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!