Florida Road Trip: 9 of the Best Beach Towns

If you want your next adventure to be near the water, Florida has it

Following the route along the coast for the ultimate Florida road trip.

When you think of the best road trips in Florida, what comes to mind? Probably Disney World, but with 1,350 miles of coastline, there's so much more worth exploring here. Gather your friends or family and check out some of the best coastal road trips in Florida—you can plan a trip to just one or try to hit them all!

Get Up Close With Nature (and Get Great Selfies) in Jacksonville

Friendship Fountain lights up the night against the skyline of downtown Jacksonville.

This Northeast Florida city is the largest in the continental United States, clocking in at over 850 square miles. It’s also home to the state’s youngest population, which is just one reason you’ll find so many activities to jump into during your Florida road trip.

Animal lovers should pay a visit to the Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary to encounter some big cats. The sanctuary rescues lions, tigers and more from threats in the wild.

Come by at night for a colorful photo op with the lighted water features of Friendship Fountain, one of the largest self-contained fountains ever built. Hungry? Black Sheep Restaurant’s modern menu of American cuisine like braised lamb neck and duck confit will hit the spot.

Choice Hotels near Jacksonville, FL: 12

See a Race in Daytona Beach

Catch a race at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach.

Motorsports are a big deal in Daytona. The Daytona 500 takes place here annually at Daytona International Speedway, which also hosts other racing series throughout the year.

For more sightseeing, take a stroll down the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier. The family-friendly attraction provides beautiful beach views and plenty of shopping opportunities.

When hunger strikes, make your way to Donnie’s Donuts for specialty donuts, including Fruity Pebbles and maple bacon.

Choice Hotels near Daytona Beach, FL: 10

Immerse Yourself in History at Cape Canaveral

Learn more about the country’s historic space missions at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

The next stop on your Florida road trip is Space Coast Florida. Here, Cape Canaveral is best known as the home to Kennedy Space Center, where the country’s most historic space missions had their start. During your visit, you’ll get to go behind the gates and admire shuttles, launch sites and much more.

Although space travel is Cape Canaveral’s claim to fame, its scenery deserves a bit of the spotlight, too—particularly Jetty Park. Spend the day on the park’s 4.5 acres of sandy beaches or its 1,200-foot fishing pier.

Then, cool off at the beloved Florida Beer Company brewery. There’s no hot food, but there are snacks like popcorn available.

Choice Hotels near Cape Canaveral, FL: 6

Embrace Culture in West Palm Beach

One of the centers of culture in Florida is West Palm Beach, featuring a diverse scene of bars, restaurants, and live music.

West Palm Beach is considered part of Florida’s “cultural capital” for good reason. If you stop here on your Florida road trip, walk down the famed Clematis Street and you’ll discover a diverse scene of dive bars, fancy cocktail bars, live music venues and restaurants. A local favorite is Hullabaloo, which is known for its fire-grilled pizzas and Italian fare.

Also consider a DivaDuck Amphibious Tour. Hop on the bus/boat hybrid vehicle to view West Palm Beach’s many landmarks from a cool perspective: the water!

Choice Hotels near West Palm Beach, FL: 4

Eat a Melting Pot of Food in Miami

Food is the main attraction in Miami, where Cuban and Spanish flavors are abundant.

Because Miami is home to a melting pot of cultures, just about all cuisines are represented here. A trip to Versailles, the city’s most famous Cuban restaurant, is a must. There will be a line, so kill time at the restaurant’s ventanita (coffee window) with Cuban coffee.

Diners craving something fancier can try out Downtown Miami’s Niu Kitchen, which specializes in Spanish food. On the menu are items like steak tartare, baby back ribs confit and cod fish.

Get some exercise by exploring the historic Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. The jaw-dropping villa is a testament to Mediterranean architecture and has appeared in movies like Iron Man 3 and Bad Boys 2.

Choice Hotels near Miami, FL: 23

Get Away From It All in the Florida Keys

The Overseas Highway is one of Florida’s most scenic drives.

The Florida Keys’ laid-back vibe makes it a great place to get away and escape reality. Whether it’s your first time or fifteenth time visiting Key West, a sunset visit to Mallory Square is in order—the spot fills up with sword-swallowers, tightrope-walkers and animal acts.

The route down Overseas Highway to Key West is one of Florida’s most scenic drives. At Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park, marvel at marine life on a glass-bottom boat tour. The Islamorada Beer Company, a premier Florida Keys brewery, is also a refreshing pit stop, with food trucks outside on select days. Farther south in Marathon city, pull over on the Seven Mile Bridge to take a photo of the scenic waters.

Choice Hotels in Marathon, FL: 1

Hit the Links in Naples

In Naples, you can follow up a round of golf with a dinner of authentic ramen and sushi.

In Naples, golf is a way of life. As one of the nation’s wealthiest cities, Naples is home to over 70 golf courses. While most of them are private, some—like the Old Corkscrew Golf Club—are open to the public.

Shopaholics can spend hours at Tin City, the specialty shopping district full of local vendors selling wares like art, oils and wines. Don’t forget to make the trek to Namba Ramen & Sushi for authentic Japanese cuisine.

Choice Hotels in Naples, FL: 2

Do a Little Bit of Everything in Tampa Bay

The animal exhibits of Tampa Bay will keep you coming back for more.

Taking a Florida road trip down the west coast? You’re going to want to stop in Tampa Bay. Thrill-seekers will love Busch Gardens’ many roller coasters; the theme park is full of fast rides. If nature is more your style, Clearwater’s dolphin cruises will help you appreciate it even more.

And no trip to the Tampa Bay area is complete without visiting St. Petersburg for the Salvador Dalí Museum, home to the largest collection of the artist’s work outside of Europe. For food, visit The Getaway, where fresh seafood like shrimp cocktails and grouper tacos abound.

Choice Hotels near Tampa, FL: 36

Unwind in Panama City

Panama City’s warm gulf waters make it for ideal for thrilling water sports like parasailing.

When it’s not rowdy for spring break, Panama City Beach is a peaceful stop on your Florida road trip. The city’s warm gulf waters make it ideal for parasailing and other fun excursions.

Another big attraction is Shipwreck Island Waterpark. A 500,000-gallon wave pool and 65-foot-tall tube ride are just a few of the things to do here. You can also escape the heat at Martin Theatre, the area’s cultural center. For lunch or dinner, hit up Hunt’s Oyster Bar & Seafood Restaurant for tasty seafood and cheap beer.

Choice Hotels in Panama City, FL: 8


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