One of the best ways to explore a variety of new destinations during a vacation is to experience a collection of awesome day trips. We have always loved finding a base location and then incorporating several day trips into our trip. Exploring many of the larger US states using day trips is a challenging experience but one of the best states that you can certainly achieve this is Florida. As we explore the best day trips in Florida with some of the most knowledgeable experts in the travel business, we hope that you are inspired to pay a visit to the Sunshine state and perhaps experience a plethora of these destinations.
Whether you prefer outdoor adventure or exploring urban expansion, Florida is home to a collection of destinations that will surely satisfy every type of traveler. From the pristine sandy beaches along the Gulf coast to the historic city of St. Augustine on the East coast, Florida is undoubtedly one of the most diverse states in terms of culture, landscape and attractions.
Let’s take a look at some of the best destinations that are worthy of day trips across the state. Whether you are based in the “origin” of the following recommendations or perhaps want to explore from further afield, you are certainly spoiled for choice when it comes to diverse variety.
Best Day Trips in Florida
From Miami to Key West, Orlando to Tampa and many more, Florida is home to a collection of destinations that create the perfect base to experience a myriad of amazing day trips. Here are some of the best day trips that we are going to cover throughout this post, thanks to our amazing travel blogging friends from across the globe that share their experiences and expertise on different parts of the Sunshine state.
- Fort Myers to Sanibel Island
- Jacksonville to St. Augustine
- Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park
- Miami to Everglades National Park
- Miami to Key West
- Naples to Big Cypress National Preserve
- Naples to Captiva Island
- Naples to Marco Island
- Naples to Port of the Islands
- Orlando to Gainesville
- Orlando to Kennedy Space Center
- Orlando to St. Petersburg
- Palm Beach to Miami
- Panama City Beach to Destin
- Southwest Florida to Matlacha
- St. Petersburg to Homosassa Springs
- Tallahassee to Panama City Beach
While you may be tempted to head straight to the home of the mouse and experience Disney World in one day, we encourage you to consider one (or more) of the following day trip recommendations – we don’t think you will be disappointed.
Fort Myers to Sanibel Island
The beautiful Fort Myers area is the perfect place to take a break from commercial Florida and get back to nature. Be sure to take a trip west, over the causeway, and explore Sanibel Island in One Day.
The focus on Sanibel Island is wilderness and wildlife. Development has been limited since the 1970’s allowing nature to thrive. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is the largest wildlife refuge on the island. Here you’ll discover wetlands and mangroves, ideal for bird-watching.
Sanibel Island is the perfect place to park the car and get active. Recreation options are plentiful. Biking around Sanibel is easy with dedicated bike lanes and multi-use paths as well. It’s easy to cover many sites on the island just by pedaling. Fishing and kayaking also let you enjoy the natural beauty of Sanibel up close.
Sanibel has many beaches to relax on. But there’s more here. Sanibel is famous for Shelling. Join in the fun and search for unique color and shapes of shells that are constantly deposited on the sand. Take the family and visit the Shell Museum and the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village.
End your day trip to Sanibel with a stunning sunset at Bowman’s Beach.
Thanks to Andy Vanr from Avrex Travel for sharing a convenient day trip from Fort Myers to explore the gorgeous, untouched wilderness at Sanibel Island. In only 30 minutes, you can be away from life in Fort Myers to enjoy the relaxing solitude of Sanibel Island.
Jacksonville to St. Augustine
Taking a day trip to St. Augustine from Jacksonville is one of the most unique Florida day trips and an absolute must if you’re in the area. St. Augustine, having been founded in 1565 and continuously inhabited ever since, is known as the “oldest city” in the United States. St. Augustine is also technically a part of Jacksonville so the short, 45-minute drive from point to point should be no sweat.
While in St. Augustine you can check out such beautiful and historic sites as Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the U.S., take a memorable tour of Flagler College, shop on the country’s oldest street, drink from the Fountain of Youth, ride a trolley around town and stop at each of the many important landmarks, and so much more.
The city is also home to many delicious, locally-owned restaurants, beautiful green spaces, an unbelievable amount of history, and even a publicly accessible lighthouse. The St. Augustine Lighthouse played a significant role in World War II and will be a highlight of your day trip to St. Augustine. Climb the 219 steps of the St. Augustine Lighthouse for amazing 360° views of the city and the coast, spend some time in the maritime museum, and grab a snack in the WWII-themed on-site cantina.
Thanks to Ashley Smith from My Wanderlusty Life for highlighting why the historic city of St. Augustine is one of the best places to enjoy a day trip in Florida.
Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park
One of the most significant cities in Florida is Key West, the southern-most city in the continental United States. But do you know that there is another site, 80 miles southwest of Key West, where you can visit one of the most pristine islands in the State of Florida?
Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote National Parks sites. In fact, it is so remote and quite expensive to get here that most people opt to skip it. But for those who are interested, a day trip to Dry Tortugas is one of the must thing to do from Key West.
There are only two common ways to get to Dry Tortugas National Park. Fly with a seaplane costs around $356-625 roundtrip, or the most popular one with a Yankee Freedom III ferry for $180. Both will require you at least half a day to do.
Because of its remote location, you can expect to find a pristine landscape that offers an adventure of a lifetime. You can join the guided tour of historical Fort Jefferson, or simply enjoy swimming or snorkeling in the white-sand beach with crystal-clear, blue water.
You can also arrange a kayaking tour if you bring your own kayaks on the ferry, as well as camping on this pristine land.
Thanks to Halef and Michael from The Round The World Guys for highlighting why one of America’s remote national parks is well worthy of a day trip from Key West.
Miami to Everglades National Park
This day trip’s drive is about 40 miles west of the city and takes about an hour with traffic. If you don’t have access to a car, there isn’t an easy public transport option but there are private tour agencies running this route.
Just a touch past the visitor center, make sure to stop in to the Miccosukee Indian Village, where you can learn more about the Miccosukee Tribe’s culture in both the present and past. They have a cafe for lunch, lots of real-time demonstrations with artisans and alligator handlers, and nearby airboat rides to get on the water (there are no airboat rides inside the park’s boundaries).
Start out at the Shark Valley Visitor Center, arguably the most popular hub of the Everglades National Park. There are a few small exhibits to explore before you set out on the paved, 15 mile path that leads to a tall observation tower with 360 degree views of the park.
You can rent bicycles or walk if you’d like to DIY but they also have naturalist-led tram rides that will stop to point out animals. Alligators are common along with countless colorful birds, snakes, and turtles. If you’re visited the Everglades with kids, be sure to do the junior ranger program as well.
Thanks to Stephanie Woodson from Explore More Clean Less for sharing why Everglades National Park is well worthy of visiting for a day trip from Miami.
Miami to Key West
If you are looking for a fantastic day trip to do, consider doing a day trip from Miami to Key West and back. You can do this as a long day trip or break it up into different islands along the way to Key West and back, but definitely doable as a nice day trip exploring the Florida Keys.
Once you get past the main highway from Miami and headed out to the first island at Key Largo, the roadway changes from multiple lanes so a slower two lane expressway with low and long roads that cross over the flat water almost giving that vibe that you are floating on water. There are so many cool places to discover on your Miami to Key West road trip starting with Key Largo, one of the largest islands including a visit to John Pennekamp coral reef, easy days on the beach or a nice enjoyable meal on the water on the island.
You continue on to scenic stops to Islamorada, Marathon Keys and the various keys along the way with gorgeous water views, dazzling beaches and sunny skies. A lovely stop at Bahia Honda State park is a great place to enjoy more beach time, some water activity or just lazing on the beach.
Once you head into Key West, the mood changes into more a historic and cool vibe with palm trees, cool Florida plantation style architecture and the historic district oozing with pedestrian venues, quirky shops and galleries, restaurants and some stunning sunsets that really takes your breath away. An overnight stay would be ideal but a day trip exploring the islands and beautiful waters of the keys is also a fun thing to do from Miami.
Thanks to Noel Morata from Travel Photo Discovery for sharing one of the more adventurous day trip options in Florida – it’s feasible but as Noel indicates, definitely worth considering as an overnight option. However, for those of you that love to explore as much as possible in only one day, the trip to Key West is definitely a challenge to see how much you can experience.
Naples to Big Cypress National Preserve
Naples, Florida is the perfect gateway city if you want to visit Big Cypress National Preserve without staying in the sleepy town of Everglades City. It’s just over an hour’s drive to the Big Cypress Welcome Center from Naples.
Most people probably don’t even know Big Cypress exists, but it’s a great Everglades National Park alternative with a lot fewer people and just as many gators. Make sure you do all of the little boardwalks in the park and visit Clyde Butcher’s gallery. If you want to do something a little more adventurous, sign up for a paddling tour with rangers.
Another great activity is visiting the Fakahatchee Strand State Park Preserve. On your way in to Big Cypress from Naples will be a nice boardwalk that is easy and under two miles. And if you want an even more unique experience, hike out to the Fakahatcheee Hilton. A little shack in the swamp with a pond full of gators out back. This is also 1-1.5 hours from Naples. It’s an easy hike and worth it if you love wildlife. Either way, the Big Cypress area is a great way to get away from the bustling city.
Thanks to Megan Johnson from Red Around World for sharing why the inherent beauty of Big Cypress National Preserve is worth visiting on a day trip from Naples.
Naples to Captiva Island
One of the best day trips you can take from Naples is to Captiva Island. Located 60 miles north of the city, this beachy getaway is the perfect antidote to city living. Captiva Island is the smaller sister to the larger Sanibel Island, located just over Turner Bridge.
Once upon a time, pirates sailed the waters near here followed later by the conquistadors. It’s also where the Calusa Indians once called home. These days, the island is famous for its brilliant sandy beaches, its beautiful shells and its spellbinding sunrises and sunsets.
Although the beach is the main draw, there are lots of other things to do in Captiva Island as well. Once you’ve had a swim, head to the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum. The museum was started in 1984 by a local shell collector and is today the only museum in the US devoted to entirely to shells and mollusks.
Next up should be a tour of the island, Florida style, on a golf cart. You can rent one from YoLo. Other fun things to do paddle-boarding, listening to live music at the Mucky Duck pub and eating delicious local Floridian food. Captiva Island really is a great day trip from Naples but you’ll enjoy yourself so much, you’ll probably want to stay longer.
Thanks to Katja Gaskell for sharing a few reasons why Captiva Island should be considered one of Florida’s hidden gems given that it frequently lies in the shadow of the larger, nearby Sanibel Island.
Naples to Marco Island
The Gulf Coast of Florida has many great beaches and day trip opportunities. One of my favorite ones is Naples to Marco Island. The drive time is only 25 minutes between the two and while Naples has more of a downtown vibe and is a much bigger town, Marco Island has more of a quaint little beach town feel.
While in Naples, be sure to check out 5th Avenue South for upscale shopping and dining or take one of the many eco-tours to go kayaking, dolphin watching, or boating around the islands in the area. Naples Pier is a nice place to drop a line and catch a fish, go for a walk on the boardwalk, or watch the sunset. There are also world-class golf courses and a small zoo as well.
On the drive south to Marco Island (taking Highway 41), you could stop in at Naples Botanical Gardens or see one of the largest mangrove swamps in the world at Collier Seminole State Park. Exit Highway 41 at Collier, and after crossing a bridge to get to the island, you will quickly notice the tranquil vibe of Marco Island. There are a couple of public beaches on the island with ample parking for guests.
The water here is usually warm and calm, and many private companies offer watersport rentals or dolphin watching cruises. Near sunset, there are always people watching from their balconies or walking the beach. You will often witness sea turtles nesting on the beach in the summer, which is pretty special.
If you are looking for more “hustle and bustle”, walkable downtown, golf courses and nightlife, then Naples is a great place in Florida to spend some time. Marco Island offers a more affordable and quiet alternative a quick drive away.
Thanks to Margie DQ from DQ Family Travel for sharing several reasons why both Naples and Marco Island are great day trip options in Florida.
Naples to Port of the Islands
A Florida Gulf Coast road trip is one of the best you can take in the state. This Florida day trip takes you from Naples to Port of the Islands to see manatees in the wild. Before hitting the road, spend some time exploring Naples. Get away from the tourists and snowbirds at Clam Pass Park. Hike the boardwalk through the mangroves keeping an eye out for majestic osprey.
The drive from Naples to Port of the Islands takes about 40 minutes. Book a 90 minute boat tour with Manatees Guaranteed ($59 USD per person). Idle gently along the river between Port of the Islands Marina and Fakahatchee Pass using polarizing sunglasses provided by the tour operator to make it easier to spot the manatees.
You’ll find that manatees are very curious and may stick their noses out of the water very close to the boat. We saw at least 5 manatees on our short cruise and they were all quite playful. If you see a series of circles in the water, that’s a manatee’s “footprint”.
Finish this Florida day trip with an “Old Florida” experience in Everglades City. Stop at The Rod and Gun Club to get a taste of Old Florida atmosphere including plenty of dark wood panels and taxidermy. Experience the Victorian sitting rooms, general store, and grab a bite to eat before you return to Naples.
Thanks to Jennifer from Sidewalk Safari for highlighting why we should all be considering Port of the Islands as an epic road trip destination in Florida – who wouldn’t want to see those amazing manatees?
Orlando to Gainesville
One of the best Florida day trips is from Orlando to Gainesville. Everyone knows Orlando has great theme parks and shopping. Less than two hours away in Gainesville, however, visitors to Central Florida can experience nature, culture, and amazing food.
There are a lot of things to do in Gainesville, for adults and kids alike. Home to the University of Florida, Gainesville has world class museums, including the Florida Museum of Natural History that has daily butterfly releases. There are also beautiful parks and gardens, with both paved and unpaved trails. Our favorite is Kanapaha Botanical Gardens which has the largest public display of bamboo in Florida.
Of course, we can’t forget to mention the food in Gainesville. It’s a college town, so there is a large variety of restaurants. From pizza to Southern comfort, Gainesville has something for every kind of foodie.
The fastest and easiest way to get to Gainesville from Orlando is on the Florida Turnpike and I-75. Please note that the Turnpike is a tolled highway. If you’re in a rental, make sure to get a SunPass for your car; it’s the easiest way to pay.
Thanks to Vicky from Buddy the Traveling Monkey for highlighting one of Florida’s lesser known cities, Gainesville and why this deserves to be on everyone’s radar for at least a day trip.
Orlando to Kennedy Space Center
Sure, your kids can meet Buzz Lightyear in Orlando. But, one hour’s drive away at the Kennedy Space Center, they can meet a real astronaut, see a space shuttle and maybe experience a rocket launch!
The drive to Kennedy is a well-travelled route from Orlando and an easy day’s return journey. You may find it hard to cram in everything so have a look beforehand and prioritize your time. The website has an interactive itinerary planner and you can buy tickets in advance online.
On base, key attractions include a tour of the Apollo and Saturn V missions, the Astronauts’ hall of fame, IMAX cinema and Rocket garden. An epic highlight is the Atlantis Space Shuttle experience. This fascinating exhibition has 60 interactive exhibits and a Shuttle Launch Experience ride – one of the best things we did on our visit to Florida.
Just as exciting, every day a real life astronaut gives a talk about their time in Space and there’s an opportunity to ask questions and take photos. Inspirational for budding young space travelers and armchair astronauts alike!
For an insight into a world of science, adventure, courage and intrepid travel, the Kennedy Space Center is a day out like no other – not to be missed on your Florida vacation.
Thanks to Jo from Where Jo Goes for highlighting one of Florida’s iconic attractions and definitely one that is worth paying a visit to during a day trip from Orlando (or surrounding cities). Check out our experience on a Kennedy Space Center bus tour to find out why we 100% agree with Jo’s comments.
Orlando to St. Petersburg
Less than 2 hours away by car, St. Petersburg makes the perfect day trip from Orlando. Arrive in St. Petersburg hungry. Stop into Bandit or the Bikery for some coffee, Trip’s Diner for breakfast, pizza at Cappy’s, a juicy burger at El Cap, fresh Mexican at Casita Taqueria, or some vegan fare at Cider Press Cafe.
After brunch, enjoy St. Petersburg’s natural attractions. Explore Weedon Island by renting paddle-boards, canoes, or kayaks at Sweetwater Kayaks. For a more private experience, travel to Shell Island Key Preserve with Coastal Kayak charters. Other options include windsurfing with North Beach Windsurfing, or jet skiing at the famous pink Don Cesar Hotel.
If relaxing is more your style, head to St. Petersburg Beach and enjoy some time with your toes in the sand, looking out onto the crystal blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Or, take a pontoon boat out on a sunset cruise of St. Pete Beach with Island Ferry St. Pete Beach.
In the late afternoon or early evening, walk down Central Avenue and do some shopping or just admire the street art and make your way to Bayshore Drive. Enjoy fantastic views of the bay, stop in to visit the Dali museum, admire the Vinoy Hotel, or take a drive to Sunken Gardens. Drive or walk a bit further north to Vinoy Park, admiring the architecture of St. Pete’s millionaire row.
End your night with some great seafood at either The Oyster Bar or 4th Street Shrimp Store, and a trip to a great brewery like Green Bench or St. Petersburg Brewing Company.
Thanks to Kelly Johnson from Snap Travel Magic for sharing why St. Petersburg is the perfect day trip destination on the west coast of Florida from Orlando.
Palm Beach to Miami
Beautiful beaches, world class shopping, great museums and tasty dining experiences. Yes, Palm Beach is a worthy destination, but sometimes the bright lights and big city call your name. A day trip to Miami from the Palm Beaches previously involve some notorious traffic and what could be up to a 3 hour transit. No more! Say hello to the Brightline.
Florida’s sparkling new train system can whisk travelers away for a quick one hour trip to the Magic City where a full day of sightseeing awaits. The enjoyable trip on the bright yellow transit system arrives in a convenient downtown location for easy transfer to all the city has to offer.
The morning can be spent posing for Instagram worthy snaps in front of myriad of street art in Wynwood. Stop for a bite in one of the many area cafes and then venture on to Ocean Avenue and a bit of fun in the sun in South Beach.
Make sure to save some time and your appetite for a walking tour in Miami’s Little Havana. Visiting family-owned restaurants and getting a behind the scene look at the food scene will afford great insight into the Cuban community. Don’t leave without admiring the tradition of a hand-rolled Cubano and listening to traditional music. Trains run frequently for your return trip, with additional stops in Ft. Lauderdale and plans for Orlando in the not too distant future.
Thanks to Alison Abbott from Green With Renvy for highlighting why Miami is now a perfect day trip destination from Palm Beach (or other nearby locations) thanks to the awesome Brightline train system.
Panama City Beach to Destin
One of the most common questions for visitors to the Florida Panhandle is, should you go to Destin or Panama City Beach? They are both great options.
Panama City Beach, with the natural beauty of Shell Island and all the dolphins in St Andrews Bay, is absolutely stunning. It’s known as ‘the Shipwreck Capital of the South’ because of all the Panama City Beach dive sites. Destin is known for its fishing and world-class white sand beaches of Okaloosa Island and deep-sea fishing. Why not do both and connect them by one of the best day trips in Florida along scenic Highway 30A?
It’s only fifty miles from Panama City Beach to Destin, but you can spend all day enjoying the sights along the way. As soon as you leave PCB, you reach Camp Helen State Park. The park is home to one of the most Instagrammable spots on the Panhandle, the ruins of an old pier on the beach.
A little farther up the road, you reach the idyllic town of Seaside. The town square looks like it’s straight from a 50’s tv show. Between the delicious restaurants and innovative food trucks, you can’t beat lunch at Seaside. Highway 30A rejoins US 98 at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park. This park features some of the most beautiful beaches and secluded sand dunes in Florida.
Snorkelers will love the aptly named Seahorse Reef at Topsail Hill Reserve. After rejoining US 98, you’re on the outskirts of Destin. Soon, you’ll see all the attractions like Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park that sprang up when Destin became the ‘World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,’ but you’ll have the memories of the Highway 30A trip to remind you of the natural beauty of the Panhandle before all the tourists came.
Thanks to Jenn and Ed Coleman from Coleman Concierge for sharing some of the highlight attractions along Florida’s Panhandle coast.
Southwest Florida to Matlacha
There’s a small spit of land off the coast of southwest Florida that’s as colorful as can be, and a must-visit day trip from just about anywhere from Sarasota to Marco Island.
If you blink, you just might miss the tiny artsy town of Matlacha, Florida (mat-la-SHAY), since parking is limited and only a two-lane road runs through it. You won’t find chain stores, restaurants, or parking garages here — only locally owned places to support. The small island located between North Cape Coral and Pine Island is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, anglers, and art-lovers alike, surrounded by water and some of the best fishing, boating, and paddling in all of SWFL.
But it’s the colorful art galleries you’ll notice when you arrive. Just pull off the main road and park yourself for the day. Stroll over the “Fishingest Bridge in the World” to and from galleries and shops filled with antique treasures, island clothing, and the signature funky artwork the town is known for.
When you get hungry, the freshest seafood awaits you at local joints like The Blue Dog Cafe and Bert’s — fresh Red Snapper sandwiches, Gulf Coast shrimp, and mouthwatering fish tacos. Come for the day by car or boat, and discover this undiscovered southwest Florida gem!
Thanks to Lori Sorrentino from Travlinmad for highlighting why the vibrant, artsy town of Matlacha is a perfect spot to visit from anywhere in the Southwest region of Florida.
St. Petersburg to Homosassa Springs
If you are looking for a relaxing and sunny place, St Petersburg will be perfect for you! Located on the west coast of Florida, it’s home to some of the best beaches in Florida, a lively downtown, many museums and beautiful state parks. There are many things to do in St Pete and plenty of day trip options!
One of them is going to Homosassa Springs! Generally overlooked compared to Crystal River, Homosassa Springs are a way better option if you want somewhere away from the crowds. This State park offers beautiful springs and is home to many manatees!
It will take you about 1 hour and half to get there. Once you do, head to the visitor centre. There is an admission fee of $13. From there, you will go on a mini cruise on the springs and the Homosassa River, all the way across to the wildlife park.
The best time of the year to visit is in winter (January to March). At this time, the springs are warmer than the sea and that’s why you will find many manatees. If you love outdoor activities, Homosassa will be your paradise. It’s the perfect place to go kayaking and snorkeling!
You can easily spend the entire day at Homosassa. However, if you want to add another activity to the list, you can stop at Weeki Wachee on the way. You can watch one of the mermaid shows there.
Thanks to Pauline from BeeLoved City for sharing one of Florida’s lesser known destinations but certainly one that should be on everyone’s radar during a future trip to the Sunshine state.
Tallahassee to Panama City Beach
When in the state of Florida and looking for the best day trip ideas, you may want to do something a little different. We started our day trip in Tallahassee the capital of Florida and from there, rented out a car to be able to drive over to Panama City Beach.
Depending on how much time you have you can also take a Greyhound bus to get to Panama City for as little as $20. This Seaside town makes a perfect getaway for those looking for something different, however, it all depends on what time of year you visit as the atmosphere changes drastically.
During the winter months, the town is completely abandoned but during the summer everything comes back to life. With Panama City Beach being the main attraction, you may want to plan your trip for the spring/summertime. However, be sure to book any accommodation well in advance.
We arrived during the month of June and aside from some lazy days sprawling on the white sands of Panama City Beach, one of our favorite things to do was to explore the WonderWorks. The bizarre upside-down building grabbed our attention as soon as we arrive in the town. We did feel the entry fee was a little overpriced, but in hindsight, we had a whale of a time spending a few hours playing inside on our last day.
All in all, a trip to Panama City from Tallahassee is well worth your precious time.
Thanks to Daniel James from Layer Culture for highlighting one of the best day trip options along Florida’s Panhandle coast.
Florida is inundated with amazing day trip destinations and is certainly one of the best states across the US for plotting our various day trip itineraries during a visit to the Sunshine state. We would like to reiterate our appreciation to our amazing travel experts for sharing their in depth knowledge of Florida, ranging from the Panhandle to Key West and beyond. Please feel free to share other day trip Florida destinations in the comments below as we look to compile a collection of the best spots across the state to enjoy an epic visit.