In our opinion, Florida is one of the best states for road trips. There’s an endless array of scenic outdoor fun, incredible restaurants, quaint shops and roadside attractions that anyone with a few days off and a sense of adventure can enjoy. We’ve previously brought you several possible routes, from
The Ultimate Central Florida Road Trip to this terrifying trek through some of Florida’s most haunted places.
The real heart of Florida, however, is in its charming small towns that invite us to explore nature and other cultures, all while bringing our state’s history alive. This road trip is certain to make your next vacation or free weekend unforgettable.
1. Cedar Key
Cedar Key is an old-fashioned fishing village in Levy County that's famous for the best clams in the state (and possibly the world). Explore the local wildlife or spend hours strolling the historic streets lined with shops and restaurants. Tip: Stay in the Victorian-era Cedar Key Bed & Breakfast. It's so quaint, you'll feel like you're staying in a life-sized doll house.
2. Crystal River
This town on the Nature Coast is well-known as the best place in Florida to see (or swim with) the manatees. This town also has plenty of historic buildings and peaceful parks for families to enjoy. Tip: Check out King's Bay Lodge for an affordable yet unforgettable stay. They'll help you plan every activity you might want to try.
3. Tarpon Springs
Next, we'll head south to a town that feels like another world. Tarpon Springs is a coastal Greek community in Pinellas County, famous for its sponge docks. Tarpon Springs was once a popular winter spot for the wealthy, so take a drive and see the Victorian houses in the town's historic district. Tip: Check out the Hellas Restaurant for a taste of the authentic Greek cuisine this town is famous for. Don't leave without stocking up on goodies from the bakery, too.
4. Mount Dora
The minute you step foot in this quaint Central Florida town, it will become one of your favorites. This town is famous for its shopping opportunities, especially antiques. You have to stay in the iconic Lakeside Inn at least once, because at over 130 years old, this is the longest continuously running hotel in Florida. Tip: If you know someone who is obsessed with old-fashioned trains, book a ride on the Orange Blossom Cannonball. It takes passengers back in time on a wood-burning steam locomotive.
As we continue our path to the east, our next stop is this adorable little town in Volusia County. Stroll downtown DeLand for boutiques, antiques and delicious treats. Not to mention the beautiful murals and historic buildings that give the town its unique charm. If you love the outdoors, cool off with a swim at nearby De Leon Springs State Park. Tip: Tour the jaw-dropping Stetson Mansion, Florida's first luxury home.
6. St. Augustine
Last, but certainly not least, we'll visit the nation's oldest city, St. Augustine. Tour the Castillo de San Marcos, walk the narrow old roads lined with all kinds of shops and restaurants, visit dozens of museums and historic sites, and explore the unspoiled beaches of Anastasia Island State Park. Tip: As the oldest city in the country, it makes sense that St. Augustine would also be one of the most haunted. Check out a haunted walking tour for a fun way to learn more about the city.
All good things must come to an end, including our epic road trip. If you’re looking for more charming small towns, check out our list of the
17 Most Picturesque Small Towns In Florida.