Best Scenic Drive (2002)
State Road A1A
When bicycling enthusiasts organize tours, they head to northern Palm Beach County. And for good reason. While there are few bad views from State Road A1A anywhere along the coast, once north of the pomp of Palm Beach, the back-to-nature scenery is downright stunning, and reminders of Florida's much-ignored history abound. Mangroves reappear, traffic disappears, and the road hugs the beach as it did elsewhere before condos became king. And it looks as good on four wheels as two. A good place to start is Juno Beach, a quaint seaside town of 2800 residents just north of PGA Boulevard. In the late 1800s, the town was the fourth stop on the Celestial Railroad, a short-lived line connecting Juno and Jupiter with train stations the publicity-savvy rail company dubbed Venus and Mars. Continuing north, you'll be surrounded by largely untouched land on the west and the blue expanse of the Atlantic on the east as you pass by the popular Juno Beach pier. At Carlin Park, the road turns west, and you'll have to get out on perpetually traffic-clogged U.S. 1 to cross the Jupiter Inlet. Once over the inlet, you'll see the 105-foot-high, bright-red Jupiter Lighthouse, which was built on an ancient Indian burial ground in 1860 and still provides a beacon to boats today. Head back east to A1A, where you'll be within spitting distance of the Intracoastal. Just north of the county line, stop at Blowing Rocks, a preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy. If you hit it at low tide, you'll discover the meaning behind its name. Sea water shoots out of holes in the porous limestone rock, creating a scene more characteristic of the rugged Pacific Coast than the more placid Atlantic. Since you've come this far, you might as well continue to Jupiter Island, the carefully manicured, old-money haven where the first President Bush went often to visit his mother. Now home to half the top golfers in the PGA, it is also where President Clinton took a highly publicized knee-twisting tumble while staying up late drinking with... er, make that talking to Greg Norman. Drive around and find out how those who consider Palm Beachers riff-raff really live. Cap the drive by taking a dip at the public park at the end of the island. Then what? Drive back and see everything you missed on the way up.