6 Days 233 Miles
6 Tropical Days Through the Everglades & South Florida
An Unforgettable Everglades Exploration
South Florida is more than just trendy nightclubs, celebrities, and cryptocurrency. It is also home to Everglades National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Center, and one of America’s most remote National Parks, Dry Tortugas.
Our six-day road trip across South Florida is the ultimate bucket-list trip. This is an ideal adventure for couples or families, with unique adventures for everyone. Couples will enjoy boutique hotels, romantic seaside dining, and sun-filled days in some of the most beautiful places in the world. For the family, there is a chance to see the pristine sawgrass prairies of the Everglades, teeming with alligators or the endangered Key deer in their natural habitat.
Day 1 – Arrival & Miami, Florida
We suggest arriving at Miami International (MIA) or Fort Lauderdale International (FLL) airport. Given the incredible drive down the Overseas Highway, Florida’s only All-American Road, consider renting a convertible. Otherwise, the options are nearly limitless, with dozens of rental firms at both airports to choose from.
Explore a bit of the Magic City, Miami—a metropolitan area unlike any other. Since its days as a fishing village, Latin American and Caribbean influences can be found throughout the food, music, culture, and atmosphere. The city truly has something for every taste, budget, and desired experience. Here are four neighborhoods that top our list of places to check out.
This unique neighborhood is an eclectic mixture of boutiques, antique shops, casual restaurants, and perhaps most notably, the highest concentration of street art in the U.S. With dozens of murals showcasing artists from around the globe, Wynwood is a must-see.
The epicenter of Miami’s pop culture scene, South Beach is home to global hot spots and the world-famous Ocean Drive. Explore the Art Deco District to see noteworthy examples of mid-century modern architecture. To better appreciate this treasure trove of design, we suggest one of the Art Deco bike or walking tours.
With towering skyscrapers, bustling streets, and constant dynamic energy, Brickell is the closest to Manhattan you can get in the South. This neighborhood is well known for its world-class, Michelin-starred restaurants. For couples, we suggest grabbing a cocktail at Sugar, the city’s tallest rooftop bar, located 40 floors atop the EAST Miami hotel.
This is the traditional home of Miami’s Cuban residents and offers visitors a little taste of Cuba in South Florida. There are many options along Southwest 8th Street to listen to some of the best Cuban, Afro-Cuban, and classical Spanish music in the state. And no trip to Little Havana is complete without a meal at the Versailles Restaurant, The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant.
Since we’ll be exploring the Everglades, we recommend staying on the west side of Miami-Dade County. All major hotel chains have locations along the Sawgrass Expressway, with more options in Florida City.
Day 2 – Everglades National Park
Start day two of your South Florida road trip bright and early. Drive west from Miami and notice as the suburbs abruptly shift to vast prairies of sawgrass. Krome Avenue is the unofficial boundary to the Everglades; we suggest making a snack, gas, and restroom break at this point.
With more than 1.5 million acres, Everglades National Park is expansive, and there are many options to explore its diverse ecosystems. For this trip we’ll visit two, starting with Shark Valley on the northern side of the park before heading south to Royal Palm.
Enter the heartland of the Everglades, Shark Valley. Whether you want to hike, bike or take a tram tour, explore the 15-mile loop trail to immerse yourself in the River of Grass.
Tram tours and bike rentals should be booked well in advance. If your adventure style is all about the views, visit Shark Valley’s 65-foot observation tower. Offering 360-degree views of the Everglades, the viewing deck also overlooks a water hole teeming with life. You’re likely to get a bird’s eye view of alligators, turtles, and fish. Along the loop trail, you might have a close encounter with wildlife—don’t attempt to feed or pet wild animals.
After you’ve explored Shark Valley, drive south on Krome Avenue toward the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. Here, you can continue to learn about the incredible diversity of plants, animals, and ecosystems within the Everglades. Park Rangers are also on hand to help you plan the remainder of your day. Then it is on to Royal Palm, the departure point for two interpretive hikes: the Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail. The Anhinga Trail’s famous boardwalk bordering the Taylor Slough is one of the best places to see wildlife in the park, while the paved Gumbo Limbo Trail takes you through one of the Everglades’ hardwood hammock ecosystems.
Feeling even more adventurous? Travel farther into the park to visit the newly renovated Flamingo Visitor Center. Nearby, you’ll find boat tours from the marina, canoeing and hiking trails, and opportunities for backcountry camping!
After an exhilarating day in one of the world’s most important ecosystems, it’s time to check-in to your hotel in Key Largo, about an hour’s drive away. The cottages and suites at The Pelican Key Largo are perfect for families who need a bit of extra space. The Pelican’s outdoor barbeque area, free kayaks, and communal laundry services also make traveling with kids that much easier. Couples may want to opt for a guest room at Reefhouse Resort & Marina which has an on-site spa, fitness center, and tiki bar.
Day 3 – John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
After a good night’s sleep, continue your journey along the Overseas Highway which links the mainland to Key West. If you didn’t get a chance to see the teal blue waters of the Florida Bay and Straits of Florida the night before, today is your chance. With breathtaking views extending to the horizon, you’ll instantly know why the Overseas Highway, U.S. 1, was designated an All-American Road.
Our first destination is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo, Mile Marker 102.5. The first undersea park in the U.S., this state park encompasses more than 70 nautical square miles, including the northern section of North America’s only living coral reef. Explore the coral reef, either by glass-bottom boat, snorkeling excursion, or perhaps even SCUBA diving if you’re certified. With some of the clearest waters in the country, expect to see an unequaled number of vibrant fish and marine animals. A centerpiece of the park’s underwater experience is the 9-foot-tall statue of Christ of the Abyss, installed in 1965 as a memorial to all those whose lives were lost at sea. For more than 50 years, millions of visitors to the Florida Keys have seen this iconic statue. Get ready to add yourself to that list!
After a morning on or under the water, fuel up with lunch at the park’s concession and relax under the palms at the park’s beach. Next up, paddling! We suggest renting kayaks, paddleboards, or a canoe to explore a portion of the more than 50 miles of trails that meander through the natural mangrove forests.
As the sun sets, it is time to head back to your hotel. The Florida Keys is renowned for its seafood, so be sure to enjoy the bounty of the sea at one of Key Largo’s excellent restaurants. Pilot House, right on the docks, or The Fish House are two of our favorites.
Day 4 – Key West
Set out from your Key Largo resort, refreshed and ready for the awe-inspiring views that await as we drive down the Overseas Highway to Key West. The drive takes about two and a half hours; however, there are plenty of fun stops to make along the way. Visit the National Key Deer Refuge Nature Center in Big Pine Key for a chance to see 23 endangered and threatened species including the Key deer. Your best chance to see Key deer are early in the morning or near sunset. A variety of activities from wildlife viewing to fishing are available at the refuge.
Arriving mid to late afternoon in Key West is ideal—just enough time to check in to your hotel and head out to get your Instagram-worthy photo at the Southernmost Point. There are plenty of hotels to choose from; if you want to stay within walking distance to many of the attractions, book a stay at the Southernmost Beach Resort.
Take a brisk, one-mile walk down Duval Street to experience the nightly Sunset Celebration at Mallory Square. Key West locals and visitors have gathered to celebrate the setting sun along the docks for more than 50 years. In addition to the jaw-dropping beauty of the sunset, there are numerous buskers and performers to entertain. After the sun sets, stroll towards the Historic Key West Seaport for dinner, fresh from the docks.
Day 5 – Dry Tortugas National Park
We’ve reached the end of the road, so where does a road trip go from there? 70 miles out to sea, to Dry Tortugas National Park. This remote National Park comprises seven small islands surrounded by 100 square miles of protected open waters. Book a ferry or seaplane service to arrive at Garden Key.
Best known for the magnificent Fort Jefferson, explore this Civil War-era engineer marvel at your own pace. The views from the upper floor will have everyone at home wondering how such a place could be real. After you’ve toured the fort, get ready to explore some of the most crystal clear, pristine waters found anywhere in the world. Snorkeling is a must—sign up for a guided trip with one of the permitted tour guides found here.
For most visitors, their journey to the Dry Tortugas ends when they board the seaplane or ferry back to Key West. But for those in the know, who have planned months in advance, there are a limited number of campsites on Garden Key. Transportation reservations that include overnight stays are limited, so plan early.
Staying the night on Garden Key is well beyond anyone’s bucket list expectations and comes close to being a surreal encounter with the cosmos. The secluded location and darkness of the sky permits for some of the best stargazing around.
Day 6 – Key West & Departure
Key West is famous for its nightlife, which means it is not a city that rises early. Plan to sleep in. There are plenty of local diners and dockside eateries to try, but we recommend something unique to Key West, breakfast at a laundromat. For generations, no one seems to know how it started; tiny restaurants, take-out counters really, opened inside laundromats around the island. These primarily serve Cuban food and are known for their Cuban Coffee—a bucci or café con leche are our recommendations.
Traveling with any history or literature fans? Then make sure to fit in one more stop on your South Florida road trip. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum for a tour of his stunning 1851 estate. After breakfast or your trip to the museum, it’s time to head back to the mainland. The drive from Key West to Miami or Fort Lauderdale takes approximately four hours; however, it can take a few hours longer on holidays and Sundays. Please be mindful of your travel time.