Best Scenic Drives In and Around Miami
One of the most underrated aspects of Miami is how fast we can escape into total nature from the heart of downtown. Less than 20 miles from I-95 sits the edge of the Everglades, which you can delve into along the Tamiami Trail. The drive begins with tall sawgrass and alligator-filled estuaries leading into a canopy of Big Cypress trees in its namesake national preserve. Egrets and herons soar overhead, as each turn brings a new natural Florida landscape just begging you to get out and take a picture. Gators are easy to spot here too, though, so you may want to think twice about it. Stop into Everglades City at the end of your route and venture into the mangroves with Jungle Erv’s airboat rides. Or grab some gator bites at the The Pit BBQ on your way into the swamp.
Cocoplum Circle on the canal between Coconut Grove and Coral Gables has no wrong turns. At least it doesn’t if you’re out looking for a scenic drive. Two of the exits take you to Main Highway and Old Cutler Road. The third takes you west down Sunset Drive, a banyan-covered residential street leading into South Miami. While you won’t find any businesses, you will see some of the most impressive homes in the city that aren’t behind a private gate, where neo-colonial, Mediterranean Revival, and even Victorian mansions sit behind perfectly manicured lawns. The whole experience feels a little like riding through a car commercial, and with no traffic can be done in about five minutes.
Loop Road is beautiful in a way only the Everglades can be, a stretch of desolate gravel that’s been called “the loneliest road in America.” But if you find beauty in isolation and empty spaces this place is paradise. This 24-mile loop off the Tamiami Trail is mesmerizing, lined by pine hammocks, big cypress trees, palmetto, and sawgrass. It was once home to Gator Hook, one of the craziest bars in America, but still has an occasionally-open backyard watering hole called Lucky Cole’s that’s an experience in and of itself. You’ll also spot everything from deer to otter, to alligators and even the occasional Florida Panther. For true wild Florida, there’s no road near Miami quite like this one.
The Overseas Highway is the granddaddy of all over-water drives in America, a one-time railroad route designed to make passengers feel as if they were riding over the ocean on their way to Key West. You’ll get the same feeling today, as rolling over the highway’s 42 bridges offers panoramic views of turquoise waters and emerald islands. Even driving on the flat lands is like cruising on a beach, as the vegetation that once lined the road was blown away by Hurricane Irma. Stop in for a drink at the historic Caribbean Club and learn Humphrey Bogart’s role in the history of the Keys, then take in the sunset from the Sunset Grille. The pizza at No Name Pub is also some of the best in Florida, just remember to bring a dollar—or a bra—to leave on the ceiling.
There’s a reason why runners and cyclists flock to the seaside trail of the Rickenbacker Causeway: surrounded on both sides by crystal blue waters, white sands, and waving palm trees, the five-mile stretch connecting Miami and the nearby islands of Key Biscayne and Virginia Key has become synonymous with everything that locals love about living in Miami. The William H. Powell Bridge—jokingly (yet truthfully) referred to as “the biggest hill in Miami”—provides spectacular views of Miami’s downtown skyline and the waves of Biscayne Bay as drivers climb nearly 100 feet above sea level to its peak. It’s easy to get distracted by the sights on every side, so you’re probably better off having a friend or Uber driver behind the wheel while you snap pictures.
South Beach has gained worldwide fame for its Art Deco architecture, and Ocean Drive is the epicenter of it all. The pastel-colored hotels and bars on Ocean Drive’s west side act as the perfect complement to the trees and sand of the beach and Lummus Park across the street, providing the ideal backdrop for pretending you’re in a music video while driving down this picturesque seaside road. During the pandemic and shortly afterwards, the street was turned into a pedestrian thoroughfare, making the “driving” part of the scenic drive a little challenging. It’s now a one-way street with a big, fat bike lane, allowing you to enjoy this view from your car, fixie, rollerblades, or whatever other wheeled method of transportation you prefer.
Old Cutler Road
The tree tunnels of Old Cutler Road make it one of the most popular spots in Miami for scenic Sunday drives. Stretching nearly 15 miles from the ritzy gated community of Cocoplum in Coral Gables to the suburban village of Cutler Bay, the road acts as a main artery for many of the upscale communities that are situated along the way. The route has attracted even more visitors—be they on four wheels, two wheels, or two feet—searching for a place to take in some of the beauty of living in South Florida. Matheson Hammock Park, located about a mile-and-a-half south of Old Cutler’s northern end, is home to one of the county’s quietest beaches and provides another scenic (yet shorter) drive and Red Fish Grill at the end. Or you can stop into Fairchild Tropical Gardens and stretch your legs among tropical foliage and flamingoes.
Julia Tuttle Causeway
As one of the two main highways connecting Miami Beach with mainland Miami, the Julia Tuttle Causeway is home to some of the most sweeping views of Biscayne Bay visible from a car. The highway’s two bridges clock in at just a few feet shorter than the Rickenbacker Causeway’s bridge, offering the same bird’s-eye view of the bay below and downtown skyline in the distance, albeit from a different angle (that’s far more visually pleasing than the lines of cargo ships in PortMiami). On the beach side, the Julia Tuttle ends at the iconic “Welcome to Miami Beach” sign that greets visitors as they enter the beach at 41st street; on the mainland side, the causeway spits you out in the heart of midtown Miami, just minutes away from the street art of Wynwood.
Perhaps the drive that out-of-towners will recognize the most, the MacArthur Causeway connects the city of Miami on the mainland and the barrier island of Miami Beach, and has become iconic for its proximity to many of the things for which the area is known. On one side, the multi-million dollar homes on Star Island will make you dream about having neighbors like P. Diddy and Gloria and Emilio Estefan. On the other, the monstrous cruise ships docked at Port Miami will have you planning your next ocean getaway. And if you cross the causeway without making at least one reference to Bad Boys 2, you haven’t really driven in Miami.
Like the MacArthur and Julia Tuttle, the Venetian Causeway bridges Miami Beach with downtown Miami. It was the original bridge between Miami and Miami Beach, and when it opened in 1913 it was the longest wooden bridge in the world. The original wood has been replaced by a series of draw bridges running entirely at sea level, so it feels as if you’re driving on the water with little peeks of the city skyline popping out when you cross between the Venetian islands.
Despite its name implying high traffic and high activity, Main Highway in Coconut Grove is one of the quietest major thoroughfares in the city, with plenty of low-hanging trees and colorful flowers to provide some ideal driving scenery. Don’t be surprised if you have to stop and wait for a peacock to cross the road—they’re some of Coconut Grove’s most famous residents and have called the area home for decades. At just about a mile, Main Highway is a mostly residential street, but at its northern end, it’s home to popular attractions like the CocoWalk and food spots like Lulu and GreenStreet Café.