Tamiami Trail vs. Alligator Alley – Florida Road Trip Choice

Map Tamiami Trail vs Alligator Alley

Your choice. Take the toll road I-75 or the Tamiami Trail (US Rt. 41).

TAMIAMI TRAIL VS. ALLIGATOR ALLEY – FLORIDA ROAD TRIP DIFFERENCE

It can be confusing since they both end up in Miami, but the differences between the Tamiami Trail vs. Alligator Alley are significant. Which do you take Tamiami Trail or Alligator Alley? The answer depends on your destination, time of day, your goals on your road trip plans, and the sights you prefer to see.

Tamiami Trail History

The original idea of creating a road to cross the southern part of Florida originated by leaders from Ft. Myers and Miami who were meeting in Tallahassee, Florida in 1915. It wasn’t until April 25, 1928, when a convoy of 500 cars left Tampa and arrived the next evening in Miami to officially open the Tamiami Trail. Thirteen years of unimagined difficulties finally realized a trans-Florida roadway in south Florida.
Tamiami Trail vs Alligator Alley Walking Dredge

This was called a walking dredge developed to cut the Tamiami Trail through the swamps.

During construction, things went rather as expected until the roadway between the outskirts of Miami and the little town of Ochopee in the Everglades brought construction to a halt. No one really understood the challenges the Everglades wilderness would bring when trying to make a roadway through the swamps.

Public funding quickly ran out. One man, Barron Collier, knew the value of a road from Miami to Tampa. As an owner of millions of acres in the area, Collier agreed to fund the project through the Everglades. They had to overcome the “swamp angels“, build specialized equipment for the swamps, find workmen willing to encamp in the wild and develop ways to transport millions of tons of bedrock to the road. It became a monumental task.

It took almost 5 years to complete the east-west section of the road through the Everglades. Today, the mainly four-lane highway is a beautiful drive through one of America’s most heralded wetlands. The sights you come across on the Tamiami Trail (US Rt. 41) from Naples to Miami are the subjects of photographers from around the world.

Wildlife, birds and plants exist in this part of Florida that isn’t found anywhere else in the world. Magnificent scenery for almost 100 miles. Tamiami Trail alligators have been photographed so often, we think they may pose!

Alligator on Vulture Tamiami trail scaled e1667576609244
The alligator in the background was sneaking up on this vulture. We took this on the Tamiami Trail.

The History of Alligator Alley

Alligator Alley was opened as a two-lane roadway in 1968. Controversy quickly developed. It was a dangerous road. Headon collisions were common. Wildlife quickly became accustomed to the traffic and used the roadway for crossings in the Everglades. More collisions.

Finally, in 1986 it was decided to route I-75 onto Alligator Alley. That became a six-year project that resulted in today’s toll road with four lanes (and more in some areas). That turned Alligator Alley into a superhighway as they rerouted waterways for wildlife under the freeway. Tall fences keep man from infringing on the creatures of the swamps (or vice versa).

Alligator Alley is the fastest way to Miami. However, in our opinion, the least scenic way. In fact, we have written about the “Real Alligator Alley”, which is the Tamiami Trail. You will see many more alligators (and other wildlife) on the Trail than Alligator Alley.

Canals run for miles along Alligator Alley. You may see an occasional alligator looking for a meal.

The Differences Between The Tamiami Trail and Alligator Alley

We have driven both roads many times. Each road has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on your perspective. We outline the contrasts below.

  • If you want the fastest way to Miami, the toll road Alligator Alley is your road. However, if you are heading to the Keys, the difference in time getting to Key Largo is minimal between the two roads. Rush hour in Miami on the freeways is no fun!
  • If you are a sight-seer or photographer, hands down, the Tamiami Trail is the road for you. Over the years we have seen tons of alligators, many unusual birds, and the occasional deer or bobcat. We haven’t seen the elusive Florida Panther that others have been lucky enough to see. We believe the Tamiami Trail alligators are part of a great Florida road trip.
  • If you are driving at night, we suggest Alligator Alley. The Tamiami Trail offers less security and the chances are greater of an encounter with Everglades wildlife on the road.
  • Both roads have Native American road stops for gas, snacks and bathrooms, but don’t rely on them late at night. You will see more law enforcement on Alligator Alley than on the Tamiami Trail. However, be warned – the Miccosukee tribe patrols part of the Tamiami trail after around mile marker 70. They are strict about speed.
  • Both roads have rest areas and picnic places roadside.
Thi guy was sunning himself on Loop Rd., just off the Tamiami Trail.

Other Attractions

The toll road I-75, Alligator Alley, has limited access as most super highways do. There aren’t many easily accessible attractions.

On the other hand, the Tamiami Trail has plenty of things to see and do including;

The Big Cypress Swamp covers much of the Everglades. The Big Cypress Swamp State park in just east of Naples.

Our Conclusions – Tamiami Trail vs. Alligator Alley

We believe your goals will determine your path. Tamiami Trail versus Alligator Alley is a choice made based on your time, your destination and your goals. If you are on the proverbial Florida road trip, Tamiami Trail will be your choice. If you are catching a plane in Ft. Lauderdale, the Alligator Alley will get you there the quickest.

Airboat Everglades Tamiami Trail or Alligator Alley

You can find airboat tours on both roads, although we prefer the ones on the Tamiami Trail. Airboat tours are a great way to learn about the ecosystem and wildlife inhabitants – bring your camera!

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