As the price of gas and gas-efficient cars continue to become more affordable, travel has become a popular New Year’s resolution for 2016 -- especially for families. Road trips are a great way for families to spend exta time together and Floridians can easily drive to a number of nationally-ranked and recognized destinations.
Whether located in north, south or central Florida, here are a list of two-city weekend trips that visit nationally-known and recognized destinations and require less than five hours of driving at a time.
There’s no beach for Orlando residents to get a break from the heat or theme parks, but luckily the nation’s best beaches aren’t a far drive from the centrally-located city. Clearwater Beach is only about a two-hour drive from Orlando and it’s been nationally recognized several times. In 2015, Clearwater Beach was ranked the “5th Best U.S. Beach” by the Travel Channel, and TripAdvisor’s list ranked it eighth on their list, “25 Best American Beaches.”
The ultimate beach getaway wouldn’t be complete without visiting America’s best beach. An hour and twenty minutes south of Clearwater is Siesta Key which was ranked as “2015’s Best Beach in the U.S.” by TripAdvisor. Unlike Clearwater, Siesta Key is a bit quieter, but still provides many excellent seafood restaurants. Either way, getting to both of these destinations from Orlando is a quick drive.
Orlando to Clearwater Beach: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Clearwater Beach to Siesta Key:1 hour, 30 minutes
Siesta Key to Orlando: 2 hours 40 minutes return
While popular among students at the University of Florida, Ginnie Springs is a bit underwraps to many Floridians. Ginnie Springs is located in High Springs, Florida, about 30 minutes from Gainesville and 2.5 hours from Tampa.
It’s made up of seven, freshwater beautiful springs that are located along the banks of the Santa Fe River. The aquamarine water is a constant 72 degrees which makes it perfect for visiting during the Florida’s hot summer. Visitors can camp on the grounds and the clear aquifer water is perfect for river tubing, snorkeling and cave diving for certified divers.
From Ginnie Springs, St. Augustine is a two-hour drive headed east. St. Augustine is known for being America’s oldest city and it has a lot of small town charm. With over 500-years of history, St. Augustine has a ton of history. Just to name a few historical spots in St. Augustine, there is Castillo de San Marcos, a national monument and the oldest masonry fort in North America, the famed Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, and the Oldest House National Historic Landmark.
Tampa to Ginnie Springs: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Ginnie Springs to St. Augustine: 2 hours, 11 minutes
St Augustine to Tampa: 3 hours, 11 minutes
2016 marks the National Park Service’s 100th year anniversary, so heading to Florida’s two national parks is a perfect way to spend a weekend exploring.
While many people think they are “experiencing” the Everglades on a drive across Alligator Alley -- visiting the real park is an eye-opening experience to the world’s only eco-system of this kind. Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades is located about 1.5 hours west of South Florida and is one of the main hubs for park visitors. The park spans across 1.5 million acres and is a great way to learn and see “original Florida.” While at the park, visitors can explore from hiking, canoeing and biking, to camping, tram or airboat tours -- but be sure to bring bug spray.
Florida’s second national park is the Dry Tortugas. To get there from the Everglades, one needs to drive down to Key West (about a four-hour drive) and then board a seaplane, boat or ferry to get to the islands.
The Dry Tortugas are a group of seven isolated and uninhabited islands among cerulean seas. Visitors to the park are free to camp or a make a day trip out of their visit. While on land, visitors can explore the 19th Century Civil War Fort, Fort Jefferson, snorkel or dive the colorful coral reefs, relax on the beaches, and observe the diverse bird life that thrive off the quiet surroundings.
Though traveling to Key West is four-hour car ride down U.S. 1, this highway has been designated an All-American Road for its scenic beauty. Even better, if traveling to the Dry Tortugas by seaplane, passengers get excellent views of the sunken ships that crashed in shallow waters long ago.
From South Florida to Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades to Key West: 4 hours
Key West to South Florida: 4-5 hours
Jacksonville is one of the major metros in Florida, so traveling to some of Florida’s smaller east coast beach towns would make for an excellent weekend getaway. Cocoa Beach is a small east coast town that is located about 2.5-hours south of Jacksonville. Known for having great beaches, decent year-round surf and historic destinations makes Cocoa Beach a great destination for couples and families. Additionally, the Kennedy Space Center is just a short drive away.
An additional, two hours south on I-95 is the suburban city of Palm Beach. Palm Beach has a reputation for luxury, great deep sea fishing and relaxation. There are a number of spas, golf courses, charter fishing boats, shopping malls and delicious restaurants that make great options for catching up on needed TLC. If traveling with family a day at one of the area’s beaches or visiting the Palm Beach Zoo are great options.
Jacksonville to Cocoa Beach: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Cocoa Beach to Palm Beach: 2 hours, 6 minutes
Palm Beach to Jacksonville: 4 hours