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Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

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Longview, Washington
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Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

We will be in Florida early in February and plan to drive from Orlando to Punta Gorda on a Sunday.

Map Quest suggests taking I-4 to Lakeland, then Hwys 98 and 17 south to Punta Gorda. Google recommends continuing on I-4 to I-75 and south. The Google trip is 30 miles longer, but appears to take the same amount of travel time.

I am leaning toward the MapQuest route as we generally prefer to avoid the Interstates as much as possible and go with the slower more scenic routes. However, since we have never been to Florida, I have no clue as to what sort of roads and landscapes we would encounter on this route.

Your thoughts and suggestions on this would really be appreciated.

Longview, Washington
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1. Re: Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

I would also like some tips on the most scenic routes from Fort Myers/Naples to Miami.

Brandon, Florida
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2. Re: Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

It depends on what you call scenic. I wouldn't consider Hwy 98 and 17 to be scenic. Remember that Florida is almost pancake flat. But that route is definitely going to be slower than the I-4/I-75 route, no doubt about that. If you don't mind going through a bunch of small towns and have the time then by all means go 98/17. On I-75 there are two Outlet Malls if you want to do some shopping - one in the Ellenton area (just before Bradenton) and one just past Ft. Myers (Miromar Outlet) - both are visible from the highway.

From Ft. Myers/Naples to Miami is a different story. Take Hwy 41 out of Naples all the way to the western edge of MIami. Along the way in the canals that run alongside the roadway you will see a few alligators. You will also pass a place called Shark Valley where you can take a tram or bike tour to see some of the Everglades wildlife. There's also an artist of some repute, Clyde Butcher, who has a gallery on hwy 41.

Google will give you details on any of the above.

Longview, Washington
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3. Re: Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

Thanks , Chuts, I think we will probably go with the small town route, that''s usually more interesting than the Interstate, even though it's slower. We have a number of big outlet malls here on the West Coast, so they would not be a real interest for us.

Highway 41 to Miami sounds fascinating. We also want to take a short ride on an air boat. Any places that offer that along Hwy 41?

What is the speed limit on the Interstate Hwys in Florida?

Brandon, Florida
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4. Re: Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

The speed limit is 70 mph but at that speed everyone will be passing you. LOL. For an airboat ride, there are the proverbial "tons" of places that offer rides, but I don't have any experience with them. Read the Miami forum - I remember reading that someone else asked about that.. If you don't find any messages about that, try the Ft. Lauderdale forum.

Melbourne, Florida
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5. Re: Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

Look at keymom posts about the everglades. She is mostly on the Florida Keys forum but posts on Miami too. There is someone on the west coast forum who posts about Shark Valley and airboat tours on that side but I don't know who the poster is. Thought is was you chuts and may have sent them to you. If I remember right 98 & 17 will be mostly orange groves and is not a bad drive. The roads are good and traffic is usually light.

Brandon, Florida
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6. Re: Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

No that wasn't me BornWith .... but I do usually mention Shark Valley to anyone who may be passing that way. I've never done an airboat tour and don't have the inclination to do one.

BTW, kitters, don't expect to see any sharks or valleys in Shark Valley. The terrain is as flat as the rest of the Everglades. If you like taking pictures of wildlife there will be plenty of photo ops. there. And carry earplugs if you plan on taking an airboat ride.

Edited: 8:27 am, November 28, 2009
Longview, Washington
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7. Re: Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

I'm really getting excited to visit Florida. We've traveled through much of the U.S., but Florida appears to be completely different than anywhere else we have been. We live on a hill here and when we travel I-5 between Seattle and Los Angeles there are many hills, but most of the time we hardly notice them except for the passes through the Siskiyou Mountains in Southern Oregon and the Grapevine Hills near Los Angeles.

Hwy 98/17 with the orange groves sounds like the sort of drive we like. There used to be many of those around the southern CA area, but now the only places we've seen them are near Bakersfield.

I'll check keymom's posts. Thanks for the reminder to have earplugs for the airboat ride. We'll definitely have them along. We are also going to the Daytona races. :-)

If we can work it in, we are thinking of driving out part way in the Keys. Maybe as far as 7-mile bridge?

Edited: 12:17 pm, November 28, 2009
Brandon, Florida
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8. Re: Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

If you're so inclined, there's a high speed ferry from Ft. Myers over to Key West. I don't know the cost, but I'm sure Google will get you details. Another really scenic drive, but is a little out of your way, is along the barrier islands from Bradenton to Sarasota. The road runs along Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, and Lido Key. Then if you want to continue to Siesta Key you have to cross back on to the mainland for a short bit before getting on to the road over to Siesta Key.

Without the hills you have, that's the best we can offer as far as scenic goes. LOL.

Keep tabs on the weather as in Feb it may get a bit chilly especially on an airboat ride.

Longview, Washington
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9. Re: Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

I checked earlier on the ferry to Key West, but decided against it because it would take an entire day.

I'm thinking about spending the night at Fort Myers Beach (rather than Punta Gorda--DH wants to see a car museum there), then driving south along Estero Island on Hwy 865 connecting with Hwy 41 at Bonita Beach. We might splurge and stay at beach front accomodations. Any suggestions? I draw the line at spending over $200 a night for a place to sleep, however. :-)

<Chilly in Feb> as in what? 55-60º--It's currently 39º here at 6:30 p.m., expect a high tomorrow of 47º--but no rain, that's good! We laugh when we go to AZ in November because the natives break out the winter clothes if the temperature drops below 65º

Brandon, Florida
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10. Re: Traveling from Orlando to Punta Gorda

If you're going to be near Kissimmee, hubby might want to check into Old Town where there is usually some kind of car show. Don't know if they are antiques or tricked out hot rods. Again check Google for details.

The weather is totally unpredictable these days with daily weather not normally what it is. So who knows how it will be come February. Just be prepared.

Best to read the Ft. Myers Beach forum for ideas on accommodation. On the left of the main page you should see some links for hotels and such.

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