more interesting route that I-75.
    3. Tampa to Naples: Again, US-41 looks preferable to I-75 - but is this an empty road or one full of local traffic?
    4. Naples to Miami: Again, is US-41 preferable to the I-75?

    Also, I'm not dead set on staying in Tallahassee, Tampa or Naples. I prefer small towns to soulless city downtowns! Presuming I keep roughly the same route, are there better places to stop/stay? I could also add another day to this leg if need be!

    Many thanks in advance for any help you can offer!
    Last edited by minty; 02-14-2016 at 05:08 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default One Option

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    First of all, congratulations. You've already made one of the best choices you can for a RoadTrip in that you "much prefer interesting back roads to Interstates." And there certainly is plenty to see on the 'back' roads of Georgia and Florida on your way down to Key West. Others will probably be by with additional or different suggestions, but here are some of the highlights that I'd want to build such a trip around. The first would be Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge headquarters, Swamp Island Drive, and the most visitor services are at the east entrance. You would reach that by taking US-17/GA-196/US-84 down to Jessup GA, US-310 south to Folkston GA, and finally GA-121/GA-121 Spur.

    This will leave you with Tallahassee being a bit too far west to comfortably reach after spending a few hours (at least) in the swamp, but you didn't seem that interested in staying in Florida's capital anyway. An alternative would be to just continue meandering south on GA-121/FL-121 from Okefenokee to the Gainesville area. Now Gainesville is home to the University of Florida, but you've posted in the Summer RoadTrip section so I'm assuming most students will be gone for the summer and college towns can be quite enjoyable (and relatively cheap) in the 'off season'.

    For your second day, what I would suggest is a trip to a quiet Gulf Coast town such as Cedar Key that has the advantage of not being on a through road, combined with a visit/homage to one of the great old roadside attractions, Weeki Wachee Springs, now part of a state park. I'd end the day by skirting as far to the east around Tampa/St. Pete as I could. Perhaps a better target, given your preference for small towns over soulless cities, would be the Lakeland/Winter Haven area. Those towns see a large influx of tourists in the spring when Major League Baseball teams go through spring training, so it's another case where the towns go quiet and have an over-abundance of lodging at other times of the year. Basic routing for this day would be FL-24 from Gainesville to Cedar Key, back out FL-24 to US-19 south to Weeki Wachee Springs, and FL-50/US-98 to Lakeland/Winter Haven.

    For your next leg, US-17/US-41 is the obvious backbone for most of it. But I'd try to get considerably farther than the Naples area. While it's true that Naples to Key west is 'only' about 250 miles, many of those miles are on a high volume road that traverses many bridges and small towns with reduced speed limits, the Overseas Highway where progress can be painfully slow - though quite scenic. You'll also want to spend some time in the Everglades, another argument for extending Day 2's drive from a simple 150 miles or so to Naples to a slightly longer drive that takes you through the swamplands and puts you down on the southwestern edge of the Miami metroplex, say in the Homestead area, perfectly set up for your final day's drive over the Keys.

    Last edited by AZBuck; 02-14-2016 at 12:28 PM.

  3. Default

    Thank you AZBuck! I like your suggestion that I meander to Gainesville, rather than motor to Tallahassee and back. Looking at a map, it's hard to avoid playing 'join-the-dots' with the big cities and the big roads, so recommendations like this are really useful!

    I was hoping I could continue to pick your brain (and that of anyone else reading this thread). From Lakeland, are you suggesting I head south on the US-17 and pick up the US-41 around Punta Gorda? Is there any (dis)advantage to heading west and picking up US-41 just south of Tampa? Just wondering which is the more interesting (and less congested) road.

    Also, if I were to do the Everglades as a road trip starting from Miami, would I simply drive along US-41, looking at the sights along the way, stay overnight somewhere on the west (Naples? Everglades City?) and then drive back along the same route? Is there anything to see if I came back via the I-75 instead? Or is there a better way of doing it?

    Many thanks in advance!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default What I Had in Mind

    The Point of suggesting US-17/US-41 was that it let you get from the Lakeland to Naples without going anywhere near Tampa/St. Pete. And yes, since US-17 joins US-41 at Punta Gorda, that's the way I was suggesting. Heading west to join US-41 earlier, just south of Tampa only reuslts in driving more miles, through more congested areas (Bradenton, Sarasota, etc.), and/or on less interesting Interstates. I think the main point of your third day would be to visit the Everglades while getting to the Miami area to set up your drive to Key West the next day. I really wouldn't drive to Miami and then backtrack to the Everglades, again that just adds miles for no good reason. It would also be difficult to do and still reach Key West by a reasonable hour in the evening.

    Technically, US-41 does not go through the national park, but forms its northern boundary. However, US-41 across southern Florida, between Naples and Miami, goes past the Gulf Coast Visitor Center of the national park (off FL-29 south of US-41 in Everglades City), the Big Cypress National Preserve Visitors Center (east of Monroe Station on US-41), and the Shark Valley Visitors Center on the northeast side of the national park. I would suggest that you stop at each of those centers for advice on how to make the most of your time as you traverse the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Melbourne, Australia

    Default Way to go!

    Quote Originally Posted by minty View Post
    Looking at a map, it's hard to avoid playing 'join-the-dots'
    Actually that is the way to go. See this paragraph, written by the same member:-

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck
    Start with maps. Not GPS, not software, not Google, but real honest-to-god paper maps that show you your entire route, that you can mark up (and erase), that you can stick pins in, and that show something about the land you'll be driving through. Those are your essential tool in any RoadTrip planning process. Start by marking all the places you know you want to visit. Then connect the dots. Then look for more places of interest and scenic routes along the lines connecting the dots. Repeat until you've got as many sites and roads as you think you want.
    You sound as if you are already using good maps, and that you know how to read them.

    Some of my favourite places in FL are The Arcade Building in Fort Pierce, highway A1A with its occasional access to the Atlantic beaches; US19/27 from Perry to Williston, a scenic route with many small towns along the way. US41 with Big Cypress, the habitat of the last of the Florida Panthers. If you can, take one of their guided walks. There is also a small side trip into the swamp/everglades on route 94. Alligator Alley where if you are lucky you can, from the view platforms, see the alligators playing in the water.

    Along the Keys, you have No name key and Pine Key which are the last habitat of the endangered and smallest of the deer species. The Wildbird Sanctuary at Tavenier is also a stop worth making, with many rare and endangered species in their averies.

    Enjoy Florida, there is so much to see there.


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