Florida Road Trip Itinerary: Sarasota, Naples, & the Everglades

Travel map of Driving Distances to the South Gulf Coast of Florida

South Gulf Coast Driving

Florida Road Trip Days 1-2: Sarasota

Spend the morning of your first day in the northern part of Sarasota. Take a walk through the grounds and galleries of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, making sure to explore the Ca’ d’Zan Mansion mansion and the Circus Museum.

Later, head downtown for art of a more local and contemporary flavor at Towles Court Artist Colony, grabbing lunch at Lavanda. From there, it’s a quick drive over the Ringling Causeway to the Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. In the late afternoon, explore St. Armands Circle, where, after browsing the boutiques and shops, you can treat yourself to dinner at an upscale place like Café L’Europe. Plan on crashing at the Gulf Beach Resort, a vintage beachfront motel.

Siesta Beach is routinely ranked as one of the best beaches in the United States, and you should definitely allot most of your day to just relaxing on the broad, white-sand beach here.

A colorful lifeguard station on the white sand of Siesta Beach.

Siesta Beach is routinely ranked as one of the best beaches in the United States. Photo © fotomak/123rf.

Florida Road Trip Day 3: Fort Myers

Wake up early the next day for a drive south to Fort Myers. In downtown Fort Myers, see the historic Edison & Ford Winter Estates to get a feel for the genius that drove these two American industrial titans. While you won’t have time to experience the beaches of Sanibel Island, you will be able to spend a couple of hours on the island walking through the bird-watching paradise known as the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Plan on grabbing a bite and a beer at The Mucky Duck, where the high-quality pub grub is made that much better by the gorgeous waterfront views.

A trio of roseate spoonbills in the water.

Roseate spoonbills at J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Photo © Diana Robinson, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

Florida Road Trip Day 4: Naples

In the morning, make the one-hour drive south to Naples, where you should take in Naples Zoo and the Naples Botanical Garden. In the afternoon, check out some of the art galleries and boutiques on stylish 5th Avenue and get dinner at one of Naples’ best seafood restaurants, Sea Salt. Check in for the night at the luxurious, spacious, and family-owned Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club.

Florida Road Trip map of Driving Distances to the Everglades

Everglades Driving

Florida Road Trip Day 5: The Everglades

Get up early before the bugs and the burning sun and take the Tamiami Trail into the Everglades.

The Tamiami Trail (which is the only east-west road through this section of the ‘Glades) will take you through all of the main sights in Big Cypress National Preserve, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and the northern visitors centers of Everglades National Park. It’s about a two-hour drive from end to end on the Tamiami Trail. Allocate enough time to take the 20-minute detour south into Everglades City, as well as an hour or so to check out the unique art and photography on display at Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery. Depending on where you’re headed next, you can easily make it back to Naples or into Miami to spend the night. Although you may consider camping at Monument Lake Campground to get a brief taste of the utter silence that descends on the Everglades at night.


Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Florida Road Trip.

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1 Comment

  1. Mike Rabinovitz says:

    Mr. Ferguson,

    I am going to Ft. Meyers in late January for four days. My wife wants to take a driving tour in the Everglades. We are staying in Bonita Springs, FL. Can you recommend a driving tour from our location. Is the Everglades a national park. If so, does it pay to get the pass through the U.S. park service to save funds or is there a state pass I could purchase.

    Also, what else is there to do in Ft. Meyers and the Naples area and in that general area. I just read about the Ford and Edison Estates. Is this worth it? My wife likes anything in the outdoors and loves animals.