Welcome to your ultimate guide to exploring the Sunshine State!
I've spent countless hours traveling through Florida, and I'm excited to share with you my favorite one-week itineraries, including personal experiences, and photos that'll make planning your dream vacation a breeze.
One week is the perfect length to truly immerse yourself in a specific part of Florida, and with these diverse itineraries, there's something for everyone.
Get ready to explore:
- A sun-soaked beach getaway on the Gulf Coast
- A thrilling Orlando theme park extravaganza
- A historic journey through St. Augustine and the First Coast
- An eco-adventure in the Everglades and the Keys
- A cultural dive into Miami's vibrant art and food scenes
- A serene escape to Florida's natural springs and parks
- A scenic road trip along the picturesque A1A Coastal Highway
Each of these week-long adventures is carefully crafted to help you make the most of your time in Florida.
So grab your sunglasses and dive into the best that Florida has to offer, all based on my first-hand experiences exploring this incredible state.
Itinerary #1: Everglades, Sanibel Island, and the Florida Keys
From Miami to Key West, our first itinerary will take you to all of South Florida’s hotspots.
This is an ideal trip for adult visitors most interested in beautiful beaches, nature treks, and non-Disney-approved nightlife.
Day 1: Miami
After your tiring flight into MIA, you’re probably rearing to sunbathe on sensational South Beach. Spend your first day relaxing on Miami’s famous white sand beaches and admiring the area’s distinctive Art Deco architecture.
Day 2: Sanibel Island
From Miami, take a 3-hour drive across I-75 N to sea shelling hotspot Sanibel Island. Located near Fort Myers, Sanibel Island is known as the “Seashell Capital of the World” because, well, there are a lot of seashells here! Stay at a hotel here to fully appreciate its peaceful vibes.
When we visited Sanibel Island, there were seashells on the beach and many people collecting them. I admit I was underwhelmed.
The seashells on the beach itself were mostly broken shards. People waded into the water to find whole ones.
Overall, I didn't find more seashells there compared to the beaches of Honeymoon Island. Maybe Sanibel was just having a bad shell day, I don't know.
This was the best I found after half an hour.
It was a lovely place, though, and we enjoyed driving and hiking the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and visiting the Calusa Shell Mound Trail - an interpretive trail following mounds of ancient shells left behind by local tribes.
Day 3: The Tamiami Trail & Shark Valley
When you finish collecting Sanibel shells, travel east to the Everglades’ Shark Valley Visitor Center (about a 2-hour drive).
We visited Shark Valley twice, and it was awesome!
During the hot and wet season (summer), alligators were more difficult to spot because they were in the water. However, a large one did end up crossing our path (exciting!).
Visiting during the winter, we were rewarded with multiple alligator sightings. We even saw a momma with babies! That was a real "Jurassic Park moment"!
If your Florida itinerary takes you through the area in the winter, you can just hike part of the loop. If you're worried about gators, or if the weather is too hot, you can take the tram ride there instead.
Whether you're afraid of coming across an alligator in Florida or if you're - like us - eager to find them, make sure to read my complete guide on where and how to see alligators in Florida (including safety tips).
Further down the road, on your way to Miami, you'll find a couple of airboat operators that will take you on a tour of the Everglades. Airboat rides are fun and can be a decent alternative on a hot day if you want to stay off your feet.
Day 4 Everglades National Park
On your fourth day, head back to the Everglades National Park for more wilderness exploration.
If you're just looking to get a glimpse of the park, head just one hour out of Miami to the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center and the nearby Anhinga Trail. Half a day should be enough.
Since the Everglades is such a massive park, you can do more than that. If you're coming during winter time, you could take the time to drive all the way to the Flamingo Visitor Center and back. Just be sure to head out back to Miami in time.
Be sure to look through our guide to the Everglades National Park for more travel tips.
Day 5 Drive To Key West
Hey, you’ve made it this far south, so why not go all the way to Key West? There are many fantastic attractions in this party city, but here are a few of our favorites:
- The Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum
- President Truman’s Little White House
- Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park
- Mallory Square
- Eat a homemade slice of key lime pie (of course!)
Just be sure to get an early start because it’s a 3-hour drive to Key West from Miami.
We visited the Florida Keys, driving all the way to Key West and back. With so much to do in Key West itself, you may consider adding a full day there. Especially if you're driving with kids and want to break the long drive with more things to do en route.
Just strolling around Key West and enjoying lunch kept us busy for a day.
Day 6 Drive Back From Key West
Once you finish partying in Key West, it’s time to head back up US-1 to Miami. Along the way, consider stopping at one of these easy-to-reach tourist attractions:
- The Dolphin Research Center in Marathon
- The “African Queen” in Key Largo
- Biscayne National Park
- The Coral Castle Museum in Homestead
For more ideas, see our massive guide: 66 things to do in the Florida Keys
Day 7 Miami
Here are a few fun attraction suggestions for your final day in Miami:
- Do some shopping in Bayside Marketplace or the Dolphin Mall
- Learn at the HistoryMiami Museum
- Catch a game at Marlins Park
- Relax on Key Biscayne
Itinerary #2: Miami, Orlando, Tampa, and the Everglades
Folks searching for the best “bang for their buck” should look into our next itinerary. The plan below will take you to the major attractions in three of Florida’s most prominent cities: Orlando, Tampa, and Miami.
Although Orlando is the closest to our first stop, feel free to switch around these attractions if you’re landing in another city.
Day 1 Drive via the Treasure Coast
Start your trip with a relaxing day on a non-crowded beach along Florida’s eastern Treasure Coast.
Some of the most popular Treasure Coast cities for tourists include Vero Beach, Port St. Lucie, and Fort Pierce. Be sure to look at our previous posts on Fort Pierce and Orlando day trips for invaluable Treasure Coast tips.
There are some cool state parks on the barrier islands that hug the Florida coast. Just use Google Maps to find some great points to stop and take in the atmosphere.
The bridges between the continent and the barrier islands are known as Causaways. Most have small parks next to them, where you can take a stroll to stretch your legs.
Always look at the water - especially during winter time - and you may get a glimpse of manatees crossing the brackish water between the continent and the island.
Near the end of your first day, drive north and stay in a Cocoa Beach hotel. If you can, try to get down to the beach at dawn for a spectacular sunrise.
During fall, stroll along the beach during sunset or sunrise and you may be lucky enough to spot little sea turtles hatching. We did!
Day 2 Visit The Kennedy Space Center
Only a 20-minute drive north of Cocoa Beach is a pretty “out of this world” attraction: the Kennedy Space Center.
This site could be closed to visitors during rocket launches - except for those lucky (and wealthy) enough to purchase tickets to view the launch itself.
Check out Kennedy Space Center’s official website for further details on visiting.
Kennedy Space Center is awesome (we visited it twice).
My son is a space geek, so we also got to see multiple launches while we lived in Florida. They're all pretty awesome.
If there's a launch when you're in the area - make sure to get to the beach in time and you'll see it. Don't miss out on that. Even if it's very early or late at night - those are the best launches to view!
Day 3-4 Theme Parks In Orlando
Orlando is about one hour away from Cocoa (a bit longer from Cocoa Beach).
Long before you get to Orlando, you’ve got to decide what two theme parks you want to prioritize.
Fans of Disney/Pixar, Avatar, or Star Wars should stay around Walt Disney World. Potterheads, however, should focus on Universal Studios. Lastly, those who want to experience Orlando’s fastest coasters should visit SeaWorld.
Day 5 Tampa
After a 1.5-hour ride west of Orlando, you will arrive in Tampa.
Busch Gardens Tampa is undoubtedly the city’s most popular attraction, but here are a few non-theme park alternatives:
Day 6 The Tamiami Trail and Shark Valley
On the last leg of this trip, drive down I-75 S from Tampa towards the Everglades. Drive the Tamiami trail (aka HWY 41) from west to east.
The scenery isn't all that exciting, but yeah, you're in the Everglades. Just make the distance until you reach the Everglades Park’s Shark Valley Visitor Center as it’s conveniently located along the scenic Tamiami Trail.
See our notes about visiting Shark Valley above or read through our exhaustive post on the Everglades National Park.
Day 7 Miami
After all that driving, you deserve a long break on Miami’s South Beach. In-between sunbathing sessions, take a stroll down Ocean Drive, and Lincoln Road to admire the Art Deco architecture.
You can find out all the essential tourist info on this official South Beach guide.
Itinerary #3: Theme Parks, Astronauts, and Springs
If “Florida vacation” is synonymous with “theme parks” for you, then this is your itinerary. But don’t worry, parents, we’ve included plenty of chills in-between all those thrills.
For this itinerary, it’s best if you use an Orlando-area vacation rental as your home base.
Day 1 Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom or Epcot
For the iconic Disney experience, nothing can top the Magic Kingdom. Here you’ll find those perfect photo-ops on Main Street USA and by Cinderella Castle. Just be sure to do your homework on Fastpassess if you want to get on more than a few rides.
For a less crowded Disney experience, consider visiting the historic Epcot theme park. Although not as popular as the Magic Kingdom, Epcot is home to many fantastic festivals and cool rides like Test Track and Frozen Ever After.
Day 2 Silver Springs Park or Homosassa Springs Park
On your second day, it’s time for a nature reprieve at either Silver Springs to the northwest or Homosassa Springs to the west. Both of these nature parks are about a 1.5-hour drive from Orlando and offer great kayaking, boating, and hiking opportunities.
On TripMemos, we have detailed guides on both Silver Springs and Homosassa Springs to help plan your trip.
We have visited both Silver Springs and Homosassa Springs!
Homosassa Springs State Park includes a friendly little zoo and good manatee viewing opportunities from land.
Silver Springs has a nice little hike and also kayaking opportunities. We took a guided tour in clear kayaks, and it was perfect!
We didn't encounter any manatees, but we could see so much wildlife in the clear water. It was pretty amazing!
Day 3 Universal Studios Orlando
About a 20-minute drive north of Disney World, you’ll find the fun Universal Orlando Resort. The two parks to focus on are Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios, both of which have very popular Harry Potter lands.
To find out more about visiting this resort, check out the official Universal Orlando website.
Day 4 Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach
Take the one-hour drive east of Orlando to visit Cape Canaveral’s inspiring Kennedy Space Center. With a regular day pass, you can take a bus tour of the complex, watch an IMAX film, and walk through the US Astronaut Hall of Fame.
To learn more about all the packages available here, click on this link to the Kennedy Space Center. FYI, you can find out more in this post about visiting nearby Cocoa Beach.
Also, check out my notes about visiting KSC above.
Day 5 Disney's Hollywood Studios
On your fifth day, it’s back to Disney World—but this time, you are going to Hollywood Studios. As a head’s up, these rides frequently have the longest wait times:
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Note: you can cram park days in Orlando instead, but it's usually easier if you space them and add some nature trips in between.
If you prefer to avoid the springs and relax by going near Disney, my post about where to see alligators offers several awesome trips near Orlando where you can view alligators in the wild.
Day 6 Daytona Beach
From Orlando, you’re only a one-hour drive away from the “Birthplace of NASCAR.” Situated in northeastern Florida, Daytona Beach is best known for its International Speedway and 23 miles of hard-packed sand. Even if you’re not in town for a race, consider booking a guided tour of the International Speedway.
Check out the events in Daytona. We got there on the weekend of biking racing. There was a fun display outside the racetrack. Once inside, we got to view countless bike races up close!
Need more ideas for things to do on the “World’s Most Famous Beach?” Check out our dedicated Daytona Beach post.
Day 7 Orlando Water Park
After all, that exploring, it’s finally time to cool off in one of Central Florida’s celebrated water parks. For your convenience, here are links to the four best-reviewed parks:
Itinerary #4: Cities And Beaches
Looking for a mix of big cities and beautiful beaches without Mickey Mouse mania? This might be the itinerary for you. Although we begin in Tampa, you could easily reverse this list and start in Miami.
Day 1 Tampa & St. Petersburg
The Tampa Bay area has plenty to offer everyone in the family. Want thrills? Check out Busch Gardens Tampa.
Looking for fine art? You’ve got the Tampa Museum of Art. Into sports? Cheer on the NHL’s Lightning or NFL’s Buccaneers. And don’t get us started on the world-class beaches!
Be sure to browse this Tampa Bay tourism website before traveling to the area.
Day 2 Honeymoon Island
Just north of Clearwater Beach, you’ll find the relatively secluded Honeymoon Island, State Park. Here's my complete guide to visiting Honeymoon Island.
We visited Honeymoon Island on a cloudy day. It was spectacular. The water was crystal clear, although the beach itself had remnants of algae on the water line.
Day 3 Sarasota & Sanibel Island
On day three, travel one-hour south to the coastal town of Sarasota and visit the city’s main claim to fame: The Ringling Museum.
After you’ve explored this impressive complex, drive two hours south to Sanibel Island (aka the “Seashell Capital of the World” - but check out my notes above on that).
Day 4 Naples and Marco Island
From Sanibel Island, keep driving south for one hour till you reach Naples. For info on things to do in this laid-back city, please check out our TripMemos Naples post.
After you’ve had your fill of Naples’ scenery and cuisine, it’s time to take a 30-minute drive south to another laid-back beach: Marco Island.
Day 5 Tamiami Trail & Shark Valley
Within just one hour of driving along the scenic Tamiami Trail (aka US-41), you’ll find yourself at the Everglades’ Shark Valley Visitor Center, which has easy access to trams, hiking trails, and airboats.
Again, if you skipped directly to this itinerary, make sure to check out my notes above.
Day 6-7 Miami
Since Miami is such a massive city, it truly deserves two days of your trip.
Of course, South Beach is the most popular attraction, but don’t neglect historic attractions like Vizcaya Museum or kid-friendly destinations like Jungle Island.
Itinerary #5: The Gulf of Mexico Route
Anyone who loves sugar-white sand, sun, and emerald waters should paste our Gulf Coast itinerary into their FL bucket list.
Note: we start this tour in Pensacola, but feel free to work in reverse from Tampa.
Day 1-2 Pensacola
Pensacola is a premier Panhandle city known for its naval base, unique history, and emerald waters. Consider reserving one day in Pensacola for relaxing on the beach and the other for exploring major attractions like the Naval Aviation Museum, Historic Downtown, and the Pensacola Lighthouse.
Day 3 Panama City Beach
After a 2.5-hour drive east of Pensacola, you’ll run into another fabulous Panhandle city: Panama City Beach. You can find plenty of fantastic things to do in Panama City Beach on this previous TripMemos post.
Day 4 Crystal River and Honeymoon Island Park
On your fourth day, take a 5-hour drive south until you reach the many fantastic manatee-viewing areas in Crystal River. Once you’ve finished marveling over manatees, drive another two hours south and stay the night near Honeymoon Island.
I talked about our visit to Honeymoon Island above.
We also spent a day in the Crystal River area. Homosassa Springs State Park was great but we didn't stop there.
We rented kayaks and went out to the Three Sisters Springs area. It was absolutely gorgeous and we got to kayak right next to manatees!
Day 5 Tampa and St. Petersburg
The nice thing about Honeymoon Island is it’s only a one-hour drive from all the great attractions in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
Take a peek at Tampa Bay’s official tourism page to find your ideal Tampa attractions.
Day 6 Sarasota and Sanibel Island
On your second to last day, take a one-hour drive south to Sarasota, which is best known for Siesta Key Beach and the Ringling Museum.
If you’re really into collecting seashells, then drive two hours south of Sarasota and stay on Sanibel Island—AKA the “Seashell Capital of the World.”
Day 7 Tampa
From Sanibel Island, it’s about three hours back to Tampa. Before you leave, take a peek at this official Tampa tourism guide to see what you could squeeze in on your final day.
Itinerary #6: The Ocean Front
Now that we’ve traveled along the Gulf, it’s time to see what Florida’s East Coast has to offer! Although this itinerary starts in Key Largo, feel free to start in Jacksonville and work backward.
Day 1 Key Largo
Arguably, Key Largo has the best diving opportunities thanks to its John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. If diving isn’t your thing, then perhaps you’d prefer a ride on a replica of the “African Queen” from the Humphrey Bogart film.
For more travel ideas, click on this link to Key Largo’s official tourism page.
Day 2-3 Miami and Fort Lauderdale
Travel up US-1 N for about 1.5 hours until you reach the heart of Miami.
The main draw here is star-studded South Beach, but check out other fabulous Miami attractions on this official tourism page.
On your third day, drive about 45 minutes north of Miami to Fort Lauderdale. Nicknamed “America’s Venice,” Fort Lauderdale offers many romantic canal cruises and high-end shopping & dining on Las Olas Boulevard.
Day 3 Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, And Port St. Lucie
On day three, you’ll be stopping at three of the best cities along Florida’s Treasure Coast. The total trip will be about two hours from Ft. Lauderdale to Vero Beach.
Please read through these TripMemos posts on Fort Pierce and Orlando day trips for more Treasure Coast info.
Day 4 Kennedy Space Center
About 1.5 hours north of Vero Beach, the Kennedy Space Center gives space enthusiasts the chance to see rare NASA artifacts and learn what it takes to be an astronaut.
Before you visit, please check out the Kennedy Space Center’s website for info on hours and tickets. And make sure to read my notes above too!
Day 5 Daytona Beach
After a one-hour drive north of Cape Canaveral, you’ll hit Daytona Beach (or, as locals like to claim, "The World's Most Famous Beach").
Of course, the main draw here is the International Speedway, which you can tour on non-race days. For more info on things to do in Daytona Beach, however, please check out our previous blog post.
Day 6 St. Augustine
Founded in the 1560s, St. Augustine is America’s oldest city and is well known today for its Spanish architecture, Castillo de San Marcos. To reach this old city, you’ll only need to travel one-hour north of Daytona.
If you need more travel inspiration, look through our list of the best things to do in St. Augustine.
We visited St. Augustine, and it was well worth the trip. The fortress was fascinating, and we also enjoyed just walking the streets of the historic old city.
Day 7 Jacksonville
Only a 45-minute drive north of St. Augustine, you’ll reach Florida’s largest city: Jacksonville. Here are a few suggested ways to spend your time in this megalopolis:
- Relax on Amelia Island
- See animals in Jacksonville Zoo
- Learn at the Kingsley Plantation
Itinerary #7: Northern Florida
Many Floridians joke that the more north you travel, the more “South” Florida gets. Those who want to experience this “Southern Charm” should take a look at our final itinerary.
We are going to start this itinerary in Pensacola, but you could easily begin at Daytona Beach.
Day 1-2: Pensacola
Pensacola is way more than just a beautiful beach retreat. Sure, take one day to relax on Pensacola Beach, but make sure to leave enough time for exploring the city’s Historic Downtown and Naval Aviation Museum on the second day.
Day 3: Panama City Beach
A 2-hour drive east of Pensacola is the equally stunning Panhandle city Panama City Beach. Go ahead and read through this previous TripMemos post on Panama City to help plan your day.
Day 4: Tallahassee
Next, take the 2-hour drive northeast from Panama City Beach to Florida’s capital. Home to both Florida A&M and Florida State, Tallahassee is an energetic city with many noteworthy attractions you could see on this official online guide.
Day 5: Gainesville
A 2.5-hour drive southeast of Tallahassee will bring you to the youthful college town of Gainesville. Take a peek at this TripMemos article dedicated to Gainesville before visiting the home of the FL Gators.
Day 6: St. Augustine
After you’re done in Gainesville, travel 1.5 hours east to reach historic St. Augustine. Founded in the 1560s, St. Augustine is America's oldest city and has dozens of noteworthy museums chronicling the city's history.
You can find our picks for the 13 best things to do in St. Augustine on this link.
Day 7: Daytona Beach
Lastly, travel 1-hour south of St. Augustine to one of America’s speediest cities: Daytona Beach. Of course, visiting the International Speedway is a must, but be sure to check out some of these other awesome things to do in Daytona Beach.
Final words about your Florida trip
I hope you found these itineraries helpful. If nothing else, maybe they helped you get to know new places in Florida to see, perhaps ones that you hadn't considered before. You can now work your own version of any of these plans, to suit your needs.
If you have more suggestions, please do leave me a comment to let me know!
Anything super important that we forgot on any of these routes?
Anything you would have done differently? I'd love to hear about it!
my family wants do a road trip starting in Fort Lauderdale driving north. We want to fly into F.L. and fly back from somewhere north. we are coming from CA. We are playing on leaving around Dec 27/28 returning on jan 2/3. Do you have an ideas of what we should do?
Just seeing this now, sorry. You probably already have your plans laid out, but let me say that there are multiple options for such an itinerary, depending on how far north you want to get in 4-5 days. You could absolutely just spend your time in South and Central Florida and fly back home from Orlando. Lots to do!