Looking for some fun in the sun? Rev up your engine to embark on an epic Florida road trip. For travellers, Florida is one of the best road-tripping destinations in the United States.
Driving through the Sunshine State, you’ll explore endless coastlines and unique natural wonders. You can get enchanted by some of the world’s most famous theme parks in Orlando. Or you can party until the sun comes up in buzzing Miami or enjoy relaxing sundowners in Key West. Whatever your travel style, you’ll tame your cravings on a Florida itinerary.
Where to go in Florida in 1 week: A complete 7-day road trip itinerary
The most difficult part about planning a Florida road trip isn’t choosing what to do; it’s choosing what to leave out. Like our other travel itineraries, this trip plan for one week in Florida caters to families and mid-range & luxury travellers. It’s especially well suited for those visiting Florida for the first time.
For other travel styles and for those with more time, we’ve also included several other destinations. You can add or swap these into your travel plans if our other suggestions aren’t to your tastes.
Most first-time Florida road trips start in Orlando. Other than Miami to the southeast, Orlando is the state’s most popular tourist destination.
For families visiting the Sunshine State, visiting Orlando is a must. The central Florida city is home to some of the most famous theme parks in the United States—and even in the world!
Beyond its amusement parks, Orlando is pleasant city for relaxing. After a day of sightseeing, retire to downtown Orlando. It’s a great place to grab a delicious farm-to-table meal with a cocktail.
What to see & do in Orlando
Experience the magic of Walt Disney World
Travelling to Orlando with kids? Your entire stay might well be dominated by exploring Orlando’s theme parks. None deserves your attention more than Walt Disney World.
Disney World comprises four separate theme parks:
For the classic Disney experience, set your sights on the Magic Kingdom. In this section of Disney World, you’ll wander down Main Street USA and meet up with Disney’s most famed characters.
The Magic Kingdom is also home to the park’s most iconic landmark, Cinderella’s Castle.
Next to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot is the park most worthy of your attention. Epcot is split into two different theme areas: Future World and World Showcase.
Future World features Epcot’s two thrill rides. You’ll also find several restaurants, attractions, and characters wandering around.
Your mini future travellers will love the World Showcase. The area consists of 11 exhibits showcasing different countries around the world. You’ll enjoy tasting its exciting international cuisines. You’ll also get a chance to learn about other nations’ histories with its interactive exhibitions.
Fans of Disney movies will love exploring Hollywood Studios. The theme park centres around a replica of the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. It includes several interesting movie-focused attractions.
Visit Hollywood Studios to enjoy Indiana Jones stunt shows, Frozen sing-alongs, or Star Wars Jedi training
If it weren’t for spotting Disney characters like Nemo or The Lion King, Animal Kingdom would seem like a different park altogether. The theme park is a zoo, safari, and amusement park rolled into one.
Throughout the Animal Kingdom, you’ll enjoy rides, shows, and, of course, wildlife experiences. The park’s newest section, Pandora – The World of Avatar, is a hit with visitors.
See the movies come to life at Universal Orlando Resort
Not interested in visiting Disney World? Universal Orlando Resort is a wonderful consolation prize. For movie buffs, there’s no better way to spend 24 hours in Orlando that at this action-packed resort.
The family-friendly Universal Orlando Resort splits into three different theme zones. Spike your adrenaline at Islands of Adventure, home to the resort’s thrill rides. At Universal Studios Florida, you’ll watch your favourite movies & TV shows come to life. This section of the park includes half of the world-famous Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
For more thrills and to cool down, head to Volcano Bay, Universal Studios’ new water park. Or summon the spirit of Las Vegas at the neon-clad Universal City Walk.
Where to stay in Orlando
With its immense popularity, choosing where to stay in Orlando isn’t always easy. If you’re planning to spend most of your time at the resorts, you’ll want to stick to areas outside the city centre. You’ll find clusters of hotels around Universal Studios and Sea World Orlando. For Disney World, check out the hotel selection in Lake Buena Vista.
The family-friendly 3-star hotel is one of the area’s best budget picks. Besides the comfortable rooms, you’ll enjoy a spa centre and sun terrace. The hotel is located just a few minutes from Sea World and Disney.
As the name implies, this mid-range hotel is just 3 minutes from Universal Studios. You’ll love the spacious rooms & outdoor pool area to cool down in the hot Floridan sun.
This luxurious family-friendly resort pulls out all the stops to ensure your stay in Orlando is epic. Kids will especially love the outdoor pools. One pool even features a waterslide, waterfall, and a splash pad. All the city’s top theme parks are within a short drive.
How to get to Orlando
Orlando is serviced by Orlando International Airport (MCO). The airport is located 6 miles (10 km) southeast of Downtown Orlando. Several major airlines fly into MCO, including:
- Silver Airways
- Frontier Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
To start your road trip, you can rent a car at Orlando International Airport.
You can reach Orlando by car from several major Southeast US cities. Sample routes and fastest driving times include:
- Atlanta, GA (6h13m)
- Jacksonville, FL (2h5m)
- Tallahassee, FL (3h45m)
- Charleston, SC (5h45m)
- New Orleans, LA (9h)
- Nashville, TN (10h)
Space Coast & Treasure Coast
En route to Miami
The quickest route between Orlando and Miami is just over 3.5 hours driving time. Instead of zipping there in a flash, let’s make a day of it. Break up the journey with a scenic drive along the Space Coast and Treasure Coast.
From Orlando, it’s less than an hour drive to the Space Coast. The coastal region centres around the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral. Besides space-related attractions, you’ll find several pristine white-sand beaches along the Space Coast.
The Treasure Coast stretches along the east coast of Florida between Vero Beach and Hobe Sound. The area is famed for its beautiful beaches and snorkelling & diving opportunities.
You won’t get to see much along the coast en route. We’ve included a few ideas below. Pick and choose as you see fit. If you have an extra day on your road trip, you may want to stay in Port St. Lucie for a night to break up the long drive.
Place to visit along the Space Coast & Treasure Coast
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
If you can only fit in one attraction on the Space Coast, make it the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The visitor centre is the public-facing section of NASA’s world-famous Kennedy Space Center.
At the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, you’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about America’s space programs. The centre features several exciting exhibits & displays along with two IMAX theatres.
Don’t leave without checking out the Apollo/Saturn V Center. Here, you’ll get see the ground-breaking Saturn V rocket, Apollo Lunar Module, and Apollo 14 Command Module on display.
Located just south of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa Beach is the Space Coast’s most popular beach town. The city is most well-known for its beach and surf breaks.
While you won’t have much time to explore Cocoa Beach, it’s a good place for a lunch and quick shopping break. Be sure to stop into the Ron Jon Surf Shop. Ron Jon’s is the world’s largest surf shop, and a popular place to pick up Florida trip souvenirs.
Smack-dab in the middle of the Treasure Coast, Fort Pierce makes for a great stop on an Orlando to Miami coastal drive. The city is the oldest city in St. Lucie County.
While Fort Pierce is home to a handful of great beaches, it’s most popular for its bustling downtown. Along Main Street, you’ll find lovely Spanish colonial buildings. Within them hides cool boutiques, restaurants, cafés, and bars. Admire the historical architecture and grab a bite to eat & drink here to break up your Treasure Coast journey.
Love it or hate it, there’s no place in the world like Miami. Located on the southeastern coastline, Miami is Florida’s most popular urban getaway.
The city blends historic Art Deco architecture and blissful sandy beaches. It’s a Florida travel experience like none other. With its pastel colours and Hispanic influence, Miami feels more like a gateway to Latin America & the Caribbean than a major American city.
On your Florida itinerary, try to spend at least 3 days in Miami. While it’ll be rushed, you’ll still get a nice taste of the city. If you manage to squeeze in more time, all the better. You’ll be able to enjoy the city’s sights at a more languid pace or take in more of the top Miami day trips.
What to see & do in Miami
Wander around South Beach
During your first 24 hours in Miami, you’ll want to spend plenty of time exploring Miami Beach. No area on the stretch is more worthy of your attention than South Beach.
The heart of Miami Beach beats around Ocean Drive. Along its famous strip, you’ll marvel at the world’s finest collection of Art Deco architecture. Many of the historic hotels along Ocean Drive dates back to the 1930s.
Even if you don’t stay in South Beach, you should spend time exploring its nightlife. You’ll find some of Miami’s top nightlife hotspots & restaurants dwelling in the blocks east of the beach.
Feel the pulse of Little Havana
Besides South Beach, wandering around Miami’s Little Havana is a must. The historic area is the city’s bastion for Cuban and Latin American culture.
Much of the action in Little Havana rocks around Calle Ocho (8th Street). Explore the neighbourhood from here. Be sure to pop into one of its indie restaurants for an authentic meal and a refreshing mojito.
Explore the wild Everglades National Park
Want to see Florida at its wildest? Less than an hour west and southwest of the city lies Everglades National Park. If you’ve only got time to tackle one Miami day trip, this is it.
With over 1.5 million acres of wetlands, the Everglades is the largest swath of subtropical wilderness in the United States. It’s listed as both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve. The habitat is one of the most important on the continent. The Everglades is home to several rare & endandered species. Among them are manatees, American crocodiles, and Florida panthers.
On a day trip from Miami, the easiest way to experience Everglades National Park is via Shark Valley. The 15-mile paved loop road is accessible via the Tamiami Trail (SR 90). The entrance is near the Shark Valley Visitor Center.
In the middle of the Shark Valley loop, climb atop the 65-foot-high observation tower. From the tower, you’ll enjoy a spectacular bird’s-eye view over the Everglades. Try your best to spot the Shark Valley area’s wildlife like gators, fish, and birds.
Where to stay in Miami
For first-time visitors, the best places to stay in Miami are the areas around Miami Beach and Downtown Miami. Narrow your accommodation search to South Beach and Downtown to get the most out of your trip.
Set in a cool Art Deco building, this boutique hotel offers value-laden rooms in a great location. The oceanfront charms of South Beach are just moments away.
One of the area’s top mid-range picks, this hotel offers spacious rooms with cool modern style. You’ll love the private beach access and the outdoor pool & sun terrace.
For a luxurious stay in Miami, look no further than this historic oceanfront hotel. The hotel offers a resort-like atmosphere. You’ll revel in its amenities, including on-site dining and a rooftop pool with fantastic seaviews.
How to get to Miami
The fastest driving route between Orlando and Miami clocks in at just under three and a half hours. If you take the coastal route via Cocoa Beach and Fort Pierce, add an hour or more of driving time to the trip.
Need the perfect bookend for your Florida trip itinerary? Wake up early for the drive down to Key West. Key West is the southernmost point in the USA and the most famous of the Florida Keys. No trip to the Sunshine State should leave this unique destination out.
The 7-square-mile Key West is the most eclectic of all the Keys. Wandering about Key West, you’ll stumble upon handsome Caribbean villas and trendy restaurants. In the evening, the buildings’ façade light up with one of the world’s most stunning sunsets.
On your Florida road trip, budget for at least two days in Key West. If you’ve got another day or two, slap them on. You won’t regret slowing down and enjoying Key West at a more languid pace.
What to see & do in Key West
Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum
Fans of “Papa” himself would instantly see that Key West would be the type of place he’d dig. And you’d be right. Learn about the legendary American author’s Key West years at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.
At the house, Hemingway penned famous works like A Farewell To Arms and Death In The Afternoon. Explore the museum and find your own literary inspiration in its lush gardens. Don’t forget to grab a unique souvenir from the bookstore & gift shop.
Catch the sunset celebration at Mallory Square
Sure, it’s touristy and kitschy. But you can’t spend even 24 hours in Key West without watching its nightly sunset celebration in Mallory Square.
Every evening, buskers descend to Mallory Square to put on an exciting show for onlookers. You’ll see tightrope walkers, jugglers, and even sword-swallowers. It’s a raucous family-friendly affair that’ll kindle a few smiles & laughs.
When you’re done with the festivities, walk a few blocks east to Kermit’s Key West Key Lime Shoppe. The small boutique offers some of the island’s tastiest key lime pies.
Chill on the beaches of Bahia Honda State Park
Located on Big Pine Key about 45 minutes east of Key West, Bahia Honda State Park is one of the best places to catch a sea breeze on the Keys. The park is famed for its sandy beaches and bird-watching opportunities.
All beached-out? Head further inland to explore Bahia Honda State Park’s three hiking trails. The trails meander past the park’s over 150 species of unique flora. Keep on the lookout for small-flowered lily thorn, Florida silver palms, and Jamaica dogwood.
Drift away to Dry Tortugas National Park
The Florida Keys not remote enough for you? Carve out a day to explore Dry Tortugas National Park. The small chain of islands lies about 70 miles west of Key West.
Most of its 60,000 annual visitors narrow their visit to Garden Key. It’s the only island in Dry Tortugas that’s accessible with public transportation. Garden Key is home to Fort Jefferson, an octagonal fortress built in 1845.
Besides visiting the National Monument, you can take to seas here. Grab a snorkel and a mask to see its marine life like lobsters and barracuda. Or paddle around the island in a kayak to gape at the fort’s 45-foot walls from sea-level.
The ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park takes about 2.5 hours. You can cut down travel time to 45 minutes with a seaplane adventure.
Where to stay in Key West
At its widest Key West is just two miles wide. The difficulty in choosing among the best places to stay in Key West is less location than availability. Key West is one of the most popular destinations in Florida. Book your accommodation well ahead to avoid disappointment.
With rooms covering a variety of budgets, this fantastic B&B is a great option for travellers. The rooms are clean, spacious, and charming. What’s most intriguing though is the change to relax in the garden-like courtyard and sun terrace.
Staying at this historic inn, you’ll be within walking distance of excellent beaches and Key West’s museums & galleries. The hotel offers 4 outdoor pools to help you cool off when the weather gets steamy.
Craving a romantic getaway? Check into this adults-only resort in the heart of downtown. The hotel is minutes away from Key West’s main tourist attractions. Splurge on one of their deluxe king rooms to enjoy your own private pool.
How to get to Key West
The 160-mile drive between Miami and Key West should take about 3.5 hours. That’s not to say you shouldn’t stretch out the ride. There are plenty of great photo ops along the way. Grab a lunch in Key Largo or at 7 Mile Bridge to enjoy the coastal breeze and seaviews.
When to visit Florida
The best time to visit Florida is between November and May. During these months, you’ll experience mostly good weather, especially between February and May. The temperatures between November and January are at their coolest. Compared to other destinations in North America, however, the conditions are still pleasant.
In both northern Florida and Southern Florida, the shoulder seasons fall from April to May and September to November. While avoiding tourism high season often uncovers better travel deals, it comes with a caveat.
Between June and early September the heat & humidity can be oppressive. In some areas, you’ll need to endure daily rainstorms. June to November is also the peak of hurricane season in Florida. If you decide to travel at this time, be sure to stay informed on current conditions.
More Florida road trip ideas
Located just 35 minutes from Miami, Fort Lauderdale often gets lumped in with “The Magic City” on itineraries. Fort Lauderdale is a destination all to its own though. The city is famous for its lovely sandy beaches and 165 miles of meandering canals. (We’ll refrain from slapping it with the nickname “The Venice of Florida” for now.)
If you’ve got time to spend a day in Fort Lauderdale, beeline for Las Olas Blvd. The upscale shopping & dining street is a great place to eat and shop to your heart’s content.
With more time to explore, you’ll be able to flush out the city’s less urban moments. Venture into the tropical Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area. Meander along its hiking & cycling trails to marvel at its mangroves and freshwater lagoons.
Florida’s Paradise Coast sits on the southern end of its Gulf of Mexico coastline. From Miami, it’s a scenic 2-hour drive to the region’s main urban centre of Naples.
The Paradise Coast is famed for its pristine white-sand beaches, golf courses, and unspoiled nature retreats. You’ll also find exquisite dining waterfront dining experiences set to picture-perfect sunsets.
On your visit to the Paradise Coast, check out Marco Island. The biggest of the Ten Thousand Islands, Marco Island offers a barrage of luxury experiences. Take to its waters to spot its diverse marine life and unique flora.
Fort Myers Beach & Sanibel Island
To spring breakers, Fort Myers Beach hardly needs an introduction. Located on Estero Island, the small town of 7,000 swells in population during the wild Spring Break weeks. Outside the spring high season, it’s a different story.
hroughout most of the year, Fort Myers Beach is surprisingly family-friendly. Its 7-mile-long beach offers gentle surf, making it one of the safest beaches along Florida’s Gulf Coast. The gorgeous beaches on nearby Sanibel Island are also excellent for swimming and lazing.
For foodies, the Fort Myers & Sanibel Island area has also made a splash. Head inland to downtown Fort Myers, Cape Coral, or nearby Bonita Springs. In these towns, you’ll catch southwest Florida’s culinary scene at its tastiest. You’ll also unearth several great craft breweries in the area like the Fort Myers Brewing Company.
Located almost dead centre on the southern peninsula, Tampa Bay is the second-biggest metro area in Florida. The urban area centres around the bayside cities of Tampa, St Petersburg, and Clearwater on the Gulf Coast.
Although Miami gets more attention, Tampa & St Pete are fantastic urban destinations. Each central Florida city shows off a colourful cultural scene. Roaming the streets, you’ll find museums, art galleries, and theatres. You’ll also delight in some of the Sunshine State’s finest culinary experiences. The historic Ybor City district in Tampa or the Central Arts District in St Petersburg are great places to prime your tastebuds.
Driving into North Florida from Georgia during a Southeast USA trip? Start your Florida trip in the historic city of St Augustine. Sitting on the Atlantic Coast an hour south of Jacksonville, St Augustine is the oldest European settlement in the US. The city dates back to 1565 when it was founded by Spanish explorers.
As you’d expect from its origins, St Augustine teems with historical interest. The National Historic Landmark District showcases plenty of lovely Spanish colonial architecture. (And all its requisite tourist traps that often come along with it.)
Got a penchant for Harleys and NASCAR? Throw Daytona Beach into your Florida trip plans. The coastal city lies about an hour from both St Augustine to the north and Orlando to the southwest.
Like Panama City Beach on the Florida Panhandle, Daytona Beach is famous for its raucous spring break parties. It’s got quite a reputation among older crowds, too.
Daytona Beach hosts two major motorcycling events: Bike Week in March and Biketoberfest in October. Every year in February, the city also holds its world-famous Daytona 500. Needless to say, if you’re planning to visit Daytona during these events, plan well ahead.