If you’re thinking about a trip to Florida but can’t decide where, why not choose a Florida road trip? A road trip around Florida is an under-looked way to see the Sunshine State. Florida road trips are easy because the state is mostly flat, has great roads and is a cheap place to hire a car.
If you’re looking for Florida road trip ideas, this is the best place to start. Because this driving tour of Florida is a loop, starting and ending in the same destination, you can pick the most convenient place to start. Miami or Fort Lauderdale are the obvious spots to start but if it’s cheaper and easier to fly into Orlando or Tampa, start there.
Add in extra stops along the way if you want to see more of the Florida Keys, other Gulf Coast beach towns or a night in the Everglades. You could also add this loop onto the end of an East Coast road trip. (If you’re looking for East Coast road trip ideas I have lots in this post.)
What You'll Find in This Post
- 1 Florida Road Trip Destinations
- 2 Florida Road Trip Itinerary
- 3 Florida Road Trip Map
- 4 Tips for Florida Road Trips
- 5 Pin this Post for Later:
- 6 Top 10 Road Trip Essentials
Florida Road Trip Destinations
Here’s my list of must-see Florida road trip destinations. Cover these and you’ll have one of the best road trips in Florida!
Miami is one of the coolest cities in the world. The people are beautiful and so are the beaches. You could hang out for a day in South Beach and just watch the people and exotic cars go by. Miami is a great place to party but it’s also fun for kids. There’s an excellent children’s museum in Miami.
While you’re in Miami, sample a bit of Cuban cuisine. It’s the best place in the world to do so! (Seriously, people say the Cuban food in Miami is better than in Cuba.) Calle Ocho is the home to Little Havana, the Cuban cultural hub of Miami. Head here for your fix of Cubano sandwiches, croqueta de jamon and coffee. For a taste of classic Cuban cuisines, try Versailles Restaurant.
Where to Stay in Miami
We suggest staying away from South Beach if you’re on a budget because it’s so expensive and you’ll pay a lot to park your car at hotels in this part of town. You can check prices for hotels in Miami here or check out our recommendations below.
Budget: The Cambria Suites Miami Airport Lagoon is a good budget option near the airport with huge rooms and free parking which is perfect for road trippers. Check prices & availability here.
Midrange: Churchill Suites Miami Brickell in downtown Miami has apartments multiple bedrooms, kitchens and fantastic city views. Check prices & availability here.
Luxury: If you want to indulge go for the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. This 5-star hotel on the beach has a stunning pool, restaurants and a beach club. Check prices & availability here.
>>> Travel tip: Get a Go Card for Miami to save a TONNE of money on attractions and activities! Click here to save up to 55% on Miami attractions such as Miami Zoo, Miami Seaquarium, Miami Children’s museum, boat tours and bus tours plus lots more! <<<
Miami to Key West is a great drive! Driving to the Florida Keys is an attraction in & of itself. Called the Overseas Highway, this 113-mile chain of coral and limestone islands is connected by 42 bridges, one of them seven miles long! The distance from Miami to Key West is 165 miles but the drive will take around four hours as it’s quite slow going on the way through the Florida Keys.
Key West is a charming, historical town that offers plenty to do! See the Southern-Most tip of the US, take a historical trolley tour or ride the Conch train, visit Earnest Hemmingway’s home and take a glass bottom boat tour of the Great Florida Reef – the only living coral reef in the Continental US. One thing you mustn’t forget to do is eat a big slice of Key Lime pie!
Read more: Things to Do in Key West with Kids (Adults will love them too!)
Where to Stay in Key West:
Pick a hotel with a free shuttle into Key West which will help you avoid the high price of parking in town. Visiting Key West midweek will also help your budget as hotel prices go up a lot at weekends.
Budget: Budget is a relative term in the keys so don’t expect a bargain but the Best Western Key Ambassador Resort Inn is a good choice if you’re looking for a more moderately priced hotel. Check prices & availability here.
Midrange: We stayed at the Sheraton Suites Key West which was fantastic. Spacious suites, great pool and a free shuttle to downtown which meant no parking hassle. I highly recommend this as your hotel in Key West! Check prices & availability here.
Luxury: If you want a hotel right on the beach then choose the Southernmost Beach Resort. The hotel has a lovely pool and the room decor is beautiful. Check prices & availability here.
Sanibel Island is a wonderful spot to include on your Florida itinerary. Sanibel is a haven for wildlife and must of the island is a protected wildlife reserve. You’ll also find great beaches and spectacular sunsets on the Sanibel.
You can squeeze Sanibel into one day or take a little more time to explore. Spend you time collecting shells on Sanibel’s beaches, biking around the island and touring the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. A boat trip on Tarpon Bay is also a great idea if you want to spot wildlife like birds, manatees and dolphins
Where to Stay in Sanibel Island:
We recommend staying in the town of Fort Myers as Sanibel itself is very expensive. Fort Myers is only a short drive across the bridge from Sanibel Island but you’ll pay over half what you would on the island!
Budget: For something a bit different stay at the Pyramid Village in Fort Myers. This place is very cool! Funky A-frame cabins complete with kitchenette are laid out around a pretty pool area. Check prices & availability here.
Midrange: We stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Fort Myers which had a lovely pool area, comfortable rooms and free parking. Check prices & availability here.
Luxury: Stay on Sanibel Island if you can afford it! Sandalfoot Condominium Sanibel Island is a lovely complex of condos on Sanibel Island with pool and beach access close by. Check prices & availability here.
Clearwater Beach is one of the nicest beaches I’ve ever seen! Pure white sand covers a long, wide stretch of beach. The water is clear, warm and ultra calm making it perfect for marinating and safe for small kids. Spend a couple of days relaxing on the beach here in Clearwater, you won’t regret it!
Where to Stay in Clearwater Beach:
We recommend staying on or near the beach so you can maximize your beach days. Check out prices for hotels in Clearwater Beach here or use the recommendations below.
Budget: Choose the Residence Inn Clearwater Downtown if you want to stay near Clearwater beach but also stick to your budget. You’ll get a comfy suite with kitchenette, free parking and wifi. Check prices & availability here.
Midrange: The Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach is a solid choice if you want a resort in Clearwater with a great pool, kids’ club and stunning views. Check prices & availability here.
Luxury: Stay at the glamorous Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach if you have the budget. Located right on the beach with a lovely pool area. There’s free bicycle rental and a kids’ club too. Check prices & availability here.
Many people come to Orlando for the theme parks. If you’re a family or a thrill-seeker you’ll be in absolute heaven in Orlando. Orlando is also a great place to shop, there are tonnes of shopping malls and outlets here.
If you only have time for one theme park, make it DisneyWorld. They don’t call it the Magic Kingdom for nothing! Plan your time wisely and you can see most of the park in a day. Don’t forget to pre-book your FastPass+ rides before you arrive and you can choose to skip the queue on three rides during your Disney visit.
Where to Stay in Orlando:
We recommend staying close to the entrance of the Disney Parks.
There are a lot of hotels in this area, many with great pools and water parks for kids. Hotels in Orlando are a real bargain! Check out prices for hotels in Orlando here or see the recommendations below.
Budget: The Embassy Suites Orlando Lake Buena Vista South is a nice spot to stay if you’re on a budget and is well-located for park access. Check prices & availability here.
Midrange: The Hyatt Regency Orlando is a solid midrange choice in Orlando. Modern and stylish, it’s also walking distance to SeaWorld. Check prices & availability here.
Luxury: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa can’t be beat if you’re visiting DisneyWorld. Staying in the resort is pricey but will save you time. The Grand Floridian is glamorous and magical with a beautiful pool. Check prices & availability here.
>>> Travel Tip: Get the Go Card for Orlando so you can save money on attractions and theme parks such as Kennedy Space Center, Legoland, Wonderworks, Fun Spot, Congo River and more! Check out the attractions included here. <<<
This may surprise you but St Augustine is the oldest city in the US. Settled by the Spanish in 1565, St Augustine has unique architecture and vibe all to it’s own. There’s a lot of history here! St Augustine also has a great beach.
Getting a historical overview of St Augustine is a must so book yourself a trolley tour and then spend the day exploring on foot. El Galeón, a replica of a traditional Spanish galleon, sits in the harbour in St Augustine and is open for tours. You can also walk around the old Spanish fort of Castillo de San Marcos.
Where to Stay in St Augustine: We recommend staying in St Augustine Beach. The hotels are more reasonably priced and there are some nice restaurants in the area, especially if you like seafood. Check out hotels in St Augustine Beach here or take a look at the recommendations below.
Budget: Choose the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Saint Augustine North if you’re visiting St Augustine on a budget. It’s got all the amenities you need at a great price. Check prices & availability here.
Midrange: Located in St Augustine Beach, we stayed at the Ascend Collection Castillo Real and enjoyed the pool, spacious rooms and proximity to the beach. Check prices & availability here.
Luxury: For a luxury hotel in the historic district, try the Hilton St Augustine Historic Bayfront. You can walk the historic city center and enjoy the atmosphere in these historically decorated rooms. Check prices & availability here.
Cape Canaveral is iconic. Home to the Kennedy Space Center, an enormous sprawling complex that visitors can explore and learn the history of space exploration in America. Currently home to NASA and SpaceX.
Walk the gantry that the Apollo 11 astronauts used to board their craft on the way to land on the moon. Climb inside a replica of the space station. Get up close with the Space Shuttle Atlantis. You must take the bus tour out to the launching pads to see where active space launches happen today.
Where to Stay in Cape Canaveral:
We recommend staying in the Cocoa Beach area as there a more choices for hotels and restaurants. It’s a short drive from Cape Canaveral. Check out Cocoa Beach hotels here or try the hotel recommendations below.
Budget: For a budget stay, choose the Best Western Ocean Beach Hotel on the beach front and with excellent amenities. Check prices & availability here.
Midrange: La Quinta Inn & Suites Cocoa Beach Oceanfront is a solid midrange choice with comfortable rooms and free parking. Check prices & availability here.
Luxury: The Resort on Cocoa Beach is an excellent luxury options in Cocoa Beach with spacious suites and a nice pool. Check prices & availability here.
Finally, Fort Lauderdale. You’ll be surprised at how much there is to do in Fort Lauderdale. It’s not just a poor man’s Miami anymore. The beach at Fort Lauderdale is lovely and there are some great eateries along the beach front. There are a lot of great things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids. Check out the Young at Art museum, Museum of Discovery & Science and a massive indoor playground called Funderdome.
When you’re in Fort Lauderdale, take the time to head out to the Everglades. Hop on an airboat tour and you’ll get to see alligators up close and personal in their natural environment.
Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale:
We recommend staying somewhere near the cruise port, beach area or airport as the beachfront hotels are naturally expensive.
Budget: We stayed in the Extended Stay America Fort Lauderdale Cruise Port which was surprisingly good, excellent value compared to hotels nearby and had free parking. Check prices & availability here.
Midrange: The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina is in a fabulous location on the marina in Fort Lauderdale and has a fantastic pool area. Check prices & availability here.
Luxury: The Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale is the ultimate luxury hotel in Fort Lauderdale. With a glamorous pool right on the beach you can’t go wrong with this choice. Check prices & availability here.
Florida Road Trip Itinerary
I’ve come up with the best road trip in Florida! I’ve put together this road trip itinerary based on our travels from earlier this year. To help you plan your Florida road trip, I’ve broken it down on this spreadsheet which you can download from Google Docs and customize to suit your own Florida road trip. This road trip through Florida will take you two weeks but can be adjusted to suit your time frame.
Two Week Florida Road Trip Itinerary:
- Miami (3 nights)
- Key West (2 nights)
- Fort Myers for Sanibel Island (2 nights)
- Clearwater Beach (2 nights)
- Orlando (2 nights)
- Cocoa Beach for Cape Canaveral (1 night)
- Fort Lauderdale (2 nights)
Download my Florida road trip itinerary template here on Google Docs. You can save a copy and edit it in Google Docs or download as an Excel spreadsheet.
Florida Road Trip Map
Here’s my Florida road trip map for the itinerary above. You can open this in Google Maps and save it as My Maps so you can alter it to suit your Florida road trip.
Tips for Florida Road Trips
- Get a SunPass if you can. It costs $4.99 and mails within 7 days. There’s no state tax in Florida which means lots of toll roads. Most toll roads can be paid for using the SunPass or with cash but some only accept the pass and some only accept quarters! Get a few rolls or quarters to leave in your car.
- Packing for Florida – Pack light for your trip to Florida. It’s warm, humid climate means you don’t need a lot of stuff. You can download my Florida packing list here.
- Use the GoCard to save money on attractions – You can purchase Go Cards for Orlando and Miami. This will save you a tonne of money on attractions. For more information on what theme parks, attractions and activities are included on the Go Card, click here.
Pin this Post for Later:
Top 10 Road Trip Essentials
Before you set off on your road trip, make sure you’ve got all the essential items at the ready.
- GPS covering American & Canadian roads
- AAA breakdown kit
- Car charger with multiple USB ports
- Cooler & large Ziploc bags for filling with ice from hotel ice machines
- Audible membership for listening to audiobooks
- Tide Pods – put a handful in a Ziploc bag for doing laundry on the road
- Baby wipes for wiping up after snacks or messes
- First aid kit
- Radar detector
- Travel mug
Perfect. We head to Florida end Jan and I had no idea where to go so this is so helpful, thanks! I wasn’t a fan of Miami so might skip that, but totally excited to head to the west side to explore!
You would like Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami Erin. Lots of kid-friendly things to do. I have another post coming up about it! Let me know if you have any questions.
Great road trip. Your itinerary looks fun. Which I can do the same when I’ll travel Florida later on.
We live in Florida and love traveling around the state. There are a couple really great experiences that are on this route that you missed:
Swimming with Manatees in Homosassa
Scalloping near Homosassa
Driving on the beach in the Daytona Beach
Visiting the Everglades in Fort Lauderdale or Miami
There are also a couple stops I would add or swap out.
Clearwater beach is indeed beautiful. It can be crowded. We prefer Siesta Key Beach in Sarasota. It has the soft white sand beach that is wide like Clearwater, but is more pristine.
I would also add Gainesville to this road trip. Catch a great athlethic game of your choice, check out Paines Prarie and an amazingly large sinkhole, Devil’s Millhopper.
If you are still in Florida, or making it back anything soon, Let me know. I’d be happy to show you some of Florida’s lesser known wonders that are perfect for kids.
Thanks for the suggestions Nicole. There’s only so much you can do in two weeks. I did mention visiting the everglades from Fort Lauderdale.
If you go to Gainesville, make sure to visit Devil’s Den for snorkeling or scuba diving. It’s one of those things that you have to see to believe.
While I’ve been to a lot of these places on my own, we plan on touring the US in an RV in the upcoming years. I have always loved FL and know we’ll spend a good amount of time there (especially in the winter!) so I’ll have to keep this route in mind!
We came to visit 15 years ago and a vacation turned into permanent stay and decided to stay in Florida. It is like living in Paradise.
I just moved to Florida two years ago and I’m all settled in now and wanted to see this beautiful state. Thanks for all the information. Can’t wait to hit the road in my new Kia car.
How much did it cost you for the complete trip? Can you give any rough estimate so I can plan accordingly. I am planning to go their this December
Hi Nikhil. Will you be driving your own car or renting one when you get there? Florida is pretty good value. Our budget in general was $200 USD per day for everything except our car which we already owned. If you wanted to rent one you’d have to factor that in. That budget is for a family of four (two small kids.)
Very interesting blog thank you. We are a young middle aged couple from the UK and are flying into Miami mid May 2017 for two weeks. We were thinking of renting an apartment in two different places for a week each…maybe Marco Island and somewhere else. I definitely want to see the Keys and also Cape Canaveral. I love fancy hotels but our budget is a little more restricted .we will miss out Orlando – that’s been done a few times when our kids were younger. Any suggestions would be welcome ?
Hi Joan! Clearwater Beach is really lovely. I would consider staying there or Sanibel Island for a week. Both would be good choices. Plus a week in the Keys. You could fly into Miami, go down to the Keys for a week, cross back to Sanibel or Clearwater and then stop in Cape Canaveral for a night before heading back to Miami for your flight home. That would be my pick! Enjoy your trip. Florida is a favourite for us! Make sure you read our Florida Packing List too!
Thank you so much Bethany – I will look at that idea – sounds great ??
Have you used Airbnb at all Joan? We used it to find a rental in Orlando for a month and it worked out great. For the rest of Florida we just stayed in the hotels I mention in this post. If you haven’t used Airbnb before, you can get a coupon code for a $35 credit by signing up here —> http://www.airbnb.com/c/bdavies9?s=8
No I haven’t tried airbnb yet – always felt a bit nervous about that in case the places turn out to be not as good as they should but I will certainly have a look.
Thank you for the suggestion x
Hi, we are a family of 6 and we are going to Florida for a week in may 2017. How many days would you suggest in the best spots, considering we have to go to Disney and Cape Canaveral?
Hi Mariana. I would suggest basing yourself in Orlando for the week and doing day trips from there. You can do Disney World and Universal in Orlando and then take day trips to Cape Canaveral & the Kennedy Space Center, St Augustine and Clearwater Beach. All those day trips are around one hour from Orlando so pretty easy. Plus if you stay a week you can get a nice Airbnb house with enough room for everyone! And not have to pack up your belongs every few days.
If you have tried Airbnb here is a coupon to use on your first stay – https://www.airbnb.com.au/invite?r=3
Hi Bethaney – really helpful guide, thank you! We are travelling to Miami on the 24th Jan for a 3 week holiday (me, my hubby and our 7 week old baby). We’re looking to explore the best parts of Florida and we won’t be doing Disney World. With a baby on-board we want to avoid hours in the car every day so looking for approx 4 great bases to explore. For our last week we’d like to spend time at the Keys. We love the great outdoors, places off the beaten track (less touristy) and beautiful beaches / scenery. Would be great to hear your suggestions of the best route and baby-friendly places. Thank you so much in advance!
I think you could do St Augustine for a longer stretch, stop at Clearwater for a bit on the way across just to enjoy the gorgeous beach, Sanibel for a longer stretch then down to the Keys for another longer stretch. We only went to Key West and liked it a lot but we like more energetic, busy places. There are definitely spots in the Keys that are move laid back and off the beaten track.
If you want to ask more about spots in the Keys, you could join our FB group with other travelling families – https://www.facebook.com/groups/familieswholovetravel/ There would definitely be someone in there who could suggest a more laid back, outdoorsy spot in the keys. Just send me a message on FB so I can approve you to join!
Brilliant, thank you! I’ve requested to join and sent you a message
Hi Bethaney, I am planning a trip for 10 people including 4 kids in May end to Florida. Must do locations are Universal and Disney along with Miami and Keywest. The trip will be a nine day trip and thinking of doing a lot of day trips. What do you suggest as a good itinerary?
You could just do Miami then Key West for a few days each and then spend the rest of the time in Orlando and do day trips from there.
I was born in the keys it is beautiful so next vacation go there
Yes we love the Keys!