Whether you're a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, Florida has a ton to offer. With endless sunshine, picture-perfect beaches, vibrant cities, and family-friendly theme parks, the Sunshine State offers enough activities and adventures to last you a lifetime. But what if you don't have a lifetime? What if the most you can spend at any one attraction, city, or beach is a day? Fortunately, you're in luck. Florida boasts multiple places of interest around its major cities and vacation hubs that can all be visited, experienced, and wrapped up in a day. If you need some inspiration, here are 20 awesome Florida day trips to consider.
Located just a short drive from Destin is Seaside. Created from scratch in the 1980s, the town is known as the birthplace of New Urbanism, a movement that focuses on creating organic, environmentally friendly communities with walkable neighborhoods and assorted housing and business options. As you'd expect from the name, Seaside occupies an idyllic stretch of Florida's coast, with gorgeous beaches, crystal blue waters, and plenty of opportunities for shelling, surfing, swimming, and sunbathing. If you start feeling a sense of deja vu as you walk around, you're not imagining it - as per seasidefl.com the town was the setting of the 1998 film "The Truman Show."
19. Wakulla Springs
Located just a short hop, skip, and jump from Tallahassee is Wakulla Springs, a place that visitflorida.com recommends as one of the best day trips in Florida. Despite being less than 20 miles from the city, it feels like a different country, with gorgeous scenery, bountiful wildlife, and one of the deepest and biggest natural springs in Florida. If you want a day of swimming, hiking, and wildlife spotting, this is the place for you.
18. Walt Disney World
Indulge your inner child (or your real-life one) with a visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando. Perfect for thrill-seekers of all ages, it promises a day of thrills, spills, and high-octane adventure. If you ever get sick (either literally or figuratively) of the rollercoasters and rides, take some time out to explore Orlando's attractive downtown. If you're into golf, you'll quickly find yourself at home at one of the city's many world-class golf courses.
Recommended as one of the best places to visit in Florida by usnews.com, Sarasota is like no other city in Florida. A paradise for culture-vultures, it boasts a huge assortment of artsy activities and venues, including the superb The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art and the equally visit-worthy Art Center Sarasota. There are also regular craft festivals and shows held throughout the year, offering art lovers the perfect chance to indulge their passion and mingle with some like-minded folk. Performance art is also a big deal here, so be sure to plan a visit to the ballet or opera during your stay.
16. St. Petersburg
If you're a sun worshipper, St. Petersburg should be right up your street. With a nickname like "The Sunshine City," you wouldn't expect it to be anything less than balmy, and it's most definitely that - it even holds the Guinness World Record for the most consecutive days of sunshine. The glorious weather isn't the only reason to visit: with 7 miles of waterfront parks boasting a superb variety of outdoor activities, miles of white sandy beaches, and a liberal peppering of museums, galleries, and other cultural hotspots, it offers a little something for everyone. Even better, with 1000 annual events held throughout the year, there's a very good chance you'll get to join in the festivities at a food festival, a music concert, or a parade.
15. Key West
Famous for its beaches and its laid-back vibes, Key West promises a day of relaxed fun for day-trippers. Hit up the beach for some sand and sea; down a pint at a bar on Duval Street; shop for souvenirs at Mallory Square; and whatever you do, don't miss a tour of the home of Key West's most famous former resident, Ernest Hemingway.
14. Marco Island
Marco Island is the largest of Southwest Florida's Ten Thousand Islands, and the perfect place to experience the best of Florida's stunning coastline. With endless blue skies (clouds basically don't exist here), acres of sugary white sands, and tranquil, turquoise waters, it's nothing short of heavenly. If you do manage to get bored of scouting for seashells or soaking up the rays, head to the Marco Island Historical Museum to learn more about the island's fascinating history. If wildlife spotting is more your scene, the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge is teeming with manatees, pelicans, and hundreds of other creatures of the winged and furred variety.
13. Miami Beach
Colorful, vibrant, and packed with things to see and do, Miami Beach is a must-visit. The art deco architecture along Ocean Drive is stunning, but this is party town, so forget about the architecture for the day and get ready to splash the cash at the town's many, many bars and restaurants. If all that sounds like too much hard work, simply pop on your best swimsuit and prepare to flash the flesh with the rest of the beachgoers on the gorgeous South Beach.
12. Panama City Beach
Want to explore one of the most unspoiled stretches of sand in Florida? Then pack some water, a beach towel, and your flip-flops and head for Panama City Beach, an idyllic spot on the coast that sports over 27 miles of white sand beaches. Not that sun, sea, and sand are the only reasons to visit... with the Gulf World Marine Park and Shipwreck Island Waterpark both within easy reach, it's a great place to enjoy a day of fun, frolics, and family-friendly entertainment.
11. Amelia Island
Located just 30 miles north of Jacksonville is Amelia Island. As pretty as its name, it boasts 13 miles of pristine beaches and enough activities to keep you entertained from dawn to dusk. Must-do's include a round of golf on one of the island's championship courses, a horseback ride along the shoreline, and a visit to Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach, a place that used to be a hot spot for pirates but now prefers to entertain tourists instead.
10. Fort Myers
Few places fulfill the brief of a beach paradise quite so well as Fort Myers. It's got year-round sun, sublime fresh seafood, acres of sandy beaches, fishing opportunities galore, and enough family-friendly attractions to keep you and the gang in thrills and spills all day long. While you're there, be sure to check out the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford - with twenty acres of historic grounds to explore, not to mention a 15,000 square-foot museum dedicated to the great inventors, it's worth the trip alone.
9. Everglades National Park
Of all the national parks in the world, the Everglades probably needs the least introduction. Famed for its alligators, it's also home to a huge variety of other native species, including manatees and panthers. The site is vast, covering 1.5 million acres. That, along with the fact that alligators aren't necessarily the friendliest creatures in the world, makes it worth skipping the self-guided tour and leaving your day of adventure in the capable hands of a professional. If you've got a choice in the matter, try to visit between November and April - there'll be less chance of you getting bitten to death by mosquitos and more chance of you spotting some wildlife.
As onlyinyourstate.com notes, the beautiful area of Redland is loaded with unique attractions. Despite being just 20 miles from downtown Miami, it feels like a different world. In place of the crowds of tourists and the noise of the traffic, there are fruit stands, farms, and utter serenity. Chief among the attractions is Coral Castle. Known affectionately as Florida's Stonehenge, the site boasts a collection of multi-ton monoliths, all of which were sourced, carved, and erected by a single man with absolutely no machinery to help.
America's oldest city is small, charming, and packed with things to see and do. Admiring the architecture is an activity in itself, but if you find yourself running out of buildings to gaze at, there's plenty of museums, galleries, and shops to explore. While you're there, be sure to check out the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a landmark steeped in history that was originally built to protect the then-Spanish-occupied city from potential invaders. If you've got the time before you leave, pop on over to Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park to uncover the secret to eternal life.
6. Ichetucknee Springs State Park
If you're in the vicinity of Fort White, leave the noise and the crowds behind for the day and head on over to Ichetucknee Springs State Park. With breathtaking nature trails to explore, crystal clear lakes to swim in, and horseback trails to trot along, it's got everything you could possibly need for a day of thrilling outdoor adventure.
5. St. George Island
If you're looking to put the spark back into your love life, leave the kids at home (preferably with a babysitter) and head on over to one of the most romantic spots in Florida - St. George Island. Located along Florida’s “Forgotten Coast," the island promises a blissful day of seclusion, tranquility, and long, relaxing strolls along the beach. Feast on oysters as you watch the waves tumble into shore, collect shells, or even try some paddleboarding... whatever you do, you're going to wish you had more than a day to do it in.
4. Ocala National Forest
Recommended as one of the best destinations in Florida by Florida Trippers, Ocala National Forest is the perfect place for anyone who wants to escape the city for a few hours and enjoy some world-class nature. Studded with trails, springs, and lakes, the park offers a plethora of outdoor activities to enjoy, from hiking to horse riding, swimming to scuba diving, biking to kayaking. If you can't bear to tear yourself away at the end of the day, you'll find numerous camping spots scattered around the forest.
3. Cocoa Beach
Widely regarded as one of the best beaches in Florida, Cocoa Beach makes the ideal destination for a day trip. If you're into water sports, you're in luck - the resort is a mecca for surfers, boasting both a dedicated surf museum and the Ron Jon Surf Shop, the world's largest surf shop. If you want to catch a wave yourself, the surf is incredible. If you prefer sunbathing to surfing, simply sit back in the sand, soak up the rays, and enjoy.
2. Daytona Beach
If you're staying around the Orlando area, an easy and not to be missed day trip is Daytona Beach. It goes without saying that the beaches are fabulous, but there's plenty more to enjoy here than sun, sea, and sand. If you arrive early, fill up on breakfast at one of the eateries in historic downtown Daytona Beach (the Dancing Avocado Kitchen comes highly recommended by Trip Advisor. After that, get your heart pumping with a ride behind the wheel of one of the race cars at the Richard Petty Experience. If you're looking for a tamer experience, take a tour of the Daytona racetrack or get a sugar rush at the Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory instead. Round off your day with a stop at one of the city's many museums, the Museum of Arts and Sciences being one of the most unmissable.
1. Sanibel And Captiva Islands
If you're after an island adventure, head on over to the sister islands of Sanibel Island and Captiva Island. Each of the islands is unique enough to warrant a visit, but if you're hoping to add to your shell collection, be sure to factor in plenty of time for Sanibel in particular. As sanibel-captiva.org notes, the island is famous for the glorious assortment of shells littering its beach, including ones from conches, whelks, and scallops. Just be conscious that live shelling is frowned upon and comes with the risk of a fine, so play it safe and put anything you find with a living creature inside back where you found it.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn