27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip

Heading to South Florida? These Florida cities are packed with so much excitement that it can be difficult to prioritize the fun. No worries, we’ve selected the 27 things to do in South Florida that we know will bring a smile to your face!

Whether you are visiting on the Gulf side or splashing in the Atlantic, this is your go-to list for South Florida fun!

27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip
27 THINGS TO DO IN SOUTH FLORIDA ON THE ULTIMATE VACATION ROAD TRIP

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SARASOTA

27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip
Courtesy of Visit Sarasota

LIDO KEY KAYAKING

Escape the every day by paddling the labyrinth of tangled branches in the mangrove tunnels of Lido Key. Afterward, head to the bay where it’s likely you’ll find manatee swimming up close and personal.

This is the ideal place to see Sarasota (and marine life) from a new perspective. You can rent a kayak and self-adventure, but we recommend a ride with Kayaking SRQ.

Read More: 37+ Memorable Things To Do in Sarasota for a Weekend of Fun

THE RINGLING

Are you ready to join the circus? Get lost in banyan trees, find a hidden playground, and see European Old Master paintings all in a day at The Ringling.

Don’t miss the museum where you can test your skills as a circus performer –  walk the tightrope or stuff yourself into a clown car.

FORT MYERS

27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip

FORT MYERS RIVER DISTRICT

Downtown Fort Myers, better known as The River District, is one of the best places in the city for entertainment and nightlife.

There’s an Art Walk every first Friday and you’ll find some of the city’s best festivals here throughout the year, too. There are plenty of dining options in the downtown area and you can even learn a lot about the city by taking an excursion with True Tours.

Read More: 19 Things To Do in Fort Myers for Fun in the Sun

KEY WEST EXPRESS

After enjoying Fort Myers, jump aboard the Key West Express and take the FUN FUN FUN route to a day trip in Key West. Your jet-powered catamaran includes air conditioning inside with comfy cozy seating areas, exterior decks for the best views and some vitamin D, plus a full galley and bar.

You’ll have about 4-5 hours to explore Key West, or you can plan an overnight and take the Ferry back the next day!

Read More: 29+ Perfect Things To Do in Key West for Every Type of Traveler

SANIBEL ISLAND

We love its charm, the slow pace, and the fact that Sanibel Island is not overdeveloped. The opportunities to get out and explore the island’s mangrove ecosystem and its animal and plant life are plentiful.

Shelling, kayaking, biking…you’ll find it all here.

Read More: 45+ Leisurely Things To Do on Sanibel Island (Beyond Shelling)

NAPLES

27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip

NAPLES BOTANICAL GARDEN

Naples is one of the wealthiest cities in the US, known for high-end shopping, world-class dining and pristine golf courses. But that’s not all they offer.

The Naples Botanical Garden is world-renowned for its 170 acres of gardens featuring plants of the tropics and subtropics – from Florida to Brazil to Asia. You’ll find walking trails, a Butterfly Garden, and an interactive children’s area, too.

CLAM PASS BEACH

This beautiful beach access point is one of the most popular family-friendly spots in Naples, hidden behind Naples Grande Beach Resort. You’ll take a half-mile boardwalk stroll (or an awesome tram) through the mangroves to the beach.

You’ll find all the necessary beach staples – a picnic area, concessions, restrooms, and outdoor showers – plus you can rent beach chairs, cabanas, kayaks and more. But the real fun here is shelling, so be sure to stop by at low tide.

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida offers guided nature walks Monday through Saturday from December to April at 9am – just show up!

Read More: 14 Things To Do in Naples, Florida You Can’t Miss

BOCA RATON

27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip

GUMBO LIMBO NATURE CENTER

Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is best known as a rehabilitation center for sea turtles.  We also enjoyed the various snakes, spiders, a blow fish, and even a moray eel!

MORIKAMI MUSEUM AND JAPANESE GARDENS

Maybe I’m biased, as my years of living in Japan have made me partial to their culture and lifestyle, but the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens should not be missed.

Be sure to make time for both the museum and the garden. There are classes, family fun days, and a tea house with opportunities to learn and watch a ceremony.

Read More: 15 Phenomenal Things To Do in Boca Raton, Florida

WEST PALM BEACH

27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip

LION COUNTRY SAFARI

Lion Country Safari is a fantastic drive-through safari park! You’ll spend the first hour weaving in and out of the seven sections. You must keep your windows rolled up, as the animals get very close. A rhino blocked our way in the road for a long long time…until finally park workers gently nudged him out of the way. It was WILD and awesome — and I’ve never been that close to such a huge animal!

Afterward, park your car and take in the amusement park. There are more animals, rides, and a water park. We loved feeding the giraffe and cooling off on the water slides.

Read More: 19+ Best Family-Friendly Things To Do in West Palm Beach

PEANUT ISLAND

Peanut Island is a 17-acre island playground that was created from dredging, but has become a beloved hotspot for locals and visitors – for both day use or camping adventure.

Swim at one of the many swimming beaches, take in the snorkel lagoon, and more.

FT LAUDERDALE

27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip

HUGH TAYLOR BIRCH STATE PARK

Oh how we loved this park in Fort Lauderdale! Hugh Taylor Birch sits between the A1A and Intracoastal Waterway, and is known by the locals as “Central Park.” You can access the beach via a pedestrian tunnel, bike the 2 miles of the paved park drive, or do what we did and kayak through the coastal dune lake.

Don’t miss the Tarzan-evoking zulu fig tree in the main picnic area, with a crown spread of 173 feet. It’s gorgeous! There is a bar and restaurant here (yes, a BAR in the state park!) that is a perfect way to unwind after your paddle.

Read More: 17 Things To Do in Fort Lauderdale With Kids That Even Adults Are Sure To Love

MAI KAI RESTAURANT

Note: Mai Kai Restaurant has been closed since its COVID19 closure in 2020, but is undergoing a renovation and is expected to reopen sometime in 2023.

Is it a restaurant experience primarily filled with tourists? Yes. Should that deter you? No! We had an amazing time at Mai Kai – just be sure to make reservations early for the dinner show.

The Polynesian-themed restaurant opened in 1956. It’s the last restaurant/bar in existence carrying on the traditions and serving a wide variety of the original drink recipes of Don the Beachcomber (the godfather of tiki culture), and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Pro Tip: Get the Mai-Tai…and then get an Uber home!)

They are super kid-friendly, too…even bringing our boys a mocktail Pineapple Punch in giant pineapples!

In our opinion, the best money-saving option for exploring the city is the Fort Lauderdale Sightseeing Pass. Pick Day Passes or the FLEX Pass, and then select from over 60 different attractions, big and small.

HOLLYWOOD BEACH

Between Ft Lauderdale and Miami is Hollywood Beach.

The Hollywood Beach Boardwalk stretches for 2.5 miles along the Atlantic and was named one of the best beach boardwalks in the United States. It includes a playground, theatre, and plenty of luxury hotels (like Margaritaville!)

We adore the large Downtown Hollywood Mural Project here, and spent well over an hour exploring it. While you’re in the area, don’t miss the Dania Beach Pier for a quieter ocean experience.

Pro Tip: Hollywood Beach is one of several South Florida beaches that allow Fido to splash in the waves, too!

MIAMI

27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip

BILL BAGGS CAPE FLORIDA STATE PARK

We love the history at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, as it was part of the Underground Railroad. You’ll see where runaway slaves and Black Seminoles secretly gathered in order to find safe passage to the Bahamas.

Today, you can escape to the southernmost part of Biscayne Bay for beach fun, a lighthouse climb, and kayaking adventure. And Bill Baggs Cape is a great crowd-free place to watch the sunset.

Looking for more Miami fun? Try one of these popular activities!

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK

There is plenty to do in the Everglades National Park, and we highly recommend one of your first adventures be an airboat ride!

Other ways to have fun? Kayaking, canoeing, camping, geocaching…the list goes on forever! We love the ranger-led programs, too. They are at the four different primary park entrances and usually free with your park admission.

Read More: The Best Everglades Tour for Your Next Florida Adventure

In our opinion, the best money-saving option for exploring the city is the Miami Sightseeing Pass. Pick Day Passes or the FLEX Pass, and then select from over 30 different attractions, big and small.

SOUTH BEACH

If you are even remotely close to Miami-Dade, then you must make Miami Beach a priority. We are partial to South Beach, where you can take in the famous Art Deco design along Collins Ave, grab a Cuban coffee, and get your toes wet in the ocean.

Traveling through Miami with kids? Head over to South Pointe Park. The views are spectacular, and the vibe is much more laid back than you’ll find off Ocean Blvd. There is beach, a playground, and a splashpad. And, you could make an entire vacation of the kiddo experiences available at Loews Miami Beach.

Read More: 27+ Things To Do in Miami With Kids, Guaranteed To Make Them Smile

VENETIAN POOL

Once a rock quarry, this area of Coral Gables was refurbished into a spring-fed pool in 1924. The Venetian Pool is open to the public for a fee, and on a hot day, it is worth the price of admission!

In fact, the Venetian Pool is the only swimming pool on the National Register of Historic Places.

WYNWOOD WALLS

Since its inception, the Wynwood Walls program has seen over 50 artists representing 16 countries and have covered over 80,000 square feet of walls!

Get the app before you go, and be sure to go early to avoid the crowds (and the heat.) Best of all, it’s FREE.

Read More: 41 Kick-A** Cheap and Free Things To Do in Miami for Tourists and Locals

LITTLE HAVANA

My favorite part of Miami (all of Florida??) is Little Havana and the tour we took through Miami Culinary Tours.

I recommend the food and cultural tour, with SO MUCH food (Cuban sandwiches, empanadas, coffee, ice cream, guarapo, mojitos and more) PLUS stops at Domino Park and a cigar store where you can see them being rolled. It was insanely fun! If you do nothing else in Miami, make it this.

Get Your Guide is a great place to book your Little Havana Walking Food Tour! We absolutely loved it!

SHARK VALLEY

Ride your bikes (or walk) along the 15 mile loop that is lined with hundreds of alligators in Everglades National Park, starting at the Shark Valley Visitors Center! “It was crazy and scary and so cool!” said my friends at Crazy Family Adventure.

If you don’t have bikes, you can take the tram to the tower, which is at about the 7-mile mark. Climb the tower for panoramas of the Everglades, and then ride the tram back.

Read all about Crazy Family Adventure’s amazing experience biking with gators here!

ROBERT IS HERE

Robert is Here fruit stand specializes in rare and exotic fruits (though you’ll find your traditional favorites here too)! We tried Guanabana for the first time and LOVED it — it tastes like pineapple cotton candy.

Robert Is Here is often called the “Disney World of Fruit”, and we also loved the smoothies and milkshakes. The line can be long, but it’s worth it.

FLORIDA KEYS

27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip

JOHN PENNEKAMP CORAL REEF STATE PARK

The main attraction at John Pennekamp is the snorkeling and scuba diving. Just off the coast of Cannon Beach in Key Largo is a Spanish shipwreck that offers a great diving experience. They have tours that go out and they also rent all the equipment you’ll need if you don’t have your own.

Another great activity at Pennekamp is kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. These are all for rent for a reasonable price and the 2.5 miles of mangrove trails offer a great spot to explore.

Click here for more SCUBA tours and discount tickets to all sorts of Key West water sports.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY HOUSE

The Hemingway House was the residency of Ernest Hemingway when he lived in Key West, and is now a museum.

The stories about the 6-toed cats are true! Descendants of Hemingway’s original 6-toed feline roam the property (there is even a cemetery for those who have passed). Some are shy, but others will take all the affection you can offer.

Read More: Things To Do in Florida Keys: 33+ Fun Options You’ll Adore

DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK

Dry Tortugas National Park includes seven islands about 70 miles from Key West.

This half day trip can be made into a camping adventure for those who want the best experience. Otherwise, take in the fort, the beaches (some of the best in Key West), some snorkeling and shelling…then make your way back to Key West!

PS. If you’re not camping at the park, you need a place to lay your head. We highly recommend Havana Cabana Key West!

Read More: 9+ Florida Keys State Parks (+ a Dreamy NPS) That You Can’t Miss

In our opinion, the best money-saving option for exploring the city is the Key West Vacation Pass. It’s packed with free admissions and buy one/get one offerings for snorkeling, kayaking, charters and more. It will quickly become your “spend less but do more” secret weapon!

THE TURTLE HOSPITAL

To see sea turtles up close and personal, then you’ll have to venture about an hour north of Key West to Marathon, Florida. Here you’ll find The Turtle Hospital.

Turtles from all over the Keys and even mainland Florida are brought here for rehab and surgery. You can even watch a surgery being performed.

Our favorite place to stay in this area is the lovely Isla Bella Beach Resort.

Read More: 21+ Sensational Things To Do in Marathon FL

CAPTAIN TONY’S

Captain Tony’s was established in 1851 as an icehouse and then Key West’s first morgue. It also includes the “hanging tree” which was used to kill 16 pirates, plus a woman who killed her family.

After several other transformations, it finally became a bar – said to have been frequented religiously by men who need no first name introductions – Hemingway, Capote, Silverstein, Williams and Buffet.

ROBBIE’S OF ISLAMORADA

Feed the massive tarpon at Robbie’s! Beyond that, shop at the little flea market outside, get the kids and icee, and pull up a seat on the marina with a large Trailer Trash Bloody Mary!

There are also plenty of watersports activities you can do here…jet skis, snorkeling, a sunset cruise, or kayak adventure. But we liked the laid back “like a local” vibe…and enjoying a drink by the water.

Read More: 17 Things To Do in Islamorada for Fun in the Sun

27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip

WEEKEND GETAWAYS IN FLORIDA (printable)

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Download this 1-page checklist of Weekend Getaways in Florida to print at home or your local print shop. Perfect to keep in a binder, bring on your adventure or just put on the refrigerator!

(PS. You can find out more in our article, 33 Sensational Weekend Getaways in Florida.)

Format: PDF, US Letter Size, Portrait (8.5”x11”)

You will receive one PDF file. File will be emailed and available for download up to three times upon payment. No physical item will be shipped.

SOUTH FLORIDA FAQ

Which city in South Florida is the most popular to visit?

The two areas of South Florida that are the most popular to visit are Miami and the Florida Keys. Both areas feature beautiful beaches, lots of things to do, family friendly adventures, and more.

What is South Florida best known for?

South Florida is best known for its beautiful beaches, big cities, nightlife, cultural scenes, music, and its abundance of outdoor activities.

When is the best season to visit South Florida?

If you’re looking for great temps and less crowds, the spring is probably the best season to visit South Florida. You’ll find temperatures ranging from the mid-70s to mid-80s, and there won’t be as many crowds as the summer season.

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO FLORIDA

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27 Things To Do in South Florida on the Ultimate Vacation Road Trip