US 27 is arguably the most traveled Florida tourism route prior to the coming of Interstate Highway System.
The route that today is US 27 began as a collection of roads tied together by the name Dixie Highway. Today many cities and towns continue to use that name though it doesn’t hold an official destination for the entire route.
The US began systematically numbering roads throughout the country in 1926 and that’s when 27 became one of the main routes from the North, into Florida and along the length of the entire state.
The route enters the state just north of the town of Havana and soon after enters Tallahassee. Heading south-east it passes through High Springs and Williston on its way to Ocala and its first major tourism area. 27 continues south through Leesburg and Clermont and on into the second major tourism area: The Polk County towns of Winter Haven and Lake Wales.
On to Sebring it goes and then skirts around the west shore of Lake Okeechobee through Clewiston and Belle Glade and finally all the way to Miami, which is the third major tourism area.
As the Dixie Highway, US 27 was heavily promoted to residents of the Midwest as the main route to get to and through Florida. Many of the attractions in the center of Florida contributed to that promotion. And as the brochures below show, even when not called the Dixie Highway, the route received significant promotion.
Those three major tourism areas include some of the 20th century’s most popular attractions such as Silver Springs and the Ross Allen Reptile Institute (Ocala), Cypress Gardens and Bok Tower (Winter Haven – Lake Wales) and Parrot Jungle and Monkey Jungle (Miami). It’s little wonder that US 27 was one of the most heavily traveled roads in the US even though it had only one major city and that one at its terminus.
Today the route can still be used to visit several historic tourism locations and to get to some of the best of natural Florida. Of particular note are Payne’s Prairie, Lake Louisa and Highlands Hammock, all state parks, as well as Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades.
Currently the route is also known as the Claude Pepper Memorial Highway in honor of the Florida politician who was both a US Representative and Congressman.