There are many reasons why North Florida is such an wonderful place to visit (or live). The climate is spectacular; great for boating, golfing, surfing, fishing and other forms of sports and recreation. In addition, the area is rich in arts and entertainment, fine-dining, shopping and history. North Florida also offers miles of beautiful beaches and waterways, cultural pursuits from jazz and Scottish festivals, to hot clubs and remarkable, ethnically diverse restaurants.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Scenic North Florida Drives . . .

Driving through northeastern Florida and the Panhandle provides a perfect balance between wild nature and human influence. When you think Florida you usually think of all the built-up areas in southern and central Florida. However, if you skip the northern parts of the state you'll miss these excellent scenic drives:

Scenic Drives from Jacksonville

If you're planning a trip down to central and southern Florida's attractions but you want to see some beautiful nature and old-time towns and attractions on your way south, you can take a detour between Jacksonville and Flagler Beach (north of Daytona Beach) on the coast. From I-95 on the eastern side of Jacksonville take Route 202 to Jacksonville Beach. You'll find yourself on historic Route 1, the first highway to travel from all-the-way north - Fort Kent, Maine to all-the-way south - Key West -. On this stretch of the highway, you'll pass through St. Augustine, lots of excellent beaches on the barrier island, and will end up in Flagler Beach, which boasts old Victorian-style buildings right off the highway.

Northeast Florida Scenic Drives

In the Gainesville area, toward the center of the region, you can take the Old Florida Heritage Highway. This 48-mile drive, which starts in Gainesville, takes Route 441, and goes through the historic towns of Micanopy, Rochelle, Evinston, and Cross Creek. Micanopy claims to be the oldest mainland settlement in Florida, with the first post office opening up in 1826. Old and respectful Victorian houses and buildings line the streets of these cities, with Southern charm dripping from the deciduous trees. It was the setting for the Michael J. Fox movie “Doc Hollywood,” where on his way to some great position in California he crashes his Porsche in … well, Grady, South Carolina. But it was filmed in Micanopy!

Florida Panhandle Scenic Drives

Around the city of Tallahassee are the “Canopy Roads,” so-called for the lush Spanish Moss overhanging. Many of these roads feature fancy and tasteful residences that add to the overall beauty of the scenery. For emphasis on archaeology and 19th-century houses, and the Spanish missions that rose up in the 17th centuries, drive the Native Trail. If you want to see the area's old cotton plantations, drive the Cotton Trail Loop. For a calm, enjoyable drive through a dense pine forest, take the Quail Trail. Give yourself time to take in the scenery on these loop drives, as, at a leisurely pace, each one can take up to two hours to complete. A Canopy Roads map will likely help you navigate the area better.

Pensacola Scenic Drives

In Pensacola, one great drive is to travel the length of Escambia Bay, where the river bluffs overlooking the bay provide an excellent view of the surroundings. You can reach Route 10A, which stretches from one end of the bay to the other, from I-10, the highway that leads from Jacksonville all the way to Pensacola. Lining the bay's beach are large bluffs of red clay, which play off the color of water to provide excellent views for miles. From where 10A meets the water to where it leaves off is approximately six miles.


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