The Dixie Highway – America’s love affair with cars

As snowbirds speed down modern Interstates to Florida, remember that in 1923 the Dixie Highway had just reached Tampa. In three more backbreaking years the Tamiami Trail would cross the Everglades to Miami. Speed on the Dixie Highway averaged 12.9 mph in 1923, so a trip from Chicago to Miami took two weeks!


As the Dixie Highway pushed south, signage had local variations.

Roads versus trains in 1900s Florida

As late as 1910, good highways eluded most Americans, so people rode trains. Locally, they traveled by wagon, buggy or city streetcar. Local roads were all dirt. “Improved roads” were graded dirt, clay or gravel. And when it rained … mayhem ensued.

Counties paid farmers to grade the roads and pull the joy riders out. At Erehwon Retreat we’re glad not to be hosting guests in the 1920s!


The Dixie Highway was surfaced in stages.

In 1880 railroad mileage (250,000 miles) vastly exceeded navigable roads. Railroads had a monopoly! Express trains averaged 58 mph compared to the 13mph by road. 

In 1914, Carl G Fisher dreamed of connecting hundreds of short roads into interstates looping from the Mackinac MI ferry to Miami. Creating the Highway, and later a Federal highway system, created arguments about federal power and local control between many stakeholders: automobile brands, farmers, and the Good Roads movement.  In the South, prison commissions (chain gang labor) and racial control were hot topics.

At the same time, auto manufacture soared. Between 1900 and 1908, 485 automobile companies emerged, although barely half survived to 1909. Henry Ford’s Model N cost $600 in 1906 but his Model T was selling for $345 in 1916. By 1918 half the cars on the road were Model Ts. Only one thing was missing – roads that could withstand heavy rain.

The Florida map of the Dixie Highway in 1926

Fisher wanted easy travel to his Miami Beach developments. Initially his road was called the Cotton Belt route, but by 1915, when construction began, it became the Old Dixie Highway, promoting a romantic image of the Old South.

By the 1920s vacationing in Florida was growing exponentially

If you are driving on I-75 and want to track the Old Dixie Highway …


Where Should I Stay When Cruising From Tampa

Port of Tampa Cruise Ship Terminal

Port of Tampa Cruise Ship Terminal

November kicks off the winter cruise season.  This is the busiest time of year for Port Tampa Bay and Erehwon Retreat’s more complicated booking season. Each season we host a few cruise line passengers for a week’s visit preceding or following a cruise out of Port of Tampa.

From our historic perspective, the Port’s single largest embarkation took place in 1898.  Tampa received 30,000 troops bound for the Spanish American War. The initial wave, which included Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, departed on June 7 with 16,000 troops. The Tampa Bay Hotel was used as Rough Rider Officer Quarters. The Rough Riders were recruited mainly in San Antonio;s Hotel Menger bar.  They were  trained in front of the Alamo. In my prior life managing the NY City Joffrey Ballet, whenever the company played San Antonio we stayed at the Hotel Menger.  I knew the story that they departed for the east by train, but that’s where the story stopped.  When I opened Erehwon Retreat I discovered their destination was Tampa.

Port of Tampa

Tampa Cruise Ship Terminal

Port of Tampa Cruise Services

accomodation near Port of Tampa Cruise

Carnival’s ships operate year-round four- and five-day cruises to the western Caribbean, including the popular destination at Mahogany Bay. Currently, the line also sails seven-day itineraries during the winter season and these will be offered year-round commencing January 2018.

Royal Caribbean’s two ships will provide four-, five- and seven-day cruises in the winter. And, for the first time, Royal Caribbean will operate four- and five-day summer cruises when Empress of the Seas begins sailing from Tampa on 30 April.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Jade, will offer itineraries ranging from four to 12 days that will include a stop at its new island destination, Harvest Cay in Belize.

Rounding out Port of Tampa’s passenger offerings, Holland America has increased its passenger capacity by replacing a long favorite among Erehwon Retreat guests, the Veendam, with the Oosterdam.

2017 saw a 6% growth in passengers to a total of 813,934 over 188 sailings.

September 22-23, 2018 Port of Tampa celebrated it’s 1 millionth cruise passenger.

Unique Accommodations for Cruise Passengers

accomodation near Port of Tampa Cruise

Erehwon Retreat is located just 4.6 miles from the Port of Tampa Cruise Ship Terminal; we coordinate our two properties during winter cruise season to turn over the same day arrival/departures of Saturday and Sunday. This allows cruise ship passengers to easily enjoy an evening show at The Straz Center for the Performing Arts, visit Ybor city, the historic Cigar District discover Disney or Harry Potter

With a host who is a sailor and ex US Navy, one of the subtle differences of staying at Erehwon is having special amenities for guests preparing for sea or returning to land.

There are adjustments to avoid land sickness for some, and we know how to prepare our property so that guests rest peacefully in our 1920’s environment. Old Seminole Heights is Tampa’s first suburb (1911) and has been designated as a National, State and local Historic Landmark District.

Holiday Homes


Visit Tampa and Discover

Our 2 bed + pull out couch/2 bath Bungalow is great for families. And with early planning, extended families may coordinate booking both our Guest Cottage and Bungalow for the same dates. Lots of families give Grandparents or in-laws our Guest Cottage less than 150′ away from the Bungalow for a quiet spot.  Even larger families ask our on-site Concierge to identify other nearby holiday rentals within a few blocks walk in our historic neighborhood.

We have hosted families in our Holiday Rentals from Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Helsinki, Johannesburg, Essen, Dorncaster, Bithoven, Enschele, Skieve, Vellinge Schleusingen, Glengowie, Hong Kong, Taipai, &Buenos Aires. Occassionaly we link reservations with family members living in the US with other members living in Europe. Each reunion is unique and over and over I plug in my own world travel experience to ensure the little details are considered.

As well as elegant rooms you can find amenities and services you expect of a hotel. Complimentary Wi-Fi. Free off-street parking, linen service, Children’s beach toys, Beach Umbrella and beach towels, Yoga mat(yoga studio one block away), visiting massage therapist, expert on site Concierge.

There is a rich history in Tampa that is still being made to this day. Whether you are visiting for a weekend, a week or a month make sure to use our traveler resources under the Location tab.