As the state with the second-largest amount of coastline (only Alaska has more), Florida is a great place for a road trip. Nicknamed ‘The Sunshine State,’ Florida averages only 54 inches of precipitation per year. While any time is a great time for road trips in Florida, the summer months can be especially hot and humid. So think about fall (or spring) if you have a choice of when to go. You’ll find more festivals and events during those times due to the weather.
Road Trips in Florida
Miami is Amazing
Miami is the most famous city in Florida and located in the southeastern part of the state. Honestly, you could drive around the neighborhoods and outlying areas of Miami and have an entire adventure. There is just that much to see! It’s a diverse community with people from countries like Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. The mix of cultures makes it feel like an international city in some spots. It’s also a great starting point for a road trip! So, here are some great road trips in Florida that start in Miami.
Note: due to COVID-19, some attractions may be closed. Be sure to check their websites for updated hours of operation. While the state of Florida doesn’t have an order to wear face masks, some counties and cities do have executive orders in place. So be sure to have face masks on hand.
Miami to Key West
The first of our road trips in Florida takes you from the energetic city of Miami to the relaxing, and a bit outrageous, Key West. The Florida Keys are 120 miles of small islands, or keys, ending in the southernmost point of the continental United States. This most iconic of road trips in Florida will have you crossing over the famous Seven Mile Bridge, giving you fantastic water views.
Home to the University of Miami, Coral Gables is a suburb of Miami and a great place to plant roots while visiting. Developed in the 1920s, Coral Gables gives you excellent access to Miami International Airport, South Beach and other sites.
While in Coral Gables, be sure to visit the Venetian Pool. The only swimming pool on the National Register of Historic Places was built in 1924 out of an abandoned rock quarry. Taking its water from the aquifer, it’s the largest freshwater pool in the United States. There are many coral decorations featured in its Mediterranean-style design. There’s also a grotto and sunbathing area.
Other attractions in the area to check out: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens, Wynwood Arts District (which is 10 miles north) and Merrick House, the home of the founder of Coral Gables.
Home to two state parks and a national marine sanctuary, Key Largo is a great introduction to the laid-back attitudes and ecological pride of the Florida Keys.
The largest cluster of West Indian tropical hardwood in the US is in Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park (yes, it’s a mouthful). Located on North Key Largo, it offers 6 miles of natural trails that let visitors protected plants and animals. There’s also excellent birdwatching here.
Down the road is the country’s first underwater park. You read that correctly – underwater. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park highlights the clear waters and coral reefs off Florida’s coast. All visitors can experience what’s going on under the sea, even if they don’t have SCUBA diving certification. Take a glass-bottom boat tour, go snorkeling, kayak, take a fishing trip or head out for a swim. There’s also hiking and camping available.
After a day in and on the water, head to one of the local restaurants on the island. There are plenty of places to grab fresh seafood and a drink while enjoying the sunset.
Islamorada includes six islands in the Keys and is 20 miles south of Key Largo. It’s the halfway point on this trip. While there are plenty of water activities, including several state parks, Islamorada has land activities too.
Theater of the Sea has been in Islamorada for over 70 years and offers animal exhibits and shows. From birds of prey, sea turtles, reptiles, dolphin shows and an open boat ride, it offers something for everyone in the family. It’s one of the oldest marine animal locations globally and focuses on conservation and helping rehabilitate animals that can’t return to the wild.
Also, be sure to visit Robbie’s to feed the tarpons. Our family laughed so hard as we dangled bait fish from the wharf, waiting for giant tarpons to lurch up from the water and grab it from our hands.
Read more about our list of family activities in the Florida Keys here.
Spread out over 13 keys, Marathon is a sports fisherman’s dream. Fishing is a big industry in Marathon. Some of the fish in the surrounding waters include tarpon, sailfish, yellowtail, grouper and snapper. There are plenty of boats for hire to help you learn more about fishing in the area.
Bahia Honda State Park
Make sure to make a stop 15 miles south of Marathon at Bahia Honda State Park. Clear waters, palm trees on sandy beaches and the unique ecosystem help make Bahia Honda special. There’s even a part of Florida history on site: the Bahia Honda Bridge. Initially Henry Flagler’s railway, portions are now open to walkers.
If you decide to camp at the park, head to the bridge at night to view the sky. With no light pollution, it’s a great place to see the stars.
What can be said about Key West that hasn’t already? Not much! Located just 90 miles from Cuba, it’s a city that’s laid back, relaxed and ready for a good time.
Key West’s slogan is “One Human Family,” and that’s the city’s atmosphere. Inclusion and diversity are embraced, one of many reasons it’s a top LGBTQ destination. That doesn’t mean that it’s only open to the LGBTQ community; Key West has a wide variety of nationalities, races and sexual orientations as residents and visitors.
What to do while visiting? Head to Hemingway’s House to learn more about his ten years on the island and meet his six-toed cat’s descendants. Take a boat trip to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park, which offers both a beach and a historic military fort. Visit the Butterfly Sanctuary for a peaceful respite as hundreds of colorful butterflies surround you. Or just relax at one of the many bars in town and enjoy being in the Conch Republic.
Miami to Tampa
This road trip through Florida will take you from one city know for Cuban influences to another, whose Cuban roots are even older. Visiting Tampa from Miami involves a trip across Alligator Alley. An 80 mile stretch of I-75 that cuts through the Everglades, Alligator Alley reduces the travel time and still lets you visit some great cities.
Considered part of Florida’s Paradise Coast, Naples is the southernmost large city on the west coast. It’s also one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. The sugar sand beaches are beautiful. There is plenty of shelling available along with fishing and diving opportunities.
Naples is a quiet town, so don’t expect a lot of nightlife. But its beautiful architecture, fine dining and beaches will make you want to extend your trip.
55 miles north of Naples is what’s considered the Shelling Capital of the World. Voted the top shelling location in North American by Travel & Leisure, Sanibel Island (and its twin, Captiva Island) has conch, lightning whelk, scallop, and coquina shells, among many others. The way that the islands sit provides a flatter shelf into the Gulf of Mexico. So when the waves come in, the shells aren’t forced into drop-offs, allowing them to arrive on the beach more intact. Be sure that when you find a shell, you make sure it doesn’t have a resident. Taking shells with live inhabitants is illegal in Florida.
Sanibel is a small, relaxed island. So while you won’t be overwhelmed with activities while there, you can still explore. Don’t miss the JN “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. With over 6,000 acres of mangroves, a wildlife drive, hiking trails, birding and kayaking tours, there’s plenty of ways to enjoy the nature of this unique island.
Located 25 miles northeast of Sanibel is Fort Myers. A stop here requires a visit to the Edison Ford Winter Estates. The winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford were located next to each other and are now open to tour. In addition to their homes, you can also see Edison’s laboratory, the gardens (which include one of the largest banyan trees in the US) and a museum dedicated to these American inventors.
Heading north up I-75 takes you to Sarasota. Home to beaches, fishing and water sports, Sarasota also has two great places to see.
The downtown campus of the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is located directly on Sarasota Bay. With 15 acres of plants, the gardens offer a view of tropical plants, orchids and bromeliads. There are also green areas to relax, rotating exhibits and a café.
Also located in Sarasota is The Ringling. The former home of circus owner John Ringling, The Ringling includes his former home Ca’ D’ Zan, a historic theater, gardens on the bay, a museum of art and a circus museum. A visit can easily take most of the day to fully experience everything that is on the grounds.
Taking a detour off of I-75 and heading northwest takes you to St. Petersburg. Once known as a haven for retirees, St. Petersburg has reinvented itself into an artist mecca full of museums, street murals, food and local breweries.
And swing by the St. Pete Pier. Newly rebuilt, the pier offers drinks, food, views of downtown St. Petersburg and plenty of outdoor space. There’s even an updated portion of Spa Beach Park, letting you enjoy a beach atmosphere without having to travel out to St. Pete Beach.
A city with plenty of history, Tampa is the final portion of this road trip of Florida. Located on the mainland, Tampa followed St. Petersburg’s lead and revamped itself into a hotspot and must-visit.
Thanks to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium and ZooTampa, Tampa has plenty of opportunities to get an up-close look at animals. Visit Ybor City to experience the history of cigar rolling in the city and learn more about the Cubans who settled here more than 100 years ago. Head out to Riverwalk to enjoy over 2 miles of paved walkway next to the Hillsborough River. Enjoy a concert or show at the second-largest performance center in the Southeastern US. Or get out and enjoy the nature of the area.
Miami to St. Augustine
Taking a trip from Miami to the country’s oldest city, St. Augustine, is easily done by heading 300 miles north on I-95. But all road trips in Florida aren’t required to be on interstate highways. The scenic way to get from South Florida to the country’s oldest city is via A1A. Taking you through the beach towns of the east coast, A1A is one of the most relaxing road trips through Florida.
The catch is that A1A is not a continuous road like some think it is, so it’s not a straight shot. It’s still a beautiful trip and worth the effort.
What better place to start one of your road trips in Florida then on Miami Beach? An internationally known destination, Miami Beach is famous for its clubs, beaches and attitude. Known as America’s Riviera, you’ll see a wide variety of people, cultures and even celebrities.
Hollywood isn’t just in California! Located just south of Ft. Lauderdale is the city of Hollywood. With a historic downtown area, beach boardwalk and proximity to Miami and Ft. Lauderdale make it a great place to hang out.
Enjoy playing the roulette wheel or cards? Stop by Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. The newly designed hotel is in the shape of a guitar and easily seen from incoming flights. And art lovers should visit the street murals located through the downtown area.
Once known as the spring break capital, Ft. Lauderdale, is still a fun place without so many college students. The beach is a must-see. A wide beach, you’ll notice there are no buildings on the sand, which can be rare in this part of Florida.
There’s plenty to do in the city. Take a cruise of the Intercoastal to view homes of the rich and famous, explore famous Las Olas Boulevard, grab a drink or bite to eat open-minded Wilton Manors or take a tour of a historical homes Bonnet House and Stranahan House.
Mid-way up the state is the Space Coast. Home to Cocoa Beach, this part of the state is more laid back than South Florida. There are lots of beach activities to be had. Cocoa Beach, unlike many other parts of Florida, is known for its surfing. Head out to Sebastian Inlet State Park or the Cocoa Beach Pier to catch some waves.
Even more iconic to the area? The United States space program. Kennedy Space Center is located 25 miles north of Cocoa Beach and has been the launch place of the Apollo programs, the Space Shuttle launches and landings and the recent launches of Space X vehicles. Visiting Kennedy Space Center gets you up close to old rockets along with offering bus tours, visiting the Astronaut Hall of Fame and learning more about the mission to Mars.
The birthplace of NASCAR, Daytona Beach is one of the top five most famous beaches in Florida. It’s also one of the few beaches that you can drive on in the state, making this one of the most popular road trips in Florida.
In addition to the beaches and the Daytona International Speedway, make sure to visit the Mary McLeod Bethune Home & Gravesite, along with the first place where Jackie Robinson integrated MLB spring training. And make a trip to the Museum of Arts & Sciences, which has a prehistoric history of Florida, a display of American art and houses the largest Coca-Cola collection in Florida.
60 miles up A1A is the oldest city in the United States, St. Augustine. In existence since 1565, St. Augustine has been ruled under five different governments, so it is full of history. And historical sites.
Fort Mose Historic State Park is one of the first free Black settlements in the country. And speaking of forts, Fort Mantanzas National Monument is just 15 miles south of the city.
Architecture lovers have plenty of options to see in St. Augustine. A visit to the Gonzalez-Alvarez House (also known as the Oldest House Museum) takes you to the oldest Spanish owned home in Florida. The Peña-Peck House is one of the oldest colonial-style houses in the city. And the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse gives a glimpse of school in the 1800s in the state.
There’s also plenty to do for water lovers. Visit the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum, where you can climb to the top of the lighthouse for amazing views. Marineland teaches about sharks, dolphins and turtles and offers on the water eco-tours. Or take a scenic cruise or a fishing charter.
So many Road Trips in Florida!
With so many choices for road trips in Florida, how will you ever choose? The beauty of it is knowing you don’t have to choose at all. By spacing out several different road trips in Florida, you’ll be able to see many parts of the state over an extended period of time. And the way travel has been changed recently, road trips are the most popular getaway!
Have you ever taken road trips in Florida? What are your favorite places to stop and experience in the Sunshine State?