With Spring Break rolling around, there’s no better time to head to the Sunshine State. But if you’re like me and have trouble staying in one place or like to see as much as possible on your time off, these Florida road trips are recommended by the best travel bloggers out there. If you’re desperate to avoid the crowds in Miami or Orlando, consider these alternatives destinations to the traditional Florida getaway to ensure fun and sun sans crowds. What are you waiting for? Hit the road and get to exploring!
Tampa to Bradenton
- Distance: 55 miles / 1 hour, 15 minutes
- Recommended Trip Length: 3-5 Days
Tampa didn’t have the best reputation years ago, but they’ve really turned it around recently. The Riverwalk redevelopment is an architectural marvel and new entertainment district that ends at Armature Works and Heights Public Market, a fun food hall. If you need to get a few thrill rides out of your system, Busch Gardens will surely make your stomach drop before hitting the road. You could also take a day trip to Pasco County (30 minutes north), which is home to Giraffe Ranch that offers intimate animal encounters like Segway Safaris on their sprawling wildlife refuge.
Along the way, be sure to stop in St. Petersburg / Clearwater, which is a fun place to stay for a few nights, especially at the Don Cesar, an iconic pink palace that dominates the waterfront. The area has one of the best street art scenes in the country, along with the Dali Museum, traditional Cuban cuisine, and an impressive beach boardwalk at Pier 60.
Once you get to Bradenton Beach, you’ll find a touch of old Florida unspoiled by theme parks and mouse ears. A 7-mile barrier island with dozens of beaches, old-fashioned ice cream parlors, and seafood shacks, it’s the place to get off the grid without being too far removed from reality.
Both manatees and dolphins call the area home, which you can see on a boat or kayak tour. For an even quirkier animal attraction, Beach Horses has horse surfing and horse water surfing, which will have you frolicking in the water with your new four-legged friend that’s sure to make for a memorable bucket list experience.
Miami to the Florida Keys
- Distance: 160 miles / 4 hours
- Recommended Trip Length: 2-4 Days
Called “The Overseas Highway,” the drive from Miami to the Florida Keys is one of the best road trips in the country. You’ll pass hundreds of small islands as you make your way to the Keys, a string of tropical islands stretching 120 miles off the southern tip of the US (be sure to stop for a photo at the Southernmost point!).
While in Miami, snap some photos at the iconic Wynwood Walls, take in the art deco architecture, peruse the Design District, bask in the culture of Little Havana, visit the Venetian Pools, and soak in the Vitamin Sea of South Beach before heading south.
Each of the keys has its own vibe and personality, which means a road trip with a little bit of everything. Some must-see attractions include John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, which has glass bottom boats and snorkeling tours. The Rain Barrel Village on Islamorada is an artisan craft haven recognizable by a giant lobster statue, another fun photo op. When you get hungry, some of our favorite stops are Robbie’s Restaurant and No Name Pub or The MM88 Tiki Bar and Florida Keys Brewing Company for a drink. The Turtle Hospital is another great pit stop for animal lovers near the iconic Seven-Mile Bridge, where you can see marine animals being rescued and rehabbed. And If you are passing through on a Sunday, be sure to stop by Islamorada SandBar for a unique local party!
Once you get to Key West, you’ve made it to the very tip and edge of America. There are snorkel, dive and fishing charters, watersports, famous architecture like the Ernest Hemingway Home and Harry Truman’s House, and Dry Tortugas National Park.
Suggested by Hannah & Adam of Getting Stamped
Tampa to Daytona
- Distance: 140 miles / 2.5-3 hours
- Recommended Trip Length: 3-4 Days
We’ve already covered some of the fun stuff to do in Tampa if you want to stick around for a night, but before setting off, take a slight detour to Bok Tower Gardens. This Rapunzel-esque tower and bird sanctuary makes a great photo op and is the highest point in Florida.
You can’t take a Florida road trip without hitting at least one of the theme parks and Orlando is the mid-point of this journey. Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Universal (which has the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) are some of the most popular parks, but if you don’t want to pay the crazy ticket prices, you can head to Disney Springs, a themed waterfront dining, shopping, and entertainment district, and walk around for free.
Once you get to Daytona on the Atlantic Coast, you are going to want to see International Speedway. Home of the Daytona 500, there are other race events throughout the year, stadium tours, and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Ponce Inlet has Florida’s tallest lighthouse, while the “World’s Most Famous Beach” has watersports, a fun boardwalk, pier, along with art, history, and culture aplenty.
Suggested by Victoria Yore of DisneyTrippers
Cedar Key to Crystal River
- Distance: 55 miles / 1 hour
- Recommended Trip Length: 1-3 Days
South of Tallahassee on Florida’s Gulf Coast is a small cluster of islands known collectively as Cedar Key. It is one of the few remaining rustic spots that still has that “Old Florida” feel.
Cedar Key’s historic downtown is perfect for meandering on foot. Peruse the boutiques, art galleries, and scenic marina, which has some of the best places to eat. Clams are on every menu, along with fresh seafood from the Gulf. Favorites are Steamers Clam Bar & Grill (save room for their famous Key Lime pie) and Tony’s Clam Chowder. Cedar Key Museum State Park and the Railroad Trestle Nature Trail are great for families. Stay at least one night to catch a sunset over the tidal flats.
For an epic day trip, drive an hour south to Crystal River, another of Florida’s small coastal towns. With tidal marshes and mangrove islands, kayaking and fishing are two of the most popular activities. Depending on the time of year, you can swim with manatees in the winter months or go scalloping in the summer offshore in the warm Gulf waters. Crystal River Archeological State Park, the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, and Weeki Wachee Springs State Park (with mermaid shows) are other well-known eco-attractions. For dining, Charlie’s Fish House on the water is a local hotspot, but for a more upscale experience, try Vintage on 5th. Spend at least one or two nights in one of the charming B&Bs.
Suggested by Lori Sorrentino of Travlin Mad
Miami to Naples
- Distance: 130 miles / 2 hours
- Recommended Trip Length: 1-3 Days
If you’re in a hurry to get from Miami to Tampa, most drivers take I-75, but happy travelers prefer a classic Old Florida road trip on the Tamiami Trail. “Tamiami” is a hybrid of the two cities (Tampa-Miami) and was once the only road between them. Tamiami Trail starts—or ends—in downtown Miami at Brickell Avenue (US 1), slices through the heart of Little Havana as Calle Ocho (8th Street), and continues through the Everglades as State Highway 41.
In my opinion, the best part of Tamiami is the 58-mile portion between Krome Avenue and Highway 29. On this stretch, you’ll pass the Miccosukee reservation with casinos and airboat rides, the Shark Valley section of Everglades National Park, and USA’s smallest post office in Ochopee. If you want to further your Old Florida adventure and have a sturdy vehicle, take the Loop Road (County “Highway” 94) through the Big Cypress Preserve. The throwback communities of Everglades City and Chokoloskee are another worthy detour. After Highway 29, Tamiami Trail is cool for another 20 miles or so before becoming more commercialized.
Once on the Paradise Coast, enjoy the white sand beaches of Naples, pristine nature at Clam Pass Park and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, and beautiful Marco Island.
Suggested by Charles McCool of McCool Travel
Tallahassee to Destin
- Distance: 165 miles / 2.5 hours
- Recommended Trip Length: 1-3 Days
You can get from Tallahassee to Destin quickly via the highway, but we always recommend taking the scenic route, which in this case, means a picturesque coastal drive. Head down the 319 until you get to St. George Island. It’s a cute, uncrowded island with colorful condos, a lighthouse, and Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park. Fuel up at the beachfront Blue Parrot before heading back across the causeway to Apalachicola, a small fishing town with historical buildings, cute shops, and more restaurants.
You’ll pass Panama City, a popular spring break destination, but I’d recommend continuing on to Rosemary Beach, a beautiful community with European vibes in the architecture. Further down 30A is Seaside, the picturesque town where The Truman Show was filmed. Seaside is known for its unique pavilions, airstream food trucks, and Grayton Beach State Park, arguably one of the best beaches along the Emerald Coast.
When you reach Destin, you’ll enjoy white singing sand and emerald water in Florida’s panhandle. A great place to spend the afternoon on a boat is Crab Island or walking the trails of Henderson State Park. If you have time, a bit further afield is Fort Walton, known for its white sand dunes, prehistoric temple mounds, and Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park with dolphins, penguins, and alligators.
Suggested by Ashley Jansen of Jetset Jansen
Naples to Sarasota
- Distance: 120 miles / 2 hours
- Recommended Trip Length: 2-3 Days
Naples is a great base for road trips in Florida as it’s close to some of the area’s best beaches and attractions. For this jaunt, you’ll head north on I-75N for about an hour until you reach Fort Myers for your first stop. You can take a guided tour of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, a beautiful historical museum and botanical garden.
If you crave the beach or like bird watching, then Sanibel Island is a great place to stretch your legs. If you’ve worked up an appetite, the Island Cow is a must. They have an extensive menu with a great seafood selection. After lunch, head to the beach, which feels like it’s straight out of the Caribbean. Spend the night on the island or continue north.
If you love marine life, spend at least two hours at the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium in Sarasota, a fascinating research facility. Next, it’s off to Ca’ d’Zan (House of John), home of the famous Ringling Brothers Circus Museum. This Venetian-inspired house will have you feeling like you just stepped out of Italy, which is as fascinating as it is photogenic. After a long day of explorations, the Tommy Bahamas Restaurant offers great beachy bites like Mahi Mahi tacos and Pineapple Creme Brulee. Go for a stroll along St. Armands Circle and take in the sunset as you browse the shops and boutiques. When you’re ready for more sun and sand, Siesta Beach is just twenty minutes away and ranked as one of the best in the US.
Suggested by Diana from Diana’s Healthy Living
Jacksonville to Amelia Island
- Distance: 30 miles / 45 minutes
- Recommended Trip Length: 1-2 Days
A gem in Northeast Florida, Heckscher Drive offers opportunities for families, couples, and outdoor adventurers’ access to beaches, watersports, and photo spots. You can be as active or relaxed as you want on the sand or kayak and SUP the waves.
The most adventurous way to begin the drive is to take the ferry from Mayport across the St. Johns River in Jacksonville. From there, you will pick up Heckscher Drive just east of Huguenot Park, where you can enjoy the beach, explore the jetties and watch the boats come in.
Enjoy the more isolated beach at Little Talbot State Park or get caught up in unique Florida history at Kingsley Plantation. Big Talbot State Park has great hikes and is known for the massive fallen trees that make for plenty of family fun and photo ops.
From there, the drive will bring you to Amelia Island, where you can pamper yourself with upscale resorts, spas, and great restaurants (our favorite being Sliders Seaside Grill). The drive ends at Fernandina Beach, where you can enjoy the quaint town, explore the fort, search for sharks’ teeth on the beach or walk down the pier and look across the St. Mary’s River to catch a glimpse of the famous wild horses of Cumberland Island.
Suggested by Chris of Called to Wander
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