Tamiami Trail Windows to the Gulf Coast Waters: Beauty and Brawn

    By Dalia Colon

    Where: Running along Florida’s west central Gulf Coast, through the cities of Palmetto, Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice and North Port.

    Length: 70 miles.

    How to get around: Car.

    Best time to visit: February to April for Major League Baseball’s spring training. The Baltimore Orioles practice in Sarasota, while the Pittsburgh Pirates train in Bradenton.

    Fun fact: Sarasota’s Siesta Key consistently tops lists of America’s best beaches.

    For more info: Go to visitsarasota.org or check out this interactive report by the Tampa Bay Times.



    Bradenton Riverwalk


    Tamiami Trail isn’t just sitting pretty.


    “Our highway is a functional highway,” said spokesman Volker Reiss. “The road was historically designed to move people and vehicles.”


    That it does. Once the only paved highway between Tampa and Miami, today this portion of the 275-mile trail known as Windows to the Gulf Coast Waters provides a practical way to maneuver among some of the most desirable cities on Florida’s so-called Cultural Coast.


     The Ringling Museum of Art


    Arts and cultural amenities abound particularly in Sarasota, from the Ringling Museum of Art to the Sarasota Opera to Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and more.


    And foodwise, you can’t do much better than the hundreds of restaurants along the trail. You’ll find everything from Southern barbecue to fine dining to Amish cuisine.


    Tommy Bahama Restaurant in St. Armand's Circle


    “But we still have a lot of nature left,” Reiss notes. Take a dip in the legendary Warm Mineral Springs of North Port. Jog along the Bradenton Riverwalk, which runs parallel to the Manatee River. Or canoe through Oscar Scherer State Park.


    “You’re basically in Old Florida there. You don’t even know you’re in Sarasota anymore,” said Reiss.


    Myakka State Forest


    With Tamiami Trail’s mix of practical amenities and access to nature, Reiss said, “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else, even if I had a lot of money.”


    Photos by Luis Santana for VISIT FLORIDA