Many of us are dreaming of upcoming travel adventures, especially since our 2020 trips were likely thwarted by the coronavirus pandemic. We’re now more than a year into this, and quarantine has led to a lot of pent-up demand for travel, so a much-needed escape sounds pretty dreamy right now. The great news is you don’t need to venture very far to experience a stellar vacation.
In fact, it looks like families are still opting for road trips. According to Skift.com, recent reports from Arrivalist’s Daily Travel Index showed that road trips during the week of April 7, 2021, surpassed 2019 numbers for the first time since the pandemic began. The trends we’re seeing include people venturing to remote destinations and natural settings — as opposed to big cities — and Florida was one of the Top 10 states with the highest surge in road trip activity.
So, where should you go this summer? We’ve rounded up a list of a few Florida destinations that will provide an ideal escape. The only downside is you may not be able to fit them all in!
If you don’t want to venture too far but you’re looking for a change of pace, the Florida Keys is the ideal option. Perfect for a quick weekend getaway or an entire week of R&R, the Keys offers loads of fun.
Water enthusiasts can enjoy swimming at one of the picture-perfect beaches or take a boat out for a more fast-paced excursion. If you’re keen to explore the boundless marine life, jump in and get up close and personal with tropical fish, sea turtles, stingrays and more. For those who’d prefer a snorkeling tour, head over to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo or Bahia Honda State Park in the Lower Keys. There are also glass-bottom boat ride excursions that are perfect for all ages. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, Dry Tortugas National Park is a must-see. Located about 70 miles off the coast of Key West, this 14-acre island is home to the historic Fort Jefferson and vibrant coral reefs.
Bridge fishing is another great pastime that the Keys offers. Some of the best fishing spots include Tom’s Harbor Cut Bridge, Seven Mile Bridge and No Name Key Bridge, where you can reel in grouper, snapper and snook.
And you can’t miss walking, biking or moped riding around Key West. Just be sure to bring your camera to capture the iconic sunset views from Mallory Square or Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
Fun for All Ages
Naples offers something for everyone, so you’ll find options for the young and the young at heart. Start the day early and head to one of the area’s family-friendly beaches, such as Lowdermilk Park, which offers full-service amenities and sand volleyball courts for the older kids. If you’re a nature lover, you won’t want to miss Clam Pass Park, with its boardwalk that meanders through mangroves, offering an ideal habitat to spot shorebirds and other wildlife. The shallow water has a gentle current so it’s ideal for swimming. End your day with the majestic sunset at Naples Pier, or hop aboard a sunset cruise for a truly unforgettable experience.
Boating options abound in Naples. From open-water fishing expeditions and dolphin watching ecotours to sightseeing on a sailing catamaran, you can’t go wrong. Going to Keewaydin Island is a family favorite — here you can enjoy the crisp ocean air, swim in the clear blue water and go shelling on the beach. Be sure to keep an eye out for playful dolphins on the way back to the marina.
The zoo and botanical garden are two other fun outings to consider. The 170-acre lushly landscaped garden introduces children to a multitude of tropical plants and habitats, and the zoo offers a glimpse at many exotic animals while enjoying the great outdoors. After all this fun in the sun, you may want to just relax in the hotel pool and cool off. You’ve earned it!
One of the most awe-inspiring adventures here in Florida are the freshwater springs. If you haven’t experienced one of these yet, now’s the time to plan your visit. It’s a great escape to a more remote location where you won’t have to worry about social distancing (for the most part).
Crystal River, located north of Tampa, is dotted with natural springs. The area is busiest after November when many people flock there to swim with the manatees. During the summer, you won’t see many manatees, so it’s a great time to avoid the crowds. Swim, snorkel or paddle in the spectacular Three Sisters Springs for an experience you won’t soon forget. Nearby, Homosassa Springs is another destination for hiking, picnicking, boat tours and wildlife encounters.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park offers pristine conditions for swimming, kayaking, canoeing, tubing and wildlife viewing. There are eight springs that follow the flow of the river, so you’ll be impressed by the clarity of the water. Marvel at the sight of birds, vegetation and marine life all around you.
One of the most popular diving springs in Florida, Ginnie Springs is privately owned and known for its camping amenities. Snorkelers and scuba divers will have the experience of a lifetime, while tubers can serenely drift for about an hour down the Santa Fe River.
A Shore Bet
Of course, you won’t be hard-pressed to find amazing beaches throughout the state.
Consistently voted the top beach in the country, it’s no surprise that Siesta Key was named the No. 1 Beach in the U.S. in TripAdvisor’s 2020 Traveler’s Choice Awards. This gorgeous strand of soft sand is a prime spot for an idyllic beach vacation. Zoom across the water on a Jet Ski, go at your own pace on a paddleboard, or get a bird’s-eye view with a parasailing tour. Whether you are on the move or simply basking in the sun while taking in the balmy ocean breeze, the options for sand between your toes and sun-kissed hair are plentiful.
If you don’t mind driving a longer distance, Condé Nast Traveler recently shared their list of the Top Family Beach Vacations in the U.S., and Destin made the cut because of its wide array of offerings for family adventures. Located in the Florida Panhandle, this gem boasts Instaworthy white-sand beaches, exhilarating watersports, nature trails, challenging golfing and some great fishing opportunities. You can fish right offshore or go boating and explore what is known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”
No matter how you choose to spend your summer in the Sunshine State, you’re guaranteed a great time.