Last Updated on May 17, 2023 by Nellie Huang
Planning an epic Florida road trip? Here’s our 2-week Florida itinerary including swimming with manatees, island hopping, and living it up in Miami.
There is no doubt that Florida is one of the best road trip destinations in the United States. The Sunshine State has endless miles of wide, sandy beaches, vibrant marine life and unique keys. Not just that, we also love the pristine nature it has to offer: from magical natural springs to wildlife-rich ecosystems.
Alberto and I actually met in Florida 20 years ago, and we have since returned several times and traveled all over Florida. For those planning a Florida road trip, here is our recommended 2-week Florida itinerary, including the best places to stop, where to stay and where to eat in Florida.
FLORIDA ROAD TRIP GUIDE
As we love nature way more than big cities, we have designed this Florida road trip around natural springs, mangroves and beaches. But there are SO many things to do in Florida – from theme parks to historical forts – so you’ll have to decide where your interest lies.
We’ll be giving a day-to-day breakdown of this Florida itinerary, please continue reading. We recommend a minimum of 2 weeks in Florida to see and experience the best of Florida at a comfortable pace. If you only have 1 week in Florida, we suggest focusing on Miami, the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park.
Recommended Two Weeks in Florida Itinerary
- 2 Days in Miami – to check out the stunning Art Deco architecture at South Beach
- 3 Days in Florida Keys – to explore some of the best coral reefs
- 1 Day in Everglades National Park – to go wildlife watching including taking an airboat tour
- 4 Days on the Paradise Coast – to explore the best beaches from Marco Island to Sarasota
- 4 Days in Central Florida – to explore Florida’s stunning natural springs
Current Florida Travel Restrictions
Regardless of vaccination status, all air passengers entering the U.S. have to present a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three days of international departure. For those traveling to Florida from other states, there are no current travel restrictions or quarantine mandates. Check the Florida tourist board website for up-to-date info.
It’s important to have travel insurance for travel during the pandemic. Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date. Refer to my travel insurance guide for more details.
How to Get to Florida?
The good news is that Florida has plenty of well-connected airports. The most popular airports to fly into Florida are MIA (Miami), FLL (Fort Lauderdale) and MCO (Orlando) airports. We’ve found that flights to Fort Lauderdale are the cheapest.
In this Florida itinerary, we are driving from Miami to Orlando.Flying into Florida both from other parts of the US and internationally is quite affordable. You can fly from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale for as little as $300 return (5-hour flight). For the best fares, we always use Skyscanner as they’ve consistently given us the lowest prices.
Flying from Europe to Florida is surprisingly cheap. We took a direct flight from Paris to Fort Lauderdale with Norwegian Airlines (10hours) for $220 one way. You can also get great deals from London, Brussels, Porto, Copenhagen or Oslo.
Search for Cheap Flights to Florida
How to Get Around Florida
The best way to get around Florida is by car. In our experience, Florida is one of the most affordable states for car hire. Our last car rental in Florida cost us $180 for a week including full insurance, which is around $25 a day. Check the current rates here.
Alternatively, you can also do this Florida road trip on a campervan. You can hire a campervan on Outdoorsy for around $150/day. Traveling in a campervan can help you save a lot on accommodation and food. Search for a campervan here.
While driving in Miami can prove a little tricky, driving outside of the big cities is very easy. Compared to the rest of the world, gas prices in Florida are incredibly low. At the moment Florida gas prices sit at around US$2.50 per gallon (3.78L).
By Day Trips
If you prefer not to drive, it IS possible to visit popular spots in Florida such as the Everglades National Park on day trips. Our favorite site to book day tours is GetYourGuide. They consistently offer the best prices and have free cancellations and mobile vouchers.
Most day trips around Florida cost around US$60 and upwards. There are lots of boat trips and snorkel tours in Florida that are worth doing! Here are some of our recommended Florida day tours:
Best Time to Do a Florida Road Trip
The great thing about Florida is that it is a year-round destination. The coldest it gets in Florida is around 60°F (15°C) in January. July is the warmest month in Florida, when temperatures can rise to up to 90°F (32°C).
Our favorite time to visit Florida is in fall between September to November. The weather is perfect around 75°F (24°C), meaning you can still go swimming and enjoy the beaches and springs without getting fried by the heat.
Fall is also low season in Florida, before the snowbirds and Christmas arrivals have made their way down, so prices and crowds are considerably lower. High season is during winter between November and February, expect prices to be the highest then.
How Much Does a Florida Road Trip Cost?
Luckily, Florida is one of the least expensive States in the US. Hiring your own car is the most affordable way to experience the best of Florida. Expect to pay around around US$360 for a 2-week car rental and another $200 for gas. Check current car hire rates here.
Miami is notoriously an expensive place to stay where accommodation can set you back US$150 for a basic 3-star hotel. Accommodation in Central Florida and the Paradise Coast is a little cheaper than other states. In low season, you can get a budget hotel for US$60-80 per night and around $100-150 per night for a 4-star hotel.
Camping in state parks in Florida costs between US$30-50 per night. An exception to this rule is the Florida Keys, which costs between US$40-50 per night. There are many big-chain diners throughout the State where you can get a good meal for around $10 plus tax and tip.
My Florida Road Trip Itinerary
Florida Itinerary Days 1 & 2: Explore Miami
Miami is the best choice to start your road trip in Florida as its airport is a major hub. We recommend staying at South Beach as it is the hippest area of Miami, with a beautiful windswept beach and stylish art deco hotels. Check out my detailed 3-day Miami itinerary for the full details.
Over the next two days, cool off in the beautiful Venetian Pool in Coral Gables and take a wander around Little Havana, a vibrant Cuban neighborhood in Miami. For a different side to Miami, check out the Wynwood Walls art district, an amazing display of street art from artists all over the world. Spend a day chilling at Key Biscayne or take a sightseeing flight for a view of Miami from above.
South Beach is a very cool place to stay but it is notoriously expensive. A beer in a bar along South Beach can cost as much as $20 and a gigantic signature cocktail (enough for 2) can cost up to $40. For those on a budget, stay in Coral Gables or Brownsville near the airport.
Recommended Tours in Miami
Where to Stay in Miami
Budget: Hudson House
It’s hard to find anything less than $100/night in Miami, so this stylish house is a rare find. We stayed here once after a long flight (it’s near the airport) and it was a great place to rest up. Hudson House is made up of several double rooms (with shared bathrooms) and spacious living area. Check the rates.
Midrange: Biltmore Hotel
One of the iconic landmarks of Miami, the Biltmore Hotel is housed in a Spanish colonial building reminiscent of yesteryears. The plush decor and lush patio reflect its history, while the interior has been completely revamped in recent years. Check the rates here.
Luxury: 1 Hotel South Beach
Located in the heart of South Beach, this is one of the best hotels in Miami. The upscale property has oceanfront rooms and spacious apartments with spectacular views. It also has 2 swimming pools, including one adults-only rooftop poo. Check the rates here.
Florida Itinerary Day 3: Drive to Florida Keys
It is now time to pump your road trip playlist as you hit the road towards the Florida Keys! The Keys are a coral cay archipelago located off the southern coast of Florida. To get there, you’ll be driving along the U.S. Route 1, and this is one of the best road trips in the USA.
Make Key Largo your first stop in the Florida Keys. This cute beachside town is the largest town in the Keys with great beaches and seafood restaurants. Be sure to try the signature dishes of the Florida Keys: Key Lime Pie and Conch fritters (made from large sea snails).
Try local craft beer at Florida Brewing Company or go kayaking in the seagrass beds of John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Divers can also take the afternoon to go diving at the Spiegal Grove wreck. Check out Globo Surf for the best snorkeling and dive sites in Florida. Scuba geeks should check out Jules Undersea Lodge, Florida’s only underwater hotel and one of the most unique hotels in the world.
Where to Stay in Key Largo
Budget: John Pennekamp State Park Campground
If you enjoy camping, stay overnight at the park’s campground which costs $43 USD a night including tax. There are also RV parking and facilities, as well as outdoor showers. Read reviews here.
Midrange: Gilbert’s Resort
One of the few affordable places on Key Largo, this is a popular motel with an on-site marina and boat dock, as well as its own private beach. Enjoy fishing off the dock, rent a boat or feast on fresh seafood at its Tiki Grill and Bar. Check the rates here.
Luxury: Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo, Curio Collection By Hilton
With its own private beach, this five-star resort is ultra modern and slick, featuring an all-white design. It is surrounded by lush landscaping and nature trails, excellent for nature seekers looking for comfort. Check the rates here.
Florida Itinerary Days 4 & 5: Visit Key West
Continue the next day along U.S. Route 1. The last stretch of the highway is also the most iconic route to the Florida Keys, the Seven Mile Bridge.
En route to Key West, you will pass through many quirky towns, including Islamorada, where you can hand feed giant tarpon at Robbies. Also visit the turtle hospital in Marathon, where they are doing great work to rehabilitate wild turtles. These are definitely some of the best places to stop on a road trip in Florida.
We recommend spending 2 nights in Key West, the most famous town in the Florida Keys and the southernmost point of continental US. Visit the famous Ernest Hemingway House and the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Don’t miss these free things to do in Key West.
Recommended Tours in Key West
Where to Stay in Key West
Budget: Seashell Motel
There aren’t many budget hotels in Key West. This is the cheapest place with dorm beds and comfortable lounging areas in the lawn. It’s a 15-minute walk to Duval Street and other attractions. Check the rates here.
Midrange: Eden House
Locally owned and operated since 1975, this art deco hotel is located in the center of Eden House has got a quirky, retro Florida flair, with plenty of personality to boot. This is definitely our favorite hotel in Key West. Check the rates., within of .
Luxury: Parrot Key Hotel & Villas
A short drive from historic Old Town Key West, this tastefully-designed hotel is perched on the beach and surrounded by lush gardens. This is definitely a special spot to stay at for those celebrating an occasion. There’s also a free shuttle to the Old Town. Check the rates here.
Day Trip to Dry Tortugas
If you have some time to spare, we highly recommend a day trip to Dry Tortugas, Florida’s best kept secret. At 70 miles off the coast of Key West, it is one of America’s least visited national parks. Visit the historic Fort Jefferson or dive off the beach into a world of turtles, giant barracudas and parrot fish.
To get there, take the Yankee Freedom ferry. The 2.5-hour ferry ride is a magical trip over turquoise waters, and leaves you about 4-5 hours on the island. It includes a ranger-led tour of Ft. Jefferson and costs $195 per person for the day trip. Read here to plan your day trip.
Florida Itinerary Day 6: Tour the Everglades
You will need to set off early from the Florida Keys, as it takes approximately 3 hours to reach the Everglades National Park. On your way there, we recommend making a stop at Bahia Honda State Park. This is where you’ll find the best beaches in the Florida Keys.
From Bahia Honda, drive towards the Anhinga Trail, the best short trail (0.8 miles round trip) to spot an alligator on foot in the Everglades. Near the Anhinga Trail is the Gumbo Limbo Trail, another short trail (0.4 miles round trip) through lush forest. If you have time, head over to Shark Valley Trail, a popular 15 mile round trip which can be completed on foot, by tram tour or bike.
Continue towards the State Route 41 to get to Everglades National Park, one of the top national parks in US. An Everglades Airboat Tour is the best way to experience the Everglades as the vast percentage of the National Park is covered by swamplands and only accessible by boat. Read about our experience cruising the Everglades.
Note: The Everglades National Park has an entry cost of $30 per car, valid for 7 days.
Recommended Tours in the Everglades
Where to Stay in the Everglades
Budget: Port of the Islands Everglades Adventure Resort
This is the closest budget hotel to the Everglades. It’s a typical old-school Floridian hotel (thus the name!) with comfortable enough rooms and a swimming pool. Check the rates here.
Midrange: Flamingo Adventures at Everglades National Park
Located within the national park, this cool eco lodge is made up of luxury tents (pictured) with proper beds and sitting area. All of them look out to the water and make for a great base to get close to nature. This is glamping at its best! Check the rates here.
Luxury: Ivey House
This eco-friendly bed and breakfast is a 15-minute walk from the Museum of the Everglades. It provides canoe and kayak rentals and it has an outdoor pool as well as a tropical waterfall. Check the rates here.
Florida Itinerary Day 7: Visit Marco Island
Just 18 miles away from Everglades City is Marco Island, one of our favorite places in Florida and honestly a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. We recommend staying the night here as there are way too many fun things to do in Marco Island. But prices are high, so budget travelers can also stay at nearby Naples.
An essential activity is a shelling tour to find some of the most unique shells in the USA. We also recommend seeing the sinking Cape Romano houses and finding tortoises that roam freely on Tigertail Beach. This is half way point of your Florida road trip, so give yourself some down time.
Where to Stay on Marco Island
Budget: Conty’s Motel
Located in Naples, this motel is a well-priced budget option with outdoor pool and old-school rooms. It’s in need of a revamp, but the warmth and friendliness of the owners make up for it. Check the rates here.
Midrange: The BoatHouse
This motel has big comfortable rooms and a private dock as well as an outdoor pool. Guests can watch for dolphins and manatees or fish from the private dock. Check the rates here.
Luxury: Hilton Marco Island Beach Resort and Spa
Definitely the best hotel on Marco Island, this Hilton hotel (pictured) has outdone itself with its luxurious suites and stunning panoramas in every corner. We stayed here once to celebrate a special occasion and it was definitely something special. Check the rates here.
Florida Itinerary Days 8-10: Explore the Paradise Coast
From Marco Island, it is a short 30 minute drive to the beautiful beachside town of Naples. Dolphins are often spotted at Lowdermilk Beach Park in Naples. While we were there, a group of dolphins came within inches of a local fisherman which was amazing to witness.
A hop away from Naples is its forgotten little sister, Bonita Springs, possibly the best kept secret of the Paradise Coast. In our opinion, Bonita Springs is a better place to stay than Naples as it is more affordable and has a relaxed vibe. Don’t miss Cullum’s Bonita Trail while in Bonita Springs. Keep an eye out for rabbits and gopher turtles running around the trails.
Continue from Bonita Springs towards Sarasota where you’ll find Siesta Key Beach, lauded as the best beach in the USA. Spend 2 nights here as there are many things to do in Sarasota. See the Unconditional Surrender Statue and the stunning Ringling Museum of Art (normally $25 a person, but free on Mondays!).
Recommended Tours in Sarasota
Where to Stay in Sarasota
Budget: Siesta Inn Motel Sarasota
One of the cheapest motels in Sarasota, Siesta Inn offers low prices and newly renovated, comfortable rooms. It doesn’t have many facilities, but it is a quiet spot for those seeking some tranquility. Check the rates.
Midrange: Regency Inn & Suites Sarasota
All modern-style rooms at this midrange motel are large, spacious and well-equipped. There’s also an outdoor pool and plenty of parking spaces. Great value for money! Check the rates.
Luxury: Lido Beach Resort
The beachfront Lido Beach Resort has a huge stretch of private beach in the heart of Sarasota. It’s definitely worth splurging on this hotel if you’ve been slumming it so far. This resort (pictured) offers ocean-view rooms for reasonable prices. Check the rates.
Florida Itinerary Day 11: Swim with Manatees
Our #1 thing to do in Florida is to visit the numerous natural springs. We recommend spending 3 nights to see the best natural springs in Florida. Read my guide to swimming with manatees.
A 2-hour drive north from Sarasota is the Three Sisters Spring at Crystal River, the only place in Florida where you can swim with manatees year round. Join a snorkel tour with naturalist guide to learn more about the manatee and its natural habitat. Swimming with a manatee was one of the highlights of our Florida road trip!
In winter, it is possible to see manatees in Blue Springs as they migrate to warm themselves. From Crystal River, it is a 30-minute drive to one of the most picturesque springs in Florida, Rainbow Springs. In summer (until September 30) it is possible to complete a 2 hours tube run at Rainbow Springs, one of the best rated tube runs in Florida.
Where to Stay in Ocala
Budget: Howard Johnson by Wyndham Ocala FL
Featuring funky and vibrant colors, this budget hotel offers an excellent value for money with room rates as low as $60/night. Rooms are carpeted and plush, and splashed with bright orange and blue. Check the rates here.
Midrange: Country Inn & Suites by Radisson
Within a few minutes’ drive from the Paddock Mall, the midrange hotel has large and clean rooms. There is also an indoor pool, hot tub and fitness center. Check the rates here.
Luxury: Residence Inn Ocala
Located off Interstate 75, this hotel has huge suites that have cooking facilities. It features a heated outdoor pool, hot buffet breakfast and free evening receptions with drinks from Monday through Thursday. Check the rates here.
Florida Itinerary Days 12-14: Tubing in the Springs
An hour’s drive north from Rainbow Springs is the famous Ginnie Springs, where you can go stand-up paddle boarding, tubing and kayaking all year round.
You can do a day trip here from Ocala, or stay in the closest large town, Gainsville which is a 40-minute drive away. There is also camping available in Ginnie Springs, at $22.43 per adult per night although the toilet blocks tend to get very muddy.
Tip: If you intend to do a lot of tubing in Florida, purchase your own tube in advance from a local Walmart or Publix.
Florida Itinerary Day 15: Drive to Orlando
From Gainesville, head back down towards Orlando. Make a stop at Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest. This is one of the oldest recreation areas on the East Coast, constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
We recommend flying out of Orlando to save you the drive back to Miami. From Juniper Springs, it is a 1.5-hour drive to Orlando (or a 4-hour drive back to Miami).
Spend your final night at an airport hotel for some much needed rest and relaxation after two weeks of adventure! La Quinta Inn at Orlando Airport is a good budget option, while Wingate by Wyndham is nearer to the airport but has slightly higher prices.
Enjoy Your Florida Road Trip!
And that’s a wrap! I hope our Florida road trip planner has helped you plan your own adventure. In our opinion, this is the best Florida road trip you can do, mixing up nature, beaches and city sightseeing.
You can also do the same Florida itinerary in the reverse direction. Drive from Orlando to Key West, and end your Florida road trip with a bang there.
If you’re interested in exploring more of the US, check out other articles I’ve written:
Have a blast on your Florida road trip! Be sure to leave a comment below if you have any questions.