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  1. Default 2-Week Houston to Key West Sight-seeing Roadtrip over 2021 Christmas/New Year.

    Hello all,

    My buddy and I are planning a roundtrip roadtrip from Houston to Key West from 12/18/2021 to 01/02/2022. We are interested in seeing natural beauties and not-to-miss stops along the way. We are at the beginning of our planning phase. For now, we are thinking of stopping at Lafayette for lunch then New Orleans for one or two nights. Then we will stop at Destin or Panama City to stretch our legs at the beach for a little and then continue to Florida to rest for the night.

    Our first question is whether we should take 75 or 95 down to Miami. I love the drive on the Highway 1 along the Big Sur coast in California and from what I've gathered, there is no route with similar ocean view in Florida even if I take the 95. Is that right? Is there any other routes that we should consider? Once again, we are interested in natural sceneries and unique not-to-miss culinary/historical/cultural attractions. We are not into bar/drinking/partying scenes.

    After deciding between 75/95 route, our second question is where should we spend our first night in Florida (after the drive from New Orleans)? Tallahassee/Gainesville on the 75 or Jacksonville on the 95 or some other town?

    Once we are down to Miami, we plan spend a day at the Biscayne National Park to snorkel. Will the water be warm enough to swim near the end of the year? Google results say that water temp around Miami is around 70 degree then but I'd love to confirm. Then we'll spend another day at Everglades National Park. Is a day enough to explore this park? Anything we shouldn't miss there?

    After Everglades, we'll drive down to Key West and spend a night there. Will try to catch sunrise there. Are there any stops along the drive from Miami to Key West that we should consider?

    We plan to spend New Year's Eve in Miami. What is the best place to catch the fireworks there?

    On the way back from Miami to Houston, we aim to do the trip in 2 days only. Should we take a different route (especially in Florida) to experience some other unique quick stops?

    I do realize that we have a lot of questions. We appreciate any advice/suggestions you can give us. Thank you for your time!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Joplin MO
    Posts
    10,109

    Default

    Welcome to RTA!

    I have a couple observations - Neither I-75 or I-95 are particularly scenic, but you can take A1A along the coast for beach scenery, which is SLOW, it goes through beach town after beach town. The fastest route to Miami is I-75 to the Turnpike (toll!). You can move over to I-95 around Fort Pierce to avoid some of the tolls, but it's usually pretty congested south of Jupiter. Part of the toll road is electronic only, without a transponder it's toll by plate with a mailed bill with an additional admin charge. Miami to Houston in 2 days is pushing safety, it would be best to have another half day to play with.

  3. #3

    Default

    I highly suggest you order a Florida SunPass online, https://www.sunpass.com for the tolls in Florida. Many of the toll roads do not accept Ezpass that is used up the east coast. Itís only about $5.00 you can order and get it ahead of time and I think itís only a $10 minimum to keep on it. A lot of roads around Miami are toll and itís cheaper to have a SunPass than have them send you a bill.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Tucson, AZ
    Posts
    10,111

    Default Some Personal Observations

    Let's start with some basic truisms and then move onto a few specifics.

    Truisms: Interstate Highways were never meant to be scenic routes. I-10 will not get you within sight of the Gulf except as you cross bridges in Mobile and Pensacola where you'll be able to glimpse their namesake bays. Neither I-75 nor I-95 will get you within sight of water. I-95 down the Atlantic Coast of Florida can be a nightmare as it's pretty much just one city after another and the highway tends to run on the landward side of all those cities. Overall, your basic route is about as flat as you can find anywhere, with no mountains or even modest hills to break up the monotony.

    A few specifics: As to your question regarding I-75 or I-95 south through Florida, I would suggest neither. I mentioned the 'difficulties' with I-95 above. I-75 is good as far as roughly Orlando's latitude (but don't go into Orlando). After that, I personally would be looking at US-27, reachable from I-75 via either Florida's Turnpike or FL-44. US-27 rejoins the interstates around Miami, but there's also the option of using FL-997 from around Miramar down to Homestead and picking up US-1 over the keys. US-27 is a multi-lane divided highway that mostly ties together several retirement towns. While it's not as scenic as you might like, it's likely to be better than trying to negotiate Tampa/St. Pete or Miami and all the other coastal 'resort' cities.

    I think that the best scenery available to you on this trip will be at wildlife refuges along the way. These are designed to be accessible but away from crowds. For example, you could leave I-10 at Stowell TX and head for Port Arthur on TX-73/TX-82. The later becomes LA-82, the Gulf Beach Highway then the Grand Chenier Highway, and eventually connects with US-90 into New Orleans. That routing would give you access to the Candy Abshier Wildlife Management Area, the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, and the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge among others.

    For beaches, at Pensacola you could switch over to US-98 to more closely follow the shoreline to roughly Fanning Springs FL where FL-26 would connect you to I-75 for the start of your leg south through Florida. In the end, though, your best scenery and beaches will be along US-1, the Overseas Highway, from Key Largo to Key West.

    AZBuck

  5. #5

    Default

    One thing to keep in mind: Florida is a LONG state and you will also be driving the panhandle.

    Panama City, FL, has some beautiful fine white sand beaches, almost like powdered sugar.

    Tarpon Springs, FL, is an old Greek community. It was noted for sponge harvesting. Worth a stop for lunch and walkabout. It is north of Clearwater.

    In Tampa you have a Little Havana community, another good location for some good Cuban food and culture. At least a cafecito or two.

    Many of the county and state roads are worth considering while transiting through the middle of FL, or rural Florida. They are not interstate quality, you won't be driving 80mph, but they make for some of the more pleasant driving.

    I-95/FL Turnpike, one you hit West Palm Beach going south on the East side of FL, it is congested and built up. The I-95 stretch north of West Palm Beach is rather decent driving although not scenic. North of WPB, exit around Stuart to the A1A which from there to Cape Canaveral is a mostly leisurely beach/coastal drive. Cape Canaveral is up there (you can maybe see a rocket launch as they seem to be going off nearly every week these days); Daytona Beach 500 racetrack is further north; St. Augustine is worth visiting, the town and the old Spanish fort.

    Traffic between Tampa and Orlando on the I-4 can be (usually is) horrendous; ditto with the stretch of I-4 in Orlando because of continuing construction.

  6. Default

    BY FAR, the most drop dead scenery youíll see are the gorgeous sea views as you drive down the Keys. Itís a short drive but could easily take an entire day with many sights to see.

    Tarpon springs is indeed a very historic and scenic town. For a great seafood meal, go to Rusty Bellies Restaurant right in the center of the action. For a unique drive to a small beautiful island beach, visit nearby Fred Howard Park. You drive down a long causeway to get there. Youíll definitely need to follow your GPS to find it. Very scenic just getting there.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    812

    Default

    In 2015 my wife and I did a Southeast roadtrip; flying into New Orleans and back out of Atlanta... so I can give you my thoughts on Louisiana but not much else from that trip.

    We spent a few nights in the Garden District, not much time in The Quarter. Lots of good food all over New Orleans... you don't have to do Bourbon Street to have a great time.

    We spent a full two days in "Cajunland"; using a small B&B in Breaux Bridge built around individual cabins on the shore of a man-made lake as our home base.

    Did our best to soak up the local culture, hitting St. Martinville, Lafayette, and Avery Island (Tabasco!). Hooked up a cajun food tour there where they hauled us around in a bus to some hole-in-the-wall but authentic food stops where we had little bites of some great food. Tickets hard to come by. Hit Rosedown Plantation for a tour on the way from New Orleans (see photo).

    DSC_5242.jpg

    RosedownPlantation.jpg
    Last edited by AZBuck; 05-19-2021 at 03:46 PM. Reason: Fixed image links

  8. Default

    Newbie posting error, lol! Don't know how to delete this post.
    Last edited by tungb; 05-20-2021 at 09:09 AM.

  9. Default

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Let's start with some basic truisms and then move onto a few specifics.

    Truisms: Interstate Highways were never meant to be scenic routes. I-10 will not get you within sight of the Gulf except as you cross bridges in Mobile and Pensacola where you'll be able to glimpse their namesake bays. Neither I-75 nor I-95 will get you within sight of water. I-95 down the Atlantic Coast of Florida can be a nightmare as it's pretty much just one city after another and the highway tends to run on the landward side of all those cities. Overall, your basic route is about as flat as you can find anywhere, with no mountains or even modest hills to break up the monotony.

    A few specifics: As to your question regarding I-75 or I-95 south through Florida, I would suggest neither. I mentioned the 'difficulties' with I-95 above. I-75 is good as far as roughly Orlando's latitude (but don't go into Orlando). After that, I personally would be looking at US-27, reachable from I-75 via either Florida's Turnpike or FL-44. US-27 rejoins the interstates around Miami, but there's also the option of using FL-997 from around Miramar down to Homestead and picking up US-1 over the keys. US-27 is a multi-lane divided highway that mostly ties together several retirement towns. While it's not as scenic as you might like, it's likely to be better than trying to negotiate Tampa/St. Pete or Miami and all the other coastal 'resort' cities.

    I think that the best scenery available to you on this trip will be at wildlife refuges along the way. These are designed to be accessible but away from crowds. For example, you could leave I-10 at Stowell TX and head for Port Arthur on TX-73/TX-82. The later becomes LA-82, the Gulf Beach Highway then the Grand Chenier Highway, and eventually connects with US-90 into New Orleans. That routing would give you access to the Candy Abshier Wildlife Management Area, the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, and the Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge among others.

    For beaches, at Pensacola you could switch over to US-98 to more closely follow the shoreline to roughly Fanning Springs FL where FL-26 would connect you to I-75 for the start of your leg south through Florida. In the end, though, your best scenery and beaches will be along US-1, the Overseas Highway, from Key Largo to Key West.

    AZBuck
    Thank you for your suggestion! Very practical tips there. On our first day, we'll have time and will try to hit some of the refuges you mentioned. Also, I'll consider I-75 around Orlando then US -27 to Miami. Once again, thank you for your time!

  10. Default

    - - - Updated - - -

    Quote Originally Posted by glc View Post
    Welcome to RTA!

    I have a couple observations - Neither I-75 or I-95 are particularly scenic, but you can take A1A along the coast for beach scenery, which is SLOW, it goes through beach town after beach town. The fastest route to Miami is I-75 to the Turnpike (toll!). You can move over to I-95 around Fort Pierce to avoid some of the tolls, but it's usually pretty congested south of Jupiter. Part of the toll road is electronic only, without a transponder it's toll by plate with a mailed bill with an additional admin charge. Miami to Houston in 2 days is pushing safety, it would be best to have another half day to play with.
    Thank you for your suggestion! I'll look into A1A and may do part of it on the way down to Miami. Once again, thank you for your time!

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