Travel

The Best Scenic Drives in the Miami Area

Enjoy Miami vistas while staying safe.

In case you’re unaware, Miami has a reputation for being the sun and fun capital of the world. That makes it one of the most frustrating places to live during the coronavirus pandemic, when residents are obeying self-isolation orders and remaining at home as much as possible. Non-essential businesses are shuttered across Miami-Dade County, beaches are closed to the public, and world-famous events like Ultra Music Festival and the Miami Open have scrapped their plans for 2020, leaving locals with little to do and even less to see.

But besides being a place for outdoor fun, the 305 is also known for something else: its overwhelming car culture, which used to be evident every day with traffic jams on I-95 and beyond. Locals love their wheels, and luckily, Miami is still a beautiful city, with many beautiful areas that can still be seen from behind the tinted glass of a car window. There’s more time and more reasons than ever to go for a scenic drive, and if you’re in Miami, you’ve got some of the best options in the country available at your fingertips.

Rickenbacker Causeway

Key Biscayne
There’s a reason why runners and cyclists flock to the seaside trail of the Rickenbacker Causeway: surrounded on both sides by crystal blue waters, white sands, and waving palm trees, the five-mile stretch connecting Miami and the nearby islands of Key Biscayne and Virginia Key has become synonymous with everything that locals love about living in Miami. The William H. Powell Bridge -- jokingly (yet truthfully) referred to as “the biggest hill in Miami” -- provides spectacular views of Miami’s downtown skyline and the waves of Biscayne Bay as drivers climb nearly 100 feet above sea level to its peak. It’s easy to get distracted by the sights on every side, so you’re probably better off having a friend or Uber driver behind the wheel while you snap pictures.

Ocean Drive

Miami Beach
South Beach has gained worldwide fame for its Art Deco architecture, and Ocean Drive is the epicenter of it all. The pastel-colored hotels and bars on Ocean Drive’s west side act as the perfect complement to the trees and sand of the beach and Lummus Park across the street, providing the ideal backdrop for pretending you’re in a music video while driving down this picturesque seaside road in the safety of your car. Public beaches, bars, and restaurants are all closed per Miami Beach city ordinance, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look at hotspots like the Clevelander, Palace, and Wet Willie’s or the opulent mansion once owned by Gianni Versace from a distance.

Old Cutler Road
Old Cutler Road | Courtesy of Chris Malone

Old Cutler Road

Coral Gables
The tree tunnels of Old Cutler Road make it one of the most popular spots in Miami for scenic Sunday drives. Stretching nearly 15 miles from the ritzy gated community of Cocoplum in Coral Gables to the suburban village of Cutler Bay, the road acts as a main artery for many of the upscale communities that are situated along the way. The route has attracted even more visitors -- be they on four wheels, two wheels, or two feet -- searching for a place to take in some of the beauty of living in South Florida. Matheson Hammock Park, located about a mile-and-a-half south of Old Cutler’s northern end, is home to one of the county’s quietest beaches and provides another scenic (yet shorter) drive, but remains closed until further notice.

Julia Tuttle Causeway

Miami Beach
As one of the three main highways connecting Miami Beach with mainland Miami, the Julia Tuttle Causeway is home to some of the most sweeping views of Biscayne Bay visible from a car. The highway’s two bridges clock in at just a few feet shorter than the Rickenbacker Causeway’s bridge, offering the same bird’s-eye view of the bay below and downtown skyline in the distance, albeit from a different angle. On the beach side, the Julia Tuttle ends at the iconic “Welcome to Miami Beach” sign that greets visitors as they enter the beach at 41st street; on the mainland side, the causeway spits you out in the heart of midtown Miami, just minutes away from the street art of Wynwood.

MacArthur Causeway
MacArthur Causeway | Thomas Hawk/Flickr

MacArthur Causeway

Miami Beach
Perhaps the drive that out-of-towners will recognize the most, the MacArthur Causeway connects the city of Miami on the mainland and the barrier island of Miami Beach, and has become iconic for its proximity to many of the things for which the area is known. On one side, the multi-million dollar homes on Star Island will make you dream about having neighbors like P. Diddy and Gloria and Emilio Estefan. On the other, the monstrous cruise ships docked at Port Miami will have you planning your next ocean getaway.

Venetian Causeway

Miami Beach
Like the MacArthur and Julia Tuttle, the Venetian Causeway bridges Miami Beach with downtown Miami. What makes the Venetian unique is the actual bridge.The causeway runs entirely at sea level, so it feels as if you’re driving on the water; specially-designed white barriers border the road on either side to prevent drivers from actually driving over the water. It takes you through the posh neighborhoods of Miami’s Venetian Islands and past hotels like The Standard and rentable luxury homes like the Villa Venetian, so driving through is not only the most scenic option, but also the most cost-effective.

Main Highway

Coconut Grove
Despite its name implying high traffic and high activity, Main Highway in Coconut Grove is one of the quietest major thoroughfares in the city, with plenty of low-hanging trees and colorful flowers to provide some ideal driving scenery. Don’t be surprised if you have to stop and wait for a peacock to cross the road: they’re some of Coconut Grove’s most famous residents, and have called the area home for decades. At just about a mile, Main Highway is a mostly residential street, but at its northern end, it’s home to popular attractions like the CocoWalk mall (currently under renovation) and food spots like Lulu and GreenStreet Café.

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Chris Malone is a native of Miami, where he spends much of his time as an arts and entertainment reporter for the Miami New Times. Follow him on Twitter.