10-day Florida road trip itinerary
What does Florida have to offer besides Miami and the Everglades? Is there anything to do in the northern part of the state and is it worth spending a few days? This is what we wanted to find out in our 10-day road trip through the land of beautiful beaches and gators. This is the perfect guide to plan the ultimate Florida road trip. You will see that Orlando is not this post, it was not part of our itineray and I think that all attractions parks deserve a post on their own.
From Montreal we landed in Fort Lauderdale and rented a car at the airport. We imediatly started to drive norht to out first stop, Saint -Augustine.
This charming Spanish colonial town is a 5h drive north of Miami. The drive takes you through the “Florida historical coast” near the Kennedy Space Center and Daytona Beach.
The town was founded in 1565 by the Spanish Empire. After the Spaniards left North America, the city has seen occupations from both the French & British Empires. The colonial district reflects the rich past of this historic town. The Castillo de San Marcos, Basilica Cathedral, Flagler College and the Fountain of Youth are the landmarks of the town. The small city size makes it easy to visit walking in a day. The fort is directly located over the sea and gives a beautiful view of the blue waters.
Unfortunately, I found that the colonial town is a big tourist trap, full of Ghost tours, Pirate ships and expensive tourists’ shops. The beaches in St-Augustine are not as pretty as the ones in south Florida. However, they are less crowded and have more vegetation surrounding the waters.
What not to miss: St-Augustine distillery
The distillery uses only local ingredients. They also run their mashes through copper pot-stills for original flavours. Their selection of spirits is composed of Vodka, Rum, Gin and Whisky. Their gin has hints of oranges and other spices, a true Florida taste. This was my favourite drink!
Located in an old ice-manufacturing plant during the roaring twenties, they remodeled the space and kept most of its initial look. Their bar, Ice Plant, is decorated like a bar from the prohibition era with soft lights and brick walls. Their drinks are phenomenal and offer original and delicious cocktails.
Photo credits by the St-Augustine Distillery
Where to eat?
The restaurant the Floridian offers southern food with only local and sustainable ingredients. The decor is very simple yet beautiful with pastel colours and their terrace is full of greenery and vintage style light bulb hanging over your head.
I recommend to stay in Saint-Augustine not more than 2 days.
Next stop: Ocala.
Silver Springs River, an everglade type of park located in the middle of the state, is one of the biggest in the region. The national park offers different activities such as hiking and kayaking. It has a vast wildlife, anything from bears to big spiders. The park features beautiful waters that go from shades of crystalline blue to green.
After a close encounter with wildlife animals, I wasn’t feeling in my comfort zone, so we decided to stop our nature adventures and continue to our next stop, Juniper Springs. The natural pool is a bit disappointing as it was much smaller than what we expected. Plus, it did not offer anything exceptional to see.
The Road through the deep south
The road between all our destinations really took us through the Deep South of the U.S. We saw uncountable churches near trailer parks; Confederate flags waving from the houses and on pick-up trucks. Numerous bumper stickers claiming that the confederate flag is their heritage and not a form of hate -_- The highway was also filled with anti-abortion billboards and religious messages. In some places, I felt uncomfortable as I knew I was been scrutinized for being a Latina. What a big contrast compared to a big multicultural metropolis like Miami.
As for food, it was hard to thrift away from fast food chains. Forget about local products, and fancy restaurants: this is restaurant chains territory. Also, be aware that the liquor store are closed on Sundays, the holy day. I recommend to stay in this region not more than 2 days so you can have time to get some rest with all the driving.
Next stop: St-Petersburg
Tampa, St-Petersburg and Clearwater are very close to each other, they are the big metropolis area in the west coast of the Floridian peninsula. Tampa is the second biggest city in the state. The area offers a very different vibe than Miami, way more laid back. Plus, the agglomeration has more museums to go to. The party scene is less present and so are the tourists. The beaches are as beautiful as on the opposite coast.
What to do in The St-Petersburg Area
Catch the sunset
Lay down on the beach and wait for this beautiful sky spectacle. The sunsets on the west coast of Florida are breathtaking compared to the other coast. The rich warm colours blend perfectly with the palm trees and the blue ocean.
The fort is the perfect activity to spend a relaxed day at the beach. In this beautiful state park, you can hike, swim & explore the vestiges of the fort. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the fort played a significant role in the Spanish-American War era. You can learn all about the Battery at the museum.
The park offers many picnic tables to enjoy the whole day at the park. When swimming, beware that the gulf is full of fish schools and rays.
When visiting the museum, you will see all the eras and transitions of the surreal artist. The museum has an unparalleled collection of the Spanish artist. The expositions as well as the exterior architecture and the Avant Gardens are impressive. Strategically located downtown by the waterfront, the museum is closed to other activities and restaurants nearby.
Where to eat & drink?
The Tampa Bay area have become a hub for breweries with the rise of the industry in the recent years. The two cities (Tamps and Saint-Petersburg) offer a wide selection of beer each with different type, aromas and taste. There are so many craft brewers that there are bus tours to drive you between the breweries.
Out of the beers we sampled, there were 3 breweries that caught the most our attention. The first was Cigar City Brewing, where in theme with the name, you can get a hand-rolled cigar like in Cuba. Here you will find beers like the Jai Alai a IPA with citrus flavours like tangerine and clementine.
At St Pete brewing CO you can spend your night play retro video games in the tasting room while tasting beers like the Scottish Ale, a malty beer with hints of Caramel. Lastly, Cycle Brewing offers unconventional beers like a stout aged in a rum barrel.
After all this drinking, you must wonder where to eat. We stumbled at the Conch Republic restaurant which offers great crab cakes, a large seafood variety and awesome desserts. They also have an interesting rum and beer selection. The decor is a little kitsch, but it makes you feel like a small restaurant in a port.
John’s pass is possibly the most touristic place in the St-Pete area, as you can find everything from tourist T-shirts to boat tours. However, in this boardwalk, you will find great fish tacos and a beautiful view of the ocean. If you are lucky, as we were, you can even spot dolphins chasing in the bay.
I recommend to stay in the region of Saint-Pete around 3 days so you can enjoy the beaches to its maximum.
Next stop: Miami
Our last stop in out 10-day road trip is Miami.
I’ve been going to the greater Miami region since I’m 3 years old as a large part of my family lives there. To me, Miami feels like a part of South America that mistakenly ended up in the States. Did you know that more than 50% of Miami's population is Latin or from Latin descendants? It’s not uncommon to hear Spanish or Cumbia as you wander the streets. The weather is always amazing and the accessibility from the south of the continent have allowed Latinos from everywhere to leave an imprint of mestizaje in this city. Below, you,will find different attractions other than the popular blue beaches.
Do wander through the streets of Calle Ocho or “Little Havana” and don’t forget to eat some delicious Cuban sandwiches, an exquisite mix of ham, swiss cheese, pickles, mustard and roasted pork with a cafecito (Coffee). After your belly is filled with all this food, spend your afternoon at the Perez Art museum for contemporary art and interesting architecture.
For the lovers of graffiti and murals, Wynwood is for you. Wynwood is the artsiest and most hipster neighbourhood in the city and in South Florida. Packed with art galleries, cafes, and bars, the neighbourhood is candy for your eyes. For once in Florida, you can leave your car and enjoy walking into canvas size wall art pieces.
The Art deco district
South beach has probably made you dream at least once with its Art Deco building, palm trees, and crystalline beaches. Walk along on Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive and enjoy the architecture of the "sun and fun" era with its extensive palette of pastel colours.
I recommend to stay in Miami for around 3 days so you can enjoy the city and its beaches in order to recharge your batteries before going back to work!
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