South Florida is a year-round dream vacation destination that can best be explored by car. So get a full tank of gas, rev up your GPS, and hit the road. Whichever direction you choose, you’ll find tons of breathtaking views and exciting things to do. Get ready to immerse yourself in secluded tropical beaches, mangrove forests, amazing wildlife, quaint small towns, and impressive colonial architecture.
Miami can get really crowded during the high season and it's natural to want to get away from the city. As you leave downtown and head south, you’ll soon discover some hidden gems, such as the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables (that refills with fresh water every day) and the Kampong Tropical Garden in Coconut Grove. Go further south, and you'll find The Redlands and Homestead: a tropical fruit heaven made up of dozens of gardens and orchards. Explore the reefs and mangroves of the Biscayne National Park, and you will soon forget that you were in the middle of Miami just a half-hour ago.
A two-hour drive from Miami, or 109 mi (175 km), will bring you to the Overseas Highway, one of the most picturesque roads in the world. Discover the amazing landscapes of the Florida Keys, which is home to some of the most beautiful beaches and scenic views in the state. Be sure you stay long enough to experience an iconic sunset in Key West, a daily tradition since the 1960s.
If you are ready to explore Florida further, travel along its West Coast. In less than two hours you can cover 107 miles (172 km) and get from Miami to Marco Island, the only inhabited spot within the Ten Thousand Islands chain. This enchanting location boasts the best shelling beaches in Florida. Rent a kayak and find mangroves and secret beaches hidden among these secluded islets, or go a bit further north to the more developed Sanibel or Captiva Islands.
A five-hour drive north from Miami—370 mi or 595 km via Florida Turnpike—will bring you to the Ichitacknee Springs State Park, which features amazing swimming holes filled with turquoise crystalline waters. This area is a haven for kayakers, with lots of wildlife to spot as well as fantastic bird watching.
The colder months are the perfect time to explore Florida by car. This time of year is less harried by traffic and people, and the moderate temperatures (still warm by most travelers’ standards) and lower rainfall can make for a perfect road trip. Just a short distance from Miami, you'll discover The Everglades National Park, a real oasis of wild nature and unparalleled scenery. Be sure to take The Loop Road Scenic Drive, a 38-km (24-mi) two-lane road that winds along the Tamiami Trail in the Big Cypress National Wildlife Refuge.
Going further south from the Everglades is always a good idea! At this time of year, the Florida Keys are less crowded and more peaceful, and they host many off-season events such as Fantasy Fest on Key West in October. There is plenty to see on Florida’s West Coast, too. In October, check out the Siesta Key Sand Sculpture festival, in Siesta Key; and take in the Chalk Festival in Venice, in November.
In Central Florida, winter is the best time to visit citrus orchards, discover wacky spiritual spots, or swim with gentle manatees. Head to Crystal River or Blue Spring State Park where you can see fireflies in the evening, beginning in mid-February. Drive further north to the coast of Jacksonville and St. Augustine, to view the rare North Atlantic right whales from December through March. St. Augustine also has exceptional architecture as well as holiday lights displays that make a winter trip well worth it!