There is enough to see and do in the Sunshine State to fill weeks of vacation time, but if you’re like me, you hardly ever take a day off. So we decided to try and create the most fun and relaxing trip we could with only 24 hours to spare. If you have more time on your hands, feel free to turn it into a week (168 hours) in Florida. Of course, there are plenty of amazing places we had to leave out (like the Keys), simply due to driving time. You have to make some tough choices when you’re on a (time) budget! Here’s our itinerary:
You can start wherever you like, but we think our example works best driving south to north.
The total driving time is around 6 and a half hours, but as Google Maps will warn you, there are toll roads on this route. We're short on time, so we're not going to try to avoid them on this trip.
7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.: Let's begin early in the morning, at one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida, on Siesta Key.
The pristine white sands of Siesta Beach (sometimes called Siesta Key Beach) are 99% quartz (that once made up the Appalachian mountains). Even with the sun beating down directly on it, this sand remains cool under beachgoers' bare feet. This beach often tops lists of the best beaches in the country, including those of the famous expert Dr. Beach. Unfortunately, with our timeline, we only have a couple hours to take in the beauty of Siesta Key before we're on the road.
9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.: Next, we'll head to Pass-a-Grille, a little community located on the south end of St. Pete Beach.
Pass-a-Grille is a historic strip of homes, shops and restaurants (and Pass-a-Grille Beach). This quaint neighborhood will soon become one of your favorite Florida beach towns. If you're hungry, grab a breakfast to-go from Paradise Grille.
On your way to our next destination, take a little detour to the fun and funky little town of Gulfport.
This adorable community doesn't have much of a beach, but it has plenty of brightly painted boutiques and cafes that you find in Florida's cutest beach towns. We have just enough time to window shop and grab an ice cream at Yummy's.
Noon to 2:00 p.m.: Our next stop is one of Florida's greatest small towns, Tarpon Springs.
This Greek community in Pinellas County is full of old world charm, authentic Greek restaurants and bakeries, and reminders of the town's sponging industry. Visit the sponge docks or take a boat tour and fall in love with this unique Florida town.
3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.: Our next stop is the Old Florida town of Crystal River.
There are plenty ways to spend your time in Crystal River. Kayak or swim with the manatees in beautiful Three Sisters Spring, grab some fresh seafood at Dan's Clam Stand, or try something new at Copp Winery & Brewery.
8:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.: Our final stop is in historic St. Augustine. We have to cross over to the east coast, but it's worth the drive.
The nation's oldest city isn't just historic, it's a happening place with plenty of restaurants and nightlife to choose from. Many of the city's attractions might be closed, but just walking the narrow, stony streets will take you back in time. Spend the night in one of the many historic homes that have become excellent B&Bs. If you have more than 24 hours, you'll want to spend an extra day here. It's truly one of Florida's finest destinations.