The best five Miami fly-drives


By Eloise Barker

Photography by Bertlmann / Getty Images

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Updated February 2019

Crank up the AC and put on a playlist. You’ve nurtured your tan and worn out your dancing shoes on South Beach, Miami. Now, it’s time for Everglades, alligators, safaris and the soft sands on both sides of the Florida coast. Discover our fly-drives out of Miami.

Miami to the Florida Keys

Best for: Colourful Key West characters

Twinning Miami with Key West gives you a taste of two very different cities. An amazing key-hopping drive takes you down from Miami to the very tip of Florida.

The journey: 166 miles

Miami to Islamorada and Key West

Experience Miami’s nightlife before you head down to the Florida Keys. Miami’s clubs are expensive, glamorous, and attract the likes of Beyoncé. However, if their strict dress codes leave you cold, seek out a dive bar instead and order a Miami Vice (half strawberry daiquiri, half pina colada). Once you’ve recovered, head down to the Keys for a different kind of nightlife. The Florida Keys are a quirky string of islands joined by the Overseas Highway, culminating in Key West. On your journey down, swap driving time for diving time – the scuba here is renowned. Then, at night, be prepared to party.

In Key West there’s a permanent holiday atmosphere. Hemingway loved it here, and his house is now the residence of a colony of five-toed cats. The house tour is more of a who’s who of the feline world, but afterwards you can celebrate the great writer with Daiquiris. The street parties, including Fantasy Fest, are raucous affairs, and involve the whole town from tanned grannies to spring breakers.

Where to stay

Stay at Circa 39 in Miami: its colourful rooms and boutique charms will set the tone for your totally tropical journey south. Stop half way down the Keys at Islamorada to break up your journey and treat yourself to a smart suite in classy Casa Morada. In Key West, colourful Ocean Key Resort has big, breezy rooms filled with charming Floridian décor.

Read our Florida Keys Island Guide

  • Great White Egret in mating plumage display. Delray Beach, Florida. Photo credit: Jack Nevitt Photography.

    Something to Tweet about

    Part of the head of the Great White Egret turns neon green during mating season. The beautiful bird is a common sight across Florida, but it was nearly wiped out last century when ladies developed a penchant for its white feathers in their hats. Thankfully, it lives to fly again.

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  • Buoy sign marking the southernmost point on the continental USA in Key West. Photo credit: f11photo

    Ninety miles

    Key West is proud to be the closest point to Cuba, selling its own cigars and rum in tribute to its island neighbour.£302 return

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  • Sunrise at Everglades National Park, Miami. Photo credit: THEPALMER.

    The colour purple

    The Everglades National Park is a magical place to explore.

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Miami to the Palm Beaches

Best for: Miles of sand

The beautiful beaches on Florida’s Atlantic side are miles and miles long. This ‘Gold Coast’ extends from Fort Lauderdale through Boca Raton and on to the Palm Beaches, including Delray Beach and upmarket West Palm Beach.

The journey: 83 miles

Miami to Fort Lauderdale and the Palm Beaches

Drive north from Miami to discover the best of the rest of the coast. At Fort Lauderdale’s elaborate inland canal system, you’ll see gardens on the waterfront full of strange sculpture and well-dressed residents sipping drinks on their verandas. For waterfront dining, stop for food at Coconuts seafood restaurant. This popular local hang out is laid back and great for seafood treats.

At Delray, enjoy a growing town with over twenty art galleries and a lovely beach. The retro ice cream parlours on Atlantic Avenue add to the fun-loving atmosphere here – and the area is known for its parades and festivities. Head north to the sunny, chic environs of West Palm Beach and you’ll still feel like everyone’s constantly in holiday mode – especially on Thursday nights when the popular Clematis Street hosts weekly live music.

Where to stay

Make this trip as stylish as possible: first off, book into The Biltmore in Miami. It’s close to the airport and has complimentary parking – a road trip essential – but you’re actually here for the food: the on-site Palme d’Or restaurant has a fancy tasting menu. When you arrive in Fort Lauderdale, stay right on the beach in your own little bubble of calm at Pelican Grand Resort, then once you hit Palm Beach, book in at Eau Palm Beach: it’s well equipped for water sports and, again, right on the beachfront.

  • Florida’s wetlands, Everglades National Park. Photo credit: romrodinka.

    River of grass

    The Everglades National Park was the first park in the US to be protected for its incredible ecosystem, not its natural beauty. But visitors to the so-called ‘river of grass’ will find plenty of photo-perfect scenery. Book flights from London to Miami, plus a ten-night hotel stay from:£849 pp

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Miami to Naples, Fort Myers and Tampa

Best for: A bit of culture, food and wildlife

The Gulf Coast cities provide a series of stops with vastly different characters. Classy Naples, sporty Fort Myers and the beaches around Sarasota make for a drive with plenty of variety.

The journey: 281 miles

Miami to Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota and Tampa

After a few days admiring Miami, drive the two hours it takes to cross Florida, arriving in Naples. This classy city is set on a series of quays and marinas and has plenty of good places to stay – and places to eat. Navigate straight to 1500 South Restaurant and Bar for dinner. Art Smith, former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey, opened this restaurant in 2016 to reinvent Southern cuisine – think specialities like chicken and waffles with pickled peaches.

Drive on to Fort Myers, where outdoorsy types flourish. A visit to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, homes of two of American’s great inventors, is a bright idea – but not as good an idea as bringing the motor car to the American people. See old cars, laboratories and wander the sun-soaked gardens.

On to Sarasota, where the Ca d'Zan mansion is a must see – a Venetian-style palace owned by John Ringling, who was known as the ‘circus king’ of Sarasota. The area still has a rich creative scene and is home to many artists – and many lovely beach hotels. From here it’s easy to reach the Tampa Bay area. Lovely Tampa’s charming culture, up-and-coming food scene and recent redevelopment make it worth stopping for a few lazy days at the end of your trip before flying home. Take a sedate stroll along the Tampa Riverwalk, followed by a trip to historic Ybor City and dinner at the shiny new Sparkman Wharf, where a rotation of pop-up restaurants keeps things fresh. You can fly out of Tampa at the end of your trip.

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Where to stay

Place yourself in Naples’ shopping district at The Inn on Fifth, then discover a veritable waterworld playground at Fort Myers from Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, which is set in protected waters and comes with its own island. Heading up the coast, the Waterline Marina and Beach Club is a great introduction to the pretty beachfront at Anna Marie Island, and then once you get to Tampa you can park up at Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, near the Tampa Riverwalk.

Miami to Tampa, Orlando and Daytona

Best for: Adventurous families

If you’re travelling to Florida with kids, or you’re just keen on coasters and large doses of theme park fun, then you’ll need to visit Orlando. Base yourselves in nearby Daytona so you can enjoy the beach, and make day trips to the surrounding theme parks.

The journey: 418 miles

On your drive from Miami to Tampa, treat the kids to an airboat adventure in the Everglades, before hitting the famous Busch Gardens near Tampa for a riot of rollercoasters. Everyone knows that Orlando is dominated by amazing resorts, including Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando® Resort, but did you know you can also stop at LEGOLAND, on your way across from Tampa? Stay in Daytona over Orlando for the famous speedway, and from here you can pop in on the theme parks of your choice.

End your trip by staring into space: from Daytona it’s an hour’s drive to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Here you can see moon dust preserved on astronauts' space suits and real space craft. Kids will love the shuttle launch simulators and the rocket garden – an outdoor space where real-life rockets as tall as trees have been ‘planted’ for all to see.

Where to stay

The lovely food at the Epicurean Hotel in Tampa is more than reason enough to stay, but the hotel also has a great wine cellar and a welcoming atmosphere. Once you reach Daytona, make the most of the coast by staying right on the beach at the Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach.

  • The Ca’ d’Zan, owned by the founder of Ringling Bros. Circus. Photo credit: Michael Ventura / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Razzmatazz

    A lavish, Venetian-style house built by the ‘Circus King’, the Ca’ d’Zan is as dashing as its former owner. There’s even an Aeolian organ with 2,289 pipes, made in 1924.

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  • Barman at Coconuts Waterfront Restaurant, Fort Lauderdale Florida. Photo credit: Coconuts.

    Drink up

    Coconuts is one of many waterside restaurants in Fort Lauderdale serving excellent, American-style seafood. Juicy coconut shrimp and delicious crab claws can be found served in epic portions from lowly crab shacks and friendly restaurants all along the coast.

  • Hemingway House with Key West Lighthouse Museum in background, Key West, Florida Keys. Photo credit: Blaine Harrington III / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Hemingway loses his cool

    The striking Hemingway House comes complete with an outdoor pool that’s been dug into the solid coral ground. Hemingway himself complained about the expense to his wife and, in a legendary outburst, he threw what he claimed to be his ‘final penny’ at her. The penny is now embedded next to the pool.

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Miami to the Everglades and Fort Myers

Best for: Storm chasing and sunsets

Florida’s Everglades are just forty minutes outside of Miami. Drive across them to reach Florida’s west coast, where the natural beauty of Sanibel and Captiva’s island beaches will take your breath away.

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The journey: 250 miles

Miami to the Everglades, Fort Myers and the Tampa Bay islands

Head out of Miami and dive into the natural beauty of Florida’s state parks. The Everglades National Park nurtures a truly special natural phenomenon – don’t let anyone tell you they’re just swamps. You can visit and tour by airboat or kayak. If you go with a guide, spotting crocs is a near certainty. Watch as the sun sets over the sawgrass, or flee as tropical downpours sweep across the land at an exhilarating rate.

Fort Myers is a natural stop after the Everglades, with its laid-back feel and chances to explore the beautifully wild islands of Sanibel and Captiva. On towards Tampa Bay, Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Park where you can hike the trail to the beaches. You’ll find perfectly preserved banks of pale, washed up shells. Watch night herons pick their way along the shore, while, in winter, orange and black monarch butterflies migrate along the sands.

Where to stay: South Seas Captiva Island is in prime position for enjoying the natural splendour of the islands, parked as it is on the very edge of one.

Read our guide of the top ten things to do in Miami