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10 scenic drives around Tampa Bay to take while self-isolating

Your own car (cleaned, by the way) can become the safe, isolated way to give you some new views besides your television.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sunshine Skyway Sunrise

In the age of social distancing and isolating, we must avoid other people and places that could increase the spread of coronavirus.

But, that doesn’t mean we can’t go outside and enjoy some of the beautiful parts of Florida. Your own car (cleaned, by the way) can become a safe, isolated way to give you some new views besides your television. 

Lucky for us, living in Florida, the state has dozens of scenic drives and designated highways to get your dose of nature but keep you away from people.

Here are 10 you can experience in the Tampa Bay area:

Sunshine Skyway Bridge

This one is a given, but even native and longtime Floridians can’t help but stare in awe while driving over the bridge connecting Pinellas County to Manatee County. Even on a cloudy day, the views over Tampa Bay are stunning. 

And, if you head south over the bridge and park at the fishing pier, you can see the bridge light up in different colors once the sun goes down.

Credit: 10News

Clearwater Memorial Causeway

This causeway can be packed with cars on perfect beach days, but even being stuck in traffic gives you great views over Clearwater Harbor. The half-mile-long stretch even has walk and bike lanes to make the experience last a little longer. 

Fort Island Trail

West Fort Island Trail winds around Crystal River Preserve State Park (closed until further notice) and ends at the Fort Island Gulf Beach Fishing Pier. It begins at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and offers views of untouched Florida wilderness, waterways, islands and keys off the state’s west-central coast. 

Bayshore Boulevard

It may line busy South Tampa, but Bayshore Boulevard offers the best waterfront views of Hillsborough Bay. And, if you’re into it, some of the prettiest homes in the area. 

If you keep your distance from others, Bayshore Boulevard is a great walking and jogging trail. 

The road begins at the end of Gandy Boulevard and ends at W Platt Street headed into downtown Tampa. 

Credit: FDOT

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Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway

Get your beach fix even if you can’t step foot in the sand on the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway. The route is a 3-mile stretch of SR 789/Gulf Drive that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. It’s literally steps from the beach and has Coquina Gulfside Park and Leffis Key Preserve at the southern end.

The Ridge Scenic Byway

Right in the center of the state in Polk County is a 38.7-mile-long roadway that takes you back to early 1900s Florida. The Ridge Scenic Byway is a state-designated scenic highway that winds through Lake Wales Ridge and shows off rural agricultural areas, lakes and historic roadside attractions. 

The byway runs along US 17 from US 27 south of Frostproof to Haines City and the intersection at US 17/92. 

The Green Swamp

It’s a swamp and it’s green, but The Green Swamp is where the headwaters of the Peace River, Withlacoochee River, Ocklawaha River and Hillsborough River are found. It's west of Highway 27 near SR 471. The preserve is closed, but US 471 cuts right through the natural green goodness, including the Richloam Wildlife Management Area.

Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway

This one’s a bit far from the Tampa Bay area, but it cuts right through Ocala National Forest and leads you to the Big Scrub -- the largest contiguous sand pine forest. The 60-mile corridor along SR 40 winds around Marion County and parts of Lake, Putnam and Volusia counties. And, it gets its name from the Florida black bear, which has its highest population density in this area.

Suncoast Scenic Parkway

The Suncoast Parkway might not seem like an obvious scenic drive to Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando county commuters, but it’s state-designated and lies within the Suncoast Corridor. The Department of Transportation said the parkway (SR 589) links areas of development in the counties while designed “to coexist in harmony with natural surroundings.”

Palma Sola Scenic Highway

The 4-mile stretch of SR 64, named after a “solitary palm” near Holmes Beach on Anna Maria Island, guides drivers to the island over Palma Sola Bay and the inland waterway. The FDOT calls the highway “a great leisure drive for the whole family” and even connects to the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway to the south.

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