While much can be said about the year-round sun, boating, and beach lifestyle of southern Florida, motorcycling in the lower half of the Sunshine State can leave a bit to be desired. Although rides along beach roads are always good for pleasant scenery and beautiful sunsets, the topography is sea-level flat and the roads predominantly straight.
There are more enjoyable and interesting riding options to explore in the northern half of the state, however. North of a line from Tampa to Orlando, Florida’s topography morphs from the rolling hills of Ocala horse ranch country to coastal riding on roads within yards of the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle. East of the Jacksonville metro area, less populated sections of SR A1A lead to the historic town of St. Augustine, offering views of the Atlantic Ocean. Farther west, the St. Johns River and the Florida lakes region provide many unique riding experiences.
A Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins
My travel plans for the week include all of these points, beginning with the teardrop-shaped Cedar Key. From there, I plan to head northwest toward Apalachicola for a visit to St. George Island, then east to Jacksonville, and on to St. Augustine for some Atlantic oceanfront riding, before returning through the center of the state.
From Port Charlotte, the first hurdle is to make the light-speed jump on I-75 to north of the Tampa-Orlando line. A subject well-known to Florida travelers, I-75 can be crowded with traffic at any of the major cities along the road. Hwy 589, the Suncoast Parkway, is a newer toll highway that runs north from St. Petersburg and closer to the west coast than the interstate. As my first stop on the tour was Cedar Key, I had previously signed up for an account with Florida’s SunPass toll road system, allowing me to ride without having to stop at toll booths.
Aiming for the Suncoast Parkway via I-275 would also offer the added incentive of a ride over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. This magnificent cable-stayed concrete bridge is 5.5 miles long and rises to 430 feet over the turquoise-colored water of Tampa Bay. Sections of the previous Skyway Bridge were left in place and are now used as a long concrete fishing pier. A detour to the pier is the perfect place for pictures of this engineering marvel.