From Tampa to Miami
|Mileage||270 miles (434 km)|
|DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.||6 hours|
|SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.||All Seasons|
|ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.||Brandon, FL▼, Seffner, FL▼, Tampa, FL▼, Ruskin, FL▼, Palmetto, FL▼, Bradenton, FL▼, Sarasota, FL▼, Osprey, FL▼, more...Venice, FL▼, North Port, FL▼, Cape Coral, FL▼, Fort Myers, FL▼, Naples, FL▼, Everglades City, FL▼, Oaklyn, FL▼, Riviera, FL▼, Springoak, FL▼, Coconut, FL▼, Doral, FL▼, Kendall, FL▼, and Howard, FL▼|
3.0 average from 17 votes
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Connecting Tampa to Miami, the Tamiami Trail consists of the last 275-miles of Highway 41 and is an engineering feat, built through forest and the swampy Everglades. This drive is known as the Windows to the Gulf Coast Water Scenic Highway and is a dynamic mix of old and new Florida, culture and architecture, a tropical wonderland, unassuming and just plain flashy. There is just so much to do and see along this drive, consider staying over a day or two or more!
The drive begins on Highway 41 and is described heading southeast but can be done in either direction. From Tampa, head east on I-4 and take exit 3, following the signs for US-41 towards Miami. From Miami, follow the US-1 north and shortly after joining onto I-95, take exit 1B for US-41.
In the town of Ruskin visit Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park (H1). Two paddling trails explore coves and inlets as they wind past the tangled and twisted branches of a mangrove forest. This forest acts as a nursery for snook, red drum and other game fish and creates submerged habitats including oyster bars, seagrass beds, coral communities and springfed caves. Enjoy this popular fishing destination or embark on a guided kayak tour.
The Palmetto Historical Park (H2) offers an exciting way to immerse yourself in the history of Palmetto. Exploring the different exhibits and buildings, check for mail at the 1880 Post Office, visit the Schoolhouse opened in 1935 and try on pioneer clothing in the Cottage Museum. Don’t miss the Military Museum, Chapel and 1914 Carnegie Library built in 1914. The Palmetto Historical Park is free to enter.
As you enter Bradenton, turn right onto FL-64 (Manatee Ave). When you reach 75th Ave SW, turn right to visit the De Soto National Memorial (A2), where you can learn the story of Conquistador Hernando de Soto who in 1539 landed in Tampa Bay in hopes of conquering the land and riches. Instead they were fiercely resisted by the indigenous people. See costumed-interpreters presenting talks, demonstrating weaponry and craft-making at the Living History Camp Uzita open from December to April. The Visitor’s Center features displays of armor, weapons and period Spanish and Native American artifacts. Explore the natural history through interpretive trails that meander by mangrove forests, pine flatlands and remnant shell ridges. The Memorial is free to enter.
Don’t miss a detour to the Robinson Preserve (A1). Walk along the wooden boardwalks, picnic, or climb the 40-foot Watchtower for views into four counties. Stop in the Valentine House Visitors Center for information about trails that explore lush mangrove forest, estuaries, and the colorful palette of birds. Short treasures, many trails are under 1-mile and one is paved accessible. Or bike the 12-mile loop around a marsh. Kayaking offers a different perspective and opportunities to discover the pristine coastal wetlands and plants that thrive in saltern habitat.
After crossing the bridge to Bradenton, turn right onto FL-64 and then left on FL-789 which is the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway (T1). The 2.8-mile byway delivers extraordinary views and a chance to explore the stunning Anna Maria Island, one of three small cities on this thin peninsula overlooking the emerald green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Six stunning beaches await; Anna Maria Beach, Holmes Beach, Manatee Beach, Bradenton Beach, Cortex and Coquina Public Beach each with its own vibe. The island itself is only 7-miles long, therefore dining, shops and attractions can easily be accessed by walking and taking the free trolley.
Turn left on FL-684/Cortez Road W and right on 75th SW/El Conquistador Parkway to get back to US-41.
Sarasota glistens with white sandy beaches. Along with impressive natural beauty is the fascinating John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (M1) where history, art and circus come alive. Visit Ca’ d’Zan, the extravagant 56-room Venetian Gothic mansion built for John and Mable in 1926. The couple acquired a significant art collection, including paintings by Peter Paul Rubens, Velàzquez, Poussin, van Dyck and other Baroque masters, which can be explored in the Museum of Art. The Circus Museum delights with memorabilia and artifacts such as sequined costumes, the private rail car of John and Mable Ringling built in 1905, circus posters and the world’s largest miniature circus model. The grounds and gardens are spectacular and reflect the lavish Gilded Age. Tickets include a self-guided experience in all four venues.
Oscar Scherer State Park (H3) offers a bevy of recreational activities including hiking, cycling, fresh and salt water fishing, non-motorized boating, swimming, and a Visitor Center with interpretive exhibits and ranger programs. Enjoy wildlife watching, particularly for the Florida Scrub-Jays which are a threatened species. The park offers a full facility campground for tent and RV’s. Many Florida State Parks require an entrance fee, including this one.
In Venice, the road comes close to the water and you should definitely get out and stroll or bike along 5 miles of trail on each side of the Intracoastal Waterway. Glorious water views, painterly sunsets, and fishing await at the Venice Fishing Pier (A3) at Brohard Park. Watch the fisherman or partake yourself. Rentals of a rod and reel and bait is available on the pier. No fee or fishing license is required.
Nearby Caspersen Beach (W1) is known for rocky outcroppings, finding fossilized shark teeth and as a nesting site for sea turtles which come ashore to lay eggs from May to July. If you stayed on the island driving south down Hwy789, you can rejoin US-41 and our drive in Sarasota.
The beautiful Myakka River State Park (H4) is comprised of 57 square miles of wetlands and features an incredible array of wildlife including alligators, the nine-banded armadillo, roseate spoonbill, and green treefrog, as well as interesting ways to view them. The Myakka Canopy Walkway is suspended 25-feet above ground and allows for exploration from the tree tops of an oak/palm hammock. Or take a cruise on one of the world’s largest airboats gliding across Upper Myakka Lake or discover Old Florida on a tram safari. Here you will find hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing and kayaking. Stay longer with camping or cabin rentals noting that in peak season reservations are highly recommended. There is a small vehicle entrance fee and charge for the airboat or tram tour.
Continue on and cross the bridge from Charlotte Harbor to Punta Gorda until the Fred C. Babcock-Cecil M. Webb Wildlife Management Area (H5). Amidst 65,000 acres of intermixed pine flatwoods and freshwater marsh, you’ll find abundant resident and migratory birds and part of Florida’s Great Florida Birding Trail. Listen for singing Bachman’s sparrows in spring, king rail, sandhill crane and more. There is a day-use fee to enter. Note that there is seasonal hunting here.
About 20 miles south of Naples is Collier Seminole State Park (H6), offering an incredible adventure through the Everglades. Much of the 7,000 acres lie within one of the largest mangrove swamps in the world. It also is home to one of the three original stands of rare royal palm in Florida. The park extends down to the Ten Thousand Islands and includes mangrove river estuaries and salt marsh preserves that are favorite habitats for wading birds. Kayak/canoe expeditions are the best way to see the wealth of flora and fauna. A unique array of plants await to be discovered such as exotic agave and fire brush which scream with color. Take an organized tour or walk one of the self-guided trails, featuring a boardwalk system and observation platforms. Enjoy exhibits at the Visitor’s Center, camping, and inspect the site of a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, the Bay City Walking Dredge which was built in 1924 to create the Tamiami Highway.
Known as the “Amazon of North America” the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park (H7) offers a chance to examine a linear swamp forest. Delight in the feathery royal palms that stand tall alongside old-growth bald cypress trees and 44 native orchid species and 14 native bromeliad species. Stroll the 3,200-foot boardwalk at Big Cypress Bend and gaze upon the “gator hole” or the miles of old logging and railway paths which criss-cross the preserve as hiking trails. Wildlife abounds with deer, panther, Everglades mink and diamond back terrapin as well as resident and migratory birds. The park is free to enter.
Cutting a swath of green on the way to Miami is the Everglades National Park (H8), the only sub-tropical preserve in North America, containing both temperate and tropical plant life. It is also the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side. This unique landscape is the 3rd largest National Park in the U.S. With over 1.5 million acres, there are three Visitor Centers to orient yourself and discover hikes for every need. Many short hikes are accessible and allow for close up views of wildlife. Or learn more on a ranger-guided hike, boat or tram tour. There are canoe and kayak rentals on site. Most people tend to visit during the dry season from December to April. Better weather, less buggy, but more crowded. Be sure you make advance reservations for camping, lodging and tours. The wet season, from May to November is typically much hotter, and brings mosquitoes and tropical storms. Some facilities are closed but you will find solitude. The Park is a haven for birdwatchers with over 350 species to observe. Or watch basking alligators hang out on the mud flats. Note that all the wildlife is wild, which means they can be dangerous. Please be respectful and keep your distance. There is a vehicle entrance fee that is covered by the America the Beautiful Pass.
The Big Cypress National Reserve (A4) is the swampy home to endangered species that include the American crocodile, the West Indian manatee, and wood stork. Explore via a section of the Florida National Scenic Trail which passes through the preserve. The Florida National Scenic Trail is a total of 1,400 miles that travels from the Gulf Islands National Seashore to the Big Cypress National Reserve. And of course there are many other shorter trails. Stop in one of the two Visitor Centers for more information on hikes and ranger programs. There is no entrance fee to access the preserve.
At the quirky Skunk Ape Research Headquarters (A5) you can see and touch alligators, snakes, scorpions, turtles and if you’re lucky, have a chance to spot the elusive Skunk Ape — a large hairy, bipedal mammal (a Bigfoot of sorts) that calls the Florida Everglades home. There is a fee to enter.
The scenic drive ends in Miami which is replete with outdoor recreation, shopping, dining and if you have any energy left — don’t miss exploring South Beach, the Art Deco District, Calle Ocho and Little Havana.