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Florida USA: round trip of 2-3 weeks to remember – East Coast

by Flitter Fever
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In this article I will take you on a round trip to Florida, USA, the Sunshine State! I have been on vacation to Florida twice and would love to go again. There is a lot to do in Florida, the weather is almost always good, friendly people … And above all: it evokes the ultimate holiday feeling for me. On vacation to Florida, what more could one wish for? This is part 1 of a Florida round trip trilogy of articles.

Miami South Beach blue lifeguard house with flowers and surfboards
Miami South Beach lifeguard beach cabin

Sipping cocktails in Miami and Key West, looking for shells on Sanibel Island, spotting crocodiles in the Everglades and cuddling Mickey Mouse in Orlando. How beautiful can life be?! As beautiful as Florida!

Ocean Dr Miami Beach Florida round trip
Ocean Dr – Miami Beach (photo credits Marc Fanelli Isla)

Florida round trip

You can start your Florida tour in a variety of places, such as Miami, Orlando, and Tampa, depending on your flight. Rent a car and drive from one place to another. If you want to visit all the places mentioned in this Florida round trip article, you will need at least 2-3 weeks. You can of course also make (difficult) choices and not visit everything, or even better: stay longer!

Miami Beach

Like many other big cities, Miami has beautiful, nice areas, such as South Beach and Coral Gables. But Miami also has neighborhoods where you really shouldn’t be, especially not after sunset. So make sure you take the right exit from the highway! Stay in Miami for a minimum of 3 nights as there is plenty to do and see! Especially if you also want to recover from your flight on the beach.

One thing my visits to this sunny metropolis taught me: Miami South Beach (SoBe) is the place to be. Don’t bother trying to save money by staying in North Beach, it’s boring. South Beach is full of art deco buildings, nice restaurants and bars within walking distance. Sometimes you come across a nice old-timer, which gives a little bit of a Cuba atmosphere.

Colorful art deco building in Miami South Beach
Colorful art deco building in Miami South Beach
Old timer car at Avalon Miami South Beach
Old-timer in front of Avalon (photo credits Deyson Ortiz)

Miami must see & do

Miami practial:

Wynwood Miami street art muscled bald green man
Street art in Wynwood (photo credits Juan Pablo Mascanfroni)
Recently The Berkley Shore was painted all white
Recently The Berkley Shore was painted all white

Coral Gables

Coral Gables is my favorite Miami neighborhood. It is actually a village on itself. Peaceful, winding avenues lined with beautiful old trees and colonial buildings. Waving palm trees, pink flower bushes, beautiful waterways full of luxury boats and fantastic houses. This is one of the richest neighborhoods of the entire US.

Drive the Coral Way with old oak trees and Spanish-style houses. Visit Miracle Mile, Alhambra Water Tower and Venetian Pool. Have lunch (or spend the night) at the beautiful Biltmore Hotel. The nearby Coconut Grove is the liveliest neighborhood in Miami after SoBe.

Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ Florida
Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ
Venetian Pool Coral Gables near Miami Florida
Venetian Pool in Coral Gables

Florida East Coast

In this article we drive around Florida counterclockwise (clockwise is ofcourse also possible). There is a lot to see on the east coast of Florida. North of Miami are the Gold Coast and the Treasure Coast. Think of places like Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. Followed by the Space Coast completes with the Kennedy Space Center. Further up northeastern places like Daytona Beach, St. Augustine en Jacksonville follow. We travel all the way to St. Augustine.

Sure, you could drive from Miami South Beach to St. Augustine in one day; that is at least 315 miles (500km, about 5 hours without stops). Personally, I think that wold be a pity. The places in between are also certainly worth at least a pit-stop. For example, sea turtles lay eggs on the beach at Juno Beach from May to September.

If you’ve never driven in the US, a world will open up for you on the highways here. The feeling of space! You can read more about the practical side of a Florida round trip in a next article (part 3).

Sunrise in Deerfield Beach Florida John Dwyer Photography
Sunrise at Deerfield Beach by befriended local photographer John Dwyer

Gold Coast must see & do

  • Eat cheesecake in Fort Lauderdale
  • Fish pier of Deerfield Beach
  • Old Town Hall of Boca Raton
  • Palm Beach f.e. Via Mizner and Mar-a-Lago
  • Orchid Island at Vero Beach
  • Hutchinson Island and Stuart
  • Jupiter Island and Hobe Sound National Park

Gold Coast practical:

Tired of driving? Then spend the night between Miami Beach and St. Augustine during your Florida round trip. For example at:

Tiffany & Co in Palm Beach
Tiffany & Co shop in Palm Beach
Old and new buildings in Ft. Lauderdale Florida round trip
Old and new buildings in Ft. Lauderdale

Space Coast

At the location of Cocoa at Highway 95 or 1:

  1. Continue to drive the north to visit Daytona and St. Augustine, or
  2. Turn left onto the 520 or 528 towards Orlando, or
  3. Turn right towards the Kennedy Space Center?

The choice is yours. It just depends on where your interests lie and how much time you have? You could also visit St. Augustine from Orlando as a day trip by cruise ship. Compromise is that you will be there at the busiest hours of the day.

Kennedy Space Center

At the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) at Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge you can learn all about the past and present of space travel. On March 11, 1969, the Apollo 11 left for the moon here. The center is home to NASA, who continue to send manned space shuttles into space. You can easily spend a day here, so big it is.

For example, watch films of space explorations in the IMAX theater, walk at Rocket Garden and have dinner with an astronaut. Also nearby: US Astronaut Hall of Fame. For the real space fanatics.

Kennedy Space Center SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch
Kennedy Space Center SpaceX Falcon 9 launch
US Astronaut Hall of Fame Florida
US Astronaut Hall of Fame

North East Florida

The First Coast connects many beaches and holiday resorts along a 193 km route parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. This is the stretch from about Titusville to Fernandina Beach on Florida’s northeast border. A less busy part of East Coast Florida than between Miami and the Space Coast.

Daytona

Daytona is of course known for the Daytona International Speedway, the birthplace of speed! The grandstands has space for more than 110,000 racing enthusiasts. Eight weekends of the year the main races take place here, including the Daytona 500. It is very busy in Daytona then. Better take this into account when making your Florida round trip planning.

Between Orlando and Daytona lies Blue Springs State Park (30 min). In winter, this area is home to Florida’s largest population of manatees (sea cows). Tip: do a fantastic 3-hour kayak tour.

Daytona International Speedway entrance gate
Daytona International Speedway entrance gate
With our GMC Yukon at Daytona International Speedway
With our GMC Yukon at Daytona International Speedway

St. Augustine

The oldest European settlement in the United States dates back to 1565. St. Augustine is a historical gem, but unfortunately also a tourist attraction. That does not change the fact that it is really worthwhile to visit St. Augustine. The town is full of beautiful old wooden houses and churches. There is plenty to do and see here for a full (or 2x half) day during your Florida round trip.

Impaired or tired? Then take the hop on hop off trolley bus.

Stroll around Plaza de la Constitution square, past the old city gate, down St. George Street, Aviles Street and King Street. Visit America’s oldest wooden schoolhouse from the 18th century and be sure to check out the Colonial Spanish Quarter.

Get up early in St. Augustine to beat the crowds, especially on public holidays and school vacations. There is also an old Jail Museum and an old Spanish fort, Castillo de San Marcos. Don’t be tempted to take a horse drawn carriage ride from Avenida Menendez. Do you like old ghost stories? Then book the spooky walking tour through St. Augustine.

St. Augustine practical:

The Old Powder House B&B St. Augustine
The Old Powder House B&B St. Augustine
Our Lady of La Leche Chapel, Mission Nombre de Dios, St. Augustine
Our Lady of La Leche Chapel (photo credits Steven Martin)

Juniper Springs

In Florida you will find hundreds of sources; most of which are in the north part of the state. We visited Juniper Springs in Ocala National Park. The water is very pure due to the rocks and minerals, making it a beautiful blue color, locked between the dense, tropical vegetation.

You can also walk around at Juniper Springs. Beware: bears can occur here, so avoid food lying around! One and a half hour drive inland, at Silver Springs you can hop on a glass bottom boat for only $12. Also fun: ziplining in Ocala National Park!

Juniper Springs Florida
Relax and cool off at Juniper Springs

Orlando

I could write a whole book about Orlando alone. You can stay here for weeks and not get bored, so much as there is to do here. You should certainly allow a full day per park. So you will have to make difficult choices. Magic Kingdom, for example, is already 43 hectares, Animal Kingdom is 5 times as big.

And not only because of the time you spend per park, also the costs. An entrance ticket to a Disney theme park can easily cost hundreds of dollars a day. Fortunately, there are also cheaper parks. But one thing is certain: Orlando should not be missing from your Florida round trip itinerary!

Orlando Disney theme parks

Walt Disney Resort – the big four
  • Magic Kingdom: the classic with many different areas and shows
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom: animal theme park
  • Epcot: futuristic and globalistic Theme Park
  • Disney Hollywood Studios (previously MGM)

Tip: plan your day in advance to get the most out of your visit at such a large amusement park. Make sure you know where everything is in advance, so that you can make the most of your day. Invest in a so-called fast pass to avoid long queues. Rows are shorter during shows.

Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Disney Orlando Florida
Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Disney Orlando (photo credits Hector Vasquez)

And then there are Disney’s water parks: Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Plus: the Disney Cruise Line, Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground, ESPN Wide World of Sports, Disney Springs, etc.

Which park you choose depends of course on your interests. And the composition of your travel group. With small children I can imagine that you want to visit Disney Magic Kingdom in any case. And on another day for example the LEGOLAND Florida Resort or the brand new Peppa Pig Theme Park. With older children, teenagers or only adults, another Disney park such as Epcot might be more obvious, Universal Studios and/or a water slide park for example.

Orlando practical:
Universal Studios on a weekday in May
Universal Studios on a weekday in May
Universal Studios Orlando movie set
On the movie set in Universal Studios Orlando

Other theme parks & Orlando attractions

Besides Disney, there is much more to experience in Orlando, such as:

  1. Sea World en Discovery Cove (swim with dolphins)
  2. Universal Studios, Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal’s Volcano Bay waterpark and  Universal City Walk
  3. Aquatica Orlando waterpark
  4. SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium
  5. LEGOLAND Florida Resort (theme park and water park)
  6. Peppa Pig Theme Park Florida (opens in 2022)
  7. Ripley’s Believe It or Not!
  8. Wonder Works
  9. Titanic The Artifact Exhibition
  10. iFly Orlando Indoor Skydiving Experience
  11. Island H20 Live! water park
  12. Museum of Illusions
  13. ICON Park & The Wheel
  14. Gatorland (alligators)

And more! The first time we visited Orlando, we stayed for 3 nights and visited 2 parks. The park employees are – super cute – saying goodbye to you at the end of the day.

Lots of slides in Aquatica Orlando
Lots of slides in water theme park in Orlando
Dolphins swim by the underwater slide in Aquatica
Dolphins swim by the underwater slide in Aquatica

Nature & sporty Orlando area

Are you not so much into entertainment, but you do like nature and sports activities? Then there is plenty to do in the Orlando area for you too. In any case, it is worthwhile to discover the Orlando area. The nature here is really beautiful! For example, think of:

  1. Blue Springs State Park: kayak tour with manatees (as mentioned earlier under ‘Daytona’)
  2. Lake Toho with Makinson Island and Kissimee River
  3. Disney Wilderness Reserve with some 160 different animal species
  4. Wild Florida Safari Drive-Through Park
  5. Shingle Creek in Kissimmee: Eco tour by kayak or SUP
  6. Canaveral National Seashore and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
  7. Glass bottom kayak eco tour at Rock Springs
  8. Winter Park: Glow in the Dark kayak tour
  9. Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park
  10. Water skiing, wakeboarding and tubing at Lake Bryant

Evening tip: combine nature, activity and amusement during the Night Glow Paddle Board (SUP) Tour Orlando.

Rock Springs
Glow in the dark SUP

Map Florida Round Trip

Florida round trip part 2

This was part 1 of the Florida Tour. Part 2 on the west coast of Florida will follow soon. And part 3 will be about the more practical things like car rental, flights, visa, combining a Florida round trip with a visit to New York City, etc.

Thompson Hall St. Augustine Florida round trip
Thompson Hall in St. Augustine
Colorful Miami Beach lifeguard cabin Florida
Colorful Miami Beach lifeguard cabin

I hope that you found this article inspiring and useful. Have you ever been to Florida or would you like to go there? Feel free to leave a comment below, even if you have a question or additional tip. I wish you a lot of fun during your Florida round trip. Hopefully the information in this article will help you get the most out of it.


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Last Updated on 05/21/2021 by Flitter Fever

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