Florida Road Trip Destinations You Won't Want to Miss
In such a destination-studded state, it can be a challenge to decide where to go for a fun road trip getaway. Check out this list of 10 places we put together to help you and your crew make the most of of this year's summer break:
Head to Miami and take the Overseas Highway to the Florida Keys (375 miles from Sarasota)
Stop in Miami for a mojito and a Cuban sandwich, then take the trek on the 113-mile Overseas Highway dotted with must-see destinations. Nature lovers can rejoice at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo, an undersea park with tours on a glass-bottomed boat that reveal teeming marine life. Next, kiteboard or spot manatees from a kayak at Curry Hammock State Park in Marathon, then make your way to the Dolphin Research Center's dolphinarium on Grassy Key. Once you've reached Key West, the southernmost tip of the continental U.S.A., taste the local fresh snapper at Red Shoe Island Bistro, minutes away from Ernest Hemingway's house and museum, then enjoy a Key lime martini at Martin's and a bottomless mimosa brunch at Ocean Grill & Bar.
Ocala National Forest (164 miles from Sarasota)
Ocala National Forest is a sprawling nature destination with countless activities. Take a hike along Florida’s National Scenic Trail or bike the 22-mile Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail. With 600 lakes in Ocala, the list of water activities goes on and on. Swim in one of the cool springs, paddle beneath a canopy of live oaks in Juniper Springs or set up camp at Juniper Springs Recreation Area. Make the ultimate nature lover's getaway and stay at one of multiple camping sites to admire the star-lit night.
Cassadaga (165 miles from Sarasota)
Founded in 1895, Cassadaga, also known as the psychic capital of the world, is located in central Florida near DeLand. Visit Raven Star Psychic Witch for a tarot reading and the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp for a tour to learn about the area's history and uncover its mysterious beginnings. The camp was founded by trance medium Georgia P. Colby and it's rumored that the devil himself lives in the town, along with witches and pagans. Break away from the psychic world and check out the playground and nature on 123-acre Colby Alderman Park, where picnic tables dot the landscape and a roofed pavilion offers shade. For dinner, try the Italian American fare at Sinatra's L'Aldila Restaurant for chicken parmesan or grab an espresso pick me up at Sinatra's Coffee Company.
Cape Canaveral (177 miles from Sarasota)
Cape Canaveral is out of this world. Visit The Kennedy Space Center to learn about the space program and check out the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame to learn about the lives of astronauts. Next, check out the Hubble Space Telescope Theater to uncover how astronauts helped save it during their missions. Go on a guided tour through the Rocket Garden to see the rockets from NASA's Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Next, grab a cold one at the Florida Beer Company or enjoy a waterfront lunch at Rusty's Seafood & Oyster Bar. End the day with a tour of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.
Orlando (132 miles from Sarasota)
Visit Disney World and meet Mickey Mouse, build a lightsaber at Galaxies Edge, see zebras, hippos and lions at Animal Kingdom, drink around the world at EPCOT and end the day by taking in the fireworks at Cinderella's Castle. Don't miss Universal Orlando parks to shoot aliens on the Men in Black ride, enter Harry Potter's world on Escape From Gringotts and try a butter beer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To cool down, swim with dolphins at Discovery Cove or visit Universal's Volcano Bay and Islands of Adventure water parks. Check out the shops and delicious treats in Disney Springs, and see some sea life including jellyfish, Ted the turtle and stingrays at the only 360-degree ocean tunnel in the world at Orlando Aquarium.
Blue Spring State Park (166 miles from Sarasota)
Blue Spring State Park is located near Orange City, in northeast Florida, and is the largest spring on St. Johns River there. Because this is a manatee refuge, water activities are on hold between November and March, while manatees come in search of warmer waters. When it's warm, rent a kayak or canoe or sign up for a riverboat tour. Picnic tables and a 4.5-mile hiking trail around the state park invite you to stay the day. For overnight stays, rent a cabin or stay at one of 51 campsites.
Amelia Island (277 miles from Sarasota)
For anyone thinking of island destinations, Amelia Island is a secret island paradise. It has lots of hiking and biking trails, and sunny spots like Fernandina Beach for sunbathing, swimming, surf fishing and shark tooth and shell hunting. Stay overnight at one of the two on-site campgrounds at Amelia Island State Park.
History buffs will love Fort Clinch State Park, where there's a preserved Civil War-era walled plantation that features daily tours. Check out the Amelia Island Museum of History to learn about the 4,000-year-old island. Relax with a craft Bearing Rum cocktail at Marlin & Barrel Distillery, or a farm-to-table dinner at Omni Amelia Island Resort, and catch a live musical theater production at Amelia Musical Playhouse.
Pensacola (522 miles from Sarasota)
Head to Florida's northwest and take in the sunshine and cool waters of the Pensacola Bay Area, where you can rent a paddleboard and travel along the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. At 16 miles long, Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key are part of the longest stretch of protected seashore in the country, and Perdido State Park offers nature hikes and biking trails. For more urban fun, go-kart at Laguna's Beach Bar + Grill, see dolphins at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, zip down waterslides at Sam's Fun City and dine on fresh seafood at Flounder's Chowder House.
St. Augustine (235 miles from Sarasota)
St. Augustine is a history buff's dream. Travel through three centuries of history at the Colonial Quarter. Visit the iconic Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest masonry fort in the United States. Ride the ferry to Fort Matanza and tour the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum. Explore your darker side, and check out the Medieval Torture Museum to see an interactive display of torture devices from the fifth to 15th centuries. Enjoy fresh, local seafood at the beachfront Sunset Grille and satisfy a sweet tooth at 904 Churros for a custom-made treat. If you dare, end the night with a spooky ghost tour.
Jacksonville (251 miles from Sarasota)
Visit another historically significant destination at The Kingsley Plantation to learn about the area's history during the 1790s. Next, go down to Jacksonville Beach to enjoy the sunshine and water by paddle boarding, swimming or renting a boat. Bring your furry friend to a pet-friendly beach, including Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Mayport Navel Air Station and Neptune Beach. On dry land, lose yourself in art at The Cummer Museum, which houses works from 2100 B.C. through the 21st century. See live music and comedians at the Florida Theater and head to 13 Gypsies for traditional Spanish tapas. For the perfect fried fish meal, check out Beach Road Fish House & Chicken Dinners.