Planning Your Ultimate Florida Road Trip

sailboat

photo© Allie Couture

If I had to choose one state in the U.S. as the best for road trips, then without a doubt, I would say Florida. I grew up on the West Coast, but the perfect weather, white sandy beaches, food, attractions, and sunsets often beckon me to Florida. It is a great place to live, but the roads that curve beside the beaches and between waters makes it worth driving for hours. Sometimes I feel like Florida is its own country; it is completely different from the rest of the U.S. With so many places to see, tourist locations, and breathtaking sunsets, a road trip driving around the entire coastline is the only way to see it all.

1. Pensacola

The best place to start is Pensacola. Here, you will find a short road called the Pensacola Scenic Bluffs highway that travels a quick 11 miles along bluffs high above the bay. From the highest point on the Florida coast, you will get to see some of the best views in Florida.

2. Panama City

Next stop is Panama City. Take a couple of days off from driving and enjoy the beach, good food, and countless attractions. Aaron Bessant Park is a newer park located right on the beach. With a huge amphitheatre, you can enjoy listening to some local artists while relaxing with the view of the ocean.

3. Homosassa

Drive into nature at Homosassa. This hidden gem is bursting with life, endless views, and lush trees. Take an exciting manatee tour or enjoy the sites at the wildlife park.

4. Tampa

Time to park the car and take a few days to enjoy Tampa tourism — well, to fully enjoy it, it would take weeks! I would recommend Busch Gardens and the IMAX Theater at the Museum of Science and Industry for the adventure-seekers. Big Cat Rescue is a retreat for cats and is a relaxing tranquil environment that’s completely intriguing for nature lovers. Don’t forget to walk along Bayshore Boulevard.

5. Siesta Key

If I am going to go on a road trip around Florida, it is to see the dreamlike beaches, and Siesta Key Beach is one of the most famous ones in the nation. The sand is so soft that it literally feels like silk running through your fingers. From the giant shores to the bathrooms, everything is cleaned up to perfection. It’s a great place to spend the day and relax before hitting the road again.

6. Florida Keys Scenic Highway

A road trip wouldn’t be complete without a drive across the Florida Keys Scenic Highway. While hopping across islands and driving over a bridge for miles, you will be completely surrounded by the big blue ocean. Every island has places to stop so you can enjoy the views and breathe in the smell of the ocean. Everything about the Florida Keys is so perfectly designed for road trips that I demand this area be added to every vacation.

7. Miami

Miami is filled with entertainment and culture. As it’s one of my favorite cities in Florida, I would recommend spending a day or two hitting up the museums, restaurants, and zoos. Florida gets hot, and depending on the time of year you choose to go on your road trip, if you aren’t at the beach, you are going to want to spend as much time as you can inside an air-conditioned building. Try out Bayfront Park for a nice view of the ocean while you dine on some delicious food. Then visit Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Perez Art Museum Miami, or maybe the Miami Seaquarium or Zoo Miami.

8. Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway

This 150-mile scenic byway can be driven in just four hours. If you want to truly enjoy it, then I would spread the drive out over two days. Starting around Sebastian, you will get to drive right next to the ocean. I would stop at Melbourne Beach and Cocoa Beach for delicious food and a moment to swim in the ocean.

9. Orlando

Depending on whether you want to enjoy theme parks, Orlando is a city you can drive to and enjoy it for several days, or you can continue up the coast. If you haven’t been to Walt Disney World, then it should be on your map: It is as magical as they tell you. Universal Studios is right next door and is just as exciting and fun for adults.

10. Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail

This is the perfect scenic loop road to complete your Florida road trip. Over its 36 miles, you will drive through 10 different state and local parks and 10 miles of beachfront. When you finish, take a moment to look out at the ocean because you have just completed a road trip around Florida’s coast.

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