Back Roads Florida Trips

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These scenic Sunshine State adventures are sure to get your motor running.

Even after northern motorcyclists stow their bikes for the winter, Sunshine State riders can still rev it up on scenic roads. Florida’s twisty two-laners, shaded canopy roads and beachfront blacktops are designed for year-round discovery to give motorcyclists (as well as motorists) room to roam. Here are eight great Florida journeys. Take ’em for a test ride.

Miami to Key West

This subtropical tour from Miami’s South Beach unlocks the Florida Keys on County Road 905, a thrilling back road through the mangroves. It reconnects with U.S. 1 and the carefree life of Florida, featuring diving at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (MM 102.5), a patio party at Lorelei’s (MM 82), swimming with dolphins (MM 59), crossing the Seven Mile Bridge (MM 47) and reaching the ultimate end of the line at MM 0 in quirky Key West.

Pensacola to Panama City Beach

South of historic downtown Pensacola, this journey begins with a 15-mile ride on State Road 399 that slices through Gulf Islands National Seashore. Hook up with Highway 98 through Fort Walton Beach and Destin. Lunch at Okaloosa Pier before spinning down to Highway 30A to find sanctuary at Grayton Beach State Park. After lazing in tranquil WaterColor and Seaside, savor the powdery sand of Panama City Beach.

St. Augustine to Daytona Beach

On a 50-mile run between America’s Oldest City and the Birthplace of Speed, extraordinary A1A offers nearly uninterrupted views of the Atlantic, inviting beaches and pullover points at such historic sites as Fort Matanzas and Marineland Dolphin Adventure. Make time for food and fishing at the Flagler Beach Pier before rolling on to Ormond Beach.

Tallahassee to DeFuniak Springs

Only miles north of Interstate 10, rural Highway 90 seems worlds away. The soul of the South is felt on the gently curving road that travels through such antebellum towns as Quincy, Chattahoochee, Marianna and Chipley. Explore caverns and natural springs, take time for a loop around perfectly circular Lake DeFuniak and toast ride’s end at the Chautauqua Winery.

Arcadia to Okeechobee to Sanibel-Captiva

Not every ride needs a reason, although a daylong, 200-mile tour is reason enough to ride east from Arcadia to Lake Okeechobee. Skirt along its eastern bank on old Highway 441 and discover such historic Old Florida towns as Pahokee, Belle Glade and Clewiston. Remote and refreshing lonely roads boomerang west to allow time to catch the sunset from the isles of Sanibel and Captiva.

Daytona Beach to Mount Dora

Leave the Valhalla of the V-twin for Highway 40 and the quiet towns Barberville and Astor and a break on the banks of the St. Johns River. Veer off on slumbering CR 445 past straight-as-nails Florida pines then splashdown at Alexander Springs. The final miles zip through the Ocala National Forest, Altoona and Umatilla, where you can “taste drive” the Mason Jar (a restaurant). Then roll to a stop in New England-y Mount Dora.

Apalachicola to Tallahassee

From the small oyster harvesting village-turned-artists’ community, take a waterfront detour along
St. George Island, then get back to tight track riding on Highway 98. Hug the curving shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico, tuck into the woods of a national forest and get refreshed at the R-T-n-T Hide-a-Way on the crystal-clear Wakulla River. Later, sip a ginger yip at historic Wakulla Springs Lodge, then roll on for a final forest run into Tallahassee.

Eustis to Palatka

Highway 19, Central Florida’s road less traveled, leads from the southern border of the Ocala National Forest north through exhilarating seclusion. Branch off the pine-rich road to explore natural springs, hiking trails and the clear waters of Salt Springs. Reaching the wide St. Johns River is a thrill to be celebrated with a burger at Angel’s Diner, Florida’s oldest diner.

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BONNIE MARSHALL
BONNIE MARSHALL August 11, 2011 12:00 AM
I LIVED IN CLEARWATER, FL FOR 25 YRS. AND NEVER MADE IT TO "KEY WEST!" WHIHC REALLY SUCKS...
I LIVED IN CLEARWATER, FL FOR 25 YRS. AND NEVER MADE IT TO "KEY WEST!" WHIHC REALLY SUCKS...