Florida covers more than 65,000 square miles, so attempting to see it all at one time is not practical. If your time in the state is limited, here’s an itinerary that will allow you to see some of Florida’s best sights.
Fly into Miami and spend your daylight hours exploring the Design District, the Cuban American community of Little Havana, and the galleries and historic sights of Coconut Grove and Coral Gables. Grab dinner at one of the many excellent restaurants at South Beach and spend the night partying with the beautiful people along Ocean Drive.
Once you’ve shaken off the night before with a café cubano, suck in your gut and hit Miami Beach, where you’ll probably be convinced that the sunbathers next to you are famous. In the afternoon and evening, hit the sidewalks of Collins Avenue and Ocean Drive to shop, eat, and gawk at the art deco buildings.
Slather yourself in sunscreen and bug spray and head south to Everglades National Park. Spend the day exploring the swamps and nature trails that are accessible from the convenient visitors center. When dusk falls, point your car south for a three-hour drive to Key West, where you’ll be able to whoop it up in the clubs and bars of Duval Street.
Spend the early morning strolling the sidewalks of Key West, exploring the historic buildings and soaking up the tropical vibe before the sun makes the heat and humidity unbearable. After lunch, make your way through the Lower Keys and Upper Keys, stopping in at Bahia Honda State Park to take in the rustic oceanfront scenery and beautiful beach area. From there, it’s about a three-hour drive back to a Miami hotel.
Get up early for the three-hour drive from Miami to Sanibel Island, which will take you through the northern edge of the Everglades via “Alligator Alley.” These are some of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, so you’ll want to allow yourself a relaxing day here to enjoy them completely and to explore the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on the island.
From Sanibel, it’s about an hour to Fort Myers, where you can spend a leisurely few hours exploring the Edison and Ford Winter Estates before hitting the road again for the 90-minute drive to Sarasota, where you can catch an opera performance, stroll the downtown art galleries, or gawk at the gaudy architecture of circus magnate John Ringling’s mansion.
From Sarasota, it’s an hour’s drive to Tampa, where you’ll want to explore the historic district of Ybor City, as well as the beautiful downtown area of St. Petersburg. Don’t bother with Busch Gardens, as you’ll want to save your theme-park energy (and funds) for the next day.
Depart Tampa as early as possible and head for the Walt Disney World Resort, which is only about an hour to the east. Spend the first part of the day exploring the fairy-tale fantasies of the Magic Kingdom or the eco-minded Animal Kingdom and your evening hours digging into the international food-and-drink possibilities in the World Showcase section of Epcot Center.
Spend your final day relaxing on the secluded and near-perfect beach at Blind Creek Park, just south of Fort Pierce, about 90 minutes’ drive from Orlando. From there, you’ll only be about two hours away from Miami International Airport, where you can catch a late flight home, exhausted and exhilarated.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Florida.