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  • An al fresco dinner along the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale
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    Fort Lauderdale: A Waterside Retreat

  • Shopping in downtown Naples
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    Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades: From Rugged Wilderness to Beach Chic

  • Camping with friends in St. Pete/Clearwater, Florida
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    St. Pete/Clearwater: From the Bay to the Beachfront

  • Paddle boarder sets her sights on the Tampa skyline and Riverwalk
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    Tampa, Florida – Discover Modern and Historic Treasures

Vintage cars and blue skies on a beautiful day in St. Pete/Clearwater, Florida
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Road Tripping Florida’s Waterfront Hot Spots

By Idoia Gkikas

  • Route distance:
    525.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    1-2 weeks

No matter where you land in Florida, you’re just minutes from the water.

The state’s soft sand beaches, sparkling shores and winding waterways cater to families, couples, outdoor adventurers and beach goers of all types. Pick up a rental car and explore the possibilities. Sip a mojito in trendy Fort Lauderdale, watch for wildlife in the Everglades and kick back on an award-winning beach on the Gulf Coast – if you want to be near the water, Florida’s the place to be.

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An al fresco dinner along the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale
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Fort Lauderdale: A Waterside Retreat

Fly into Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL) or Miami International Airport (MIA) and rent a car to start your adventure. Known for its gorgeous beaches, arts, culture and culinary scene, Greater Fort Lauderdale is ideal for laid-back beach lovers and luxury seekers alike. Book a sightseeing cruise to discover why it’s nicknamed the Venice of America. Your boat captain will spill the secrets of Millionaire’s Row, known for its mega-rich residents, their opulent mansions and mega yachts. (Fun fact: Fort Lauderdale is also known as the "Yachting Capital of the World.")

See a different side of local culture while exploring funky vendors and eateries such as The Alchemist coffee house and La Frutera Garden Bar at The Yard. Of course, you’ll also want to get some photos at the famous white “wave wall” where Las Olas Boulevard meets Fort Lauderdale beach. As the sun goes down, enjoy a fancy cocktail at Rooftop @1WLO, a trendy rooftop spot on Las Olas. Find an oceanfront resort to rest up; tomorrow’s agenda includes a foray into the exotic Everglades, one of Florida’s most well-known wilderness areas.

175 km
1.75 hours by car
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Shopping in downtown Naples
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Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades: From Rugged Wilderness to Beach Chic

Drive west via Alligator Alley (Interstate 75), stopping for a nostalgic tour of Everglades City at Route 29. In the heart of the world-famous Everglades, you can spy alligators, birds, reptiles, bears and the rare Florida panther. This is a bucket-list experience for any traveler. There are many ways to explore this slice of Florida history: a guided boat tour, an airboat tour, a canoe or kayak ride or walking the numerous boardwalks like in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Walk the wooden boardwalk amid ancient cypress trees and abundant wildlife. Continue on to Naples and its offshore neighbor, Marco Island, which offer a true beach escape with a touch of luxury. Brunch at Jane’s Garden Café, then stroll the immaculate sidewalks of Third Street and Fifth Avenue South, Naples’ high-end retail and dining district. There’s more chic shopping at the Village Shops and Waterside Shops just north of downtown Naples. At sunset, walk along Naples Beach or wander to the Naples Pier for the nightly sunset light show.

246 km
2.25 hours by car
03
Camping with friends in St. Pete/Clearwater, Florida
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St. Pete/Clearwater: From the Bay to the Beachfront

The trip north includes a drive over the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, one of Travel Channel’s Top 10 Bridges in the World. St. Pete/Clearwater is famous for its award-winning beaches and world-class arts and culture. Feel St. Pete’s eclectic vibe at the bars, restaurants and indie shops downtown (check out the record collection at Daddy Kool Records), and don’t miss the Dalí Museum, the largest collection of Salvador Dalí’s work outside Spain. When the beach calls, Honeymoon and Caladesi Island State Parks in Dunedin have both been recognized among the top beaches in the USA. Honeymoon Island has a café and equipment rentals, while less-trafficked Caladesi is accessible only by ferry. Back on the mainland, Dunedin lays claim to Florida’s oldest craft brewery – the Dunedin Brewery – serving up terrific craft brews and live music. Enjoy a sunset stroll down Edgewater Drive after your pint. For accommodations, the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach treats you to a prime spot on Clearwater Beach before your final stop in Tampa.

40 km
1 hour by car
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Paddle boarder sets her sights on the Tampa skyline and Riverwalk
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Tampa, Florida – Discover Modern and Historic Treasures

Sweeping views of sparkling water greet you as you cross over Tampa Bay, home to attractions for all ages. Animal lovers will find themselves eye-to-eye with a giraffe at ZooTampa at Lowry Park or touching stingrays at The Florida Aquarium. The zoo consistently ranks among the most family-friendly in the USA, while the glass-domed aquarium sits a short walk from the Tampa Riverwalk and the bustle of downtown. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay® boasts miles of thrill rides, letting visitors race like a cheetah or dive like a falcon from atop of North America’s tallest droptower. More than a century of Cuban, Spanish and Italian culture thrives in historic Ybor City, Tampa Bay’s famed Latin Quarter, where artisans still roll cigars by hand as they have since 1885. Join the locals for a café con leche and an authentic Cuban sandwich. Savor authentic Latin flavors at the popular Columbia, Florida’s oldest restaurant, then it’s time to catch your flight home from Tampa International Airport (TPA).

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
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