While you’re on vacation in one of Florida’s major airport and attraction hubs, why not try a day trip off the beaten path? Who knows – you might discover your next holiday destination! Airport destinations are listed from north to south.
Escape the city and head to one of Florida’s largest state forests. With its neighboring areas, Blackwater River State Forest has the largest population of longleaf pine trees in the world. Explore the natural landscape by foot on a hike, by canoe or on horseback. Float down one of the waterways and stop for a picnic on the shimmering white sands of a sandbar.
Known as the birthplace of New Urbanism (and the setting for the 1998 film, “The Truman Show”), Seaside is an idyllic Northwest Florida community set against the area’s stunning beaches. Check out the quaint art galleries and shops, or try stand-up paddleboarding in the crystal-blue waters.
Wakulla Springs is more a park than a city, but one well worth making a special trip to see. Located fewer than 20 miles from Tallahassee’s city center, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park features one of the world’s largest and deepest freshwater springs. That may be why “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” was filmed here! Take a boat tour to see local critters such as alligators, turtles and birds. Of course, you won’t be able to resist dipping into the refreshingly cool springs, too.
Amelia Island is a golf and spa haven, while Fernandina Beach to the north is a quaint historic town known for its artwork, antiques and boutiques. Some must-see attractions on Amelia Island are Fort Clinch State Park, which served as a military post during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War II; Amelia Island Lighthouse, which began operating in 1839 and still operates today; and American Beach, which was founded in 1935 by A.L. Lewis, Florida’s first African-American millionaire.
Tour the nation’s oldest city via a guided tour, bus or tram and stop at all the major points of interest, including an authentic Spanish fort and the Fountain of Youth. You can also take in the sights on a scenic boat ride or helicopter tour. Just off Interstate 95 in St. Augustine is the St. Augustine Premium Outlets. Nearby, golfers can get their fill at World Golf Village and the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Located just north of Daytona Beach, Ormond Beach offers a few quirky local attractions for a day trip. Tour The Casements, the former winter home of John D. Rockefeller that now serves as the city’s cultural center. Spend some quality time outdoors at North Peninsula State Park, with more than 2 miles of sandy beaches. Visit Ormond Memorial Art Museum & Gardens for nature trails, fish ponds and fountains set amid lush tropical gardens. The best part? All of the attractions are free.
Though known for its famous beaches, Daytona Beach offers plenty of other attractions. Catch breakfast at the Dancing Avocado Kitchen in historic downtown Daytona Beach. Get behind the wheel of a racecar at the Richard Petty Experience at Daytona International Speedway, or take a tour of the famous racetrack with the Daytona 500 Experience. Indulge your sweet tooth with a free tour of Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory. Take in the exhibits at the Smithsonian-affiliated Museum of Arts and Sciences.
A day trip to Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands can include a morning swamp buggy tour through the 90,000-acre Crescent B Ranch, a working cattle ranch with Babcock Wilderness Adventures. Enjoy a waterfront seafood lunch at Laishley Crab House. Spend the rest of the day strolling the shops at Fishermen’s Village.
Start with breakfast at Ginny and Jane E’s, a local favorite featuring delicious pastries and island-themed gifts. Go on a paddle tour with Captain Scott to Robinson Preserve, where you’ll take in native landscapes and miles of trails (and perhaps catch a glimpse of a bald eagle). Finish the day with a spectacular sunset, followed by casual dining at Island Time Bar & Grill or semi-fine dining at Bridge Street Bistro. Use the free Island Trolley to make your way around the island. Stay at the BridgeWalk Resort across from the beach if you decide to linger another day.
Take the Key West Express out of Fort Myers and, in just about three and a half hours, you’re in legendary Key West. Check out the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, take an island tour on a trolley, enjoy plenty of entertainment or just relax on the spectacular beaches. There are loads of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and resorts if you decide to stay the night.
Big Cypress Reservation
Explore Florida’s biggest attraction, the Everglades, at Billie Swamp Safari. Learn the history of the Seminole Tribe and try a swamp buggy tour, an airboat ride, alligator show and more. Sample frog legs or alligator tail at the Swamp Water Café. If you’re so inclined, you can even stay the night in an authentic, native-style chickee hut.
Get back to nature at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, America’s first national wildlife refuge, or St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, home to wildlife such as manatees, scrub jays, Southern bald eagles and bobcats. During June and July, you can learn about Florida's giant sea turtles and possibly see a nesting loggerhead or leatherback sea turtle on a free, ranger-led tour.
Visit the famed Florida Keys without the long drive. Stop in Key Largo for its world-class diving at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Visit the Holiday Inn marina to see and take a tour on the original African Queen from the classic Humphrey Bogart flick of the same name. Cigar aficionados can even stop at one of the oldest cigar shops in the Keys, the Island Smoke Shop.