Experience Florida's Best Beaches And Vibrant Cities On This Scenic Road Trip

With over 800 miles of sandy beaches, verdant whispering palms, and colorful coastal towns dotted along the beautiful Florida coastline, who couldn't resist a leisurely road trip across this state? Ranked among the top five of U.S. News' 10 Best States for a Road Trip, its white sand beaches, theme parks, and urban city attractions have gained much attention. Florida's southern peninsula, in particular, is home to some of the most picturesque and photo-worthy hot spots in the state, boasting destinations like Cape Canaveral, Key West, and Everglades National Park.

For those hoping to see the best of the Sunshine State, consider road-tripping your way across Florida's Peninsula to capture all that this vibrant, eclectic state has to offer. Spanning 593 miles in length, this nearly 12-hour road trip route highlights some of Florida's most popular cities, as well as quieter local gems like Highlands Hammock State Park. The route begins in Key West, guiding travelers up the coast and passing iconic markers like Miami and Sanibel Island, before concluding in Cape Canaveral. While your first instinct might be to make this joy ride across the Sunshine State in summertime, you might want to reconsider. Summer temperatures tend to hover in the upper 80s and low 90s during the day, with a thick cloud of humidity that hangs in the air. December through May is a much more pleasurable time of year to travel to this coastline, with dry, sunny weather that's still perfect for beachcombing. 

Key West to Miami

Launching from Key West, Florida, this beach-chic community isn't just known for its marine-rich waters and lively shopping squares — it was also the vacation spot of choice for iconic figures like Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. Spend some time perusing the shops of Duval Street, a mile-long street brimming with souvenir shops, live-music venues, and iced-coffee carts, like Cuban Coffee Queen. Smathers Beach is the largest beach in Key West and a stretch of sand that's well worth a visit. Round out a day in Key West with a trip to Southernmost Point, marked by a brightly colored buoy that reads "90 Miles to Cuba."

Heading toward the big city lights of Miami, make your way across the Overseas Highway through the Middle Keys. If time allows, consider taking a short detour and browsing through Bahia Honda State Park or the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Miami is the most-visited city in Florida, and for good reason! Its flourishing nightlife scene is a beacon for bar-hopping and dance clubs. Mac's Club Deuce is the oldest bar in Miami, and it still retains the vintage vibes from its opening day in 1926. Capture the Miami memories on this road trip at Wynwood Walls, an outdoor montage of murals known as the most Instagrammable spot in the city. And no trip to Miami would be complete without paying a visit to South Beach, along Ocean Drive, one of the hottest tourist attractions in Miami.

Miami to Cape Canaveral

Just over three hours from the exuberant streets of Miami, Sanibel Island is a small pocket of white sand and palm trees backed by the glossy waves of the Atlantic. Time seems to stand still on this picturesque island, with a laid-back beach culture and slow-paced lifestyle that makes the rest of the world jealous. Make sure to bring a basket with you, as Sanibel Island is regarded as the seashell capital of America, with thousands of unique gems strewn across the pearly white sand. Periwinkle Way houses an enchanting string of quaint home decor shops, bookstores, and relaxed local eateries, like Traders Cafe and a local farmers' market that takes places every Sunday from October through May. 

Heading north 118 miles to Highlands Hammock State Park, cypress swamps, lush vegetation, and orange groves form the backdrop of this gorgeous Florida state park. Spanning 9,000 acres, the delicate ecosystem supports a unique collection of flora and fauna, including deer, alligators, and an old-growth hydric hammock. Two and a half hours from these wildlife-rich grounds rests Cape Canaveral. Nicknamed the Space Coast, this seaside city is known for the Kennedy Space Center, which houses launch pads for NASA and SpaceX. Cocoa Beach, known as the East Coast Surfing Capital, is another top attraction on Cape Canaveral. Prime surf breaks make it an idyllic spot to catch some waves, while pristine white sands provide a peaceful place to watch the sunset — a perfect way to wrap up this road trip!