This month, we are starting a series of blogs posts on road trips in Florida. It is one of the best states in America for a road trip, as it gives you year-round sunny weather, great attractions, and lots of activities to do along the way. It is also the perfect state to rent a convertible and drive with the top down and the wind in your hair.
First up on our Florida road trip series is a trip from Miami to Tampa, a scenic drive along a section of U.S. Route 41 that runs along the Gulf Coast, and gives you amazing charming resort town, picture perfect beaches and breath-taking views of the ocean. Not only that, on this road trip, you will also get to explore the Everglades National Park.
Starting Point: Miami International Airport Rental Car Centre
End Destination: Tampa International Airport
Distance Miami to Tampa International Airport: 416 Miles
Starting out from Miami International Airport, you may want to explore Miami for a day or so before beginning your road trip, especially if you are doing a one-way with your rental car. Miami is full of life and teeming with activities and attractions to keep you busy and ensure that you have fun.
Miami is famous for its beaches, nightlife, and a full-on glamorous lifestyle, allowing you to immerse yourself and experience the culture. There are fantastic attractions such as the Vizcaya Museum, the Ancient Spanish Monastery, Cape Florida Lighthouse, and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. For the younger at heart, there is also Jungle Island, Miami Seaquarium, the Miami Children’s Museum, and the Forst Science Museum.
Food is also a big theme in Miami, and do not leave without tasting what culinary delights Miami has on offer. For tasty and fun food try Joe’s Stone Crab or fried chicken and waffles at the Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, pizza at Lucali, or go upmarket with cocktails and dinner at the Gianni Versace House in South Beach.
Once you have had a taste of Miami, then you can head to the Everglades National Park, the western side of the park is only 20 miles from Miami itself, so you will reach it quickly.
2. EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
You can choose which part of the Everglades National Park you would like to explore, and the good news is that you can easily find your way back to U.S. Route 41 when you are ready to continue onward toward Tampa.
The park itself is enormous, with over 1.5 million acres, it is of the largest subtropical wilderness areas in America. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with unrivalled plant and wildlife in many different ecosystems on offer for you to view, including the famous mangrove forests. It is also home to the Florida alligator, manatees, and much more.
The park can be explored by foot or on a bike or a boat. For a real experience of the Everglades, it is a good idea to join a tour or to be taken out on a boat and then you can enjoy all the scenery and wildlife.
Remember, that there are dangerous animals there, and the weather in summer is extremely hot, so please get advice from a National Park Service ranger if you are looking to do some exploring on your own.
Back on the U.S. Route 41, you will have a 45-minute drive from the Western Everglades to Naples, Florida. This journey will give you some of the most amazing views of Florida.
Arriving in Naples, you may want to relax and spoil yourself a little after the Everglades. Naples is just the place for that. Go for a good meal in one of the many, many restaurants here, the choice is vast. Ideas include Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar, Brooks Gourmet Burgers and Dogs, or go up-market in Bleu Provence or Baleen Restaurant.
To continue your relaxation and pampering, enjoy a walk and views from Naples Pier, or check yourself in to a luxury spa. Or opt for a more cultural experience and go visit the Naples Botanical Gardens or the Baker Museum.
4. SANIBEL ISLAND
Once you are back on the U.S. Route 41, you will make your way across San Carlos Bay, and turn off at Gladiolus Drive and onto Summerlin Road, which will bring you out to Sanibel Island. It is a one-hour drive from Naples (51 Miles).
When you arrive at Sanibel Island, you will enter a picture-perfect town with gorgeous beaches. Captiva Island is the perfect place to stroll on beaches, eat well at any one of the eclectic bars and restaurants, while listening to live music and watching a fantastic sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
The Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum is devoted to every aspect of seashells, conchology, including the archaeological/anthropological aspects of the study of shells. It is a reference centre for national and international scientists, students, and shell enthusiasts, particularly those who are interested in the marine, terrestrial, and freshwater molluscs of the Gulf of Mexico and Florida.
Make sure you check out the 19th-century Sanibel Lighthouse, which is one of the oldest lighthouses on the Gulf cost of Florida.
Leaving Sanibel Island, you will stay on the I-75 and drive toward Sarasota. This is a 2-hour drive with great views, and you will arrive in one of the best beach vacation places in all of Florida. The beaches are only a few minutes from downtown, there is great golf course, wildlife reserves, and an unending list of activities including hiking, canoeing, fishing and venturing a little further away, there is tropical vegetation, wetlands and wildlife.
Or if you have enough exploring and want to change it up, then go to Armand’s Circle for shopping, restaurants, and luxury all in one place.
Whatever you decide to do in Sarasota, make sure that at the end of the day, you find a spot to face west, and watch the sunset. That is one thing not to be missed.
Tampa is only a one-hour drive from Sarasota. The city of Tampa is alive and full of fun and entertainment. Breakfast at the famous Nicki’s Omlette and Grill, spend a day exploring the city and maybe take in a baseball game.
For the grown-ups, you could check out the Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa Bay History Center, USF Botanical Gardens, and the Ybor City Museum State Park. If you are travelling with kids, then a few great attractions include, the Florida Aquarium, or Zoo Tampa or the Glazer Children’s Museum.
From the city of Tampa, you will head north on the I275 and U.S. Route 60 which will bring you back to the airport to drop off your car after a very enjoyable and successful road trip in Miami.
FAQ - Frequently asked questions
For an enjoyable experience in Florida, think about travelling between September and December. The benefits to this time of the year are that the temperatures are perfect, hurricane season is over, and you can enjoy Florida without it being over-filled with tourists.
Yes, you can very easily book a one-way car rental in Florida. Florida has a fantastic choice of car rental companies, cars, and locations. You can do a search, making sure you click “return to a different location”, and then enter your return location. The price that you are shown includes any one-way fees, so you know exactly what you are paying for, with no surprises.
Convertibles in Florida start from only $30 per day, which is not a big price for your dream of road tripping around Florida with the top down! This would get you a sweet Ford Mustang convertible or Chevrolet Camaro. Other convertibles for rent in Miami airport include a Buick Cascada, a BMW 430i Convertible or A Mercedes SLC 300.