The best five Miami fly-drives

By Eloise Barker

Photography by Bertlmann / Getty Images

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April 2017

Crank up the AC and put on a playlist. You’ve nurtured your tan and worn out your dancing shoes on South Beach, Miami. Now, it’s time for Everglades, alligators, safaris and the soft sands on both sides of the Florida coast. Discover our fly-drives out of Miami.

A tour of the local nightlife

Best for: Colourful Key West characters

The journey: 166 miles

Miami to Key West

Miami’s clubs are expensive, glamorous, and attract the likes of Beyoncé. LIV at the Fontainebleau reaches the epitome of clubbing, but if its strict dress code leaves you cold, seek out a dive bar instead and order a Miami Vice (half strawberry daiquiri, half Pina colada). Once you’ve recovered, head down to the Keys for a different kind of nightlife. The Florida Keys are a quirky string of islands joined by the Overseas Highway, culminating in Key West. On your journey down, swap driving time for diving time – the scuba here is renowned. Then, at night, be prepared to party.

In Key West there’s a permanent holiday atmosphere. Hemingway loved it here, and his house is now the residence of a colony of five-toed cats. The house tour is more of a who’s who of the feline world, but afterwards you can celebrate the great writer with Daiquiris. The street parties, including Fantasy Fest, are raucous affairs, and involve the whole town from tanned grannies to spring breakers.

Where to stay: The Fontainebleau Miami Beach for glitz and glamour, followed by The Reach, A Waldorf Astoria Resort for a quieter stay right in the heart of the Old Town in Key West.

  • Great White Egret in mating plumage display. Delray Beach, Florida. Photo credit: Jack Nevitt Photography.

    Something to Tweet about

    Part of the head of the Great White Egret turns neon green during mating season. The beautiful bird is a common sight across Florida, but it was nearly wiped out last century when ladies developed a penchant for its white feathers in their hats. Thankfully, it lives to fly again.

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  • Buoy sign marking the southernmost point on the continental USA in Key West. Photo credit: f11photo

    Ninety miles

    Key West is proud to be the closest point to Cuba, selling its own cigars and rum in tribute to its island neighbour.£263 return

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  • Sunrise at Everglades National Park, Miami. Photo credit: THEPALMER.

    The colour purple

    The Everglades National Park is a magical place to explore.

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Long beach days

Best for: Miles of sand

The journey: 83 miles

Miami to Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach

The beautiful beaches on Florida’s Atlantic side are miles and miles long. This ‘Gold Coast’ extends from Fort Lauderdale through Boca Raton, Delray Beach and West Palm Beach. Follow it north from Miami. At Fort Lauderdale’s elaborate inland canal system, you’ll see gardens on the waterfront full of strange sculpture and well-dressed residents sipping drinks on their verandas. For waterfront dining, stop for food at Coconuts seafood restaurant. Try the Scoobys – juicy crab claws drenched in garlic and oil.

At Delray, enjoy a growing town with over twenty art galleries and great retro ice cream parlours on Atlantic Avenue. A fun-loving place, it’s famed for its parades and festivals – including one for garlic, and one where Santa Claus arrives by helicopter.

Where to stay: Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale has its own quarter mile of private beach for guests to enjoy. Continue up the coast and stay at Eau Palm Beach. Formerly a Ritz Carlton, it’s also right on the beachfront and well equipped for water sports.    

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  • Florida’s wetlands, Everglades National Park. Photo credit: romrodinka.

    River of grass

    The Everglades National Park was the first park in the US to be protected for its incredible ecosystem, not its natural beauty. But visitors to the so-called ‘river of grass’ will find plenty of photo-perfect scenery. Book flights from London to Miami, plus a ten-night hotel stay from:£812 pp

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Three coastal cities

Best for: A bit of culture, food and wildlife

The journey: 281 miles

Miami to Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota and Tampa

The Gulf Coast cities provide a series of stops with vastly different characters. After a drive down the frontages of Miami’s Art Deco district, it’s on to classy Naples – navigate the quays and marinas to reach 1500 South. Art Smith, former personal chef to Oprah Winfrey, opened this restaurant in 2016 to reinvent Southern cuisine – think specialities like chicken and waffles with pickled peaches.

Drive on to Fort Myers, where outdoorsy types flourish. A visit to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, homes of two of American’s great inventors, is a bright idea – but not as good an idea as bringing the motor car to the American people. See old cars, laboratories and wander the sun-soaked gardens.

On to Sarasota, where the Ca d'Zan mansion is a must see – a Venetian-style palace owned by John Ringling, the ‘circus king’ of the city, which still has a rich culture of performers. Head towards the big city of Tampa for culture and beachlife. The nearby St Petersburg has a great creative scene. You’ll want to stop at the Dali Art Museum, where you’ll find the greatest collection of the surrealist's work in the States.

Where to stay: The Naples Grande Beach Resort puts you in a great spot for driving around the Gulf Coast. The Resort at Longboat Key Club in Sarasota is on a beautiful beach near St Armands circle, a ring of shops and restaurants on its own island. In Tampa, the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay is convenient for Busch Gardens.

Theme park holidays

Best for: Adventurous families

The journey: 418 miles

Miami to Tampa, Orlando and Cape Canaveral

Drive from Miami to Tampa and head to Busch Gardens. This theme park combines coasters and creatures. Highlights include new ride Invadr and the Falcon’s Fury, opened 2017. On to Orlando where, as all families know, the city is dominated by three big resorts: Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment.

From Orlando, it’s an hour’s drive to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. In the home of NASA, star gazers will sharply turn their attention to earth to see moon dust preserved on astronauts' space suits and real space craft in the Treasures Gallery. Kids will love the shuttle launch simulators and space shown in 3D at the IMAX cinema.

Where to stay: Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive is situated a handy 25-minute drive from the Orlando resorts. Residence Inn SeaWorld is less than a mile from the park.

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  • The Ca’ d’Zan, owned by the founder of Ringling Bros. Circus. Photo credit: Michael Ventura / Alamy Stock Photo.


    A lavish, Venetian-style house built by the ‘Circus King’, the Ca’ d’Zan is as dashing as its former owner. There’s even an Aeolian organ with 2,289 pipes, made in 1924.

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  • Barman at Coconuts Waterfront Restaurant, Fort Lauderdale Florida. Photo credit: Coconuts.

    Drink up

    Coconuts is one of many waterside restaurants in Fort Lauderdale serving excellent, American-style seafood. Juicy coconut shrimp and delicious crab claws can be found served in epic portions from lowly crab shacks and friendly restaurants all along the coast.

  • Hemingway House with Key West Lighthouse Museum in background, Key West, Florida Keys. Photo credit: Blaine Harrington III / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Hemingway loses his cool

    The striking Hemingway House comes complete with an outdoor pool that’s been dug into the solid coral ground. Hemingway himself complained about the expense to his wife and, in a legendary outburst, he threw what he claimed to be his ‘final penny’ at her. The penny is now embedded next to the pool.

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Back to nature

Best for: Storm chasing and sunsets

The Journey: 250 miles

Miami to the Everglades, Fort Myers and the Tampa Bay islands

Head out of Miami and dive into the natural beauty of Florida’s state parks. The Everglades National Park nurtures a truly special natural phenomenon – don’t let anyone tell you they’re just swamps. You can visit and tour by airboat or kayak. If you go with a guide, spotting crocs is a near certainty. Watch as the sun sets over the sawgrass, or flee as tropical downpours sweep across the land at an exhilarating rate.

Fort Myers is a natural stop after the Everglades, with its laid-back feel and chances to explore the beautifully wild islands of Sanibel and Captiva. On towards Tampa Bay, Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island State Park where you can hike the trail to the beaches. You’ll find perfectly preserved banks of pale, washed up shells. Watch night herons pick their way along the shore, while, in winter, orange and black monarch butterflies migrate along the sands.

Where to stay: South Seas Captiva Island is in prime position for enjoying the natural splendour of the islands, parked as it is on the very edge of one.

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