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  • Couple dining with a view from The Canopy at the Birchwood in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida
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    St. Petersburg: Arts and Entertainment on the Gulf Coast

  • Strolling and looking for shells on Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island, Florida
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    Sea, Sand and Shells on Sanibel Island

  • The observation tower on the Shark Valley Tram Tour in Everglades National Park, Florida
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    Explore the Largest Subtropical Wilderness in the USA: Everglades National Park

  • Exploring the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami, Florida
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    Cuban Culture and Trendy Beaches in Dazzling Miami

Couple on a road trip taking in the sunset from the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park near St. Petersburg, Florida
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Arnaud Muller

Florida Coast to Coast Road Trip

  • Route distance:
    583.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    6 days

Award-winning beaches and diverse culture from coast to coast

Though not quite an island, the state of Florida is certainly a cultural and geographic world of its own. From the quaint towns emanating Southern USA charm on the state’s northern peninsula, to the cosmopolitan melting pot of coastal Miami, visitors will encounter a fantastic array of experiences in what is aptly nicknamed the Sunshine State. For this Florida road trip, you’ll be traveling from the Gulf of Mexico coast to Atlantic Ocean shores. It’s the only state in the country where you can swim in both bodies of water in a matter of hours – though you’ll want to linger for a few days to truly get your feet wet.

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Couple dining with a view from The Canopy at the Birchwood in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida
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St. Petersburg: Arts and Entertainment on the Gulf Coast

Fly into Tampa International Airport (TPA) and pick up a rental car (maybe a convertible?) for your sun-and-sand-filled adventure. From the airport, head southwest to St. Petersburg, a laid-back city with a young and vibrant flair surrounded by white-sand beaches. Think microbreweries, beachside tiki bars and a thriving arts scene (including the Dalí Museum, the largest collection of Salvador Dalí’s work outside of Spain). Start in the Edge District to take frame-worthy photos of urban murals. Browse the independently owned shops, galleries and restaurants, then cool off with a craft beer at Green Bench Brewing.

A short drive east takes you to the downtown waterfront and North Straub Park for gorgeous views of Tampa Bay. Be sure to take a photo in front of the huge Banyan trees. Art aficionados can explore the Museum of Fine Arts or the St. Petersburg Museum of History, both within walking distance of the park. Ready to wind down for the day? Sip a cocktail while enjoying the changing hues of sunset at The Canopy, the chic rooftop bar atop The Birchwood boutique hotel. Then pop into any of downtown St. Pete’s upscale and casual restaurants. Plan for an overnight, because day two is going to be spent on the brilliant white sands of St. Pete Beach overlooking turquoise Gulf of Mexico waters. Beach rentals, water sports and restaurants are readily available. If you pack up around midday, you’ll have plenty of time to make it to Sanibel Island, your next stop.

230 km
2.5 hours by car
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Strolling and looking for shells on Bowman’s Beach on Sanibel Island, Florida
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Sea, Sand and Shells on Sanibel Island

Continuing south along Florida’s Gulf Coast, the imposing arch of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge looms ahead. Towering 131 meters above the crystalline waters of Tampa Bay, the Skyway is a remarkable feat of engineering, not to mention an unparalleled photo opportunity. You can’t stop on the bridge itself, so get a picture from the mainland (there are rest areas both north and south of the bridge) or as a passenger. Take a quick side trip to learn about Florida history at Historic Spanish Point in Osprey, then grab a bite at the Old Florida-style Snook Haven Restaurant in Venice before continuing on to Sanibel Island.

Located off the coast of Fort Myers, Sanibel’s unique east-west orientation causes thousands of seashells to amass on its beaches. Go to Bowman’s Beach and engage in what’s known as the “Sanibel Stoop,” named for the characteristic bend of beachcombers collecting shells to take home. Sanibel is flat and bike-friendly (there isn’t a single stoplight on the island), so rent a bicycle and take in the pretty scenery and expansive mansions. Follow the bike paths to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. With more than 245 bird species, including the elusive roseate spoonbill, this is one of the best places in Florida to go birdwatching. Include an overnight stay on this tropical getaway. There are plenty of accommodations, from mom-and-pop hotels to luxury beachfront resorts. Just be sure to get up early for your next destination: the Everglades.

192 km
2.75 hours by car
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The observation tower on the Shark Valley Tram Tour in Everglades National Park, Florida
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Explore the Largest Subtropical Wilderness in the USA: Everglades National Park

You can take Interstate 75 south, but this is a road trip! Opt for the drive along US 41/Tamiami Trail through coastal towns to get a feel for the many facets of southwest Florida. Stop to stretch your legs on the Royal Palm Hammock hiking trail within Collier-Seminole state park, a hidden gem that features an observation platform. Or, try Kirby Storter Roadside Park a little further south, with a lovely boardwalk through mature cypress trees. Continue the drive east on Alligator Alley into the heart of the Everglades.

Vast expanses of protected wetlands hide countless animals, from hundreds of bird species, to black bears, alligators and the rare Florida panther. The Shark Valley Visitor Center is about halfway across the southern end of the Florida peninsula. Stop here to take the two-hour narrated tram tour. You’re sure to see dozens of turtles, birds and alligators. Climb up the spiraling walkway of the observation tower and have your camera ready for expansive views of the famous “River of Grass.” You can also opt to rent a bicycle and explore the 24-kilometer loop trail at your leisure. Aside from camping, there are no overnight accommodations in this area, so continue on to your final stop in Miami. Watch the horizon transform from the untamed Everglades into the growing skyline of the city.

64 km
1 hour by car
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Exploring the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami, Florida
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Cuban Culture and Trendy Beaches in Dazzling Miami

Miami is a cosmopolitan, hugely diverse destination encompassing an array of suburbs, from the historic, Spanish-tile roofs of Coral Gables to the thumping nightclubs of South Beach. The influence of Latin culture is woven into daily life here, and Spanish is just as common as English almost everywhere you go. Just west of downtown Miami, Little Havana and its dominant attraction, Calle Ocho (8th Street), has grown into a cultural and tourism mecca. Walking tours led by local experts are an excellent way to delve into the area’s history. Stops may include Domino Park (formally Máximo Gómez Park), where you can see the locals hanging out and playing dominos. Hungry? Try local staple Versailles Restaurant for a feast of Cuban cuisine, or simply to order a cortadito (espresso cut with milk) from its ventanita (walk-up window). For dessert, savor a pastelito (Cuban pastry) from a local bakery.

When you’ve had your fill of Cuban food, drive east over the causeway for a foray into South Beach. With its world-class dining, tropical beaches and non-stop entertainment, South Beach is truly a bucket-list experience. Lummus Park has some of the best photo ops of the Art Deco buildings along Ocean Drive, the beach’s main drag. Dress up in your trendiest outfit for sunset drinks on the rooftop at Juvia (the views of South Beach and the Atlantic Ocean are absolutely stunning) and party late into the night at upscale nightclubs and bars. For travelers from around the globe, Miami International Airport (MIA) offers nonstop flights to many destinations for your return flight home.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
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