Covering 275 miles between two major metropolitan areas in Florida, Tamiami Trail is the southernmost portion of U.S. Highway 41. The roadway connects downtown Miami and Tampa, tying together the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. In the years following its 1928 opening and before interstates became the norm, roadside attractions popped up all along the Tamiami. Today, while a few of those highway curiosities have managed to survive, the Tamiami Trail is just as synonymous with Cuban and Native American culture, eco-adventures, and Florida’s most famous landscape photographer.
Coffee at The Versailles – Through Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, the Tamiami Trail is better known as Calle Ocho, or 8th Street. During the 1960s, the area saw an influx of Cuban exiles and became the cultural and political capital of Cuban Americans. If you want authentic Cuban cuisine, Calle Ocho has countless restaurants and cafes to keep your taste buds happy. The Versailles Restaurant and Bakery is a South Florida landmark spanning an entire block and is best known for its connection to anti-Fidel Castro politics and its strong black coffee.
Gamble with the Miccosukee – Long before Miami or the Tamiami Trail existed, the Everglades was home to the Miccosukee. This federally-recognized Native American tribe was at one time part of the Seminole nation. Now the tribe operates a number of tourist-oriented properties on the Tamiami Trail including the 302-room Miccosukee Resort & Gaming Hotel and an Indian Village featuring a museum about the tribe’s history and culture, alligator shows and airboat rides.
Spot a Gator – If you’ve ever wanted to see an alligator up-close, this is the place to do it. They’re everywhere in the Everglades, including at the Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center – an essential stop to gather important information about the Everglades and somewhere you can view gators from a safe distance on an elevated boardwalk.
Take an Airboat Ride – You haven’t seen the Everglades until you’ve experienced the swampy marshes in an airboat. Plenty of companies offer tours via airboat and you can find their outposts all along the Tamiami. Do a little research before you go to find the tour that’s right for you.
Tour Skunk Ape Headquarters – The Everglades community of Ochopee is home to the world’s only Skunk Ape research center. Folks have reported sightings of the hairy foul-smelling ape-like creatures for decades and you can stop in here to learn more about the elusive beast (and maybe buy a souvenir or two).
Have Lunch at Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe – With its local menu (frog legs, gator, blue crab), wrap-around porch, and bathroom walls covered in nudie photos, Joanie’s in Ochopee oozes character and bad-ass charm. Housed in an old barn dating back to 1928, this roadside diner is a fun nostalgic place that features friendly service and almost always has live entertainment.
See the Nation’s Tiniest Post Office – While there’s not much to see here, it’s worth stopping by the Ochopee Post Office, which looks like a little white shack off the side of the road. Snap a selfie in front of the sign because you’ve just experienced the smallest post office in the U.S.!
Visit Clyde Butcher’s Gallery – Landscape photographer Clyde Butcher has been toting his large-format camera into the swamps of the Everglades since the 1980s. He and his wife call the Big Cypress area of the Everglades home and own a large piece of property with a gallery that’s open to the public, a bungalow and a swamp cottage. Butcher is often at the gallery and enjoys talking with visitors from all over the world. And if you still haven’t spotted a gator, you’re likely to see one – or two – in the pond next to the parking lot.