For Americans, the Orlando to Miami drive is a mere blip on the highway. And yes, the 3.5 hour zip down the turnpike is handy if you’re in a hurry. But for road trippers, devourers of scenery and the inquisitive, an Orlando to Miami road trip is filled with beach action, Florida fun, creeks, parks and coastal towns packed with opportunities to dig a little deeper into American culture, Florida’s history and the sunshine state’s vacation destinations. We’ve drawn up plans for the ultimate Orlando to Miami road trip for those among us who love to travel. Take a day – or 3 – to get there. What matters isn’t the journey time, but what you see along the way.
Just flown in? Don’t be too quick to leave Florida’s playground behind. Obviously Orlando’s theme parks are there for the taking, but there’s more to this city than mouse ears and queues for coasters. Get some inside intel from our rundown of things to do in Orlando and swing by International Drive to stock up on road trip supplies in the shopping malls. Our best tip for experiencing Orlando? Don’t focus entirely on the bright lights of the big attractions. Away from the fantasy-filled parks, Orlando’s streets are grounded in all the culture, cuisine and Americana you’d expect. To see a completely different side of the city? Switch from four wheels to two and pedal your way through some – or all, of the 22 mile West Orange Trail.
The highlights are Lake Apopka and Winter Garden – a town that gives you vintage Florida charm all day long.
Map studiers will be wondering why we’ve headed east, not south on the first leg of the Orlando to Miami drive. Well, we’ve two solid reasons. The Canaveral National Seashore and the Kennedy Space Centre. And, really, we’d file these under ‘must see’ if you’re into beaches or space. The coastline offers up the chance to explore some premium, undeveloped Floridian coastline. So pristine are the waters, leatherback, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles call this place home. And they’re in good company – manatees and right whales hang out here too, so do pack your binoculars for a day on the dunes. Don’t forget to look up. In the skies you could spot an arctic peregrin, bald eagle or… a space shuttle.
Thankfully the space centre is a suitable distance away, but time your visit right and you could witness a rocket launch. If it’s not the season, a day in the park is a day well spent. Expect to be wowed and experience a tinge of regret that you didn’t choose astronaut as a career path.
Orbzii tip: You’ll be taking the FL-50 east which takes you past Fort Christmas, built during the Seminole Wars, and several conservation, wildlife and wetland areas. Keep your eyes peeled for blue herons and American kestrels.
The journey south starts here. You can either pick up the I-95, or the US-1 highway. Both trail all the way down to Miami, but the US-1 highway hugs the coastline – making for a slower, but more scenic drive. Either way, we’re headed for Palm Bay. And you’ll want to bring your outdoorsy a-game to this neck of the woods. Kayaking, hiking and biking are the ways to make the most of this tucked away spot that’s awash with scrub creeks and wildlife sanctuaries. The Palm Bay Regional Park has four lakes for you to stroll among – or fish on. Or the Castaways Point Park is the place to catch the sunset on the shore.
Orbzii tip: Looking for an all-American breakfast to fuel your trip? Drop into Chekmarc’s. A family-owned diner that serves everything from buttermilk hotcakes to burritos, ‘biscuits’ and grits.
Port St Lucie
Another stop, another chance to immerse yourself in some of Florida’s pristine wilderness. On route, the St Sebastian River State Park preserves Florida’s longleaf pines. Where, among the trees and waterways, wild manatees, pelicans and bobcats make their home. In Port St Lucie itself? Sporting pursuits overshadow the beaches and rivers. In spring, the New York Mets use Clover Park baseball stadium for their training games. Elsewhere, the unusual game of Jai-Alai is on the rise again, but needs a keen eye to watch it. Catch a game if you can.
Orbzii tip: West of Port St Lucie, Lake Okeechobee is America’s second-largest freshwater lake. Once central to native life, you can check out the lake’s history and its people at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum.
West Palm Beach
After the wild and rugged side of Florida, you’ll be about ready for some urban exploits. And West Palm Beach couldn’t be a better stop on our Orlando to Miami drive. As the name suggests, there’s plenty of sand to the east if you’re looking for more coastal fun, but in the city, the bright lights are calling. If you’re limited on time, Clematis Street bundles the best of the city into one place. Clubs, galleries, restaurants, shops and a farmer’s market give you a taste of what West Palm Beach has to offer. In town a little longer? Take a trolley ride to the museums or try and catch a show at the Travis Centre.
Orbzii tip: Palm Beach showcases West Palm’s more glamorous side. Chic and sophisticated, expect mansions, high-end boutiques and a very exclusive round of golf at the Palm Beach Country Club.
Prepare to live life at a slightly slower pace, among the upscale holidaymakers and trust fund-backed surfers looking to summer in leisurely style. Another stellar stretch of coast, Boca Raton stands out for its Mediterranean-inspired, pastel pink, Addison Mizner architecture. Red Reef Park’s the place for gorgeous beach walks, but in Boca, you might want to swerve the sands for a browse around the museums. We’d always recommend Boca’s art museum, but the International Museum of Cartoon Art is a rarer find. A magnet for America’s rich and famous, the local airport sees far more private jets land here than any other US state. Eyes peeled then for a little celeb spotting as you flit from your pick of the award-winning restaurants to the next Boca hotspot.
Orbzii tip: Road tripping on a budget? Time your trip for the first Sunday in the month, for free entry to the Boca Raton Museum of Art and keep an eye on Boca’s calendar for free festivals and shows.
We made it. And Miami’s sprawling streets are electric. You’ll feel the vibe as soon as you drive into this stunning city. And, though this stretch of Florida is known for its legendary nightlife, there’s a scene in Miami for everyone. If you’re all about single origin beans and hunting down the city’s best coffee – head for Little Havana. In Miami for a little history? The architecture in Coral Gables dates back to the 1920s – which is positively ancient compared to Miami’s glitzy bayside. Though, it’s likely the vintage Miami you may have seen on screen is in the Art Deco District. On the water, glam yachts shimmer seductively, though they are missing out on the 35 miles of coastline that practically begs to be swam, sunbathed and surfed.
Orbzii tip: Don’t want your road trip to stop? Carry on south to the Florida Keys or head west to the Everglades National Park.