Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
The Florida Turnpike
This excellent toll road will take you speedily to Orlando. It is well signposted, has plenty of service areas and is generally a lot less busy than the other roads. It is a pretty straight road, and as such, can be a little soporific, with not much to see, so you need to be aware of losing concentration – after all, Florida is the flattest state in the USA! At the present time the toll is $13.70, but it is well worth paying this for the convenience, plus there are plenty of service areas where you can get a drink, buy a meal or snack, or simply stretch your legs, and give the children a break.
The Turnpike begins about 26 miles south of Miami, at a place called Homestead, which once suffered devastating damage from a hurricane. Here it meets US Highway 1, which is the road which leads all the way to the Florida Keys, ending at Key West, at its southernmost point. It is numbered in miles, from its beginning, south of Miami, so look out for the mileposts at the side of the road which tell you where you are.
There are two ways to access the Florida Turnpike, either west of Miami, via the Dolphin Expressway, or a few miles north of Miami, via the 112 and Interstate 95. You will pass Pompano Beach, and just before you get to Lake Worth/West Palm Beach Service Station you will reach a toll booth at Mile Post 88, Lantana Toll Booth. This is where you enter the section of the Turnpike covered by the Ticket System, and you will be given a ticket which will log your tolls throughout your journey, so that you only pay at the end, when you exit the Ticket System Area, at Three Lakes Toll Plaza, at Milepost 236. Within this 148 mile area, you will not have to stop for tolls.
A good tip is to ask at the toll booth for one of their special maps. If you have several children, ask for a couple, as this map shows the whole route, and you, and they, can track the journey – helps to pass the time! If your children are anything like mine were, they will probably be asking ‘are we there yet?’ two minutes after you set off. It’s a help to see the miles disappearing. If they don’t have one in the toll booth, they are freely available in the Service Areas, so pick up a couple there instead.
It will also show where each of the service areas are, and the distance between, so you can judge where you want to stop.
The Service Plaza’s are as follows:
Mile Post 65 Pompano Beach
Mile Post 94 Lake Worth - West Palm Beach
Mile Post 144 Fort Pierce/Port St Lucie
Mile Post 184 Fort Drum
Mile Post 229 Canoe Creek
Mile Post 263 Turkey Lake
Mile Post 299 Okahumpka
Central Florida is very flat, and not all that interesting, as there is not much to see but miles of fields. However, along the road are wetlands where you might catch sight of the odd alligator, or some of the beautiful birds that abound in this area. The last time we went we were lucky enough to see several armadillos – one, unfortunately, flat as a pancake on the ground! They are curious looking creatures, quite small, a little like armour plated piglets.
The Service Stations on the Turnpike are very good, clean, with good toilet facilities, and the food is not expensive like British Motorway service areas. We would suggest that you wait until you have negotiated the road round Miami before stopping – there is a service area at Pompano Beach (Mile Post 65) or at West Palm Beach (Mile Post 94). They can be found approximately every 40 miles, and can be accessed from both sides of the turnpike, as they straddle the road. Most exits are to be found on the right hand side of the road, but you will need to come over to the left hand lane as you approach the service area, if you want to stop. It will be well signposted.
Each Service Area has a variety of fast food ‘eateries’ including Burger King in all but 2 of the 8 areas. As well as that, you will find Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and a couple of Cinnabons, Nathan’s, Sbaroo’s, Popeyes and Miami Grills. Be aware though that most of the ‘eateries’, apart from Burger King, do shut before 8.00 pm. There are gift shops and an information area, so it’s great for the children to have a bit of a wander round, especially if the natives are getting restless. At the entrance you will find huge information displays on the wall by the entrance, where you can pick up travel brochures about all the attractions available in Orlando, as well as shopping malls etc. Planning where you are going, and what you would like to do, is a great way to pass the time on the journey. ATM machines are available at each service plaza, too.
Outside you will find stalls selling Florida fruit, in particular large juicy oranges. They usually have free samples for you to try – but they are very juicy so watch the dribbles! There are picnic areas, and of course gas stations, with fuel at competitive prices.
We normally exit at Milepost 249, where we join the Osceola Parkway on our way to our villa. This is a very central point at which to exit the Turnpike, as it avoids the very busy eastern end of the 192, around Mediaeval Times. You can also join the 192 at Milepost 242. It may look nearer to leave the Turnpike at the first 192 exit, but you may well get stuck in heavy traffic. However, it all depends where your final destination is.
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