Travel
Florida Road Trip Itinerary – Highlights of the Sunshine State
June 15, 2017
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Magical memories of travel - collage

See the best America’s Sunshine State has to offer in 15 days with this Florida road trip itinerary. James and I tested this route over the winter period to escape our first Midwest freeze. It is a medium paced itinerary taking in Florida’s most famous and lesser known attractions, compiled from a lot of research and recommendations.

Full Disclosure: I may earn compensation for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. I only recommend products/services that I use and love, therefore feel comfortable recommending.

Day 1

Fly to Florida, pick up your hire car and drive west to Crystal River. We suggest flying to Orlando as the most central location to the beginning and end points.

If you arrive in Crystal River with time to explore, you might like to wander through the Crystal River Archaeological State Park. The Park encompasses 61-acres including remnants of pre-Columbian Native American inhabitance.

NOTE: If you’re not travelling during peak Manatee season (late-Spring and Winter), you may choose to stay in Orlando and visit one of the many theme parks and/or skip right to Day 3. If you’re visiting during peak vacation periods, make sure you pre-purchase your tickets to the most popular park – such as Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom – which are known to sell out.

Driving distance: 97mi (157km)

Crystal River | Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Crystal River viewed from the Crystal River Archaelogical Park

Day 2

For your best chance at swimming with the Manatees it’s generally recommended to book an early morning tour. The warm-blooded mammals spend winters in the natural spring systems, like those around Crystal River, where temperatures stay a consistent 72°F (approx 22°C). Don’t be fooled, 72°F is still chilly and you are going to need that wetsuit most tour companies offer. Also, manatees are a threatened species, therefore please heed the video all tour operators are required by State to show at the start of your excursion. Touching the animals is forbidden, but you can take plenty of pictures – so pack your waterproof camera. After your swim, take time for lunch in town before driving to St Petersburg (Tampa Bay).

Driving distance: 95 mi (153km)

Manatee mother and calf | Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Manatee mother and calf

Day 3

Spend your morning at the Salvador Dali Museum enjoying the work of both Dali himself and temporary exhibitions featuring other artists. You will need 2-3 hours to take in the unique building, garden and collection. Have lunch in St Petersburg before setting off to Everglades City.

Driving distance: 193mi (311km)

Salvador Dali Museum exterior | Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo

Day 4

Experience the tropical wetlands of the Everglades with a morning airboat ride. Drive eastward towards Florida City on the Tamiami Trail observing the varied landscape and abundant wildlife such as alligators and birds. Stop and stretch your legs along the way at the Shark Valley Visitor Centre, with a walk or cycle around the heart of the freshwater wetland.

Driving distance: 93mi (150km)

Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo

Day 5

Spend a day exploring the eastern side of the Everglades via the Royal Palms entrance to the National Park. The Visitors Center there can provide information on the various walks available and the current conditions of the trails. We visited during an extended wet season, and found many tracks were still closed due to flooding.

We also recommend a stop at Robert is Here, to cool off with one of their fresh fruit smoothies.

Driving distance: 26mi (42km) return from the centre of Florida City to Royal Palms Visitor Center. Local driving distance depends on accommodation location and chosen activities.

Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo
The Everglades' River of Grass

Day 6

Drive the full length of the Florida Keys to Key West, stopping at any points of interest along the way. Take the afternoon to wander around town, visit Hemingway’s Home, and take a photo at the southernmost point of continental U.S. (almost). Finish the day with dinner and drinks on Duval Street.

Driving distance: 126mi (202km)

Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo

Day 7

Take a boat to the Dry Tortugas and spend a day languishing in your tropical surrounds and exploring by snorkel. You will need to book your ferry ticket well in advance or you risk missing out like we did :-(.

Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Dry Tortugas aerial image by U.S. National Park Service - U.S. National Park Service [1]; English Wikipedia, original upload 2 March 2005 by Brian0918, Public Domain

Day 8

Drive back north to Miami and get acquainted with the iconic South Beach by participating in an evening food and architecture tour on foot.

Driving distance: 164mi (265km)

Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Art deco beauties on Ocean Drive, South Beach

Day 9

Dive deeper into South Beach’s art deco gems with an audio tour from the Miami Design Preservation League. Alternatively, relax on the beach and soak up some sun. Replenish with lunch, perhaps at one of the local cafes or restaurants introduced to you during the previous night’s tour. Spend the afternoon exploring “Little Havana” Calle Ocho or Biscayne Bay.

Driving distance: Local driving around greater Miami depends on the location of your accommodation.

Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo

Day 10

Before leaving Miami. spend the morning at Wynwood Walls taking in the work of talented street artists and muralists. Drive to Cape Canaveral, stopping in Vero Beach for lunch and maybe a swim.

Driving distance: 213mi (344km) Wynwood Walls to Cape Canaveral, using the scenic route from Vero Beach north.

Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Madam ZoZo in front of a Maya Hayuk piece at Wynwood Walls

Day 11

Enjoy a full day at NASA’s launch complex – Kennedy Space Center. This includes the astronaut hall of fame, Saturn V Rocket, launch pads, launch control and Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Driving distance: Local driving distance depends on accommodation location.

Space Shuttle Atlantis | Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo

Day 12

Drive north to the Spanish colonial town of St Augustine. The nation’s oldest city was founded by Pedro Menendez in 1565, with remnants of its long history remaining preserved for education and enjoyment.

Driving distance: 126mi (42km)

Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Sunset leaving Kennedy Space Center

Day 13

Take a morning ferry to Fort Matanzas, which historically guarded the southern river access to St Augustine. The afternoon is best spent leisurely roaming the St Augustine historic district, including Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fortress in the U.S. St Augustine looks it’s most romantic in the evening when the colonial architecture is lit up like Christmas year round.

Driving distance: Local driving distance depends on accommodation location.

Florida Road Trip Itineray - Highlights of the Sunshine State | Duende by Madam ZoZo

Day 14

Visit the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park for a local history lesson and drink from the spring that provided early explorers mineral water refreshment.

Driving distance: Local driving distance depends on accommodation location.

Day 15

Return to Orlando or continue north to Jacksonville for your flight home.

Driving distance: 125mi (201km) to Orlando International Airport OR 51mi (82km) to Jacksonville International Airport

Hopefully this Florida road trip itinerary will assist in your vacation plans. For further information about where we ate, stayed and played – look for my profile on Tripadvisor. If you have any feedback or recommendations, drop a comment below.

Peace, love and sunshine,

Madam ZoZo

Swimming with Manatees, Crystal River, Florida | Duende by Madam ZoZo
Florida Road Trip Itinerary - Highlights of the Sunshine State in 15 Days | Duende by Madam ZoZo

About author

Madam ZoZo

Hi! I’m Madam ZoZo, aka Zoë, an Australian designer, creative consultant, blogger and digital nomad. I’m passionate about travel, design, dance and new experiences that fuel my creativity. I strive to travel in a style that is gentle on the earth and that contributes to the communities I visits, even if it is merely to take away a greater understanding of a different culture. Duende by Madam ZoZo, is where I share the stories of my travels and the duende (soul/inspiration) I find along the way.

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  • […] you’re planning your own road trip around Florida, see my itinerary with all the Sunshine State highlights […]

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