Florida is one of the most popular states in the USA for road trip fun. If you wonder where to spend your next vacation and get the perfect experience, choose the Sunshine State.
Florida is a state of limitless summer and fun. It combines the relaxed serenity of hitting the beach, the active and thematic fun, intellectual enlightenment, and hikes amidst wild nature. On this road trip, you can get plenty of each and still have time shopping, live streaming, and talking with the locals.
Thanks for choosing my Florida road trip plan for your amazing trip throughout the state. Enjoy your ride! I’ll gladly share the sublime experience of my own travels in the state.
When getting to the USA for the first time, I was super excited about two locations – New York and Florida. Why not LA? Well, it’s an amazing city, of course, but I could get its atmosphere in Miami. Plus, Florida offered more additional activities and locations I was anticipating.
Overall, this is a perfect state to travel to any time of year. However, be prepared for the high humidity, especially in the summer months! Make sure your car AC is working, and be ready to eat lots of ice cream and cooling drinks.
Now, what scenic drives in Florida to start from?
I recommend starting from Jacksonville International Airport. It is located near the city and is less crowded than the one in Orlando. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to dive into the buzzing crowds right away. Especially from a long-distance trip.
Jacksonville is the perfect first taste of Florida. While its airport is less crowded, the city itself is one of the most populous in the USA. Whether you are ready to explore right away or want to rest in a hotel for a bit, Jacksonville offers both opportunities.
Things to Do
If you arrive in Jacksonville early in the morning, leave your things at the booked hotel and hit the beach. Shake off the jet lag! Drink a cocktail or two to prepare for the fun. Among the most popular choices are Atlantic, Neptune, and Ponte Vedra Beach.
In the afternoon, you can visit Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens. According to the official information, it fits around 2.400 different animals, most of them exotic. I doubt anyone can meet them all on a single trip!
As an alternative, visit the Catty Shack Ranch to observe magnificent tigers and other big cats.
If you are a history nerd, Kingsley Plantation is the destination for you! It is an important part of the South’s history pre and post-Civil war. Explore the tabby hoses and the grand mansion. Learn the history of Florida slavery and fight against it.
For the evening, plan a trip to a local cafe or bar. If you prefer luxury restaurants, I recommend Restaurant Orsay or Taverna. For something eclectic and wholesome, 13 Gypsies has a fantastic chef who prefers to create everything from scratch following his family traditions.
And it’s morning now. Are you going to move on to the next location or stay in the city for a bit longer? If it’s the latter, this is the perfect opportunity to visit Little Talbot Island and Big Talbot Island. They are both undeveloped barrier islands that offer picturesque scenery with robust greenery and wildlife, marshes, beaches, and forest. You can easily spend the whole day exploring them and enjoying the exotic nature.
When the time comes, rent a car at a trusted service suitable for the best Florida road trips. Personally, I’ve worked with Rent-A-Car and had no troubles.
Now, off we go!
Anastasia State Park
From Jacksonville, we’ll go straight to Anastasia State Park, located just slightly over 40 miles from the city. This top will not be as long as the first one.
Although it stretches for 1600 acres along the white beaches marshes, spare a couple of hours to explore the park. You’ll be surrounded by similar scenery in the upcoming days. The entry price is $8 per vehicle.
Rent a bicycle for a short ride around the site. Enjoy bird watching and historic sites. Simply explore the grounds. Let your ride take you to spontaneous places. If the weather is right and you are in the mood for some water fun, swimming and paddling are also available.
Enjoy the serenity, and we’ll relocate to the next stop 112 miles from the park!
Kennedy Space Center
And here we are at the Kennedy Space Center/ Open hours are 10 am – 5 pm. So, I recommend departing Jacksonville around 8-9 am to enjoy a couple of hours in the center.
Note that Kennedy Space Center regularly holds special events and launches limited to earlier times. In this case, you can sleep in, spend the day exploring Anastasia State Park and move straight to Orlando for overnight accommodation.
At Kennedy’s, you can access the restricted areas of one of the biggest spaceports in the world, explore the Apollo/Saturn V Center (that hosts the largest rocket ever flown!), and take a look at the shuttles that transport astronauts to space! I don’t know about you, but I find such space centers to be fascinating! I’m sure you’ll like it too.
Orlando (for B&B)
The next among major Florida road trip ideas is Orlando. How can I miss the city of the greatest amusement parks? The theme parks are the central part of Orlando’s attractions. They are fun for the whole family. And if you travel with friends – more reason to spend a fun day or two in the parks. Yes, they are so huge that I’d plan a couple of days to Orlando.
There are two major parks that most tourists come to visit – Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. I was a big fan of Disney growing up (and still am), but Harry Potter holds a special place in my heart. Thus, I’ll focus more on the letter first.
Universal Studios Florida accounts for three amazing parks: Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and Volcano Bay. The first is heaven for all fans of Harry Potter and Transformers. The second is crafted to satisfy the adrenaline junkies with the Hulk Coaster and other rides. It also features Jurassic Park, Marvel Superheroes, and the Wizarding World. The last part is dedicated to water slides and cool volcanoes! Each location has its own day tickets that start from $109 and $80. Unfortunately, if you want to see both Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, you’ll have to either visit for two days or buy a park-to-park ticket that covers all three. The prices vary. Check them here.
Walt Disney World
But let’s not forget the fantastic world of Disney stories! You have to visit the theme park. Better dedicate the whole day to this location as well.
It comprises four different theme parks. Thus, you may need two whole days if you want to explore every nook and cranny.
- The first one is the Magical Kingdom. It offers the place of the classic Disney experience. If you want to meet all those popular Disney characters, walk down Main Street. And head to the famous Cinderella castle.
- The second park to visit is Epcot. It features two adrenaline-infusion thrill rides. The youngest guests will be amazed by the World Showcase that exhibits different countries of the world.
- The third park is Hollywood Studios for the older audiences and movie enthusiasts. Its main feature is the replica of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Among the franchises covered by this exhibition are IndianaJones, Frozen, and Star Wars.
- The fourth part of the complex is Animal Kingdom, also mostly interesting for the youngest visitor. Though, if you are such a huge fan of Lion King as I am, you’ll get a fantastic experience.
Spend however long you can stay in Orlando. This is a city of a few other amazing theme parks for any taste. Whether you travel with a family or with friends.
From Orlando, head to Miami. The trip will take approximately three and a half hours. The distance is 230 miles.
The epitome of fun road trips in Florida and beach fun is Miami. Whether you like big crowds or not, you cannot miss the chance to take a look at the fabulous Miami beaches. And, maybe, meet a celebrity or two if you are lucky enough.
Where to head to Miami? The main is Miami Beach, for starters. It is crowded, so you may not like the general buzz. If you prefer more solitude, choose 21st–45th Street Beach. The locals prefer this location, and I am lucky that a few people have suggested it to me. It is also full of people, but the general atmosphere is more relaxed.
If you have enough time, take a walk through the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in the Coconut Grove district. It was built in the early 1900s but gathered many art pieces dating back as far as the 15t century.
If you are science-minded, the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science will be the perfect continuation of the Space Center experience. I highly suggest you go for a planetarium experience.
In the evening, a myriad of bars and cafes welcome you in their embrace. Anyone around the center streets is good enough for an evening of fun.
The next stop is for sophisticated travelers. Naples is located 130 miles away. The trip will take approximately 2 hours.
Naples is the botanical marvel of the region. It is full of parks and nature preserves you can visit. Previously, I’ve written about the most exciting things to do in Naples. You can check the article to get a full view of the city.
In short, you can visit a beach, one of its many natural parks, or museums featuring trains and cars.
Cape Coral/Pine Island
The next and final location is Cape Coral and the neighboring Pine Island.
Cape Coral is the Venice of Florida (though there is a city called so). If you want to get the romantic experience of European boat rides, you can spend an evening cruising Cape Coral canals. The yacht club rentals are full of boats, both on budget and luxurious. The cheap ones are also good. While you are in the area, tea a walk around the colorful Matlacha houses, shops, and hand-painted vans. Matlacha shores are located right between Cape Coral and Pine Island.
I highly suggest ending your road trip with the relaxing solitude of Pine Island. This is the largest island off Florida Gulf Coast. This is a small town where locals welcome you with fascinating stories and local legends. It has several aquatic preserves with palms and sandy beaches. Feel as if you were transported to the exotic island and enjoy the last day of your vacation.
Back to Orlando to the Airport
Now, it’s time to head back to the Orlando airport, which is located three and a half hours from the island. Depart early as the Orlando airport is very crowded, and you may need quite some time to find your gate and register after the long line.