Florida Day Trips: Ideas to Make the Most of a Day in Florida

    By VISIT FLORIDA staff

    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. Here are some suggestions of Florida day trips you can complete on a single day.

    Pensacola

    Blackwater River State Forest

    Escape the city and head to one of Florida’s National 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. 

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    A view from Blackwater River State Forest

    - J.D. Andrews

     

    Destin/Fort Walton Beach

    Seaside

    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 and makes for a great Florida day trip. Check out the quaint art galleries and shops or try stand-up paddleboarding in the crystal-blue waters.

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    Seaside, a Northwest Florida town built from scratch in the 1980s, is the standard for New Urbanism, a design movement that emphasizes an organic marriage of street life, local businesses, and neighborly gathering spots. The beach is pretty extraordinary, too.

    - Kevin McGeever

     

    Tallahassee

    Wakulla Springs

    Wakulla Springs is more a park than a city but one well worth making a special day trip from Tallahassee. Located fewer than 20 miles from Tallahassee’s city center Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park features one of the largest and deepest natural springs in Florida. 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.

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    Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is the world's largest and deepest freshwater spring rimmed by an ancient cypress swamp.

    - Stacy Hilton

     

    Jacksonville

    Amelia Island and Fernandina Beach

    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. Both are great day trips from Jacksonville. 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.

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    Woman riding brown horse on the beach at Amelia Island

    - Patrick Farrell

     

    Gainesville

    St. Augustine

    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.

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    The Castillo de San Marcos, located on the bayfront of Historic St. Augustine, is the oldest masonry fortification in the US.

     

    Daytona Beach

    Ormond Beach

    Located just north of Daytona Beach Ormond Beach offers a few quirky local attractions for a Florida 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.

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    Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach were named two of the top 13 places to surf in Florida - Coastal Living 2018. This designation makes the area a great place to learn to surf safely with the guidance of expert outfitters.

     

    Orlando

    Daytona Beach

    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.

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    a couple riding bikes along the daytona beach shore

    - 500PX

     

    St. Petersburg/Clearwater

    Charlotte Harbor

    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.

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    Sailing competitiotns like the Conquistador Cup are part of a full calendar of events taking place in and around Charlotte Harbor.

    - Charlotte Harbor & the Gulf Islands

     

    Sarasota/Bradenton

    Anna Maria Island

    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.

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    The clear waters and white sand of Anna Maria Island

    - beachhunter.net

     

    Fort Myers

    Key West

    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.

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    Naples

    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.

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    "The freshwaters of the Big Cypress Swamp, essential to the health of the neighboring Everglades, support the rich marine estuaries along Florida's southwest coast. Protecting over 729,000 acres of this vast swamp, Big Cypress National Preserve contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities that are home to a diversity of wildlife, including the elusive Florida panther." (Source: National Park Service)

    - VISIT FLORIDA

     

    Palm Beach

    Sebastian

    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.

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    Kayakers enjoy a paddle in St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park.

    - Photo by Ken Gruden


    Miami

    Key Largo

    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. At only an hour drive from Miami, Key Largo is a fantastic Florida day trip from Miami.

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    Christ of the Abyss is one of the favorite sites for adventurers in Key Largo.

    - SPARK

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