Florida in a Flash: Quick & Memorable Weekend Getaways

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Sanibel Island, off the coast of Fort Myers
Sanibel Island, off the coast of Fort Myers. Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

A year-round sunny climate, luxury beach resorts, array of activities and numerous theme parks offer fabulous opportunities for weekend getaways in Florida.

Drink a glass of wine on the Naples Pier, visit a 300-year-old fortress in St. Augustine, go on a shopping spree in Miami or have a night on the town in Tampa. Planning a beach vacation? Hit the beach on Marco Island or head to Key West for a weekend of scuba diving and snorkeling.

The Sunshine State has vacation opportunities for solo travelers, spring breakers, adventurous families or friend groups planning a weekend trip. Plan your next trip with our roundup of the top 12 Florida weekend getaways.

Smathers Beach in Key West
An aerial view of Smathers Beach in Key West. Photo credit: Andy Newman/Florida Keys News Bureau.

Key West

Key West sits at the southernmost point of the US. Only 90 miles north of Cuba, it is one of the five islands that make up the Florida Keys. The island is known for its vibrant nightlife, stunning beaches, fascinating history and thrilling water sports.

Explore the restaurants, bars and shops along Duval Street or watch street performers in Mallory Square. Visitors can kayak through mangrove creeks or go on a dolphin watching cruise. The island offers a host of thrilling water sports including jet skiing, parasailing, or paddleboarding.

Home to the only living coral reef in the continental US, Key West is also a top snorkeling and scuba diving destination. Glide through the crystal clear waters and see stunning tropical fish on an organized snorkeling tour.

Ernest Hemingway lived in Key West and visitors will find traces of him throughout the city. Learn about the famous writer while touring the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, or visit one of his favorite hangouts, Sloppy Joe’s Bar.

View of the Miami skyline. Photo credit: Cathy Bennett Kopf

Miami

Exciting weekend getaways in Florida nearly always include Miami. With its glitz, glamour and sunny skies, Miami is one of Florida’s most popular cities. This multicultural city in South Florida has a little bit of everything: beaches, museums, shopping, nightlife, history and delicious Cuban cuisine.

Kickstart your weekend by shopping, dining and people-watching in South Beach. To enjoy amazing architecture, explore the amazing Art Deco Historic District or visit the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

Immerse yourself in nature while visiting Everglades National Park or Biscayne National Park. If you’re traveling with kids, spend a day at the Zoo Miami or visit the Miami Children’s Museum. And don’t forget to try the amazing Cuban food in Little Havana.

downtown St. Augustine.
The architecture is eye-catching in downtown St. Augustine. Photo credit: Christine Tibbetts

St. Augustine

St. Augustine is the oldest European-founded city in the United States. Dive into the city’s rich history by visiting the iconic Castillo de San Marcos, a more than 300-year-old Spanish fortress. Other must-see historical sites include Ponce de Leon’s “Fountain of Youth,” a fascinating archeological museum, and the Oldest Wooden Schoolhouse, which dates back to the 18th century.

Visitors can also simply wander through the city’s historic downtown and explore boutiques, art galleries, cafes and authentic European restaurants. For some outdoor adventure, take a boat tour along the Matanzas River or visit Anastasia State Park, where you’ll find sandy beaches, hiking trails and water sports rentals. This state park is also a top destination for birdwatching and fishing.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Orlando

Home to a variety of theme parks and water parks, Orlando is the perfect place for families. Its most famous park is, of course, Walt Disney World. This resort is made up of four theme parks, two water parks and more than two dozen resort hotels.

Orlando is also home to SeaWorld Orlando, LEGOLAND Florida and Universal Orlando Resort, where visitors will find The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The Kennedy Space Center is also a popular day-trip from Orlando. Animal lovers will adore Gatorland, a theme park and wildlife preserve, home to alligators, reptiles, sea turtles, lots of bird species and a petting zoo. There are also lots of water parks just waiting to be explored.

Beyond its theme parks, visitors can shop at Mall at Millenia or stroll through the beautiful Harry P. Leu Gardens. Go kayaking down the Wekiva River or swim with manatees at Crystal River, about 90 minutes from Orlando. There are also plenty of beautiful beaches near Orlando, including Clearwater Beach and Daytona Beach and Cocoa Beach.

Naples

With soft white sand and sparkling blue water, Naples beaches are some of the best beaches in Florida. Come to this southwest Florida destination for the beaches but stay for the tasty restaurants, beautiful nature and world-class shopping. Here, visitors will have no trouble finding beautiful beachfront resorts, perfect for a romantic getaway.

Stroll down Naples Pier and drink a glass of wine while watching the sunset. Learn about native plants while visiting the Naples Botanical Gardens or enjoy a sunset cruise along the Gulf of Mexico. Naples is also a great place for foodies, with hundreds of delicious restaurants across the city.

Naples is a great base from which to explore the nearby Everglades National Park. One of the best ways to tour the Everglades is via an airboat tour, where you’ll glide through the area’s various terrains while seeing lots of local wildlife, including wild alligators.

St Petersburg Beach Sunset
Sunset on the beach at St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo Credit: Kim Orlando

St. Petersburg

Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, St. Petersburg is a great place for beach-goers and art-lovers. The city is home to the Salvador Dali Museum, showcasing the works of the famous surrealist painter. It is also home to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Mahaffey Theater.

Beach-goers can visit St. Pete Beach, Pass-a-Grille Beach and Fort De Soto Park, located on an island. St. Petersburg has a charming downtown area, filled with art galleries, boutique shops and bars. There are plenty of beautiful oceanfront restaurants and local breweries.

Fred Howard Park, one of the best beaches near Tampa
Fred Howard Park, one of the best beaches near Tampa. Photo credit: Visit Tampa Bay

Tampa

Located in Central Florida, Tampa is a bustling city that appeals to all. Nestled on the west coast of Florida, this Florida destination boasts family-friendly attractions, exciting nightlife and beautiful Gulf Coast views.

To explore the downtown area, walk down the Tampa Riverwalk, a 2.6-mile-long pedestrian trail along the Hillsborough River. The historic Ybor City is also a popular neighborhood. Known for its Cuban heritage, this area has great restaurants and nightlife. The Tampa Museum of Art is a great place to enjoy the local arts scene, as is the Tampa Theatre.

For nature enthusiasts, Tampa Bay presents a wealth of outdoor activities. Go kayaking through mangrove creeks or book a sunset cruise. For a more adrenaline-fueled experience, try jet skiing, parasailing, or paddleboarding on the crystal-clear waters.

We can't get enough of the sunsets at Amelia Island
Sunset, because, well, look at it. Credit: Amelia Island Tourist Development Council

Amelia Island

With its laid-back atmosphere and stunning natural beauty, Amelia Island is one of the best weekend getaway destinations for those looking to relax. Located on Florida’s northeastern coast, the island belongs to a chain of barrier islands on the Atlantic coast.

The island has an amazing historic district with more than 300 Victorian-era buildings alongside boutiques, art galleries and restaurants. History-lovers can also visit a museum inside a historic county jail.

With miles of coastline, Amelia Island has lots of public beaches but Fernandina Beach and American Beach are some of the most popular. To see a historic fort and spend the day hiking, visit Fort Clinch State Park. If all the sightseeing has left you hungry, visit the award-winning Salt Restaurant, located inside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

Selfie in front of the fort myers sign
Fort Myers, Florida Photo Credit: Visit Florida

Fort Myers

Fort Myers entices its visitors with nearly year-round sun, rich history and sandy beaches. The main downtown area, the River District, is full of historic buildings, shops, restaurants and bars. The first Friday of every month there is an Art Walk, with vendors selling jewelry, art and handmade goods lining the streets.

One of the most popular attractions in Fort Myers is the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. These American inventors lived next to each other, and their homes and gardens are now on display. There is a corresponding museum that preserves their history and world-changing inventions.

From Fort Myers, visitors can drive 20 minutes to visit Fort Myers Beach, or drive about 40 minutes to Sanibel Island. Both these destinations boast incredible beach opportunities. On Sanibel Island, nature enthusiasts will appreciate the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary home to diverse wildlife.

Boats in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

Fort Lauderdale

Due to the extensive canal system that cuts through Fort Lauderdale, this southeastern Florida city has gained the nickname, the “Venice of America.” In true Venice fashion, visitors can take a romantic gondola ride through the canals while getting to know the city.

Be sure to spend some time on Las Olas Boulevard. This is the city’s main shopping and entertainment destination. It’s located along the beachfront and is lined with shops, restaurants and bars.

Fort Lauderdale is also a beach destination with many outdoor activities. Sunbathe or take a dip into the Atlantic Ocean at Fort Lauderdale Beach or Hollywood Beach, two of the city’s most popular beaches. Due to its proximity to the Florida Reef, Fort Lauderdale is also a premier snorkeling and scuba diving destination.

Marco Island

If you’re planning a luxurious island getaway, Marco Island is the place to go. Nestled on the southwestern tip of Florida’s Gulf Coast, this is a highly developed island with high-rise condos and seaside resorts overlooking white sand beaches.

The island’s most popular beach is Tigertail Beach. It has two different areas: one that is developed with a boardwalk and concessions, and another that is rugged and unspoiled.

Marco Island also boasts an abundance of marine life. Discover the vibrant underwater world by joining a snorkeling or scuba diving tour. Visitors can also explore the nearby Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and observe wildlife in their natural habitats.

Ride across the bridges in Jacksonville with Go Tuk'n Tours.
Beautiful bridges at the heart of downtown Jacksonville, Florida. Photo: Sarah Gilliland

Jacksonville

Jacksonville buzzes with entertainment, shopping, dining, beaches, parks and just about anything else. It is the city with the largest population in Florida, and has both a captivating urban scene and stunning beaches.

The city is full of diverse neighborhoods. Be sure to check out Riverside and Avondale to experience the city’s vibrant art scene, and stroll through San Marco to peruse sophisticated boutiques and gourmet restaurants.

Beach-goers can spend the day sunbathing at beaches like Jacksonville Beach, Atlantic Beach, and Neptune Beach. Jacksonville also houses the largest urban park system across the US. Jacksonville parks feature marshes, wetlands, historic forts, secret beaches and campgrounds.

Adina Keeling is a freelance travel writer from San Diego, CA. She worked in local news for a year until her wanderlust drew her to Costa Rica, where she is now based while freelancing and traveling the world. She has lived in three different countries and traveled to 27. An avid solo traveler, Adina wants to empower other women to safely travel alone.
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