People that have never been to Florida, and those that have only vacationed in Orlando or Miami, have a distorted view of our beautiful, diverse, and unique state. Florida is much more than Disney and South Beach. And, the best way to see it all is by taking a Florida road trip. However, because of the diverse Florida landscape, there are so many choices! So, we have given you a complete guide to planning your Awesome Florida Road Trip.
Your Options for a Florida Road Trip
Take a Drive on a Scenic Highway
Take a Florida road trip on one of 26 designated scenic highways. 6 of these are also Designated America's Byways®. Over 1,500 miles of beautiful Florida road trips for you to choose from.
What Part of Florida Would You Like to Explore?
♦ Florida Panhandle
Pensacola Scenic Bluffs Highway (11 miles)
Skirting the western shore of Escambia Bay from the Escambia River to the east side of Pensacola. Watch a sun or moon rise from atop giant bluffs which are the highest point along Florida's coastline.
Heritage Crossroads: Miles of History Scenic Highway (98 miles)
History abounds in some of Florida's oldest communities. Drive down Florida's Ghost Highway, 10 miles of brick road, and Old Kings Road built by the British in 1776.
Old Florida Heritage Highway (45 miles)
South of Gainesville, explore state parks, preserves, and conservation areas. Bring your bikes, kayaks, or hiking shoes for some fun recreation activities. Visit author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings cracker-style home and farm where she wrote her novel, The Yearling.
William Bartram Scenic and Historic Highway (17 miles)
Running along the eastern bank of the St. John's River, travel the path of naturalist William Bartram who write the first "Tour Guide" of Florida in the late 1700s.
♦ Central Florida East
Florida Black Bear National Scenic Highway (116 miles)
A designated America's Byway®. Starting in Ormond Beach, drive through Ocala National Forest and the Big Scrub ecosystem created from sand dunes. View the many glistening natural springs along the way. Maybe see a Florida black bears which have their largest concentration here.
Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail (34 miles)
A designated America's Byway®. Running south of the A1A Scenic and Historic Coastal Byway, get a glimpse of a right whale or humpback whale during the migration season or dolphins virtually anytime. Enjoy a picnic and a hike on Tomoka State Park.
River of Lakes Heritage Corridor (156 miles)
Blend your day with visits to Timucuan (native American) heritage and cultural sites, and perhaps a stop at an elegant restaurant or BBQ joint. Bring your bikes or kayaks as there are ample recreational opportunities along the St. John's River.
Unique Florida Fact
Florida is home to 300 plants and 440 animals that are found nowhere else in the world. An example is Key Deer which only lives in the Florida Keys.
♦ Central Florida Mid-State
Green Mountain Scenic Byway (45 miles)
From Winter Haven on the south take a drive along the eastern shore of Lake Apopka to Mt. Dora. The rolling hills along this drive attract bicyclists and runners from afar. Read about our day trip to Mt. Dora when we camped at nearby Lake Griffin State Park.
The Ridge Scenic Highway (39 miles)
Drive south from Haines City along Lake Wales Ridge. View scenic vistas, stop off at some lakes, agriculture fields, and other natural areas as you get a glimpse of Florida in the early 1900s.
♦ Central Florida West
Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway (3 miles)
You may enjoy this 3-mile stretch on your bicycles as we did. Extend your trip to Anna Maria Island to the north. Visit the beach and have lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants. We had breakfast at and recommend the Dock Side at the Bridge Tender Inn.
Courtney Campbell Scenic Highway (10 miles)
Yes, this is a gorgeous drive across the Courtney Campbell bridge and Tampa Bay, but we highly recommend you bike the wide trail that runs the length of it. We've done this a few times starting on the west in Clearwater, stopping off for refreshments at Whiskey Joe's Bar and Grill on the Tampa side, and then head back. A nice 20-mile ride.
Palma Sola Scenic Highway (4 miles)
Running from the city of Bradenton to Anna Maria Island, it connects to the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway to the south. Be sure to take a detour to Robinson Preserve which is one of the great day trips in Florida. Read about our day biking and kayaking at Robinson Preserve in Bradenton.
Scenic Sumter Heritage Byway (62 miles)
Surely a relaxing Sunday drive through some friendly central Florida communities. Horse farms and cattle ranches abound. Be sure to stop and visit beautiful Lake Panasoffkee.
Suncoast Scenic Parkway (42 miles)
Take a drive along this highway designed to coexist with the landscape. Or, bike along the trail adjacent to it. We highly recommend a detour to Hernando Beach and Hudson along the Gulf of Mexico. Read about our day trip to Hernando Beach and Hudson with some recommendations for lunch, dinner, and cocktails.
♦ South Florida East
Broward County A1A Scenic Highway (32 miles)
Drive through 9 cities along the Intracoastal Waterway that make up this section of Broward County. Stop off to visit the Hillsboro Lighthouse, Indian Mound Park, and the Bonnet House for a historical perspective on the southeast coast of Florida.
Florida Keys Scenic Highway (110 miles)
America's Byways® designation. To describe the color of the water surrounding the Florida Keys is simply impossible. If you have a day or two (because you will at least want to stay overnight) and you are anywhere near South Florida, this is a must Florida road trip. Enough said.
Indian River Lagoon - Treasure Coast (42 miles)
This drive highlights St. Lucie County's rich cultural, historical, and ecological resources. Ride along on A1A on the outer edge of the Intracoastal Waterway, then over the bridge to Route 1 and the Savannas Preserve State Park.
Martin Grade Scenic Highway (12 miles)
Locals call it "the Grade' as it runs from the eastern shores of Lake Okeechobee 2nd largest freshwater lake in the U.S.) to the Allapattah Flats Wildlife Management Area to the east. Shaded by 100-year-old oaks it is lined with pastures, swamps, woods, and groves of trees. Interconnected with a hiking and biking trail system along with a separate trail system for equestrians.
♦ South Florida West
Lemon Bay/Myakka Trail Scenic Highway (47 miles)
Starting where Hwy 776 meets the Tamiami Trail drive south through Olde Englewood Village Historic District. Continue south on Hwy 775 through Lemon Bay Park and the butterfly farm. Then turn north for the drive across Charlotte Harbor. There are lots of hiking trails along the way, Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park, and Myakka River State Park nearby as well.
Tamiami Trail - Windows to the Gulf Coast Waters Scenic Highway (70 miles)
A trip along Florida's Central Gulf Coast from the Hillsborough County Line to North Port. Starting from the north, this drive will take through the cities of Palmetto, Bradenton, Sarasota, Venice, and North Port.
Unique Florida Fact
Florida is one of only two states in the country with 2 coasts. On the east, there is the Atlantic Ocean. On the west is the Gulf of Mexico. New York is the only other state with two coasts (Atlantic and Great Lakes).
Follow Our Lead!
Choose a Florida Road Trip from these that we've taken.
Take a Florida Road Trip to a Theme Park
After all, isn't Florida famous for its theme parks?
If you know the major theme park that you want to go to you'll find the details on their website. But maybe you're not familiar with all of them so here you go.
Busch Gardens in Tampa
This is a really nice Florida road trip if you love animals. But it's an awesome place to go if you love rollercoasters.
Legoland in Winter Haven
This is a great place to take the grandkids. It's very interactive and there are 50 rides. But there are better choices for adults.
SeaWorld in Orlando
If you're going to do theme parks, and again, love animals, this is a great choice. But also look into Dolphin Cove at SeaWorld where you get a more up-close and personal experience with dolphins.
Walt Disney World in Orlando
Still the GrandDaddy of them all, it's a must if you're considering a theme park. Spend ample time researching on their website before you go because you just can't do all of Disney in a day.
Universal Studios in Orlando
There's so much to see and do here. However, if you're over 50 and aren't bringing kids, and you only have time to visit one park, we recommend Disney World.
Unique Florida Fact
When you think of states with coastline you might think of California first. However, Florida ranks second only to Alaska with 8,436 miles of coastline. And, has more than double the coastline of California.
Lesser-Known But Awesome Florida Day Trip Destinations
Check the destination's website for possible closure notifications during COVID-19 restrictions.
Where in Florida are You?
♦ Florida Panhandle
Bear Creek Feline Center - Panama City
Take a Florida road trip to see the animals. Bear Creek Feline Center provides a permanent home to displaced Bobcats, Florida Panthers, African Servals, Jaguarundi, and Siberian Lynx.
Conservation Park - Panama City Beach
Over 2,900 acres for hikers, bikers, and nature lovers, Conservation Park has 24 miles of trails and over a mile of boardwalks that lead through Cypress domes. The trails range anywhere from 0.6 miles to 11 miles, with 12 different trails to choose from.
Fort Pickens- Pensacola Beach
Fort Pickens is one of four military forts designed to protect Pensacola in the 1800s. The area offers activities including fishing both from the shore and the pier, exploring trails and the fort, birdwatching, camping, and more.
Mission San Luis de Apalachee
The mission was a community from 1656 to 1704 where Apalachee Indians and newcomers from Spain lived together. Mission San Luis served as the principal village of the Apalachees and was the Spaniards' westernmost military, religious, and administrative capital.
Seacrest Wolf Preserve - Chipley
Seacrest Wolf Preserve offers an unforgettable experience where visitors encounter wolves. Guests to come face to face with the wolves as they learn important scientific information about this amazing animal. They offer several different types of educational tours by reservation only.
Shell Island - Panama City
A 7-mile long undeveloped barrier island running between the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Andrew Bay. Sand dunes, coastal scrub forest, pine hammocks, and an inland lake provide the perfect home for deer, nesting shorebirds, and other coastal creatures, including ghost crabs and endangered species such as loggerhead and green sea turtles.
Timpoochee Trail - South Walton
Take your bikes on this Florida road trip. Bike the 18.6-mile trail that winds past dune lakes, state parks, and beach access points through several charming beach neighborhoods. It’s a perfect day trip for the family, an ideal way to get some exercise, and a whole lot of fun. Rental bikes are available from several shops along the length of the trail.
♦ North Florida East
Catty Shack Ranch - Jacksonville
Catty Shack Ranch is where you can see tigers, lions, cougars, leopards, bobcats, arctic foxes, and coatimundis. Voted the #1 "Thing To Do" in Jacksonville.
A top Florida road trip, for sure. There's so much to do and see in St. Augustine it's hard to highlight just one. Take a tour of the oldest masonry fort in the U.S. that was built by the Spanish in the early 1700s. From the top of the fort, you'll have spectacular views out to the ocean and St. Augustine itself. Get a complete review of what to do in St. Augustine by reading about our weekend there.
Fernandina Beach Historic District - Amelia Island
Walk anywhere in the 50-plus blocks of the historic district to be transported back to another era of Florida. There are 400-plus structures on the National Register of Historic Places. Explore beautiful Victorian-era architecture in Amelia Island’s riverfront city, Fernandina Beach.
Kingsley Plantation - Jacksonville
Located on the Fort George Island marsh side, and built in the late 1700s, the Kingsley Plantation and its surrounding structures shed light on a different era in the South. Make time to explore the unique tabby houses, built and inhabited by the Plantation’s slaves. You can take a self-guided audio tour or book a tour with a park ranger.
Riverside/Avondale - Jacksonville
View beautiful historic homes and grand city parks in the area voted as one of the country’s Top 10 Great Neighborhoods, and listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. A unique mix of history, culture, charm, and modern design. Experience funky coffee shops, outdoor cafés, great local dining, one-of-a-kind shopping, nightclubs, antique stores, and more.
Talbot Islands - Jacksonville
Little Talbot Island - A five-mile stretch of pristine shoreline amid a maritime forest. It's home to dozens of native wildlife species. Fish for flounder, sheepshead, and more. Bring your binoculars for a chance to view birds of prey perched in the treetops or collect shells along the shore.
Big Talbot Island - You'll find wetlands, marshes, bike paths, and secret beaches at Big Talbot such as Blackrock Beach and Boneyard Beach.
Unique Florida Fact
Inclusive of inland waterways, Florida has 12,133 square miles of water area (18.5% of the state). Only Alaska and Michigan have more water area.
♦ North Florida West
Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation - Gainesville
Go meet Henry, the oldest living rhinoceros in captivity in the country. Carson Springs is located on 275 acres of lush Florida woods and farmland. It’s home to approximately 30 rare and endangered species and over 100 animals.
A lazy day Florida road trip. Cedar Key, an island located along the northwest coast, is a place to go for a stroll through the quaint and historic downtown area. Famous for farm-raised clams, you'll find more than a few locations to get a bowl of clam chowder. Tiny art galleries and unique shops abound. Cedar Key is a place to take it down a notch and relax.
Suwannee River Wilderness Trail - White Springs
White Springs is where the 171-mile trail starts and follows the Suwannee River to the Gulf of Mexico. Hike part of the trail and view the famous Suwannee River while visiting the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. And, have breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Fat Belly's.
♦ Central Florida East
Brevard Zoo - Melbourne
If you like interacting with animals this just might be your best day yet. This is a world-class zoo and conservation hub where people learn about animals, nature, and conservation. In addition to enjoying the animals in natural habitats, you can feed giraffes or exotic birds. You can take a kayak tour to visit with lemurs or view the zoo overhead from the Treetop Trek, an aerial adventure of climbing, zip-lining, and more.
Canal Street - New Smyrna Beach
Downtown New Smyrna Beach is a unique mix of history and contemporary culture which aren’t often found together. Shaded by majestic palms and historic buildings, Canal Street is full of shops, galleries, and small artist’s studios. While in New Smyrna Beach, be sure to visit Smyrna Dunes Park.
Canaveral National Seashore - Titusville
This may be one of the best places in Florida for a long and peaceful walk on the beach at Playalinda Beach located here. Canaveral National Seashore is a 57,000-acre national park set between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River. It's one of the longest stretches of pristine coastline in the country. The undeveloped Playalinda Beach was rated "Quietest Beach" by TripAdvisor in 2013 and one of USA Today's Top Ten Florida Beaches in 2015. A top choice Florida road trip.
Kennedy Space Center - Merritt Island
While in the central Florida area this is not to be missed. The history of our country's space program told in the most spectacular way. Highlights are the view of the huge rockets as you enter the park. And, of course, the not to be missed Atlantis exhibit. A great day for young and old whether or not you're a science geek. You will not be disappointed.
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse and Museum - Ponce Inlet
Constructed in 1887, and still a working lighthouse, the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse has guided boats and ships along the Florida coast for more than 130 years. Step back in time and climb 175 feet to the top. Step outside onto the 360-degree balcony for a rare view of the Florida coastline. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998.
♦ Central Florida Mid-State
Bok Tower Gardens - Lake Wales
Over 200 acres of beautiful gardens and hiking trails. Opening in 1929, more than 23 million people have visited Bok Tower Gardens. Visit the 8-story Bok Tower, wander through the gardens, Pinewood Estate, Hammock Hollow, and the hiking trails. there is even an onsite cafe.
Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive - Apopka
Lake Apopka is just a short 15-mile drive from busy Orlando. It is the third-largest lake in the state of Florida. The north shore of Lake Apopka is a haven for bird watching but you will also have a chance to see alligators, raccoons, otters, frogs, and turtles. Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive lets you see and photograph a large variety of birds and wildlife from the comfort of your automobile. The drive takes about two hours depending on stops. You can also hike or bike the trail around Lake Apopka.
The Lakeside Inn - Mount Dora
Mt. Dora is perhaps the most fun and interesting downtown area in the state of Florida next to Key West. Many shops, restaurants, and bars line the streets of this town just above Lake Dora. But the highlight is a stroll to the Lakeside Inn. Walking the grounds and perhaps stopping into the bar area for a Bloody Mary as we did, will transport you back 100 years. You get an amazing view and picture of the grounds and Lake Dora from the Inn's front door. Read about our visit there when we camped at nearby Lake Griffin State Park. A favorite Florida road trip!
♦ Central Florida West
Big Cat Rescue - Tampa
Made more famous by the controversial Netflix series, Tiger King, Big Cat Rescue offers an up-close look of some of our planet's most beautiful creatures, the big cats. We visited there a few years ago and had a great experience. We learned how people try to domesticate these wild animals and even interbreed different species of cats, and then abandon them. Well worth an afternoon visit.
Caladesi Island - Dunedin
If you're looking for an adventure for the day and an untamed, pristine beach to explore, Caladesi Island will fill the bill. Some wade through the to get there but we recommend launching your kayak or taking the ferry from Honeymoon Island. There’s a concession stand, fishing, picnicking, shelling, nature studies, and marked kayak trails among the mangrove trees. Spend your afternoon hiking along the dunes. Honeymoon Island is a great place to explore, too!
Clearwater Marine Aquarium
Did you see the movie, Dolphin Tale? Come and meet the star, Winter! View Winter, Hope, and all their fellow rescued friends including more dolphins, sea turtles, otters, pelicans, sharks, and stingrays. You can also kayak out into Clearwater Bay and watch a marine biologist at work, or take a guided boat tour into the bay. There's much to do here!
The Dali Museum - St. Petersburg
You don't have to be an art history buff to enjoy the Dali Museum. Take a self-guided tour to view the unusual and interesting works of Salvador Dali. When you're finished here spend time walking around downtown St. Pete, visit Vinoy Park, the new St. Pete Pier, and have lunch or a drink at the Vinoy Rennaisance in their outdoor patio area. A day in downtown St. Pete makes for a great Florida road trip.
Indian Rocks Beach
IRB is our favorite little beach town in Florida so far. And, it's great because we live a mile away. If you're looking for a nice, long walk on the beach or to catch some rays away from the crowds, you'll enjoy a day here. After you have enough sun wander across the street to the original Crabby Bill's. There's indoor dining but our favorite is to sit outdoors and listen to the live music Friday through Sunday.
Manatee Viewing Center - Apollo Beach
One of the best places to see manatees for sure. The Big Bend Power Station sends warm water back out to Tampa Bay. When the Bay water gets 68 degrees or cooler the manatees come here for protection. More than just manatees, there is a tidal walk where you will see rays and schools of fish from the boardwalk. There is a ray touch tank, hiking path, 50-foot observation tower, and more.
Suncoast Primate Sanctuary - Palm Harbor
This is a very fun experience for all ages. Meet and feed Pongo, the 24-year-old orangutan that greets you as you walk in. You'll be amazed at how intelligent he is. More than orangutans, you'll see monkeys, chimps, alligators (of course), and a little pig that loves to be fed too! Your admission helps keep these injured and abandoned primates care for and protected.
Weedon Island Preserve - St. Petersburg
A 3,000-acre marine habitat in north St. Pete, Weedon Island has a 3-mile hiking trail and a 4-mile canoe or kayak trail. You'll view many species of birds, including the large water birds Florida is so famous for. One of the hiking trails will lead you right up to the bank of Tampa Bay. The Cultural and Natural History Center features classrooms and exhibit areas designed by anthropologists, historians, and Native Americans to reflect the art and history of the area's first people.
Weeki Wachee Springs
There is a water park that is currently closed due to the Coronavirus but the highlight for us is the kayak adventure down the Weeki Wachee River. You can rent kayaks or bring your own for a paddle down the crystal clear (yes, it's cold) spring-fed river. You'll see fish and manatee (dependent on the time of year) swim right underneath your kayak. You may see an alligator or two on the bank of the river but they won't bother you if you don't bother them. Stop on the way for a dip in the cool water. A very, very fun day!
♦ South Florida East
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park - Key Biscayne
Located on the tip of Key Biscayne, this is a relaxing and scenic alternative to the more popular beaches. But there's more to do than lay or walk on the beach. There is a historic lighthouse to tour. There are walking and biking trails winding throughout the park. If you like to fish bring a rod and reel. Tackle and bait are available. There are two onsite restaurants located on the banks of a quiet lagoon or bring a picnic.
Blowing Rocks Preserve - Jupiter Island
Blowing Rocks got its name from the high tide breaking against the Anastasia limestone along the coast. Water then shoots up to heights of 50 feet. it opened in 1969 when residents of Jupiter Island donated 73 acres of their island to the Conservancy. The Preserve is a mile long and flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River Lagoon. You'll experience one of Florida's rarest surviving landscapes. Check the website for closure notifications.
Coral Castle Museum - Homestead
The Coral Castle is a sculpted outdoor garden, not an indoor museum. The sculpture garden is carved in stone by one man, Edward Leedskalnin. From 1923 to 1951, he single-handedly and secretly carved over 1,100 tons of coral rock, and his unknown process has created one of the world's most mysterious accomplishments. Check the website for closure notifications.
The Dolphin Research Center - Grassy Key
Do you love dolphins and want to get close and learn more about them? There's no better place to do than here. You can attend the dolphin shows but there are many different types of experiences you can have here too. You can play with the dolphins, be a 'trainer for the day', and even paint with the dolphins. Yes, paint! This is worth the stop on your way to Key West which of course, is the ultimate Florida road trip.
Dry Tortugas National Park - Off Key West
Board the ferry from Key West for the quintessential Florida day trip. Tour Fort Jefferson, which was built during the Civil War. Take advantage of some of the best snorkeling in North America. The waters are between 5 and 15 feet in depth making it accessible to all ages. The beaches here are fantastic and up to 300 species of birds have been spotted here as well.
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens - Del Rey Beach
The museum buildings here are of traditional Japanese architecture. The main building features three exhibition galleries, a 225-seat theater, an authentic tea house, a museum store, a cafe, and lakeside terraces for a panoramic view while dining. The 16 acres that surround the museum include large Japanese gardens with strolling paths, resting areas, a world-class bonsai collection, and lakes teeming with koi and other wildlife. The wider 200-acre park features nature trails, pine forests, and picnic areas.
Riverbend Park - Jupiter
The day we spent in Riverbend Park inspired us to add a Florida Road Trips section to our blog. We highly recommend that you bring bikes here. The park is so large you won't be able to walk it in a day. And, you most definitely want to see it all. Hiking and biking trails through diverse ecosystems all in one park. You can kayak here as well. Read all about it by clicking the link above.
Secret Woods Nature Center - Ft. Lauderdale
Located in an urban setting, the South Fork New River passes through creating areas of cypress and maple wetlands, pond apple and mangrove wetlands, and laurel oak hammock. There are two trails leading through the center for your viewing pleasure. And, the butterfly garden is located near the entrance.
Unique Florida Fact
2nd only to Alaska and California,
6.63% of Florida is made up of state and national parks.
♦ South Florida West
South of Venice near Port Charlotte this small strip of land that juts out in the Gulf of Mexico offers a really nice day trip experience. You access Gasparilla Island via the Boca Grande Causeway. Bring your bikes for a ride along the 6-mile Boca Grande Bike Path that runs the length of the island. Stop at one of the oceanfront restaurants for lunch before you head to the southern tip of the island and at Gasparilla Island State Park.
Pine Island can be a nice drive and stop for lunch or dinner. Or, it can be the launch point to an amazing kayaking adventure in the Pine Island Sound Aquatic Preserve. Driving from one end of the island to the other you'll discover a sleepy community with a convenience store and gas station at its center. On the southern end, you'll find some nature preserves and a couple of bars and restaurants. We stopped at the Ragged Ass Saloon (we just had to) for lunch and some outdoor live music.
Shark Valley Biking Trail - Everglades National Park
If you're up for a bike ride that you won't soon forget, the Shark Valley Trail will surely provide it. On the 14.5 paved looped trail, you will be biking around alligators as they lay near and on the trail. You can bring your own bikes or rent them at the Visitor Center. The 65-foot observation tower provides panoramic views of the "river of grass." We suggest you do this ride in cooler temperatures only.
Tigertail Beach - Marco Island
Not as populated and known to tourists, the beach also offers more than other areas beaches. You can do what most do on a typical beach. But here you can rent kayaks or SUP boards to get a closer view of the fish, birds, and wildlife in the nearby mangroves. The only way to get to Tigertail is to wade through the lagoon. The best place to do it is marked by a buoy. It is doable in any tide, but low tide is easiest.