Scenic Drive in Florida: Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway

Sam and Dave Merrill

Travel under a canopy of hardwood hammocks with bright splashes of tropical flowers and watch for kelly green tree frogs leaping across your trail. The Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway on the southern tip of Florida will lead the adventurous through a tropical landscape unlike any other in the United States.

Venturing straight through the Big Cypress National Preserve, the Tamiami Trail offers visitors an opportunity to escape into the wilds of Florida where you can search for endangered Florida panthers or cigar orchids. While in Big Cypress National Preserve, take advantage of opportunities to bike, hike, canoe, and picnic.

See the beauty of Florida's people and wildlife as you drive through the Tamiami Trail.

Archaeological: The Calusa people were the original inhabitants in the area long before the trail existed. Today, several small family-operated Native American craft shops are located along the trail. Most of the Native American villages along the edges of the trail are not open to the public. Most are visible from the trail and contain elements representative of their culture. The villages are usually communal family oriented that is also typical of their culture.

The Seminole Monument is located one mile west of Monroe Station. This spot marks the location where Florida governor David Sholtz met with leaders of the Seminole and Miccosukee Nations. The Miccosukee Tribe's headquarters is located on the Tamiami Trail just East of the Dade County line.

Historical: The completion of the Tamiami Trail in 1928 led to the construction of first buildings along the route, called way stations. These way stations, similar to gas or filling stations, were built along the trail specifically to assist stranded motorists. The stations were located at ten-mile intervals, and each one was operated by a husband and wife team. Five of the way station sites are found within the corridor limits, and include Royal Palm, Weavers, Monroe, Turner River, and Paolita Stations. Royal Palm and Monroe Stations have the original structures still in place, but they have been altered from the original design.

Settlements and businesses began to develop soon after the road was completed. Three sawmills were located along the trail to harvest cypress and pine trees. Lumbering activities became an important activity in Collier County in the 1930s. Other business opportunities developed around agriculture.

Natural: The Tamiami Trail Scenic Highway travels through the Everglades/Big Cypress region of Florida, which is the largest remaining sub-tropical wilderness in the United States. This particular section of land is home to unique palms and palm islands. About 80 percent of the land is owned by the public in the form of national parks, national preserves, and state parks. Visitors have a chance to see the natural habitat of south Florida, including mangroves, fresh- and saltwater marshes, sawgrass prairie, tropical hardwood hammocks, palm hammocks and islands, pinelands, and cypress strands. The combination of these unique features provides an unparalleled wildlife sanctuary.

The Everglades area boasts the largest mangrove forest in North America, and the cypress strands build a virtual canopy for the visitor to travel under. Abundant wildlife is also found throughout the byway area. For example, American alligators, soft-shell turtles, bald eagles, wood storks, great egrets, great blue herons, Everglades mink, black bears, panthers, wild hogs, white-tailed deer, otters, roseate spoonbills, and manatees (along with various fish) are known inhabitants of the area.

ByWays.Org The subtropical Everglades is a low-lying floodplain with cypress trees, mangrove thickets, and palms.

Recreational: Recreational opportunities are abundant along the Tamiami Trail. The unique Everglades region, coupled with the 800,000 acres of public land located around the byway, give visitors and recreational enthusiasts a variety of chances to enjoy themselves. Picnic areas, wildlife viewing, photographic opportunities, and a visitor center area are all available for casual visitors. Canoe launch areas provide an avenue for the more adventurous traveler.

Fishers can try their hand at salt- or freshwater fishing via canoe or along the canal edges. The Florida National Scenic Trail crosses the byway and provides 31 miles of hiking for day hikers and overnight backpackers. There are primitive campgrounds that offer a few facilities, as well as many campgrounds with full facilities. Hunting and off-road vehicle exploration of the Big Cypress National Preserve is allowed. Permits and required licenses are necessary to hunt, fish, or operate an off-road vehicle.

Scenic: The trail traverses the middle of the Everglades region and offers an unrivaled view of the area's rich natural wonders. Common sightings of wildlife and scenic vistas along the trail have introduced countless travelers to the area and has drawn regional, state, and national attention to South Florida's unique ecosystems.

Find out the places you'll want to stop in the next section.