Summer is quickly approaching, which means it’s time to plan your annual beach getaway. This year, many locals are staying closer to home, exploring some of the Sunshine State’s most beautiful beach towns by car and hitting the open road with friends or family. With international travel possibly off the cards this summer, it’s the perfect time to embark on a fun Florida road trip, even for just a weekend.
Travelers have their pick of action-packed road trip destinations in Florida, offering a long list of family-friendly attractions, charming beach towns and unspoiled white sand beaches. Make the most of this summer season, whether you dream of basking in the sunshine on a quiet white-sand beach in the Panhandle, snorkeling in the Florida Keys, or searching for colorful seashell treasures in Sanibel.
With so many options to explore, we’ve highlighted our top picks for the best summer road trip destinations in Florida for 2020.
Amelia Island is one of Florida’s most charming beach towns, offering 13 miles of coastline without the tourist crowds. Its tranquil landscape of flat sandy beaches and rolling dunes are a dream for nature lovers, while its historic downtown Fernandina Beach and 19th-century fort in Fort Clinch State Park appeal to families and outdoor adventurers alike. Treasure hunters can even hunt for seashells and sharks teeth along the shoreline.
Where to Eat in Amelia Island
Espana Restaurant is so good that Mick Jagger once ate there (really!) and Timoti’s Seafood Shak serves succulent lobster rolls, but for classic breakfast eats, head to Atlantic Beach Diner.
Where to Stay in Amelia Island
Golfers love the oceanfront Omni Amelia Island Resort and Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island is a popular choice with foodies (home to Salt), while Hoyt House Bed & Breakfast and Elizabeth Pointe Lodge are ideal for romantic getaways.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are the ultimate road trip destination in Florida. Start at Key Largo’s underwater John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, then feed hungry tarpon at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada or go snorkeling in Marathon’s Long Key State Park. Cross the famous Seven Mile Bridge to the Lower Keys, then wrap up your trip in style in Key West, which boasts the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, Smathers Beach, and Dry Tortugas National Park.
Where to Eat in the Florida Keys
For the best seafood (and key lime pie), head to Fish House in Key Largo, while the award-winning Lazy Days Restaurant in Islamorada serves fresh seafood specialties on its oceanfront patio.
Where to Stay in the Florida Keys
Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key is a family favorite, but for an all-in getaway, Bungalows Key Largo is the Florida Keys’ first-ever adults-only all-inclusive resort.
The Palm Beaches
With 47 miles of picturesque Atlantic Ocean coastline, The Palm Beaches is one of Florida’s premier destinations for luxury travelers, known for its upscale resorts, lavish spas, and golf courses. Enjoy lazy beach days, up-close animal encounters at the drive-through Lion Country Safari, or shopping trips on Worth Avenue, which is often referred to as the “Rodeo Drive of Florida.” Don’t miss the zen-gardens at Morikami Museum & Japanese Garden and panoramic scenery at Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum.
Where to Eat in the Palm Beaches
Savor authentic Italian cuisine at Renatos, fill up on brunch favorites at celebrity Chef Clay Conley’s Buccan, or browse the chef-inspired vendors at Grandview Public Market. Feeling thirsty? Head to Due South Brewing Company.
Where to Stay in the Palm Beaches
Top luxury resorts in the Palm Beaches include The Breakers, Eau Palm Beach and The Brazilian Court Hotel. Looking to re-ignite the flame? Stay at the elegant Chesterfield Palm Beach.
While Panama City Beach was once the hotspot for Spring Break partiers, Florida’s Panhandle is so much more than that. Drive down the scenic 30A and discover off-the-radar beach destinations dotted with pristine white sand beaches, quiet barrier islands and small fishing towns. Make a splash in the emerald waters of St. Andrews State Park, follow the scenic nature trails in St. George Island State Park or enjoy the 6,000 feet of pristine shoreline at Henderson Beach State Park.
Where to Eat in the Panhandle
Visit the delightfully fun Pineapple Willy’s in Panama City Beach for po’boys and frozen drinks or Brotula’s in Destin for steamed snow crab, lobsters, and mussels.
Where to Stay in the Panhandle
Henderson Park Inn is a romantic coastal getaway in Destin, while Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa offers beachfront luxury and kid-friendly amenities. Escape the crowds on the private beach of Santa Rosa Beach’s Watercolor Inn.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Sanibel and nearby Captiva Island are two of Florida’s most beloved beach destinations. Along with a small-town charm (and lack of street lights and high rises), this area is full of inviting natural attractions. Practice your best ‘Sanibel Stoop’ while collecting souvenir seashells washed up ashore, then spot local birdlife in J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge or visit nearby Lovers Key State Park for a quiet day of swimming and kayaking.
Where to Eat in the Sanibel and Captiva Islands
Pair Caribbean eats with island-style mojitos at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill or enjoy the open-air setting of Gramma Dot’s Restaurant on the docks. For sunset views and cold brews, kick back at The Mucky Duck in Captiva.
Where to Stay in the Sanibel and Captiva Islands
With 2.5 miles of white-sand beach, South Seas Island Resort is a top choice on Captiva. Got the kids in tow? Families love the multiple bedroom options at Sanibel’s Sundial Beach Resort & Spa.
Naples and Marco Island
Only a short drive from each other, Naples and Marco Island are perfect getaways for outdoor lovers. They both boast beautiful coastlines for boating, fishing, and shelling, as well as easy access to Florida’s renowned Everglades National Park and mangrove-lined estuaries of the Ten Thousand Islands. Browse the boutiques in downtown Naples, then hit the courses for a round of golf or try backcountry fishing.
Where to Eat in Naples and Marco Island
Snook Inn is a popular spot in Marco Island for waterfront dining, live music, and delicious dishes from sea or land. In Naples, USS Nemo is a go-to seafood spot, while Campiello will tempt your taste buds with homemade pasta.
Where to Stay in Naples and Marco Island
The suites at The Ritz Carlton Naples have oceanfront balconies, while the amenities-packed JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort and Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club are top picks for families with kids. For a more intimate atmosphere, couples will love the boutique Vanderbilt Beach Resort.