You have to love the sun to live in Florida. It’s called the Sunshine State, and it’s home to some of the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets, especially along our seemingly endless coastline. Thanks to Florida’s unique shape, it’s only a short drive from an incredible ocean-side sunrise to a romantic sunset on the sand. There are many ways to accomplish a coast-to-coast road trip, with different driving times and attractions. From the sunrise to sunset, you’ll have about 12 hours to enjoy your stops along the way. We mapped out one possible route that we think would make an unforgettable trip, from sun up to sundown.
For our road trip, we chose to start in St. Augustine and end in Siesta Key. Both of these locations have stunning beaches, yet they are still located very close to lots of awesome things to do and places to eat.
We recommend searching online for the time of sunrise and sunset before you start your trip, because it should be different depending on your chosen locations. Right now, for example, sunrise at Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine is around 6:51 a.m., and sunset in Siesta Key takes place at around 7:58 p.m. Most sun chasers recommend getting to your chosen spot about an hour before the scheduled sunrise or sunset, so you catch the whole glorious event.
Sunrise - St. Augustine
You have to get up pretty early to catch a sunrise, so unless you already live pretty close to St. Augustine, you'll have to find a place to stay nearby for the night before your sunrise. If you're the outdoorsy type, we recommend camping at Anastasia State Park and walking to the beach in the early morning.
The Old Powder House Inn Bed & Breakfast
If you prefer a little pampering, St. Augustine has numerous lovely bed & breakfasts to choose from. The Old Powder House Inn is highly rated and located very close to all of the historic attractions in town.
If you camped at the park or missed your hotel's complimentary breakfast, head over to Georgie's Diner. This local favorite serves up tasty Greek and American classics, and they open at 7:00 a.m., so you can get an early start on the rest of your trip.
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, Palm Coast
Our next stop is another one of Florida's stunning state parks. Washington Oaks Gardens in Palm Coast has picturesque formal gardens and a unique rocky coastline, dotted with coquina formations. The park is about a 40-minute drive from St. Augustine, and it opens at 8:00am, which is perfect for our trip.
Wekiwa Springs State Park, Apopka
Central Florida is home to so many of our state's treasured springs, there's no way we could make this trip without stopping at one of them. There are a few others you can choose from, but we liked the fact that beautiful Wekiwa Springs was right on our path. It's about an hour and a half from Washington Oaks Gardens.
Ybor City, Tampa - La Segunda Central Bakery
You'll probably be hungry by this point, but try to hold out until we get to Tampa's historic Ybor City. We're always on the hunt for the best Cuban sandwich, and La Segunda Central Bakery is a big contender. You're also going to want to grab some fresh Cuban bread, a couple of cafe con leches, and a few sweet treats for later.
Sarasota - The Ringling Museum
A little over an hour from Ybor City, stop in Sarasota if you have some extra time. Our sunset is scheduled for around 8:00 p.m., so if you can fit in a visit to this museum devoted to art and circus history before 7:00, we highly recommend it. If you choose to spend the night in Sarasota, you can always check it out the next day.
Owen's Fish Camp
You should still be full from La Segunda, so we recommend having a late dinner in Sarasota, after you watch the sunset. Owen's Fish Camp in downtown Sarasota serves up delicious fresh seafood and sweet Southern hospitality, making it perfect for a weary traveler. It doesn't close until 9:30 p.m., which works out well for our plans.
Sunset - Siesta Key
The white beaches of Siesta Key have gained fame as some of the most beautiful in the world, so this is the perfect place for our sunset. If you're too tired to drive home, there are plenty of hotels in Sarasota. Plus, you'll be close to lots of restaurants and attractions to check out the next day.
Of course, you should feel free to move at your own pace and choose which of these stops to make or miss. Timing is essential, so make sure you’ve planned out every stop. Then, stick to your schedule or change plans when necessary.
What do you think of our road trip and chosen stops? Have you been to any of these places? What route would you choose for a sun-chasing road trip?