In such a state of destinations, it can be difficult to decide where to go for a fun road trip. Check out this list of 10 places we’ve put together to help you and your team make the most of this year’s summer vacation:
Head to Miami and take the Overseas Highway to the Florida Keys (375 miles from Sarasota)
Stop in Miami for a mojito and a Cuban sandwich, then hike the 113 miles Overseas Highway dotted with must-see destinations. Nature lovers can rejoice John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park on Key Largo, an underwater park with tours on a glass-bottom boat that reveal abundant marine life. Then, go kitesurfing or spot manatees from a kayak at Curry Hammock State Park in Marathonthen head to the Dolphin Research CenterGrassy Key Dolphinarium. After arriving in Key West, the southernmost tip of the continental United States, sample the local fresh snapper at Red Shoe Island Bistroa few minutes from Ernest Hemingway House and Museumthen enjoy a Key Lime Martini at the Martin’s and a bottomless mimosa brunch at Ocean Grill & Bar.
Ocala National Forest (264 km from Sarasota)
Ocala National Forest is a sprawling nature destination with countless activities. Take a hike along Florida National Scenic Trail or cycle the 22 miles Paisley Woods Cycle Path. With 600 lakes in Ocala, the list of water activities goes on and on. Swim in one of the cool springs, paddle under a canopy of holm oaks at Juniper Springs, or set up camp at Juniper Springs Recreation Area. Make the ultimate nature lover’s getaway and stay at one of the many campsites to watch the starry night.
Cassadaga (265 km from Sarasota)
Founded in 1895, Cassadaga, also known as the Psychic Capital of the World, is located in central Florida near DeLand. To visit Raven Star Psychic Witch for a tarot reading and the Southern Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp for a guided tour to learn about the area’s history and uncover its mysterious beginnings. The camp was founded by Georgia P. Colby, a trance medium, and rumor has it that the devil himself lives in the town, along with witches and pagans. Get away from the psychic world and discover the playground and nature on 123 acres Colby Alderman Park, where picnic tables dot the landscape and a covered pavilion provides shade. For dinner, try Italian-American cuisine at The Aldila restaurant by Sinatra for chicken parmesan or grab an espresso pick me up at Sinatra Coffee Company.
Cape Canaveral (280 km from Sarasota)
Cape Canaveral is out of this world. To visit Kennedy Space Center to learn more about the space program and consult the American Astronaut Hall of Fame to learn more about the lives of astronauts. Then check out the Hubble Space Telescope Theater to find out how astronauts helped save him during their missions. Take a guided tour through the rocket garden to see rockets from NASA’s Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs. Then take a cold one Florida Beer Company or enjoy a waterside lunch at Rusty’s Seafood and Oyster Bar. End the day with a visit to the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse.
Orlando (132 miles from Sarasota)
To visit disney world and meet Mickey Mouse, build a lightsaber to Edge of the Galaxiessee zebras, hippos and lions at Animal Kingdomdrink around the world at EPCO and end the day admiring the fireworks Cinderella Castle. Don’t miss Orlando Universal Parks shoot aliens men in black ride, enter the world of Harry Potter on Escape from Gringotts and try a butter beer at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. To cool off, swim with the dolphins at Discovery Cove or visit Universal’s Volcanic Bay and islands of adventure water parks. Explore the shops and delicious treats of Disney Sourcesand discover marine life including jellyfish, Ted the turtle and stingrays in the world’s only 360 degree ocean tunnel at Orlando Aquarium.
Blue Spring State Park (266 km from Sarasota)
Blue Spring State Park is located near Orange City in northeast Florida, and is the largest source of the St. Johns River there. Because it is a refuge for manatees, water activities are suspended between November and March, while the manatees come in search of warmer waters. When the weather is warm, rent a kayak or canoe or sign up for a riverboat tour. Picnic tables and a 4.5 mile hiking trail around the state park invite you to stay the day. For overnight stays, rent a chalet or stay in one of the 51 campsites.
Amelia Island (277 miles from Sarasota)
For anyone who thinks of island destinations, Amelia Island is a secret island paradise. It has plenty of hiking and biking trails, and sunny spots like Fernandina Beach for sunbathing, swimming, surf fishing and hunting for shark teeth and shells. Spend the night at one of two on-site campgrounds at Amelia Island State Park.
History buffs will love Fort Clinch State Park, home to a preserved Civil War-era walled plantation that offers daily tours. Check Amelia Island History Museum to learn more about the 4,000 year old island. Unwind with a Bearing Rum craft cocktail at Marlin & Barrel Distilleryor a farm-to-table dinner Omni Amelia Island Resortand catch a live musical theater production at Amelia Musical Theater.
Pensacola (822 km from Sarasota)
Head to Northwest Florida and enjoy the sun and cool waters of the Pensacola Bay Areawhere you can rent a paddle board and travel along the Saltwater Paddling Trail Around Florida. At 16 miles long, Pensacola Beach and lost key are part of the longest stretch of protected coastline in the country, and Lost State Park offers nature hikes and bike trails. For more urban fun, go go-kart at Laguna Beach Bar + Grillsee dolphins Gulfarium Marine Adventure Parkslide down the water slides Sam’s Fun Town and enjoy fresh seafood at Flounder Chowder.
St. Augustine (235 miles from Sarasota)
St. Augustine is a history buff’s dream. Travel through three centuries of history at Colonial district. Visit the iconic Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest masonry fort in the United States. Take the ferry to Fort Matanza and visit the Saint-Augustin Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. Explore your dark side and discover the Medieval Torture Museum to see an interactive exhibit of torture devices from the 5th to 15th centuries. Sample fresh, local seafood on the waterfront Sunset Grid and satisfy a sweet tooth at 904 Churros for a tailor-made treat. If you dare, end the evening with a spooky ghost tour.
Jacksonville (400 miles from Sarasota)
Visit another historically significant destination in The Kingsley Plantation to learn about the history of the area during the 1790s. Then, scroll down to Jacksonville Beach to enjoy the sun and the water while paddleboarding, swimming or rent a boat. Take your four-legged friend to a pet-friendly beach, including Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Mayport Navel Air Station and Neptune Beach. On dry land, lose yourself in the art at The Cummer Museum, which houses works from 2100 BC. to the 21st century. Attend concerts and comedians at Florida Theater and head to 13 gypsies for traditional Spanish tapas. For the perfect fried fish meal, check out Beach Road Fish House and Chicken Dinners.