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Road trip in Florida: Itinerary & advice

The itinerary of our road trip in Florida:

florida roadtrip itinerary

This archipelago which stretches for approximately 190km between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico has a thousand islands and islets! For the record, at the beginning of the 20th century, the archipelago was accessible only by boat. Then in 1912, a railroad track was built, which unfortunately did not withstand one of the most violent cyclones. In 1938, the government therefore decided to create on the old railway, a road connecting all the islands: Overseas Highway! It is still possible to see the remains of the railway along the road!

Personally, we don’t really know what to think of the Keys! We loved driving on this road, stopping in small cafes … but on the other hand we expected a little something more that we did not find! But if you feel like fishing, jet-skiing or boating… this is the place!

Of course it is a compulsory passage during a road trip in Florida, and we still found some very nice spots.

This archipelago which stretches for approximately 190km between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico has a thousand islands and islets! For the record, at the beginning of the 20th century, the archipelago was accessible only by boat. Then in 1912, a railroad track was built, which unfortunately did not withstand one of the most violent cyclones. In 1938, the government therefore decided to create on the old railway, a road connecting all the islands: Overseas Highway! It is still possible to see the remains of the railway along the road! Personally, we don't really know what to think of the Keys! We loved driving on this road, stopping in small cafes ... but on the other hand we expected a little something more that we did not find! But if you feel like fishing, jet-skiing or boating… this is the place! Of course it is a compulsory passage during a road trip in Florida, and we still found some very nice spots.

+ The Modara bay beach cafe

Little corner of paradise in Islamorada, the Morada bay beach café was our first stop on this road trip! From the entrance, we are in the mood: colorful chairs, rooster and iguanas to welcome you and of course, a magnificent view of the sea! Nothing is more pleasant than eating in the shade of palm trees, feet in the sand!

+ Small car parks on the side of the road

These small car parks, with the sea side on one side and the Overseas Highway on the other, are really the ideal place for a breakfast or a picnic break! By arriving very early, we were lucky to be alone!

Tables are set up on the sand, and generally you will also find toilets there!

💡 Attention, it is forbidden to spend the night there.

parking a campervan in Florida keys
camping in Key West
camping in florida keys

+ Freed the Tarpons at Robbie's

We’re not going to lie to you, it’s probably the most tourist activity we did during this road trip! But if you go there in the morning like us, there are not many people!

The main activity at Robbie’s is to feed the tarpons. If like me you don’t know what a tarpon is, just know that this fish weighs between 70 and 180kg for a maximum size of 3m! I let you imagine the beast !!

It takes $ 2.25 entry fee. This gives you access to the pontoon, guarded by pelicans! It is forbidden to feed them, but that does not prevent them from flying directly into your bucket !! You have to add $ 4 if you want to buy a bucket of small fish. 

There are also a few shops and a restaurant on site.

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It was on Sombrero beach that we spent the first evening of this road trip. The beach is really beautiful, there were a lot of people when we arrived, but what a joy to enjoy this turquoise water! Alas, you should know that night falls very early in Florida, 5 / 6pm!

💡 Attention, even if the place is dreaming, it is forbidden to sleep in the parking lot next to it. So we decided to spend the evening on the beach, then find another spot to sleep!

+ Big Pine Key and the National Key Deer

Big Pine Key is known for its deer: Key Deer. You are likely to come across them on your way to the National Key Deer refuge . Arriving a little late, we could not go to the Visitor Center , but I advise you to go and take a map in order to also have information on all the accessible trails.

We stopped to sleep at the end of Key Deer Boulevard, in a dead end. The place was just superb and we were lucky to be woken up by a deer right next to the van. A magnificent sunrise as a bonus! 

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+ The city of Key West

Emblem of the Keys: the city of Key WestSeaside, colonial houses, a bit of art deco and a multitude of activities: scuba diving, boat ride, jet-ski rental … Since we only stayed one day there, we did the impasse on the various museums like the famous house of Ernest Hemigway. We preferred to walk around the city and enjoy its colorful little houses.

road trip to key west

💡 Two small recommendations:

  • Don’t miss the Key Lime Pie from Kermit’s … A delicious mix between cheesecake and lime pie. And as we are greedy, we also tasted the frozen version !!
  • For sunset, head towards Mallory square. Arrive early to get a seat! From 5 p.m., there are activities: singers, street artists…
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🚍 We slept the first night at Marathon in the Winn-Dixie car park, next to Mc Donalds. The place is quite noisy but no prohibition sign! And the next morning it’s pretty practical to have the supermarket next door with access to the toilets 😉

For the second night, we slept at Big Pine Key, on a parking lot in the middle of nature. Surely the nicest place where we put the van during this road trip through Florida.

DAY 3 and 4: The Everglades

Surely the place I apprehended the most, not being a big fan of reptiles! But it was also the place Quentin expected the most !! And finally it would have been a shame to miss it!

The Everglades stretch across much of Florida! The area is partially protected, notably by the Everglades National Park . Entrance to the park costs $ 30 per vehicle for 7 days! 

2 routes cross the Everglades. Depending on whether you visit the north or the south, you are not going to see quite the same things!

  • The southern route , between Homestead and Flamingo. This route is to be preferred if you want to see American crocodiles (who rather live on the sea side unlike alligators)! But the accessible trails just after the Visitor Center are essential.

  • The tamiami road , between Miami and Naples. This part of the Everglades offers other activities: airboat tours, Indian villages … And if you’re lucky, you can observe the Florida panther!

Of course if you have time, do both! For our part, we entered the park in the Flamingo sector, then the Tamiami Road. So on all the photos you will see, they are alligators and not crocodiles! 

If you want to take an airboat ride, you will see a crazy amount of companies offering it on the side of the road! With most shows and the possibility of taking a photo with a baby alligator! You can imagine that we have passed our way! We preferred to stop on the side of the road and make the small trails easily accessible and without any difficulty! (I advise you to collect a card in one of the Visitor Center)

road trip to the everglades national park

Anhinga Trial (1,2km) and Jumbo Limbo Trail

Anhinga trail is quite popular because it is very easy to access, and you will certainly see alligators, turtles and a lot of birds! Clearly, there was no shortage of them, barely on the road when we saw our first alligator! It’s quite stressful, knowing that potentially it can come out of the water at any time!

Gumbo Limbo trail takes you through a small jungle … The atmosphere is totally different, and fortunately we did not come across snakes !!

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+ Pahayokee overlook
(260m)

Change of scenery in this very small path, tall grass gives a little savannah to the landscape! We had the chance to observe an owl.

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Pineland Trail (650m)

Small path through the pines and palm trees. 

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This 24km bike path plunges us into the heart of the Everglades. The opportunity, once again, to observe in full freedom a bunch of wild animals: alligators, birds, turtles, snakes …

Once there, 3 possibilities: walk the 24 km, by tram or by renting bikes! The ride on 2 wheels is,  in our opinion, the coolest solution !  This allows you to easily stop on the edge to photograph the alligators! They tan gently in the sun on the side and if you’re lucky they cross the bike path. Halfway through, an observation tower offers a splendid view of the Everglades!

It takes approximately 2 / 3h to complete the course. But beware, it can be very very hot! To do rather in the morning and provide mosquito repellent and water bottles! It takes $ 9 / hr for bike rental.

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+ Eat crocodrile!

We stopped at the Everglades Gator Grill … Quentin absolutely wanted to eat crocodile!

The restaurant is on the side of the road that leads to the southern entrance to Everglades Park. Even if the setting is not idyllic, it’s still nice to eat outside. 

Quentin’s opinion: “it tastes like chicken with a kind of texture between lobster and tuna”
You have been  warned  !! 

Day 5: Sanibel Island

This is our little road trip failure: 10 ° C and cloudy all day! The island being famous for its beaches, we had planned a day to do nothing !! FAILURE! We had to find an alternative!

+ Visit the JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge

This refuge covers a large part of the island of Sanibel. It is possible to observe alligators, raccoons, and more than 200 species of birds. In fact, we only saw the birds …

We were advised to go around by car, a bit like a safari and stop by the side of the road, if there was anything to see! Given the weather, that’s what we did, but by good weather, I think it’s more enjoyable by bike! Besides, on the island of Sanibel, there are cycle paths everywhere!

💡 Entrance costs $ 5 per vehicle and $ 1 for pedestrians and bikes.
Please note it is closed on Friday!

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Per Periwinkle Campsite / $ 58 per night for 2 people. 

The parking lots are all paid on the island ($ 5 an hour), this campsite is really a plus. You can access the beach in 5 minutes on foot.

💡 To reserve, you must call or send an email with the desired date. And importantly, you have to pay in cash!

Day 6 and 7: Orlando & Weeki Wachee

We finished this road trip in Florida in the Orlando area! And it is not by chance! My childhood friend living in Clermont, we spent the last 2 days in his company. We didn’t have time to get bored: sunset, evening at Universal studio and kayaking in a Spring.

+ The Universal Studio City Walk

For this first stay in Florida, we did not plan to take advantage of the amusement parks offered by the city of Orlando. However, Mathilde offered us a good compromise: the City walk of Universal Studio. A number of shops, restaurants, bars, etc. are accessible free of charge on site, linked to universal films. The place is very lively and colorful at night. I think it has a little less interest during the day!

For our part, we let ourselves be tempted by Mexican food in Antojitos, then by donuts from Voodoo Donut, and a small chocolate from Toothsome Chocolate Emporium (Quentin was influenced by Mathilde to taste the bacon coated with chocolate !!)

💡 Parking is free from 6 p.m.

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+ Weeki Wachee River – discovering manatees

There are around forty springs in Florida. These turquoise water springs are mainly located northeast of Orlando!

We went to Weeki Wachee Springs, about an hour and a half from Orlando. On site, we were able to rent kayaks, and go down the river, with the objective: to observe the manatees in their natural habitat.

The water being at 22 ° C all year round, it is possible to swim in certain places of the river.

We did not visit the “amusement park” part of Weeki Wachee with a slide, mermaid show and animal demonstrations! We preferred to take advantage of the calm offered by the river. By going there mid-week, we were practically all alone! In my opinion, there are a few more people on weekends!

weeki wachee kayak
weeki wachee kayak
weeki wachee kayak
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