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Get ready to rev up the engine and crank but the AC as we delve into the best road trips in Florida for weekend trips and longer vacations.
Whether you are traveling as a couple, with family or best friends, The Sunshine State’s big cities offer attractions for every interest, and you just can’t beat its sun-kissed coastal towns.
Our road trips in Florida guide explores a variety of routes suitable for cars and RVs, visiting historic destinations like St. Augustine, areas teeming with wildlife such as Kings Bay, lesser-known coastal gems like Siesta Keys, and party places such as Key West.
Straddling both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean and boasting state parks with freshwater springs, there’s just as much to do in the water as there is above it, so remember to pack your swim stuff.
Be prepared to cruise along causeways that connect lively cities with sandy shores where you can gorge on seafood and sip cocktails at sundown.
Each Florida road trip includes the approximate miles and a suggested length of stay, and to keep the summaries succinct, we have linked to our destination guides for each location mentioned in the driving route – just check out the city/town name for details on the very best things to do there.
If this is your first time driving in Florida, we have included a tips section at the bottom of this article.
So, let’s get into Florida’s must-visit destinations, unique locations, and practical tips to make your road trip seamless.
Road Trips in Florida For All Timeframes
North Florida Road Trips
Florida’s Forgotten Coast
If fewer crowds and charming communities are your kind of thing, check out Florida’s Forgotten Coast Road Trip.
Taking in the Gulf Coast destinations of Apalachicola, Alligator Point, Carrabelle, St. George Island, and Eastpoint, this collection of lesser-known towns is located just below the Panhandle.
Nestled on the mouth of the Apalachicola River, Apalachicola offers oysters with a view and a Historic District; take advantage of the eight miles of shore at Alligator Point, tee off at the Panhandles Gateway to the Gulf, Carrabelle, hit the walking trails of Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center, and enjoy that island pace of life at St. George Island.
Watch out for turtle season running from May through to October.
Depending on your chosen stops, the route covers 100-250 miles and requires a minimum of four days to complete this Florida Gulf Coast road trip.
Florida’s Springs Trail
Thanks to Florida’s geology, there are around 1000 springs spread over the Sunshine Coast, used by locals and visitors alike.
These freshwater springs are dotted around the state, with 21 of them being located in state parks, giving roadtrippers plenty of scope to experience this magical part of nature.
Here is a flavor of a spring trail in northern Florida.
Gilchrist Blue is located in Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, and access is granted via boat tours or canoe/kayak trips.
Santa Fe River Rise is less than 10 miles from Gilchrist and is located in the River Rise Preserve State Park.
July Spring is a lesser-known option located across from the more popular Ginnie Spring, about 15 miles from River Rise.
If you don’t plan to travel this far north, there is also a selection of springs around the Kings Bay area of the Nature Coast (image), which we discuss below.
Spring hopping is one of the best things to do in northern Florida, especially during the warmer months when humidity rages on.
Central Florida Road Trips
Florida’s Theme Parks Road Trip
Orlando – the epicenter for theme parks and family-friendly attractions in the US!
This fun adventure starts at your accommodation in Orlando which is probably located near/at Walt Disney Resorts, Universal Studios, or International Drive.
For ease, this Florida road trip itinerary starts at Universal Studios, the best theme park for adults where you can visit three parks: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter), and Volcano Bay, then dine at CityWalk.
Ten miles south is the Crayola Experience Orlando (8001 S Orange Blossom Trl); a colorful family attraction located at The Florida Mall.
You only need 3-4 hours to get around the complex.
Seven miles west is WonderWorks Orlando (9067 International Dr), where big kids can explore the 100+ hands-on science exhibits and play laser tag.
Exhibitions take around 3-4 hours.
Just under five miles from International Drive is the world-famous Walt Disney World Resort, which includes Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
It is possible to leave the car parked at your accommodation and take advantage of the shuttle buses if you prefer not to drive between WDW, International Drive, and Universal Studios – a great budget tip which we have plenty of in this guide to Orlando on a budget.
However, to get to the next stop on this Florida road trip, you will need wheels and a designated driver.
Old Town in Kissimmee is a vintage amusement park just four miles from Walt Disney World – it has carnival rides, shopping, and dining, and it is known for its weekly classic car show and gatherings.
All in all, this quick road takes around 28 miles, with the potential to leave the car at your hotel for three stops.
Road trippers should consider that it can get busy trying to get in and out of theme parks and that summer and holidays see the highest footfall.
The number of days it takes to complete depends on how many of the Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando parks you plan to visit – the rule of thumb is usually around one day per park.
However, you can buy park hopper tickets, and if visiting in low season, you will get around a couple of parks in one day.
Old Town only takes a couple of hours and is a popular evening attraction.
Road Trips From Orlando
Sticking with the Orlando theme, let’s take a look at what else is around this centrally placed city.
The most festive Florida road trip in December has to be a visit to the Walt Disney planned community, Celebration!
Christmas in Celebration is a big deal as fake snow falls every night, and neighborhoods go big with festive decor.
Celebration is 26 miles from Orlando; find out full details here.
Another popular Orlando day trip for those seeking sun and sand is Cocoa Beach, which is 60 miles away in the east.
Cocoa Beach has six miles of shores that hug the Atlantic, and one of its beaches has a pier with restaurants and amenities.
You can also see Cape Canaveral from Cocoa Beach’s north beaches.
Find out more in a guide, things to do in Cocoa Beach.
This is also one of our favorite Florida beach towns — check out the full list to explore more!
Heading west, Tampa is around 100 miles from Orlando, and while that sounds a lot compared to previous road trips, it is a popular route many visitors take.
Tampa is a diverse city with distinct neighborhoods such as Ybor, Tampa Heights, and Hyde Park.
Here, visitors can drink craft beer, buy cigars, and take advantage of the attractions along the Riverwalk.
Find out more in a guide, things to do in Tampa.
Tampa is also close to St. Petersburg.
Florida West Coast Road Trips
Tampa – St. Pete – Clearwater Road Trip
A dreamy 1-week Florida road trip itinerary could include the three Tampa Bay area cities, Tampa for culture and events, St. Petersburg for food and beaches, and Clearwater for boat tours and kid-friendly activities.
Tampa has a number of museums, venues, and stadiums, such as the Raymond James Stadium, Amalie Arena, and Pepin Stadium.
It is also great for those who love craft beer and nightlife.
St. Petersburg is around 25 miles from Tampa and has two sides of interest – St. Pete Pier and St. Pete Beach, both of which are around nine miles apart.
It is also where you can visit The Dalí – Salvador Dalí Museum.
Finally, Clearwater is a very lively, family-friendly beach city 23 miles from Tampa and 17 miles from St. Pete Beach.
The most popular things to do in Clearwater include hopping aboard one of its many boat tours and lazing by the ocean beside its historic pier where you will find a nightly market.
Which of the above Florida road trips from Tampa will you take?
Tell us in the comments.
All in all, it would take just under 50 miles to drive from Tampa to St. Pete Pier, St. Pete Beach, and up to Clearwater.
There is usually congestion trying to leave Tampa and during peak times in Clearwater.
If you prefer to let someone else do the driving, you can use the bus service between St. Pete and Clearwater.
While you could visit Tampa, St. Pete, and Clearwater over a long weekend, the itinerary would be rushed, but we understand that vacation days dictate the length of stay!
Sarasota – Siesta Keys – Anna Maria Island Road Trip
Our next Florida road trip takes us to the city of Sarasota, then over to America’s number one beach, Siesta Key, before heading north to Anna Maria Island.
Sarasota is home to the Ringling Brothers Ca’ d’Zan Mansion, theaters galore, and lots of playful street art.
Ahhh, sit back and relax – you are on Florida’s island time in Siesta Key.
Famed for its powdery white sand and excellent amenities, Siesta Beach is the perfect spot for those who want a quiet beach vacation without the boardwalk shenanigans.
Siesta Key from Sarasota takes around seven miles.
35 miles north of Siesta Key is Anna Maria Island (AMI), a bustling island community with three cities, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, and Anna Maria, countless beaches, killer sunsets, and the historic Bridge Street.
All in all, this is one of the best day trips in Florida for those looking to spend their days by the Gulf of Mexico and evenings watching the sun slip into the ocean before grabbing some seafood and beers.
The full route Sarasota – Siesta Keys – Anna Maria Island is around 33 miles and features bridges.
While you could easily visit each location over a long weekend, more time is recommended so that you can enjoy the chilled island life.
This is one of the best beach road trips in the state if you like a mix of quieter shores, water-based tours, and city life.
Nature Coast Road Trip
If hiking, boating, snorkeling, dolphin spotting, and swimming with manatees sounds like heaven to you, consider the Nature Coast Road Trip.
Hard to define, the route tends to take in Wakulla, Jefferson, Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco Counties – the curve, or ‘Big Bend’ before the Panhandle.
In the likes of Citrus’s Crystal River by Kings Bay, visitors can take tours to float around the waters that manatees, or sea cows, migrate to in winter.
The season tends to start around November and runs until March, although it may extend longer depending on how comfortable the beautiful beasts are in the toasty temperatures of the protected areas.
Note: it is vital that you choose a reputable tour when visiting, as it is illegal to disturb manatees in Florida.
Read our personal experience here.
Other things to do include SUP, kayaking, shopping, and sunset drinks.
The route from Pasco County up to Wakulla County is 275 miles.
East Coast Florida Road Trips
A1A Scenic Highway Road Trip
For us, one of the best scenic road trips in Florida has to be the Historic A1A Coastal Byway.
Running 545 miles from Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island to Key West at the very bottom of Florida, the route takes drivers along the east coast cities and barrier islands, with the Atlantic to the side.
There are too many stops to mention, but some stand-out options include St. Augustine to see the US’s first city, Daytona Beach for the Daytona International Speedway, Merritt Island/Cocoa Beach area for Kennedy Space Center, Miami Beach to see the Art Deco District, and Key West for rum!
According to Google Maps, the route would take around nine hours to drive with no stops.
The length of time for this Florida road trip would really depend on what you want to see and do.
For example, most people spend around 2-3 nights in bigger cities on the East Coast, such as St. Augustine, West Palm Beach, Miami Beach, and Key West.
Pirate Coast Road Trip
Ahoy, there me mateys!
Discover the bounty that awaits you during Florida’s Pirate Coast Road Trip.
From the Pirate Museum in St. Augustine all the way down to the Shipwreck Trail at the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, there are pirate-themed attractions above and below water waiting to be found.
You can tie in the Pirate Coast Road Trip with the A1A Road Trip (545 miles).
Space Coast Road Trip
Calling all astronauts!
The 72 miles of the Space Coast is sure to float your boat…or fuel your rocket.
Running from Port St John all the way down to Palm Bay and taking in the cities on the mainland and barrier islands on the Atlantic, there are things to do for everyone on the road trip.
Here’s a handy tourism map created by Visit Space Coast.
You could drive the route in under three hours but would need at least a long weekend for a road trip with quick stops or more time for a relaxed vacation.
The Palms Road Trip
Beach bums will fall in love with the 47 miles of the Palm Beaches starting at Palm Beach to Delray Beach, aka America’s First Resort Destination.
The road trip route is suited for those who enjoy luxury travel, as it passes many spa hotels and golf clubs.
Wake up with the sun rising over the Atlantic, tee off at one of the 160 golf courses, go diving in Jupiter, and stay at the world-famous Breakers; just a handful of things to do along the coastal road.
This short road trip in Florida could be done as an overnighter for those short on time.
South Florida Road Trips
The Florida Keys Road Trip
A dream Florida road trip bucket list for many is to drive the Overseas Highway to the Florida Keys!
Head over the U.S. Route 1 to the southern tip of the continental US, racking up 120 miles of scenic views, seafood meals, and glasses of rum along the way!
The first stop is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, a cool sport for snorkel enthusiasts, then stop for food at the Key Largo institution, Sundowners.
Hire a SUP or kayak and paddle out to Toilet Seat Cut, a dredged area with bizarre decor…
Then cool off at the 45-acre Founders Park beach or pool.
Learn more about the area at the History of Diving Museum before driving over the Seven Mile Bridge to Key West.
The most popular things to do in Key West are try conch fritters, eat Key Lime Pie, see the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, party on Duval Street, and watch the sunset at Mallory Square.
Those on a tight schedule can drive from Miami to Key West in a day with limited stops, and this will afford you the afternoon in Key West.
Alternatively, if you can spend 2-3 days leisurely driving down, that’s the best option for this road trip!
Miami – Miami Beach – Key West – Everglades Road Trip
One of the most popular southern Florida road trips packs in a city trip to Miami, time by the Atlantic at Miami Beach, a stopover in Key West, and an enthralling airboat tour of the Everglades.
This coastal route is stuffed with art, architecture, culture, history, food, nature, and water-based activities.
Starting in Miami, choose between Downtown for boat cruises, Little Havana for live music, Wynwood for street art, or the Design District for shopping with a side serving of contemporary art – just a handful of the Magic City’s neighborhoods.
This leg is 7 miles but takes around 25 minutes; don’t underestimate how bad the traffic in Miami can be.
Leaving Miami Beach, head along the Overseas Highway to the Florida Keys, basing yourself in Key West for attractions like Sloppy Joe’s, where Hemingway drank.
Miami Beach to Key West is 133 miles.
Give your liver a rest and head to Florida’s Everglades for high-speed airboat tours through the mangroves while looking for alligators in their natural habitat.
Key West to Everglades National Park is 134 miles, or 261 miles to Everglades City.
This road trip is around 400 miles in total.
Many travelers spend 2-3 nights in Miami with a day trip to Miami Beach or vice versa, and Key West is well worth an overnight stop so you can enjoy the festivities Duval Street offers.
This is a great route for a 1-week Florida road trip itinerary, but it can be done in five days if time is limited and you’re just looking for a taster trip, earmarking things to do for future vacations.
Florida Ring Road Trip Road Trip
Naturally, the best driving route in Florida, if you have the time, is the Sunshine State’s Ring Road.
As to be expected, this road trip itinerary starts at one point in the state, travels around the perimeter stopping at the cities and beach towns that appeal to the driver, and ends back at the start.
The beauty of this Florida road trip idea is that if you plan to rent a car, you can drop it off at the same destination.
This can save a bit of money since there is usually an extra fee to drop off at a different location!
The Ring Road Trip includes many of the Florida destinations mentioned in previous trips above, but here is a quick overview with a few additions that were missed due to the nature or theme of the road trip.
Starting at Miami and Miami Beach, head south down to Key West (166/133 miles) and over to the Everglades for an airboat tour (261 miles).
Next, head 37 miles up the west coast to Naples for waterfront dining at Tin City and Bayfront or beach days by the pier.
Marco Island, to see the burrowing owls and shelling, is a popular side trip from Naples (17 miles).
If you’re road-tripping in winter, you’ll definitely want to see the manatees at Crystal River (Kings Bay) on the Nature Coast or hit the springs with SUPs in spring and summer (80 miles).
If time allows, your Florida road trip could make its way up northwest to the Panhandle (366 miles), not forgetting the Forgotten Coast on the way.
Now it’s time to leave the west coast and drive over to the east, heading to the very top of Jacksonville (357 miles) or settling on St. Augustine (396 miles) for history and partying.
Heading down 545 miles of the A1A, choose your favorite stops along the Space Coast, The Palms, and then down to Fort Lauderdale, sliding back into Miami Beach and over to Miami with a sun-kissed glow and belly full of stone crabs.
It is suggested you take at least three weeks to complete Florida’s Ring Road and hand-pick the locations on the road trip that best match your travel style.
This was by far the best road trip for us but we appreciate not everyone travels for work!
It is worth noting that Central Florida can be added to the Florida Ring Road Trip, usually from around the Cocoa/Cocoa Beach area.
Florida Road Trip Tips
When Is The Best Time To Visit Florida?
While locals may say this time of year’s temperatures are too frigid for their liking, the fall, winter, and spring months of October through to May are preferred by visitors.
Florida is known for its humidity, which is at its worst during June, July, and August, so if you are not used to it, you may want to avoid road-tripping during summer.
Avoiding the summer months will also benefit those who prefer fewer crowds and cheaper prices.
Peak hurricane season is August through to October, with tropical cyclones being a threat most of the year aside from January and March.
Manatees winter in Florida from November through to April attracted to the constant warm waters of the springs.
Turtle season runs from May through to October, which means beach areas will be cordoned off.
Driving in Florida
Driving in Florida is relatively easy!
As with all US states, cars drive on the right, and most vehicles are automatic.
The great thing about road-tripping in Florida is that routes mainly consist of highways, scenic byways, bridges, and causeways, so the journey really adds to the experience!
Be wary of wildlife on the roads.
Tolls in Florida
One thing that may differ from driving at home is that Florida has toll roads that require electronic passes, like the SunPass or paper passes.
Toll roads are said to be more efficient, but if you want to avoid paying additional pricing, set your maps app to avoid tolls.
If you drive through a toll by accident while using a rental car, the charge will be added to your invoice.
Parking in Florida
It is advised to carry both cards and loose coins for parking in Florida as not all parking lots have electronic systems, especially at smaller beaches.
Most parking is chargeable, particularly at tourist attractions.
Which of the Florida road trips ideas do you like best?
Tell us in the comments!