Harry and I went on a two week Florida road trip and we had a fabulous time. I feel like it was a good mix of beach/relaxing and adventure/exploring with some city life mixed in. Florida is probably not the place I’d go solo traveling or with friends (there are more buzzing places) but it’s perfect for a couple/family holiday.
To help plan your trip to Florida, here’s a little Florida travel guide with a two week road trip itinerary and the best places to go.
I’d always wanted to go on a U.S. road trip and Florida was a great choice for our first couple holiday. We had an amazing time. We hadn’t done too much prior planning and only booked our hotel for Miami with a rough idea of an itinerary.
Flights & Car Rental
Thanks to Norwegian, we got a pretty good deal on flights – Skyscanner (US website) or Skyscanner (UK website). Just make sure to stick within the weight limits for your checked and hand luggage. They weigh everything at check-in and anything 1kg above the limit will be charged without exception (and it’s quite expensive!). Seat space in economy is definitely limited and meals were below average. Try and have a meal beforehand or bring snacks. But one can’t complain too much with £450 for two direct flights.
We landed in Orlando where we picked up our sexy ride for the next two weeks: A Mustang 5L GT which we booked with National Car (we were upgraded from a standard convertible!). If you’re going on a road trip in the states, you may as well do it right with a powerful convertible, right?
(Please don’t drive your Mustang onto a sandy parking lot to take a Mustang beach photo… We dug ourselves in and literally had to dig the wheels free and push the car out with three people!!! :D)
Florida Road Trip Itinerary
We had about 11 full days in Florida and a house in Longboat Key we could stay in for free. So, we decided to spend our first and last days of the trip on Florida’s Gulf Coast. From Longboat Key, we did a loop going East. First stop: Universal Studios in Orlando. After three days in Miami, we completed our South Florida road trip going from Miami through the Everglades and back up through Sarasota to Longboat Key.
We decided to skip Key West as there is not much to do (except pose next to the famous Southernmost point buoy) and it’s quite a long drive from Miami/the Everglades. But if you’ve got the extra time, you may as well add it to your itinerary.
Longboat Key, Gulf Coast (4-6 days)
What better way to start off a holiday than by recharging your batteries, especially after a long winter in Europe? Our house was in Longboat Key within a closed community with access to a pier overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The perfect white-sand beach was just a few minutes walk away. The restaurants and bars of Bradenton Beach, Anna Maria Island and St. Armand’s Circle were a quick open-top drive in our sexy Mustang.
There are plenty of lovely beaches along the Gulf of Mexico Drive, some are much busier than others. But all of them have that lovely white, fine sand and excellent sunset views. Apart from beaching, there’s plenty of opportunity for you to get active. Paddle out on your SUP, go surfing, rent a jet ski.
It felt like Harry and I were some of the youngest people there most of the time (it is quite the retirement place). Nevertheless, there are some really good restaurants (fancy a romantic seaside dinner?). You can enjoy the sunset from one of the beach bars serving up delicious Bloody Mary’s or organise your own picnic on the beach.
Find out my tops tips for Longboat Key and surrounding areas in your guide to Florida’s Gulf Coast from Anna Maria Island to St. Armands, including the best beaches and top activities.
Orlando – Universal Studios (1-2 days)
We decided to do Universal Studios on a Monday to avoid the big crowds and we were so lucky! We bought our tickets the night before which gave us access to one park (Islands of Adventure) for a day for $140. This included a “Skip the Queue” pass for about $30 I think. We thought we may as well buy it in case the park was really busy. Turns out, we could have saved those 30 bucks as most queues were always below ten minutes.
It was a really spendy day for us (drinks and food are, of course, over-priced) but we thought it was worth it. Some really great rides in Islands of Adventure including Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey or the Incredible Hulk Coaster. We left completely soaked after I insisted we HAVE to do all the water rides…
You can find great deals to Orlando’s best theme parks here. If you want to do both parks, you should really spend two days in Orlando.
Miami (3 days)
Up next on our Florida road trip: Miami!
We drove down from Orlando after a long day in Universal and were facing lots of traffic making this a 4-5 hour journey. So, we decided to spend the night in a roadside motel. Turns out, they’re actually quite pricey for what they offer. $65/night was the cheapest we could find…
When we arrived in Miami the next day, I was super keen to explore the city. Although it was very different to what I expected, I loved it. It’s really an expansive city (quite American, I guess) and there’s so much (!) traffic. You better have a car or rent some bicycles.
Finding affordable accommodation that still looked cool and was in a good location, wasn’t super easy. But we finally found New Yorker Boutique Hotel which was decent and clean. It’s not walking distance to Miami Beach though so keep that in mind.
My list of top things to do in Miami:
Touring Wynwood Arts District and finishing off with dinner and drinks in a hip bar
Strolling along Miami Beach and brunching at Yardbird
Oyster happy hour at Sweet Liberty ($0.75/oyster and $5 beer, wine and selected cocktails)
Everglades (1 day)
A Florida road trip isn’t complete without a tour through the Everglades – especially if it’s your first trip to the Sunshine State. Wildlife in the swamplands is amazing and you are guaranteed to come up close with free-living alligators if you enter the Everglades National Park. They’re pretty much everywhere!
The Everglades is an easy day trip from Miami. You can get to Everglades Alligator Farm (there are several alligator farms to choose from) in below an hour and enter Everglades National Park either from the Homestead entrance or if you’re heading West towards Everglades City/Fort Myers, you can enter from Highway 41. That’s what we did because we wanted to do the Shark Valley bicycle tour through the National Park.
- Visit Everglades Alligator Farm in the morning and do the airboat ride.
- Stop for cinnamon roles and fresh smoothies at Knauss Berry Farm.
- Reach Shark Valley Visitor Centre by 1 or 2pm and do the 15 miles cycle through Everglades National Park (2-3 hours). You need to return bicycles by 4pm (although it says 5pm on the website). Park your car on the side of Highway 41 (it’s officially not allowed but we’d been told it’s accepted).
- On the way to Everglades City, stop at Joanne’s Blue Crab Cafe for a late lunch or early dinner.
Everglades City is a sleepy and picturesque place. It’s worth a photo stop but there is not too much else to do. We stopped for a coffee and ice cream and decided to head back to Longboat Key in time for dinner.
Rounding off the trip
If you have an extra day, you may consider stopping in Fort Myers and exploring Sanibel Island.
We were quite happy to be back and to spend the last days of our Florida road trip in the house in Longboat Key… which we rounded off with a fun day paddle boarding and a few more sunset Bloody Mary’s 🙂
Are you currently planning your Florida road trip? Let me know in the comments and reach out if you have any questions!