a VirtualTourist member
Hi, we are a couple from Dublin in our late 20s.
Going to Florida for the first time in late April/ early May for just under 2 weeks.
Flying into Orlando and out of Miami.
Have booked first 4 nights accommodation in Orlando and plan to visit Discovery Cove, Seaworld and Universal islands of adventure. Not going to bother with Disney for now. Will be an excuse to return in the future with kiddies!!!
Would like to do Miami(for about 4 nights), the Keys and perhaps an Everglades daytrip but not sure where else and in what order to do it in.
East coast or west coast?
Places we have heard of are Cocoa, Daytona Beach, Vero beach, Fort Lauderdale, Clearwater, Sarasota, Cape Canaveral, West Palm Beach, Key Largo, Marathon, Key West.
We don't mind whether we rent a car or take buses or trains. Whatever is easy and not overly costly. Have licences.
As we will be there for Cinco de Mayo, any suggestions about this are welcome too.
We like eating great local food, having a few drinks in nice trendy bars (but not nightclubs), sandy beaches, people watching, activities like biking and surfing, animals, nature, and seeing new things and having new experiences.
I would not spend too much time in Orlando as once you see the main attractions there it just becomes a money pit. A few hours to the northeast of Orlando, St Augustine is a must see it is the first established city in the United States with many of the old shops, school, the old fort and the pharmacy are still standing. It is an old Spanish style city of cobblestone roads and you might wan to to take a horse and buggy tour of the city first. You might also want to see Daytona Beach, a little south on Highway A1A and I would stop at the famous Daytona Speedway if you enjoy that sort of thing. It's lots of fun. Then head further south to Cape Canaveral and take a tour of the Space Center. After that I would take your excursion south to Miami, Ft Lauderdale and the Keys. I'm not as familiar with Miami so others can point out some attractions there. I'm not too sure about the west coast other then a number of beach towns but you may want to get over to Sanibel Island. Everyone who goes there loves it! Best of Luck!
Consider how you'll travel from Orlando to Miami. One-way car drop fees are expensive. The NASA site at Cape Canaveral is good if that's an interest. It's an easy drive from Orlando.
Daytona is a "beach town" and not much more other than the speedway in my opinion but I've not been to a race there in years so the area may have changed. You'll definitely get some people watching there.
The drive to Key West from Miami may be a bit much for the amount of time you have but Key West is a great place to visit. Miami's South Beach will be another people watching op. Grab a street side table at the News Cafe and just watch the crowd.
Clearwater, St. Petersburg and Saratoga (Siesta Key and Longboat Key) are great beach areas and not as crowded as Miami usually.
Vero Beach has always been pretty much a retirement community.
I live in Miami and have traveled throughout Florida.
I will answer in more detail tomorrow as it is late here but, in the meantime, you're welcome to look through my Miami tips including food and things to do, places to see.
Well, if you want to be like Americans, you'll rent a car and drive. There's just too much that will be difficult to see without a car. Will it be expensive? Could be...but rent cars are usually cheaper in the States than elsewhere.
Note that at a lot of airports, there is an additional "concession fee"...but this fee is charge PER DAY, so you have to pay everyday for the fact that you picked up the car at an airport...price the cars, and you may find that it's cheaper to take a taxi from the airport to the hotel, then arrange to pick up the car at a "neighborhood" location. As for the drop-off charge, well, you'll just have to price that as well, as drop-off charges vary from a lot to nothing at all, depending on the start and end. And Florida is a funny market because there are so many visitors that there are a lot of rental cars there, so who knows?
I believe it to be true that the water is nicer on the west side (the Gulf side). I go to St. Pete's Beach every year for a conference, and the beaches are nice enough, but I am not a beach person, so the effect is lost on me. I have the impression, though, that the clearest water is farther north...I am sure someone will pop in to say where.
Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday (it's celebrating a battle that they won against the French at Puebla), but the main "Hispanic" population in Florida is Cuban. This is not to say that there aren't Mexicans in Florida - I am sure there are - but that the Cubans will have no interest in celebrating it. Come to Texas if you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo ;-)
I'm not into the tourist thing. I think you see much more culture visiting out of the way places. With that said, I agree about Daytona. Long drive, not much to see. I would make it to NASA. Coco Beach is tight there. The west has better water. It is called the Gold Coast but I more towards the panhandle. Key West would be a long, long drive. Really no beaches along the way. I would try an airboat Everglades tour. That is one thing that its truly American. It will be hot and humid. Lots of sunscreen. I hope you have a great trip. I would ask the hotel about a Cuban restaurant, yum. That would be worth seeking out. Safe travels!
Cocoa Beach to the south and New Smyrna Beach to the North frame the wonderful National Seashore---gorgeous beaches (some of which are clothing-optional), great seafood restaurants, and other trails for bird watching and such....We found a nice 2 bedroom house on VRBO near New Smyrna Beach, with a backyard pool for about150 per night!
Have a great trip! Slianch! (know that's not spelled right!)
Since the plan is to leave out of Miami anyway, I do not think it a stretch to go down the Keys. it is about a half day drive from Miami to Key West and you can also stop for the night at one of the other Keys such as Islamorada or Marathon. To me this is one of the best drives to be had.
A rental car would be ideal as it gives you freedom to do and stop where you wish, if it is within your budget. I know that drop offs in another city within Florida is cheaper than drop offs in other states but you need to check out some car rental places (I use carrentals.com)
I am a West coast guy so I suggest going from Orlando to Clearwater Beach, maybe stop at Tarpon Springs just north of there to visit the "touristy" sponge diving.
Continue down the West coast, There are a number of nice cities like Sarasota, Ft Myers Beach, Marco Island, Naples, you can pick and choose. Some excellent beaches and drives down the coast.
After Naples you stay on Tamiami Trail (US 41) right across Alligator Alley to Miami. You will see indian villages, airboat rides, alligators and maybe a panther.
Of course do not try to do or stop everywhere or you will find yourself rushing from one place to another and never enjoying your trip.
Check out the many Florida websites and decide what you really want to see and do. Look at "mapquest" to determine miles and times to destinations.
I just made the Key West drive last week. It is 3 hours from Miami.
Not much to stop at along the way, some very small Key towns and the larger one (our favorite for food as it is within 1/2 hr from our house) Key Largo.
You can leave by 6:00 - 6:30 in the morning and catch sunrise on way down to Key West.
Spend the day in KW and head back out around 6:00pm and catch sunset on the way back.
That should put you back in Miami by 9 - 9:30pm and you will have had a fabulous day.
Homer is right, you can make the trip in 3 to 4 hours (watch your speed, the speed traps are brutal), but I guess it is the old saying;
"different strokes for different folks".
I like to take my time and stop along the way. I stop for lunch or a cocktail at Islamorada Fish House, or maybe Porky's in Marathon for a grouper sandwich or grouper bites or No Name Pub in Big Pine Key for a burger or pizza.
I also may stop at Bahia Honda State park and get my feet wet. (they have cabins for rent)
As far as KW, I lived in Big Pine so I only had 30 miles to drive home, but as a tourist, you may want to spend the night and hit Duval St. and do the crawl or a sunset cruise. You can rent a bicycle or a scooter to easily get around.
Just depends on what you like to do.
You should also catch the end of the stone crab season which is a treat and I highly recommend trying some and of course the famous Key Lime Pie.
Let us know if we can provide more info.
I know that I'm partial but I second the Clearwater vote. Clearwater Beach just offers so much, especially for the younger crowd. And you can't beat the beautiful white, sandy beach there. Plenty of nightlife and day activities. If you need any specific info feel free to directly contact me as I am a local - if you couldn't already tell. ;-)
I would definitely rent a car to start with...it's the best way to get around. Starting in Orlando I would head to the west coast..and start heading south ..Clearwater St Pete area ...great beaches and lots of fun ...only a couple of hours from Orlando then spend a couple of nights in Siesta Key ,which is voted one of the top 10 Beaches in the world. This is a short drive from Clearwater/St Pete. This is a great area with beaches all the way down the coast...which means lots of restaurants ,bars and shopping.
Next I would head across Alligator Alley ...stop for Billy's Swamp tour on the way and make your way to Key Largo And Key West.Finally head to Miami ?Maybe 3 or 4 nights.
I live in Florida half the year...just south of Siesta Key area.