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Travel destinations, beaches and attractions and things to do in Florida. Documented by RESIDENTS of Florida.

Route 98 in Florida – Backroads Florida Road Trip on Scenic Highway 98

Scenic Highway 98 Florida Backroads

Yes, we know gas is expensive. Most cars average 20 miles to the gallon or better. If you take a 150-mile road trip, 300 miles total, you will spend about $80 in a six-hour road trip in Florida. Pack a picnic lunch and have a fun day for two people (or more) for under $100 in the backroads of Florida and Route 98 in Florida is a fun scenic road trip.

To put this Florida road trip in perspective, an all-day ticket to Disney World for two will cost $218 for basic admission. You don’t want to know the cost of your lunch and the cost to get there!

The backroads of Florida can be as entertaining as Mickey and friends. We guarantee sights you have never seen, history you have only read about, and views worthy of the most experienced photographer.

Even more interesting can be the different cultures we have in the state of Florida. From the Cuban heritage of Miami to the plantations of old north Florida and now the fishing villages of the panhandle. The state of Florida is large – from Pensacola to Key West is over 12.5 hours and more than 800 miles.

Follow along on one of our favorite road trips – Scenic Highway 98. 

Route 98 in Florida from Perry to Apalachicola

Among the many backroads of Florida, Route 98 angles through Florida from West Palm Beach to Mobile, Alabama. Part of this federal highway meanders along the Gulf Coast in the panhandle where we will focus.
The section we are highlighting goes from dense forests that make you think you are in a northern state to waters of the Gulf lapping at the side of the road as you head west. You will travel through Florida “cracker” country to one of the most famous oyster beds and fishing villages in the country.

We break down our backroads of Florida road trip into two legs.

Route 98 in Florida - Scenic Hwy - Tates Hell
Tate’s Hell looks nothing like the sparse pine forests of southern Florida. It is as treacherous as any northern forest.

The First Leg of Your Florida Road Trip

The first leg of your day trip in Florida is from Perry to Panacea, Florida. We will take you through some of the most spectacular and dense forests anywhere.  Most are protected lands – both federal and state preserves. Trees almost make a canopy over the road.
If you want to be adventurous, you can take a detour off Route 98 at the Saint Marks Wildlife Preserve. Drive south to the village of St. Marks. You will find San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. This historic port was once occupied by the Spanish, English, Confederates, and finally Americans.
St. Marks Lighthouse
St. Marks Lighthouse in St. Marks city.
By the time you get to Panacea, you will be seeing Gulf front homes, fishing resorts and waterfront restaurants. The friendly people, places, and views are not like anywhere else in Florida.
As you leave Panacea, the road and waterfront parallel each other. In many spots, there is evidence of hurricane waters that washed out parts of the road. Repairs have been necessary several times over the years.
There is no doubt your scenery is quickly changing. 

Many Possible Stops Along Second Leg of Florida’s Backroads

Route 98 in Florida
Apalachicola is a must-stop on any trip through the panhandle on route 98 in Florida
The second leg of your backroads of Florida day trip has many opportunities for stops and detours. You may detour south from Panacea to Alligator Point, an island in the Gulf filled with charming beach homes and cottages.
You may want to consider the story behind Tate’s Hell State Forest you will be passing through. We suggest you learn how this state preserve got its name – we won’t spoil it here, but it’s a great story about a settler, his Native American wife and finding food.
Another option is when you reach Eastpoint, Florida, you can take the bridge to St. George Island. We have written about this popular island on several occasions. If fact, the beach at St. George Island is one of the top ten beaches in Florida.

This is an excellent place to remember along this back road of Florida if you want relaxation and simple beach pleasures. The island is famous for its long stretch of white sandy beach. A perfect place for a beach chair to just stare at the water and the birds along the shore.

One of the most famous fishing villages in the world is Apalachicola. At one time, most of Florida’s oyster harvesting came from these waters around Apalachicola. Due to declining water quality, the oyster population disappeared and the oystermen are struggling to come back.

Apalachicola has gone through a revival from economic devastation to roaring back as a quaint historical tourist town. The shops are unique. The restaurants are back to serving their traditional dishes and there is even a reported haunted hotel to stay in! Read more about Apalachicola here.

backroads of Florida - Florida road trip oysters
Oysters we decimated at Up the Creek Oysters – a restaurant in Apalachicola.
That’s a pretty full Florida road trip. Add a couple of the recommended stops and you can turn this into an overnight weekend trip.

Things To Do Along Route 98 in the Panhandle

Here is your list of things to do on our Route 98 road trip. This scenic highway is stunning while driving but here is a list to consider:
  • Try a country cracker diner just a few miles west of Perry called Deal’s Famous Oyster House. Some great hospitality and country food.
  • Visit the town of St. Marks on the river with the same name. Stop by the Riverside Cafe for some fresh seafood on the river. 
  • Take one of the many trails from Route 98 such as the Thompson Trailhead near the crossroad named Memorial Road.
  • Take Alligator Drive to Alligator Point a community in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Enjoy the fishing village of Carrabelle and the small shops.
  • Take Rt. 300 across the bridge to St. George Island. See one of Florida’s best beaches. Our family believes it is one of the top 3 beaches in Florida.
  • Discover Apalachicola. This famous Florida town has quaint shops, exceptional waterfront restaurants and historic buildings.
The best thing to do along Route 98 in Florida is have fun, take a lot of photos and see other cultures in Florida.
route 98 in Florida - Florida Scenic highway - apalachicola
Shrimp boats along the waterfront in Apalachicola.

Final Thoughts on Route 98 in Florida

As you leave Apalachicola, about 5 or 6 miles down the road to the west is another backroad of Florida scenic highway called Rt. 30A – 28 miles of Beautiful Beaches that features some of the most beautiful beaches and colorful communities in Florida.

US Route 98 is over 600 miles long. The section we have covered is 160 miles of the entire road. Highway 98 goes from the palm tree studded beaches in southeast Florida to the forest covered road in north Florida.

Cultures, scenes, food and even the time has changed but the beauty of Florida has persevered through the many different landscapes. 

Have fun on your Route 98 in Florida road trip and watch for more of the backroads of Florida adventures.  
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