The Sunshine State is a popular vacation spot that’s great for a fun road trip. It’s well-known for miles of beaches and stunning views, but it’s also home to some of the best activities in the nation. If you plan your Florida getaway right, you can start north in Jacksonville and “loop” around the state, ending in Orlando.
This seven-stop itinerary will give you a taste of everything Florida has to offer, and some might consider it the ultimate Florida road trip. To top it off, each destination is close to one of 58 of our resorts across Florida, so start planning your vacation today.
How to Plan Your Getaway to the Sunshine State
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, Jacksonville
The start of your Florida vacation loop is in Jacksonville at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens where you can see more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals and thousands of varieties of plants. You’ll need to buy tickets in advance, so plan ahead. The zoo is a world-class animal sanctuary and one of seven zoos in the United States to have an on-site animal wellness team, so you can feel good about visiting.
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is conveniently located just north of Jacksonville’s city center and is surrounded by plenty of places to eat and drink like the popular Junior’s Seafood Restaurant and Grill, a casual seafood eatery perfect for a quick bite before you head on to Daytona Beach.
Daytona Beach Main Street Pier, Daytona Beach
The next stop in your Florida road trip is Daytona Beach Main Street Pier. It’s a short drive from Jacksonville that clocks in at under two hours when you account for traffic and pit stops. Daytona Beach’s Main Street Pier is a little hub full of restaurants, gift shops and entertainment for the whole family. You can easily make a day out of visiting the beach and boardwalk, so plan for plenty of time to wander and explore.
If you’re into thrills, Screamer’s Park, located just south of the pier, has two popular rides: Slingshot and Vomatron. The next stop on your Florida getaway is more than a couple hours away, so you’ll want to stay the night in Daytona before moving on.
Southernmost Point of the Continental US, Key West
It takes about 7 and a half hours to make it to the southernmost point of the continental United States at the tip of the Florida Keys, but the scenic journey down Florida’s coast is well worth it. You’ll pass through Miami on your way if you want to pull off for a meal before continuing to the Keys. Key West itself is the southernmost city in the U.S., but one of the main attractions is a large concrete buoy, which marks the end of the road.
Get there early to beat the crowds and snap a pic to prove you were there. While you’re in town, make sure you also explore Duval Street. This lively and busy area is a shopping and entertainment hub and it’s tons of fun. Oh, and if there are any Hemmingway fans in your group, Ernest Hemmingway’s home (now a museum) is a must-visit attraction.
Manatee Park, Fort Myers
The trip up from Key West to Fort Myers is a few hours shorter than your last leg from Daytona Beach to Key West. That means there’s more time for you to explore Fort Myers once you arrive. One of the best local attractions is Manatee Park, just a short drive outside of Fort Myers city center.
This refuge is a safe haven for manatees that migrate inland during the winter months and early spring for warmer waters. Your likelihood of seeing manatee starts to taper off during summer, but there’s still plenty to do in the park like renting a kayak from Manatee Kayaking Company.
The Florida Aquarium, Tampa
After your stay in Fort Myers, Tampa is just a few hours up Interstate 75. This Gulf Coast city has one of the best aquariums, and it just happens to be located on the beautiful Tampa Bay. The Florida Aquarium has been around since 1977 and offers visitors a unique look at sea life native to Florida and from around the world. It ranks as one of the best things to do in Florida.
Aside from the exhibits, there are also guided experiences like a 75-minute wild dolphin cruise led by an aquarium naturalist. Seeing animals up close is one thing, but seeing them in the wild is a memory you’ll have for a lifetime.
Florida Air Museum, Lakeland
Just a short drive up from Tampa (under 50 minutes), you’re road trip will take you to the city of Lakeland, Florida, home to the Florida Air Museum. This sprawling collection of aviation history is open Thursday through Sunday and offers a glimpse at the history of Florida aviation. There’s a Howard Hughes exhibit, an exciting discovery zone for kids and so much more. Tickets start at $5 for students, $10 for adults and kids under 11 are free.
Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando
Your final stop to complete your Florida road trip loop is Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. The world-famous destination is just a short hour drive from Lakeland, so you can make the most of your time at Disney. You’ll need it because Disney World is massive. Choose from one of the many parks including Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom or one of two water parks. Walt Disney World is the grand finale of your ultimate Florida road trip, and it’ll be well worth the wait.
These are our favorite places to visit across Florida, but there are many more to pick from. The best part about planning a vacation is that it’s flexible, so feel free to map out your own “Florida loop” with your family or travel partner. And with more than 50 resorts across Florida, planning your getaway is just that much easier.