I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: day trips are my JAM! I love getting in the car early in the morning (preferably with a bag of caramel creams…gotta have snacks) and arriving to a new destination a few hours later.
This year, I’m really committed to traveling more on a local scale, especially since there is so much to be seen in Florida. This is why I love day trips – they give you that novel feeling of being somewhere new, but you can sleep in your own bed at night and will spend a significantly less amount of money than you would say, jet-setting to Bora Bora. (Still on my list though.)
Below is a list of six day trips easily accessible from Orlando. Whether you’re a beach lover, foodie, adventurer, or history buff there’s definitely something for everyone on this list.
St. Augustine – 2 Hours
St. Augustine is one of those places I can visit over and over again without getting bored. While I’d recommend at least staying one night so you can see and do more, this is also totally workable as a day trip.
My favorite thing to do is arrive early (most attractions are only open 9-5), park at the old jail and purchase a trolley ticket along with tickets to the attractions I want to visit. Start by riding the trolley through all of the stops first so you can get a full history of the area, then hop on and off at your leisure throughout the day. My favorite stops are Flagler College, The Old Jail, and Castillo de San Marcos.
For food and drink, check out the pizza at Carmelo’s. I’m normally wary of pizza shops attached to gas stations but trust me when I say this place is gold! I don’t take my pizza lightly. The service is friendly and warm and the food authentic. Raintree Restaurant is great for a date night, as the restaurant is actually inside a Victorian home.
Micanopy – 1-2 Hours
As a lover of small town charm and photogenic architecture, Micanopy is a dream. It’s a tiny town you can easily walk end-to-end full of small antique shops, cafes, and the occasional art gallery. In a state where tourism is so prevalent, it’s refreshing to find a place with good old fashioned small town charm and character. If you’re into antiques, then you’ll definitely be in heaven here.
Check out the small flower shop for a great selection of orchids and original paintings. My mini orchid bloomed for months after I purchased it and is still going strong. If you need a lunch break, grab a slice of carrot cake and a sandwich at Old Florida Cafe. If you want to combine Micanopy with the great outdoors, Paynes Prairie is only about a 15 minute drive. This is the place to be if you want to see huge gators up close (very close). Check out my recap of Micanopy here and Paynes Prairie here.
Anna Maria Island – 2 1/2 Hours
I cannot think of day trips without automatically thinking of Anna Maria Island. I’ve yet to find a beach that rivals this one and am amazed Anna Maria isn’t more popular. The island itself is only 7 miles from end to end with 3 main public beaches. There is plenty of parking throughout, except in the north end which is much more residential. Once you’re parked you can ride around the island on the free trolley if you’re up for exploring.
My favorite area is the Bradenton Beach stretch because of it’s close proximity to the Kokonut Hut tiki bar/restaurant and Joe’s Eats and Sweets. However, the north end is fantastic for shopping and eating, and the City Pier is a great spot to relax.
I’ve written about Anna Maria several times already on the blog but will never stop singing its praises. This is my favorite Florida beach! Check out my food guide here, and thoughts on the north end here.
Dunedin – 2 Hours
Dunedin is an artist and craft beer lover’s haven as they have plenty to appeal to both types. Art can be found everywhere, even in unexpected places, (like the oranges painted on buildings around town – a nod to the history of citrus in the area) and breweries exist within walking distance of one another, making for an easy mini brewery-hop. Top brewery picks in the area include Dunedin Brewery and 7venth Son.
If you want to squeeze in some beach time, Honeymoon Island State Park (you can also catch a ferry to Caladesi Island) is nearby. Dunedin’s close proximity to the beach means you can have beach time, culture, and great food/beer all in one trip. Check out my full day trip guide to Dunedin here.
Wekiwa Springs State Park – < 1 Hour
This is an easy one if you live in Orlando, but if you’re further south (coming from my neck of the woods in Clermont/Davenport area) the drive is closer to an hour. Wekiwa is the perfect place to cool down and get some relief from the Florida heat, but it DOES get very busy on hot days. The natural cold spring boasts crystal clear waters that are a refreshing 72 degrees year round.
I love to work up a sweat early in the morning by renting a canoe or kayak and exploring the Wekiva River, then coming back to enjoy the cool, refreshing water in the spring. Wekiwa Springs is also a great spot for camping and hiking.
Hobe Sound/Jupiter – 2-3 Hours
I’m so used to visiting the west coast beaches that sometimes I forget Florida also has an east coast. The beaches are so different here (actual waves crashing, coarser sand, sunrises over the water) and I loved the unkempt/natural vibe of Hobe Sound. It’s also got one of the most beautiful stretches of roadway with huge old cypress trees creating an archway over the street.
A bit farther down the road you’ll find Blowing Rocks Preserve, where the waves crash into large rock formations on the beach with holes in them, spewing water upwards, hence the name blowing rocks. I’ve never seen anything like this in Florida!
Square Grouper Tiki Bar (I kind of have a thing for tiki bars) is a great stop for a late lunch or early dinner. It’s a bit expensive, but tasty. The cocktail menu is creative and colorful – two of my favorite things. This day trip is a bit of a drive, but worth it if you’d like to shake things up and experience a totally different side of Florida.
Where’s your favorite place to day trip to in Florida?