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Top 10 Scenic Drives in Southwest Florida

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(See here for a Camaro-iffic photo gallery of scenic drives in Southwest Florida.)

The bitchin' Camaro.

Here’s the deal: My wife often rents cars to drive around Florida on business. When she lucks out and gets a really cool car, she takes our Hyundai and gives me the dream ride.

That ’s how I got to spend a week driving a bright yellow Camaro convertible.

And that’s how I got the idea for a Top Ten List of the Best Scenic Drives in Southwest Florida.

10. Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key

Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key. At Coquina Beach, I tried to capture sunset in the Camaro windshield. (Staff Photo / Thomas Becnel)

Summer’s the best time to make this beach drive, because traffic slows to a crawl during the winter tourist season. Start up north on Anna Maria Island, where there is less development and better views.


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9. U.S. 17, Arcadia

U.S. 17, Arcadia. At a Peace River boat ramp, I parked two feet from the water so I could photograph 10-year-old Eli Wilhelm wrestling with Kela, his black lab. (Staff Photo / Thomas Becnel)

This classic country road follows the Peace River through miles and miles of old Florida frontier. Cow pastures, orange groves and river bends. You can stop for old-fashioned barbecue or roadside tacos.

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8. Manasota Key Road, Englewood and Venice

Manasota Key Road, Englewood and Venice. With so little traffic on this canopy road, there was plenty of time for me to take photos. (Staff Photo / Thomas Becnel)

The second of three beach drives on this list. A canopy road opens to the panoramic Gulf view of Blind Pass Beach in the middle of the key. There’s very little traffic, especially on weekdays.

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7. Riverview Boulevard, Bradenton

Riverview Boulevard, Bradenton. A young couple walked along the Manatee River while I took yet another Camaro photo. Yes, I got a little weary of taking these car pictures. (Staff Photo / Thomas Becnel)

This is not a long drive or a famous one, but the road curves nicely along the Manatee River. You can trace Bradenton history from Rogers Cemetery to Warners Bayou and the DeSoto National Memorial.

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6. Bayshore Road, Sarasota

Bayshore Road, Sarasota. Old, tall palms line the road. (Staff Photo / Thomas Becnel)

This city route hugs the north Sarasota bayfront. Head south from New College and the Ringling Museum of Art. The Sarasota Half Marathon follows this route, which is one reason it’s called “A Run with a View.”

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5. Casey Key Road, Englewood

Casey Key Road. If you like cruising past palatial estates, this is the drive for you. (Staff Photo / Thomas Becnel)

The top beach drive on this list. Luxury automobiles and landscaping trucks crowd a narrow road perched up high on the island, which provides a better look at blue-green water. Old beach houses share the key with new McMansions.

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4. John Ringling Causeway and Bayfront Drive, Sarasota

John Ringling Causeway and Bayfront Drive, Sarasota. To get a decent angle on the bridge, I went to Golden Gate Point. (Staff Photo / Thomas Becnel)

The graceful sweep of the Ringling Causeway has become a postcard image of Sarasota. Best view in town. Complete the S-curve of this drive by cruising past the sailboats moored along Bayfront Drive.

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3. Boca Grande Causeway, Gasparilla Island

Boca Grande Causeway, Gasparilla Island. A beach view. (Staff Photo / Thomas Becnel)

Head south for a long drive to the lovely hideaway of Boca Grande. The $5 toll is worth it. Just after the little downtown, make sure to turn into the canopy cathedral that is Banyan Street.

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2. Park Drive, Myakka River State Park.

Park Drive, Myakka River State Park. Summer rainclouds hover over Upper Myakka Lake. (Staff Photo / Thomas Becnel)

After zipping east to the Sarasota state park, you can slowww downnn on the winding road that carries you along the Myakka River. The speed limit is 15 mph, anyway. Look for deer in the woods and alligators in the water.

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1. Sunshine Skyway, Tampa Bay

Sunshine Skyway, Tampa Bay. A great bridge and great view. For many, this is the highlight of a drive to the Tampa airport or a ballgame in St. Pete. (Staff Photo / Thomas Becnel)

One of the world’s great bridges and best views. To the east is sunrise over Tampa Bay. To the west is sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. For many, this is the highlight of a drive to the Tampa airport or a ballgame in St. Pete.

And the bright yellow cables of the Skyway matched the paint job on my Chevy convertible.

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Last modified: January 9, 2014
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