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The best day trips from Miami to escape the city hustle

Feeling adventurous? The best day trips from Miami feature island hopping, venturing through the Everglades and more.

West Palm Beach, Florida
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Eighties 1980 West Palm Beach, Florida
By Alex Schechter |
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It’s known as the “Magic City,” and with the right alchemy of perfect weather, incredible Miami beaches, unparalleled clubs in South and the cotton-candy–colored sunsets we can never tire of, Miami has no trouble proving its timeless allure. But on the days when adventure beckons or you’re just itching to escape, a quick day trip from Miami is all you need to feel worlds away from our charming city. Along the coast, there are classic beachfront hotels and surprisingly sophisticated art districts; or you can head south for less than two hours and find yourself hopping islands amid Florida’s most stunning natural landscape, the Keys. Whether it’s a tropical island you’re looking for, or a day spent paddling up to alligators in the bewildering expanse known as Everglades National Park, Miami is within easy reach of plenty of unexpected and highly memorable thrills.

Day trips from Miami

Everglades National Park
Photograph: Jack Roark/National Park Service

Homestead, FL

Shame on any traveler who makes it this far south and doesn’t carve out at least a little time to wander through Everglades National Park, the largest natural subtropical park in the country. Spanning 1.5 million acres, it’s not the easiest national park to tackle, but the wildlife alone—think Florida panthers, alligators, and bald eagles—makes this a fascinating sidetrip for anyone with a penchant for getting lost in deep, jungle-y wilderness for a few hours. The laid-back town of Homestead, which is an easy 45-minute drive from Miami, acts as a portal to the Everglades; and while Homestead offers several affordable hotel options, hardcore naturalists will want to make use of the park’s 48 designated backcountry campsites.

EAT:

In case you didn’t get your fill of Cuban food back in Miami, family-style restaurant Mario’s is a top pick for its generous portions of churrasco steak, Cubano sandwiches, and of course empanadas.

DRINK:

With a reputation for fermenting unconventional fruits—think mangos and avocados—into wine, lush estate Schnebly Redlands Winery & Brewery welcomes visitors to take tours of the property, followed by a tasting at the bar. 

DO:

Just outside Homestead, near the entrance to Everglades National Park, visitors can sign up for a rollicking airboat tour at Alligator Farm, where you’ll skim the surface of waters that alligators and turtles call home.

STAY:

Keep things simple at Best Western Gateway to the Keys, a breezy budget inn, which offers an outdoor pool, air conditioning (necessary during the blistering summer), and a free breakfast every morning. 

If you do just one thing... 

Drive out to the world-famous Homestead-Miami Speedway, which sits just outside the town, and hosts the annual NASCAR Championship. Not in a rush to get back? The event, which draws thousands of racing fans, allows camping and RV parking during the high-speed event.

Playa Largo Resort & Spa
Photograph: Courtesy Playa Largo Resort & Spa

Key Largo, FL

After what seems like an eternity driving through cramped Overseas Highway or, worse yet, Card Sound Road, entering Key Largo is like crossing over into a giant metropolis. But don’t get ahead of yourself. The first of several Florida keys is large compared to its neighbors, but it’s still quaint with plenty of small-town charm. 

EAT: 

In business since 1982, the Fish House is a trusted source for fresh and local seafood, house-made chowders and it’s famous key lime pie. The dessert is so famous, in fact, that people driving past the restaurant often stop in to order whole pies to-go. 

DRINK:

Key Largo is famous for its rowdy tiki bars. Most people pull up to the waterfront bars on boats but they’re also accessible via dry land. Gilbert’s is one of the area’s most popular and its divey atmosphere fits right in with Largo’s laid-back vibe.  

DO:

Pretend you’re on the set of Flipper. At Dolphins Plus, you’ll get to swim with the adorable mammals, pet them while sitting on a floating dock, give ’em a peck and even go behind-the-scenes with trainers to see how they’re cared for. 

STAY: 

You have your pick of motel and bed-and-breakfast in the Keys, but nice resorts are few and far between. One of the most recent additions to the area is Playa Largo Resort & Spa, an expansive property that’s at once luxurious and relaxed. Spend time lounging on one of the hammocks, take a dip in the lagoon-style pool and pencil in an afternoon of watching the sunset. 

If you do just one thing...

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park encompasses approximately 70 miles of open water where visitors can go swimming, snorkeling, boating, diving and near every other aquatic activity possible. It wouldn’t be a trip to the keys without a water break.

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Islamorada
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Pietro Valocchi

Islamorada

Lots of people assume that Miami and the Florida Keys need to be dealt with as separate vacations, but that’s simply not so. From Miami, it’s an utterly pleasant drive down Highway 1, which also goes by the name of the ‘Overseas Highway.’ That name makes sense once you’re on it—stretched over sparkling blue water, the 113-mile throughway connects the narrow, broken-up strip of the Keys back to the mainland. Islamorada, a small, idyllic beach community traditionally known as a sportfishing capital, is the perfect gateway to exploring what is arguably Florida’s most iconic coastal terrain. The drive from Miami takes less than two hours—though with such brilliant scenery, you’ll want to leave extra time for stopping and taking pictures along the way.  

EAT:

All-day dining spot Green Turtle Inn, which originally opened in 1947, is alone worth the trip down to sunny Islamorada: standouts like Barney’s Fish Sandwich and the Ultimate Patty Melt earned it a spot on the popular TV show Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives

DRINK:

Take a break from lazing on the beach and pull up a barstool at Florida Keys Brewing Co., a colorful taproom, which has been known to host the occasional group painting night.

DO:

The third Thursday of the month is possibly the best time to visit Islamorada, as that’s when Artwalk—a monthly showcase of local artists, sculptors, jewelry makers and musicians—takes over this quarter-mile stretch of the Old Highway.

STAY:

If you’re looking to treat yourself to an overnight stay inside a handsomely furnished suite with a screened-in balcony and deep soaking tub (not to mention 3 restaurants and an open-air tiki bar), Cheeca Lodge & Spa is the place.

If you do just one thing... 

Make sure you show up for happy hour at Holiday Isle, which is sporting a fresh new facade after Hurricane Irma nearly razed it. The cool tiki bar, located inside the Postcard Inn, boasts sweeping ocean views and refreshing frozen rum runners.

Bimini, Bahamas
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Venture Minimalists

Bimini, Bahamas

There are plenty of ways to get to Bimini, the closest Bahamian island to the USA (and a favorite of none other than Ernest Hemingway), but the most traditional method is by ferry. The once-daily service, run by FRS Caribbean, lasts two hours, and leaves from Port H of Miami Port (which sits across from downtown Miami). In a way, it’s the easiest of all possible Miami day trips, since it involves no driving, and after traveling 48 nautical miles from the mainland, the ferry drops you right at the beach in Alice Town, Bimini, so there’s little need for excessive planning or itinerary-making. The ferry comes equipped with a small cafe, though if you can hold your appetite until reaching the island—which is plied with delightfully laid-back seafood stands and beachside grills—you’ll be better off. 

EAT:

Equipped with an open kitchen and with windows facing out to sea, there’s no better or more classic south Florida dining experience than digging into a lobster and conch salad at the bar at Stuart Conch Salad Stand

DRINK:

After-hours spot Island House, with a hand-painted sign outside and dollar bills staples all over the bar, is the quintessential beachside dive bar.

DO:

In the mood for adventure? Sign up for a four-hour tour with a Bimini Undersea tour operator, who takes travelers out for a leisurely swim with dolphins (kayaking, scuba diving and stand-up paddle boarding are also available).

STAY:

The main landing spot for anyone looking to spend the night, 750-acre luxury resort Hilton at Resorts World Bimini comes equipped with scenic water views, nearly a dozen restaurants, and a casino. 

If you do just one thing... 

Make use of Hilton’s sprawling oceanfront real estate by renting a golf cart and driving out to a secluded spot along the glistening white sand beach.

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Naples, Florida
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Ebyabe

Naples

The gulf side of Florida tends to be less touristy, and the beaches are infinitely nicer—all of which makes Naples, a quick hour and a half drive from Miami, an ideal choice for a downtempo weekend away from the bustle. While Naples was traditionally known as a winter hideout for wealthy east coasters, it’s expanded in recent years into a vibrant city with a culture—and dining scene—entirely its own. Craft beer fans will find plenty to explore here, and the performing arts program at the Artis Naples represents an impressive mix of both classical, jazz and even comedy headliners. 

EAT:

If it’s a romantic getaway you’re planning, Campiello is where you’ll want to end up for dinner. The award-winning rustic Italian eatery is housed in a fabulously posh dining room, with a patio for al fresco nibbling.

DRINK:

A thin wooden railing is all that separates you from the ocean at Sunset Beach Bar; live music (five nights a week) at this pared-down hotel bar only adds to the restful mood. 

DO:

Ten different themed gardens—Brazilian, orchid, jungle—spread over a 170-acre parcel of land make for some truly show-stopping floral displays at Naples Botanical Gardens.

STAY:

Built on a mangrove estuary, modern luxury tower Naples Grande Beach Resort has the best of both worlds: three miles of uncrowded white sand beach along with a sophisticated cocktail bar, a seafood brasserie and a full-service spa. 

If you do just one thing... 

Show up at Third Street South, an eclectic mix of antique shops, modern boutiques and art galleries, to find a memorable souvenir to bring home.

West Palm Beach, Florida
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Wikimedia Commons/Eighties 1980

West Palm Beach

With a reputation for glitzy hotels and high-profile commercial developments (a product of a housing boom in the 1950s), West Palm Beach has remained a coveted, if somewhat exclusive, hideout for the cultural elite along the south Florida coast. But it’s not all glam and gloss. West Palm Beach also contains the state’s largest art museum, as well as a nifty 10,000 sq ft bandshell built inside an abandoned Holiday Inn. The well-attended music festival SunFest takes place right on the water, and has hosted acts as diverse as Lenny Kravitz, Alabama Shakes and Fetty Wap. Just 60 miles north of Miami, and with the new Brightline train route cutting travel time to under an hour, WPB remains a decidedly enjoyable—and doable—day trip for art and music lovers.

EAT:

The Regional Kitchen & Public House, helmed by Top Chef finalist and multiple James Beard Award nominee Lindsay Autry, is spectacular contemporary American restaurant with roots deep in the Southern cooking tradition. Countryside favorites like pimento cheese, grits and fried chicken are finessed for modern palates and done up to fine-dining standards.


DRINK: 

The 20-minute drive to Jupiter, FL, is totally worth it once you settle in for a ‘Castaways Caipirinha’ or one of dozens of other drinks on the menu at the unabashedly joyful tiki bar Square Grouper

DO:

Immersive art installation The Culture Lab begins with a larger-than-life mural and continues inside with a sound piece by Stephen Vitiello that takes over the entire second floor of a former Macy’s department store. 

STAY:

If it’s color you want, color is what you’ll get at iconic West Palm Beach address, The Colony, whose interiors are done in rich shades of emerald, flamingo pink, and robin’s egg blue.

If you do just one thing... 

Skip the al fresco restaurants and glassy shopping malls to spend time in nature at Lion Country Safari. The 300-acre park allows guests to drive through habitats containing lions, giraffes, zebra, and other non-native beasts—just make sure to roll the windows up.

Looking for things to do closer to home?

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