The Sunshine State- Florida Road Trip Itinerary

May 20, 2020

Pristine beaches, vibrant cities, and prestigious resorts all prove that you can’t go wrong with a road trip in The Sunshine State. Read this travel guide to plan your dream Florida road trip.

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Summary (click the red pins for directions) :

Miami to Key West- 170 milesđź“Ť $6 Toll

Key West/Miami to Daytona Beach- 430 milesđź“Ť $25 Toll

Daytona Beach to Orlando- 60 milesđź“Ť $5 Toll

Orlando to Tampa- 90 miles (145km)đź“Ť $5 Toll

Tampa to Naples- 170 miles (274km)đź“Ť  

Naples to Everglades National Park- 90 miles (145km)đź“Ť 

Everglades National Park to Miami- 30 miles (48km)đź“Ť 

1040 miles (1674km) in total

Tags: Travel guide, Florida, Beaches

This travel guide takes you on a road trip across the Sunshine State starting in the bustling city of Miami. Drive south across the scenic Florida Keys to the Southernmost Point in the Continental US before making your way up north to Daytona Beach, a city known for its motorsport heritage and “The World’s Most Famous Beach”.

Then, enjoy an adventure-packed day at one of Orlando’s theme parks and head to the state’s west coast, stopping in Tampa and Naples. After a night in a prestigious resort, admire the world’s biggest reptiles in Everglades National Park and return to Miami.

Planning- Before You Go

Here is all you need to know before you set off on your unforgettable Florida road trip!

How long does it take to complete this road trip?

This Florida road trip is a little over a thousand miles in total. As there is a lot of driving ahead, Rentalmoose highly recommends going to Key West on a day trip from Miami.

As you get on the road, spend at least two nights in Orlando and Naples respectively.

In order to get the most out of each destination, allocate at least 7 days for this exciting road trip around Florida.

When is the best time to visit Florida?

The best time to go on a road trip in Florida is anywhere between late November through the middle of May, when the average temperature during the day is around 20-25 Celsius (68-77 Fahrenheit).

Keep in mind that the tourist season tends to peak between late December and May.

If you want to avoid the biggest crowds consider booking your trip outside of said months.

Why book a rental car in Florida?

Scenic driving roads, well-developed infrastructure, cheap petrol, and a large distance to cover all make a private car the perfect means of transport for a road trip in Florida. Not to mention the freedom to alter your itinerary on the go that can only be achieved when traveling by car.

Miami has a wide variety of rental cars from numerous companies available for pick-up directly at the airport. Alternatively, you can always go on a Florida road trip in your own car.

Find the perfect rental car for you via Rentalmoose, whether that means a budget-friendly hatchback, a large comfy SUV, or an exciting drop-top muscle car.

For extra peace of mind during your road trip, Rentalmoose recommends adding excess coverage when booking your rental car, just in case anything happens during your Florida road trip.

Once you’ve picked up the car, don’t forget to take photos of the vehicle using the Rentalmoose app to qualify for a 50% discount from the excess coverage fee.

Can tourists drive in Florida? 

Absolutely! Tourists with domestic driver licenses issued outside of the US may drive in Florida without an International Driving Permit for up to one year.

However, some car rental companies may require extra documentation, be sure to check with the company prior to leaving to make sure what paperwork is necessary. 

Are you looking for more information about International Driving Permits? Read this blog post to find out when you need an IDP, how to obtain it, and more! It will surely come in handy for your other road trips.

Remember to keep your passport with you when driving in Florida, as it is required for identification alongside your foreign driver’s license.

If you do happen to get stopped by the police during your Florida road trip, be sure to stay calm. Put both hands on the steering wheel, avoid sudden movements, and present your license when the officer tells you to do so. 

Be careful not to pass the speed limits when driving in Florida! If you’re caught going just 6MPH (~10km/h) over the limit, you can be fined around $150 (137 EUR).

Driving under influence, or DUI in short, is a serious crime in the US. Police enforce drink-driving related rules very strictly. Do not drink and drive, offenders can even land in prison.


How do toll roads work in Florida?

Keeping up with all the toll roads in Florida can get tricky, especially for tourists and short-term visitors. Most rental companies will automatically add any toll fees to your credit or debit card, that way you won’t have to worry about paying the fees in cash, it’s best to contact your rental company to make sure.

Paying by cash? You can check the SunPass Toll Calculator for the most recent toll fees.

Florida, like all of the United States, has right-hand side traffic.

Now that you’re all set, it’s time to begin your exciting Florida road trip!

Miami

miami beach skyscrapers city skyline and water in foreground during colorful sunset in florida. See this coastal city during a Florida road trip

Photography by MustangJoe.

Welcome to Miami, one of the most famous cities in the entire world! For maximum convenience, pick your rental car up directly from Miami International Airport as soon as you arrive. Find companies that support airport pick-up via Rentalmoose.

What is Miami best known for?

Miami is one of the world’s most popular getaways, and after a day in town it’s easy to see why. The city’s pristine coastline and miles of sandy beaches are absolutely perfect for sunbathing, swimming, watersports and diving. Once dusk falls, you can head to the heart of Miami Beach and indulge in one of the planet’s most exciting nightlife scenes. What more could anyone ask for?

Miami Beach

Cross the bridge from mainland Miami to Miami Beach and enter the city’s tourist and nightlife hotspot. Drive down the spectacular Ocean Drive, lined with all sorts of bars and restaurants.

Try to find an on-street parking spot as you make your way down to South Beach, arguably the best (or at least the most popular) beach in town.

You may be out of luck on weekends or during the holiday season. In that case, drop off your car at this car park along Collins Avenue.

Expect to pay up to $5 per hour for parking in South Beach.

Art Deco Historic District

After relaxing by the ocean, go for a stroll in the Art Deco Historic District. The neighborhood is known for its picturesque architecture and is loved by photographers. Admire the colorful buildings or take part in an insightful walking tour.

Looking to gather even more knowledge about the architecture of Miami Beach? Visit the Art Deco Museum situated along Ocean Drive.

Enjoy a trip back to the 80s when you visit The Anderson. This trendy neighborhood bar offers artful drinks and a casual, welcoming vibe. The 80s-inspired interior makes for a perfect backdrop for your insta pics, too.

Where to party in Miami

A trip to Miami wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the city’s vivid nightlife scene. What is the best club in Miami? Which club do the celebrities visit?

The best spot to party in Miami has got to be the vibrant Club Space. Get on the dance floor at The Terrace at Space or have fun at a live concert at The Ground downstairs. 

If nightclubs are not your thing, consider heading to a beach club instead. Visit the world-class Nikki Beach Miami for an unforgettable, exquisite beach club experience.

Sunbathe on the day beds, order a delicious lunch, or simply sip on a cocktail while listening to the music and admiring the Atlantic Ocean.

Where to eat in Miami

Once you get hungry, make your way to Pura Vida Miami. The cozy restaurant features some of the best healthy dishes in town and beautiful, bright decor. Open daily from 7 AM to 10 PM.

Try local, fresh seafood at The River Oyster Bar. The venue, considered one of the best eateries in town, offers a wide selection of seafood dishes. An absolute must-try is the stone crab, a regional delicacy.

The best hotels in Miami

Luxury travelers will find themselves in paradise, as there are countless prestigious hotels and resorts scattered all around Miami.

If you can’t take your pick, consider booking a room at The Miami Beach Edition. The 5-star beachfront hotel features rooms and suites with either ocean or city views, and a selection of luxurious facilities including a pool, a nightclub, a fitness center, and an open-air cinema.

There are plenty of attractions in Miami to splash out on.

If luxury accommodation isn’t your main priority, Urbanica The Meridian Hotel might be the perfect fit for you. The stylish hotel features well-equipped, modern rooms as well as an outdoor pool and a unique decor, all at a price tag that won’t break the bank.

Once you’ve spent enough time in Miami, head south towards the scenic Florida Keys. It’s the first driving segment of your Florida road trip!

Next: Key West, 3 hours 30 minutes $6 Toll

Key West

wooden pier near clean sandy beach palm trees and calm blue ocean in key west florida. See it on a road trip with Rentalmoose

Photography by Don Stelmaszek.

Here it is, the first leg of your Florida road trip!

Make your way down to Key West along one of the most scenic driving roads in the entire country. The Overseas Highway is a mix of bridges connecting tiny islands (Florida Keys) that makes for absolutely spectacular views.

As Key West is below four hours away from Miami, Rentalmoose recommends making a separate day trip there before setting off on your road trip up to Daytona Beach.

Is Key West worth visiting?

Absolutely! Unlike most of the Sunshine State, Key West may not be popular for its beaches. It still is worth at least a quick visit, at least to drive down the scenic Florida Keys. Here is why you should visit Key West.

The Southernmost Point of the Continental United States

Begin your Key West adventure with a photo by the Southernmost Point of the Continental US, located at the corner of Whitehead Street and South Street.

The iconic spot is a must-see when in town, and is situated just 90 miles north of Cuba. Post your photos online using #Rentalmoose to stand a chance to win a Rentalmoose discount or even a free rental car!

Ernest Hemingway’s Home

Find out about the region’s most famous artist, Ernest Hemingway. The artist’s Key West Home is situated within the Old Town and is open to visitors daily between 9 AM and 5 PM.

Inside, guests can find all kinds of Hemingway memorabilia. As the house does tend to get crowded, it is highly recommended to visit around the opening time or late in the afternoon. Guided tours are available, too.

Mallory Square

Don’t forget to pay a visit to Mallory Square, a vibrant seafront plaza in the heart of Key West’s Historic District.

Mallory Square is especially worth visiting right before the sun sets, as the Sunset Celebration takes place every evening.

Watch as the street performers try to catch tourists’ attention, grab a snack at one of the eateries and admire the magnificent sunset.

As Key West is situated less than a hundred miles north of Cuba, Rentalmoose recommends trying out Caribbean and Latin cuisine.

One of the best Caribbean eateries in Key West is Bien, a cozy restaurant a short walk away from Mallory Square. Pick from a selection of affordable sandwiches and seafood.

Next, it’s time to drive up north to Daytona Beach!

Next: Miami and then Daytona Beach, 7 hours 20 minutes $25 Toll

Daytona Beach

wide sandy beach small waves clean blue water and hotels in background in daytona beach florida

Daytona Beach photographed by Paul Brennan.

Depart Miami and head north towards Daytona Beach, a city most praised for its motorsport heritage and home to “The World’s Most Famous Beach”. If you’re driving from Key West, the journey will take around 7 and a half hours.

What can you do in Daytona Beach?

The famous Daytona International Speedway

When in Daytona Beach, you can’t skip the Daytona International Speedway. The iconic track has become the city’s symbol and is a fascinating attraction no matter if there are ongoing events.

Petrolheads can purchase tickets to one of the races that take place on the track, check the official event calendar for more details.

Even if there are no events, visitors can take part in guided tours of the speedway and explore the Motorsports Hall of Fame museum.

Daytona Lagoon

Adrenaline junkies, as well as families with kids, can spend a day at the Daytona Lagoon waterpark. Dare to ride down the thrilling slides or relax in the gentle Lazy River.

No matter how old you are, you will find a fun attraction in this waterpark.

Do you prefer “dry” attractions?

Head to the park’s dry section, where you can find go-karts, an arcade, laser tag, and much more. Purchase your tickets here.

The World’s Most Famous Beach

Don’t forget to visit the beach itself, dubbed the “World’s Most Famous Beach”. The 23-mile long, wide beach used to be the racing ground for motorsports in the early 1900s.

Today, tourists can follow in motorsport pioneers’ footsteps and drive their own cars across the beach, as long as the weather allows it.

You can always go for a dip in the ocean, stroll along the beach or head to the busy waterfront pier filled with eateries and bars.

When you get hungry, head to Caribbean Jack’s waterfront restaurant, one of the favorites in Daytona Beach. Head to the stunning outdoor deck, where you can have a delicious Caribbean lunch while enjoying panoramic views of the ocean.

The next stop on your Florida road trip is a city known for its theme parks and a vibrant art scene.

Next: Orlando, 1 hour $5 Toll

Orlando

walt disney and mickey mouse partners black and gold statue in crowded walt disney world orlando theme park

Disney World in Orlando photographed by HenningE.

Orlando is home to some of the best theme parks in the country that successfully steer most tourists outside of the city itself. That’s why Rentalmoose suggests exploring at least a bit of the city as well as the famous theme parks during your Florida road trip.

Orlando’s famous theme parks

Walt Disney World has indubitably become a symbol of Orlando, and not paying it a visit is essentially like going to New York City without seeing Times Square or the Statue of Liberty.

Park guests can choose from 4 theme parks and 2 water parks within the massive complex, as well as countless shops and restaurants on the premises.

If you would rather go to a different theme park, consider spending the day at Universal Studios Orlando instead, where you can pick from two theme parks and a water park to spend your day. 

What is there to do in Orlando except for theme parks?

Kennedy Space Center

Don’t forget to visit the Kennedy Space Center outside of the city, where you can learn all about NASA and the US space programs, both past and present. Visitors can admire rockets and explore interactive exhibitions, or even go on a tour guided by astronauts.

If you’re lucky, you can even catch a rocket launch live. Check the launch schedule here.

The Orlando Museum of Art

Head to the Orlando Museum of Art to get a break from all the theme park craze.

Guests can pick from a selection of temporary and permanent art collections presented at the venue. Learn about the region’s underrated local art scene.

Open until 4 PM all week except Mondays and holidays. Purchase your tickets to skip the queues right here.

The Mall at Millenia

Shopping freaks shouldn’t miss The Mall at Millenia. The large shopping venue is Orlando’s go-to spot for the best luxury and upscale goods. The entire complex is indoors, making it perfect for a rainy day.

Getting hungry? Consider going to Prato for lunch or dinner. Although not exactly regional, this restaurant offers a modern interpretation of traditional Italian cuisine, with a truly delicious outcome. Some specialties include Italian meatballs, a selection of pasta and pizza, of course.

Luxury seekers will most definitely enjoy their stay at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando. The picturesque 5-star resort features spacious rooms and suites with balconies, as well as luxurious amenities such as 3 heated outdoor pools, a golf course, and countless activities in the resort’s scenic surroundings.

Traveling on a tighter budget? Consider checking into the affordable Surestay Plus International Drive. The 3-star hotel offers cozy rooms, as well as facilities such as an outdoor pool and a bar.

The next leg of your exciting Florida road trip is a drive down to the west coast of the state!

Next: Tampa, 1 hour 20 minutes $5 Toll

Tampa

two modern glass residential skyscraper buildings and three green palm trees on a clear summer day in tampa florida

Photography by Chalo Garcia.

Leave Orlando and make your way to the west coast of Florida. After around an hour and a half, you will arrive in Tampa, the biggest city in the Tampa Bay area.

Where to go in Tampa?

Busch Gardens

Tampa’s most famous tourist attraction is the Busch Gardens park. The park is a combination of theme park roller coasters and rides, an exotic zoo and live performances.

Adrenaline junkies will find themselves at home, as the park is famous for its adventure-packed roller coasters.

There is also a wide selection of kiddie rides, water rides, animal viewing platforms and a night safari that welcomes guests in the evenings.

More details on the live performances and shows can be found here.

The Tampa Theatre

Art enthusiasts should definitely visit The Tampa Theatre for a unique cinematic experience.

Rentalmoose loves one-of-a-kind art venues. That’s why I consider the Astor Film Lounge a must-see when in Berlin, read about it in The Heart Of Central Europe travel guide.

Similarly to Berlin’s Astor Film Lounge, the Tampa Theatre is a glamorous movie palace in the heart of the city. Catch the latest Hollywood production or travel back in time when you watch a timeless classic from the fifties. The cinema’s decor makes for an unforgettable vibe.

Check the current film schedule here.

Ybor City

Head to the historic Ybor City, the neighborhood is the center of Tampa’s Latino community. Learn about the district’s history at the Ybor City Museum, or stroll around the area during a guided tour.

Columbia Restaurant

In the historic Ybor City neighborhood, even the foodies can get a taste of the local heritage. Go for lunch at the Columbia Restaurant, Florida’s oldest continuously-operated restaurant.

The eatery has been serving guests for over a century and is the city’s favorite Latin food heaven.

Rentalmoose order tip: Try anything from a wide range of regional delicacies, including what could very well be the best Cuban Sandwich in the entire state.

Next: Naples, 2 hours 30 minutes

Naples

wooden pier atop blue wavy ocean during sunset in naples florida

Naples Pier photographed by Waldo Malan.

Continue south along the west coast until you reach the upscale city of Naples, a must on any Florida road trip itinerary. The city’s beach is often ranked as one of the best in the state, don’t miss it!

What is Naples known for?

The Naples Pier

Begin with a visit to the Naples Pier (pictured above). The pier, located just a stone’s throw away from downtown, is a picturesque spot perfect for a sunset stroll, people-watching or simply relaxing after a lengthy drive.

You should be able to find an on-street parking spot for below $3 per hour, pay at the nearest parking meter.

Naples Beach

Walk down from the pier and turn onto Naples Beach, repeatedly ranked as one of the best beaches in the state.

Go for a swim in the breathtaking emerald-green Gulf of Mexico, stroll on the pristine white sand, soak up the sun (remember to put on sunscreen!) or watch the local fishermen as they fish from the historical Naples Pier.

Make sure you stay to watch the sunset, too!

Tin City of Naples

Go for a unique shopping spree at the waterfront Tin City of Naples, a selection of quirky locally-owned shops and eateries. Visit one of the many businesses selling clothing, jewelry, toys and all sorts of accessories.

Open Monday through Saturday until 9 PM and Sundays till 5 PM.

Enjoy a Cuban meal at the Van Van Cuban Cafe, located along Tamiami Trail in the north of the heart of Naples. Choose from a selection of Caribbean dishes on either the lunch menu or the all-day dinner menu.

Rentalmoose order tip: Don’t know which Cuban dish to pick? Give the Ropa Vieja a try, it’s a shredded flank steak covered in tomato sauce.

Where to stay in Naples?

For your night in Naples, consider checking in at the Inn On Fifth. The stylish hotel features elegant, well-equipped rooms and suites, as well as luxurious amenities such as a spa, an outdoor pool and an ideal location in the heart of Naples.

Naples’ upscale and prestigious reputation is reflected in the town’s hotels and resorts. However, it certainly does not mean that Naples has zero affordable accommodation options. Travelers on a tighter budget can stay at the Gulfcoast Inn. The 2-star hotel features spacious rooms and a heated outdoor pool and is conveniently located just a few blocks away from the local beach.

Rentalmoose insider tip: Spend the night in Fort Myers, a city less than an hour north of Naples. The average hotel price is lower than in Naples, and the city is equally beautiful.

Next: Everglades National Park, 1 hour 30 minutes

Everglades National Park

alligator crocodile reptile hidden in yellow leaves swimming in water in everglades national park florida

Photography by Skeeze.

As you make your way back to Miami on the eastern side of the state, be sure to drop by the Everglades National Park. The most popular National Park in the Sunshine State, and one of the iconic symbols of the United States, is home to fascinating wildlife such as alligators and crocodiles. You don’t want to miss it during a road trip in Florida.

Iconic airboat tour

Arguably, the best way to explore the Everglades wetlands is on a guided airboat tour. There are various tour operators to choose from, Rentalmoose recommends going with Coopertown Airboats. The operator has been welcoming guests since the 1940s and has earned its reputation as the go-to Everglades airboat operator. Get a first-hand look at both crocodiles and alligators during a private airboat tour.

Go for lunch at the Coopertown Restaurant following your airboat tour. Inside, you can enjoy Floridian delicacies, including alligator tail and frog legs. Incredible and welcoming service is included with every order. 

Cycling in Everglades National Park

You can rent a bicycle through Flamingo Adventures and explore Everglades’ best cycling trails. The detailed biking guide around Everglades can be found on the park’s official website.

Next: Miami, 30 minutes

Drop-off

For maximum comfort, Rentalmoose recommends dropping off your rental car directly at Miami International Airport when you finish your Florida road trip. Car rental companies that support drop-off at MIA can be found via Rentalmoose.

Don’t have a car you can take on this Florida road trip? No problem!

Don’t forget to book your rental car via Rentalmoose for your next adventure. On our platform, you can find the top rental companies at the best price, along with tens of curated travel guides around the globe. Get your car from Rentalmoose!

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Post your pictures from your Florida road trip online using #Rentalmoose! Our favorite ones will be featured in the upcoming blog posts.

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