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Tamiami Trail vs. Alligator Alley – Florida Road Trip Choice

Map Tamiami Trail vs Alligator Alley
Your choice. Take the toll road I-75 Alligator Alley vs. the Tamiami Trail (US Rt. 41).

Which One, Tamiami Trail vs. Alligator Alley 

There are some common questions;

  • Alligator Alley or Tamiami Trail, Which One is Better?
  • Which is faster Tamiami Trail or Alligator Alley?
  • Which one has more alligator sightings?
  • Which is Better Alligator Alley or Tamiami Trail?
  • Where is the Alligator Alley in Florida?
  • What is Alligator Alley in Florida?

It can be confusing since both roads end up near Miami from the Naples area, but the differences between the Tamiami Trail vs. Alligator Alley are significant. 

Which do you take Tamiami Trail vs. Alligator Alley? 

We prefer the Tamiami Trail. The answer for you 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 made Tamiami Trail history
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. 

Tamiami Trail history was made when new unique methods were found to cross the Everglades.

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 aren’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!

The Tamiami Trail history once again proved man’s ability to overcome Mother Nature’s gifts. The question is if the result was worth the impact on the precious ecosystem.

Tamiami Trail vs. Alligator Alley - Tamiami Trail history
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. Head-on collisions were common and horrific.

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Wildlife quickly became accustomed to the traffic and used the roadway for crossings in the Everglades. More collisions.

The first few years of Alligator Alley history were pretty ugly!

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).

The new construction 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 from Tampa, SarasotaPunta Gorda and points south. 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 Tamiami Trail vs. 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 Florida road trip 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.

What is Along Alligator Alley I-75

The stretch of I-75 from Naples to Miami, known as Alligator Alley, crosses the southern part of the state and offers travelers a view of Florida’s natural landscapes. While the drive primarily features long stretches of road, there are some noteworthy points along the way. Note that we don’t suggest Alligator Alley is a scenic highway due to the speeds and limited access. However, you can’t help to see some of nature’s wonders on both sides of this super highway.

Here are some things along Alligator Alley;

1. Big Cypress National Preserve: Alligator Alley traverses the northern border of the Big Cypress National Preserve. This area features swamps, cypress forests, and wildlife like alligators, birds, and other native animals. There are designated stops and boardwalks where you can explore the natural beauty of the preserve.

2. Mile Marker 63 Rest Area: There’s a rest area located near mile marker 63 on Alligator Alley. It provides facilities for travelers to take a break, use the restroom, and stretch their legs.

3. Billie Swamp Safari: Located off Snake Road, an exit from Alligator Alley, Billie Swamp Safari is a popular attraction where you can take airboat rides through the Everglades, see alligators, and learn about the Seminole Tribe’s culture and history.

4. Miccosukee Service Plaza: This service plaza is located at mile marker 35 on Alligator Alley. It provides travelers with a place to refuel, grab a bite to eat, and rest.

5. Everglades Wildlife Management Areas: Along Alligator Alley, you’ll have the opportunity to spot wildlife in the surrounding Everglades Wildlife Management Areas. Keep an eye out for birds, deer, and other animals.

6. Miccosukee Indian Village: This cultural attraction showcases the history and traditions of the Miccosukee Tribe. You can visit the village to learn about their heritage, see demonstrations, and shop for handmade crafts.

7. Miami: The eastern terminus of Alligator Alley leads to the Miami metropolitan area, where you can explore the city’s many attractions, including South Beach, art galleries, cultural events, and diverse dining options.

While Alligator Alley may not be a tourist destination in itself, the drive provides a convenient route for traveling between Naples and Miami and offers a glimpse of Florida’s unique natural environment, including the Everglades. If you have the time, consider making stops at the various points of interest along the way to enhance your journey.

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

Attractions Along Tamiami Trail in The Everglades

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 Florida road trip has plenty of things to see and do including;

  • The smallest post office in the world is in Ochopee. Great for a picture.
  • The Skunkape Headquarters : This quirky attraction focuses on the legend of the Skunk Ape, Florida’s version of Bigfoot. The site has exhibits and offers a unique roadside stop.
  • One of the most prolific artists in Florida has a gallery about halfway to Miami. The Clyde Butcher Galleries are well worth the visit for Everglades artistry.
  • Numerous airboat ride vendors are along the highway.
  • If you want a true Florida adventure, take a detour on Loop Road we have written about here.
  • Big Cypress National Preserve: Starting on the western side of the journey, you’ll drive through the Big Cypress National Preserve. This area is known for its cypress swamps, wetlands, and wildlife, including alligators and birds. You can stop at visitor centers and walk the boardwalks for a closer look.
  • Oasis Visitor Center: Located in Big Cypress National Preserve, the Oasis Visitor Center is a great place to learn about the preserve’s ecosystems and wildlife. It offers exhibits, information, and restrooms.
  • Everglades Alligator Farm: Near the Tamiami Trail, you’ll find the Everglades Alligator Farm, where you can see and learn about alligators and other reptiles. They offer airboat tours and wildlife shows.
  • Shark Valley Visitor Center: Located within Everglades National Park, Shark Valley is a popular stop. Here, you can take a tram tour or rent a bike to explore a 15-mile loop trail that takes you into the heart of the Everglades, providing opportunities to see alligators, birds, and other wildlife.
  • Miccosukee Indian Village: Just before reaching the Miami area, you’ll encounter the Miccosukee Indian Village. This cultural attraction allows you to learn about the Miccosukee Tribe’s history, traditions, and way of life.
 
As you drive along the Tamiami Trail, you’ll also pass through scenic landscapes, small towns, and various natural areas, all of which provide opportunities for sightseeing and exploration. The road itself is a historic and iconic route, and the journey from Naples to Miami along the Tamiami Trail can be a memorable experience, especially for those interested in the natural beauty of the Everglades.
Smallwood's Store in Everglades City was a trading post for Seminole Indians and backwoodsmen in the early 1900s.

Two Must-See Towns in the Deep Everglades

Many times people ask if The Everglades are inhabited. The answer is a defiant yes! In fact, Everglades City is sometimes called the last frontier of Florida. Not everyone can explain this moniker.

Most people believe it’s because Everglades City couldn’t conquer the swamp to become the economic center of south Florida like Barron Collier, the developer, and others thought it could be.

Here are some notes about Everglades City and Chokoloskee, Florida.

Everglades City, Florida

Everglades City is a small, historic town located in Collier County, Florida, on the western edge of the Everglades National Park. It is often considered the gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands, a unique coastal region in southwestern Florida known for its estuaries, mangrove forests, and abundant wildlife. Here are some key details about Everglades City:

  • Gateway to the Everglades: Everglades City is strategically situated at the northern entrance to Everglades National Park. It serves as a hub for those looking to explore the natural beauty and wilderness of the Everglades.
  • Rich History: The town has a rich history rooted in the pioneer days of Florida. It was originally settled by the Collier family, who played a significant role in the region’s development. The Everglades Museum here gives a glimpse of life here.
  • Small Community: Everglades City is a small and close-knit community with a population of around 400 residents. It offers a tranquil, small-town atmosphere, which is a sharp contrast to the bustling urban areas of South Florida. It should be noted the population hasn’t changed for hundreds of years.
  • Natural Beauty: The
    Tamiami Trail - map to Everglades City
    Map Everglades City and Chokoloskee
    town is surrounded by the stunning landscapes of the Everglades, including mangrove forests, rivers, and swamps. These natural areas provide ample opportunities for outdoor activities such as kayaking, airboat tours, and bird-watching.
  • Airboat Tours: Everglades City is known for its airboat tours, which take visitors deep into the heart of the Everglades. These tours offer a chance to see alligators, wading birds, and other wildlife in their natural habitat.
  • Fishing: The town is a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts. Anglers come to the area to fish in the estuaries and waterways for a variety of species, including snook, redfish, and tarpon. Everglades City is a place that is unspoiled and remote for fishermen. It is one place where you may head into the Ten Thousand Islands and never see another person all day.
  • Everglades Seafood Festival: Everglades City hosts an annual seafood festival, typically in February, where you can enjoy a wide variety of fresh seafood dishes and experience local culture. Seafood is a big part of the Everglades City economy. thousands of pounds of stone crab claws are harvested annually. Many go to the famous Miami restaurant Joe’s Stone Crab.
  • Ten Thousand Islands: The nearby Ten Thousand Islands are a coastal wilderness area, known for their pristine beaches, abundant birdlife, and diverse marine life. It’s a popular destination for boating, kayaking, and exploring uninhabited islands.
  • Everglades National Park Gulf Coast Visitor Center: This visitor center in Everglades City is a great starting point for those looking to explore the park’s Gulf Coast. It offers exhibits, information, and ranger-led programs.
  • Outdoor Adventures: The town is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking, bird-watching, and wildlife photography are popular activities in the area.
  • Serene Environment: Everglades City is known for its peaceful and unspoiled environment, making it an ideal destination for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Everglades City is an excellent base for experiencing the natural wonders of the Everglades and the Ten Thousand Islands, as well as for exploring Florida’s rich history. It offers a unique and off-the-beaten-path Florida experience for those who appreciate the beauty of nature and a more tranquil pace of life.

Chokoloskee, Florida

Chokoloskee is a small, unincorporated community located in Collier County, Florida, in the southwestern part of the state. It is situated across a small bridge from Everglades City and is a gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands, a unique coastal region known for its estuaries, mangrove forests, and abundant wildlife. Here are some key details about Chokoloskee:

  • Remote and Coastal Location: Chokoloskee is located on Chokoloskee Island, which is part of a cluster of islands in the Ten Thousand Islands region. It is a remote and secluded area with limited road access, providing a sense of tranquility and natural beauty.
  • Historic Significance:
    Alligator Alley vs. Tamiami Trail - Calusa Indians
    The Calusa Indians inhabited the whole southwest region of Florida. They had a rather sophisticated society.
    Chokoloskee has a rich history and was originally inhabited by the Calusa Indians. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it became a hub for fishing and trading, particularly the trade in plume bird feathers, which were highly valued at the time. The Smallwood Store Museum, located in nearby Everglades City, showcases the history of the area.
  • Outdoor Activities: Chokoloskee offers a range of outdoor activities, including fishing, kayaking, boating, bird-watching, and wildlife photography. The area is known for its pristine estuaries, mangrove tunnels, and abundant marine life.
  • Fishing: Chokoloskee is a popular destination for anglers due to its proximity to excellent fishing grounds in the Ten Thousand Islands. It’s a prime spot for fishing for species such as snook, redfish, tarpon, and trout.
  • Chokoloskee Bay: The bay surrounding Chokoloskee is a great place for exploring by kayak or boat, with opportunities to see dolphins, manatees, and a wide variety of bird species.
  • Small Community: Chokoloskee is a close-knit community with a small population. Many residents are involved in the local fishing industry or cater to visitors who come for outdoor activities.
  • Scenic Beauty: The area is known for its natural beauty, and the untouched landscapes of the Ten Thousand Islands make it a serene and picturesque destination.
  • Chokoloskee Everglades Airpark: The Chokoloskee Everglades Airpark provides a small airstrip for private planes, offering an alternative means of access to the area.

Chokoloskee is an ideal destination for those who appreciate the unspoiled beauty of Florida’s coastal wilderness. It offers opportunities for outdoor exploration, fishing, and wildlife encounters in a tranquil and remote setting.

Directions to Everglades City and Chokoloskee, Florida

Everglades City and Chokoloskee can be accessed off the Tamiami Trail (US Route 41) at the crossroad Route 29. This road to Everglades City and Chokoloskee is about 30 miles east of Naples.

Our Conclusions – Tamiami Trail vs. Alligator Alley Florida Road Trip

We believe your goals will determine your path. Tamiami Trail vs. 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 vs. Alligator Alley Florida road trip - Tamiami trail history
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!

Mare About The Everglades – A Captivating Journey Through the Everglades

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