Over Beautiful Waters: Florida’s Most Iconic Bridges
By Clarissa Buch
Florida is graced with thousands of miles of sparkling waterways. All that water, of course, calls for a lot of bridges – drawbridges long enough to stretch across canals and rivers, and concrete structures strong enough to stand above ocean vistas and connect the state’s many barrier islands.
As you explore the Sunshine State, you’re bound to cross a bridge or two. And fortunately, many of them offer some of the most scenic panoramic views in all of Florida.
Journey over the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart for a sweeping sight of the St. Lucie River. Trek across the Seven Mile Bridge on the Overseas Highway to catch a glimpse of a 100-year-old historic railway crossing in the Keys. Or travel the MacArthur Causeway to gaze at Miami’s fast-growing skyline.
As you embark on a road trip across Florida, look out for these 13 bridges along the way.
Bridge of Lions / St. Augustine
Built in 1927, the quarter-mile Bridge of Lions connects Anastasia Island, a barrier isle east of St. Augustine, with the mainland. The Mediterranean Revival-inspired structure, marked by a pair of marble-sculpted lions, serves as a main thoroughfare between downtown St. Augustine – the nation’s oldest city, and known for significant landmarks like the Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas – and Anastasia Island, which includes a 1,600-acre state park with beaches, nature trails, bike paths, campsites, and watersports areas.
Acosta Bridge / Jacksonville
Acosta Bridge, originally built in the 1920s, was the first automobile and pedestrian crossing over the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. In the mid-90s, the bridge was replaced with a new and larger structure of the same name. Today the bridge, which measures in at less than half a mile, includes two monorail tracks to accommodate the Jacksonville Skyway, a local people mover that runs through the downtown area, and two sidewalks, earning it a reputation as one of the most pedestrian-friendly bridges in the state. The bridge allows bicycle traffic within its commuter lanes as well. Use the bridge to move from Jacksonville’s downtown and Riverside neighborhoods to the Southbank and San Marco areas.
Rickenbacker Causeway / Key Biscayne
Connecting the Miami mainland with the barrier islands of Virginia Key and Key Biscayne, the Rickenbacker Causeway stretches more than five miles. With views of Biscayne Bay, surrounding beaches, and the Miami skyline, the bridge welcomes bikers, walkers, runners, and skaters on its southbound and northbound perimeter lanes. Once in Key Biscayne, look out for Miami’s preeminent site for windsurfing, Hobie Beach, as well as beach access at Virginia Key Beach Park, Crandon Park, and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the island’s southernmost tip. Key Biscayne is also home to the Miami Seaquarium and the Rusty Pelican, a seafood restaurant famous for its waterfront views.
Sunshine State Skyway / Tampa
Considered the “flag bridge” of Florida, the Sunshine Skyway is a four-mile cable-stayed bridge that connects St. Petersburg in Pinellas County and Terra Ceia in Manatee Countmay, known for a 2,000-acre wildlife preserve. At both ends of the bridge, there are rest areas with large lots to view surrounding scenery. Either makes for a perfect spot to spend an afternoon for a waterside picnic. Canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and kite-surfing are permitted along the shore, though there are no life guards on duty. In St. Petersburg, keep an eye out for the Salvador Dali Museum, Fort De Soto Park, and the Locale Market.
Seven Mile Bridge / The Keys
Part of the Overseas Highway, which runs through the Florida Keys, there are two bridges that link Florida’s peninsula with the string of tropical islands. The modern bridge, known as the Seven Mile Bridge, is adjacent to an older structure built under the direction of Henry Flagler in the early 1900s. Today, the old bridge, once called the “Eighth Wonder of the World,” is closed for renovations. It’s expected to reopen to pedestrians and cyclists. As you journey the Overseas Highway on the modern bridge, which can be crossed only by car, look out for famous destinations including Key Largo, Islamorada, and of course, Key West.
MacArthur Causeway / Miami
This six-lane bridge, which joins downtown Miami and South Beach via Biscayne Bay, is the area’s main roadway connecting the mainland and surrounding barrier islands like Palm Island, Hibiscus Island, and Star Island. On either side, the bridge offers sweeping views of Miami Beach and the downtown Miami skyline. Though walking and biking are permitted, driving across MacArthur is a safer alternative. Once near the beach, tour Miami’s historic Art Deco District. On your way back, visit the Perez Art Museum and adjoining Frost Science Museum, and catch the sunset at the museum’s chef-driven waterfront restaurant, Verde.
Buckman Bridge / Jacksonville
Though sometimes prone to traffic jams, the Buckman Bridge offers outstanding views of the St. Johns River and nearby buildings and landmarks. Within a three-mile span, the bridge connects Orange Park, a suburb in Jacksonville, with Mandarin, an area near the eastern banks of the river only a short drive from Jacksonville’s city center. On land, Jacksonville is home to 10 state and national parks, making it one of the largest urban park systems in the nation. The city is also known for a thriving craft beer and restaurant scene.
Caloosahatchee Bridge / Fort Myers
Extending over the Caloosahatchee River, this mile-long bridge connects downtown Fort Meyers on the southern shore with North Fort Meyers and surrounding suburban areas. Aptly named after the river, the bridge is adjacent to the Edison Bridge. While both bridges favor motorists, they allow for walkers, runners, and cyclists, too. On either side of the Caloosahatchee Bridge, park at North Shore Park or Centennial Park. Adjoined to the north and south ends of the bridge, they serve as excellent areas to view the bridge and the brimming coastline. Also on the south shore, stop by the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford winter estates and stroll through shops and restaurants on First Street in downtown.
Bahia Honda Rail Bridge / The Keys
Originally connected to the Overseas Highway, Bahia Honda is an abandoned rail bridge open to locals and tourists. Set in Bahia Honda State Park, replete with white-sand crystal-clear beaches, snorkeling, picnic areas, and other watersports, the bridge serves as the park’s focal point. Only 12 miles south of Marathon, Bahia Honda welcomes beachgoers, campers, and travelers in need of a rest stop.
Gandy Bridge / Tampa
Across Old Tampa Bay, the three-mile Gandy Bridge is one of three that connects Hillsborough and Pinellas counties in Tampa. Though the bridge that stands today is not the original structure built in the 1920s, it travels across the same waters and serves the same purpose of linking South Tampa with suburban areas like Riviera Bay, Caya Costa, and Harbor Isle. While the bridge is used for vehicles, there are public green spaces at both ends for viewing. Nearby, visit attractions like the Henry B. Plant Museum, the Lowry Park Zoo, or the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
Venetian Causeway / Miami
The Venetian Causeway, a mostly flat structure with two bascule bridges, is a hotbed for cyclists, runners, walkers, and joggers. Though it helps ease traffic from the mainland to some of Miami Beach’s barrier islands, the causeway is a popular spot for exercise enthusiasts. Cross the bridge (nearly three miles long) sometime during mid-morning, merge onto Purdy Avenue at the causeway’s end, and travel a few blocks north to Panther Coffee for a refuel.
Roosevelt Bridge / Stuart
The Roosevelt Bridge is largely responsible for helping transform sleepy Stuart into a booming Florida town. Before the bridge was constructed in the late ‘90s, many residents pleaded with city officials to create a tunnel beneath the St. Lucie River instead. Nearly two decades later, the one-mile bridge helps support shops and restaurants located on the north and south ends. If you go, take advantage of Stuart’s fishing and watersport activities, and explore its historic and pedestrian-friendly downtown. For a complete view of the Roosevelt Bridge and bordering waters, enjoy a meal at Pelican Café, which sits at the bridge’s southernmost tip and offers sweeping views of the St. Lucie River.
Julia Tuttle Causeway / Miami
While Interstate-95 is associated with heavy traffic and frequent accidents, it transforms into 195 near downtown Miami. Named after Julia Tuttle, who owned much of the land on which Miami was built, the causeway offers a scenic four-mile trip from downtown Miami to Miami Beach. While the causeway does not allow for pedestrians, cyclists are welcome within the designated bike lines along the shoulder.