Plenty of snowbirds are familiar with the drive south to Florida, but a scenic route promotion program in the U.S. wants visitors to know about the best routes to drive while they’re in the state.

Under the National Scenic Byways program, the highest recognition possible is the All-American Road designation. That status has just been granted to the Overseas Highway, which stretches for 205 kilometres in the Florida Keys.

Completed in 1938, the Overseas Highway incorporates 42 bridges over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Only 30 other U.S. roadways have earned the prestigious title. Keys officials expect the accolade will lead to increased tourism and additional highway funding.

“The All-American Road designation will bring status to us with international and domestic visitors, so that they know driving U.S. 1 from Key Largo to Key West is a one-of-a-kind driving experience,” said Judy Hull, president of the Florida Keys Scenic Corridor Alliance that spearheaded a multiyear effort to achieve the distinction, who was in Washington for the ceremony.

“It should help us with tourism and future highway grant funding.”

The Overseas Highway follows a trail originally blazed in 1912 when Standard Oil millionaire Henry Flagler completed the extension of his Florida East Coast Railroad from Miami to Key West.

In 1982, 37 of the original bridges including the Seven Mile Bridge were replaced with wider spans. Most of the historic bridges still stand alongside the newer ones and now serve as fishing piers for anglers.

At the same time, three other Florida roads were recognized as new National Scenic Byways:

Black Bear Scenic Byway

In the state’s north central region, linking Silver Springs and the city of Ormond Beach, this route traverses some of Florida’s most pristine ecosystems, centered on the Big Scrub, the world’s largest scrub forest.

The byway offers access to a wide array of outdoor activities and public lands, including the Ocala National Forest,

Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail
This 50-kilometre double loop of roadways runs through some of the most beautiful and diverse natural scenery remaining in all of northeast Florida. There’s ready access to the Atlantic Ocean, North Peninsula, Tomoka and Bulow Creek State Parks as well as numerous city and county parks. The roadway view includes unobstructed vistas of two rivers, creeks and marshes, barrier island dunes and beach, and historic dwellings.

Big Bend Scenic Byway
The Big Bend Scenic Byway is 355 kilometres long and can be accessed from Apalachicola in the west, Tallahassee Regional Airport in the north, or Newport in the east.

It includes outdoor experiences all along the way. such as the Forest Trail —rich with pine forests, hardwood hammocks, grasslands, streams and rivers — or the Coastal Trail of salt marshes, bays, sand dunes, and beaches.

Travellers can also look for the many species of birds, butterflies, animals and wildflowers along the route.

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