Are you looking for some inspiration for things to do while you’re in South Florida? No doubt you’ve got a long list of things to do in Miami, but perhaps you’d like to add a bit more adventure?
Why not get out of the city for a while? There are a host of day trips from Miami, all within a few hours’ drive. You’ve got a range of options to choose from, whether you want to relax on beautiful beaches, watch a rocket launch, see dolphins and manatees, or visit one of Florida’s incredible parks.
If you’re not a fan of theme parks, Miami is one of the best wintertime destinations in Florida. It’s a great city to base yourself in if you want to explore some of Florida’s best natural and cultural sites. You’ll find a variety of picturesque beaches as well as a range of water sports like scuba diving. Plus, Florida is the only place in America where you can see a rocket launch and some of the best-known space travel artifacts in the world.
That said, Florida is a big state. We lived there for years and know how long it can take to drive from one place to another. For the perfect Florida vacation, stay in Miami and do some day trips around south Florida, then take a bus from Miami to Tampa or Orlando to explore the more northern destinations.
You can read our 20 Fun Day Trips from Orlando post next. 🙂
Getting around Miami
If you haven’t driven to Florida, you can easily rent a car in Miami and drive to all of these places on your own. Florida has a good highway system and roads are well marked. Use a price comparison site like Discover Cars or RentalCars.com to find the best price.
On the other hand, it is your vacation. Maybe you don’t fancy dealing with traffic and want someone else to show you around. You have plenty of great options, some of which pack a variety of experiences into one full day. For example, this excursion combines a tour of Miami with a cruise and a trip to the Everglades.
10 best Miami day trips
This article includes some of the best day trips in Florida, arranged by drive time. They range from 30 minutes to a 4-hour drive from Miami.
1. Everglades National Park, for a wildlife adventure
- Drive time: Approximately 30 minutes
- Related tour: 3 – 4 hours Everglades Tour from Miami
With its winding network of wetlands and forests, the Everglades National Park is the largest tropical wilderness in the USA. There are lots of options for exploring this truly expansive nature area, and its endangered and threatened wildlife.
You can get a panoramic view from the top of Shark Valley’s observation tower, which is a whopping 65-feet tall. Or you might prefer to stay a bit lower to the ground by taking a boat or kayaking trip and maybe see a manatee or a dolphin.
If you’re nervous about the ‘gators, you also have the option of exploring the Everglades from the comfort and safety of a boat tour. Guides will tell you about the history of the park and its native wildlife and help you look for alligators, exotic snakes, birds, fish, and other critters.
There are also lots of biking routes, hiking trails, and bird watching opportunities in the Everglades. A more unusual and intrepid way to explore on foot is called ‘slough slogging,’ where you’ll have to be comfortable getting your feet wet to explore some of the park’s more elusive species.
2. Big Cypress National Preserve, for a local experience
- Drive time: 55 minutes
- Related tour: All Day Everglades Tour with Airboat and Big Cypress Preserve and Everglades City
Covering nearly 430,000 acres of untouched Florida swampland, Big Cypress National Preserve was the first national preserve in the United States. It is considered to be one of the best places to see cypress and mangroves, alligators, and panther tracks. The number of gators and birds (and how easy it is to see them) is amazing!
Big Cypress has two key advantages: First of all, admission is free. Secondly, it’s located on Tamiami Trail (US-41), the Tamiami Trail, and can easily be combined with a day trip to Naples or Fort Myers if you’re driving yourself. (Swamp buggy tours are available as well.)
3. Palm Beach, for shopping and glamour
- Drive time: Approximately 1 hour, 20 minutes
About 90 minutes north of Miami, the island of Palm Beach has trendy shopping areas with a variety of boutiques and also has great waterfront parks and beaches. This barrier island is home to legendary resorts, exquisite mansions and historic landmarks.
It has long been popular with celebrities and fashionistas and is home to some of the country’s wealthiest people. A sightseeing tour will take you past some of its best-known homes, including Henry Flagler’s former residence — now the Flagler Museum — and Mar-a-Lago. Built in the 1920’s by cereal-company heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post, it is now owned by Donald Trump.
4. Key Largo, for scuba diving and beaches
- Drive time: Approximately 1 hour, 40 minutes
- Related tour: Half Day Scuba Diving Trip in the Florida Keys
Key Largo is a beautiful island in the Florida Keys. Spanning 33 miles in length. It has an abundance of popular beaches and many people go there to dive in the coral reef that’s a few miles offshore. There are also a range of water sports to get involved in like snorkelling, boating, kayaking, fishing, and swimming.
One of the highlight attractions on Key Largo is the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, which was the first underwater park in the United States. Visitors can expect to see some 250 species of tropical fish and over 80 varieties of coral.
The Visitor Center has a large aquarium where you can see some of these species – or you can see the reef on a glass-bottom boat tour. If you’re a diving enthusiast, then you will enjoy scuba diving or snorkeling in this renowned underwater destination.
5. Bimini Island, for an escape to the Bahamas
- Travel time: Approximately 2 hours by ferry
- Related tour: Bimini Express Ferry with Pickup & Beach Day Pass
Bring your passport, because this Miami day trip takes you off American soil! Bimini in the Bahamas is an idyllic paradise that’s only 50 miles from Miami by boat. Once home to Ernest Hemingway and fabled to be the location of Ponce de Leon’s ‘fountain of youth’, Bimini is actually made up of three islands, so take your pick.
If you’re keen to say you’ve been to the Bahamas, then this is an opportunity not to be missed. Bimini has beaches galore but has only recently come onto the tourist radar. It gets few cruise ship visitors, which means it’s less crowded and touristy than Nassau.
A Bimini day trip from Miami would be the perfect opportunity to try out scuba diving or snorkeling, because there are many shipwrecks in the area. You can also tour the world-famous Bimini Shark Lab (suggested $10 donation) or see the Dolphin House, a small, charming museum that was built from all-recycled materials.
6. Naples, for relaxing and shopping
- Drive time: Approximately 2 hours
- Related tour: Mangrove Tunnels Kayak and Paddle Board Eco Tour
Naples is a great place to relax and unwind away from all the hustle and bustle of Miami. The city has picturesque houses, a quaint downtown area and lots of places to eat good food.
Many visitors spend time exploring the beaches and nature areas, but Naples also has a variety of shops and art galleries to enjoy. It’s also home to the Naples Philharmonic, which hosts regular musicals, orchestras and shows.
A great way to explore a city like Naples is by bike or, for an easier and more comfortable ride, you could try an electric trike tour.
7. Marathon and Middle Keys, for eco-tourism
- Drive time: Approximately 2 hours, 20 minutes
- Related tour: Florida Keys: Dockside Dolphin Experience
Marathon, smack in the middle of the Florida Keys, has excellent sailing, fishing, diving, beaches, and eco-tourism activities. It also boasts great waterfront restaurants and water sports like jet-ski tours, paddle-boarding, and kayaking.
The Dolphin Research Center gives visitors the opportunity to interact with bottlenose dolphins, you can learn all about endangered sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital and Aquarium Encounters offers a range of interactive aquatic experiences.
ⓘ LIKE TO DRIVE? Marathon marks the beginning of the famous Seven Mile Bridge, one of the longest road bridges in the world. It connects the Middle Keys to the Lower Keys and was featured in a number of action movies, including Licence to Kill, True Lies, and Mission Impossible III, among others.
8. Fort Myers, for getting off the beaten track
- Drive time: Approximately 2½ hours
Located along Florida’s west coast, Fort Myers is a little off the beaten track. For history buffs, you can visit the historic estates where Thomas Edison and Henry Ford once lived.
Of course Fort Myers offers white, sandy beaches, but there’s also Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium, which is especially great for families with children. Don’t miss the butterfly and raptors aviaries and daily shows. Another place to enjoy Florida nature is at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. It has an interpretive center and an extensive boardwalk which is suitable for viewing wildlife, including the Florida alligator. Watch your step – they’re wild!
In the wintertime, check out Manatee Park. It’s a waterfront park where visitors can view these endangered marine animals in their natural habitat. Or you can join a guide and a small group to kayak through the mangrove forests of nearby Lovers Key. There’s a good chance you’ll see some of Florida’s unique wildlife.
9. Kennedy Space Center, for budding astronomers
- Drive time: Approximately 3½ hours
- Related tour: Private 12-hour Tour to Kennedy Space Center from Miami
Have you always dreamed of going into space, being an astronaut, or seeing a spaceship in real life? A visit to Miami wouldn’t be complete without an outing to Cape Canaveral to see the Kennedy Space Center!
Named to honor President John F. Kennedy, the center hosts a range of exhibits and regular rocket launches. Yet even if you don’t visit when there’s a rocket launch happening, taking a tour of the center is just as exhilarating.
One of the most exciting things on display in the center is the moonscape and lunar module exhibit. It depicts a scene from the first mission to land on the moon (Apollo 11).
If you don’t book a tour, we recommend buying your tickets ahead of time. There is sometimes a long line to get in.
10. Key West, for beaches and museums
- Drive time: Approximately 4 hours
Yes, it’s possible to do a day trip from Miami to Key West. Sure it makes for a long day, but it’s totally worth it. For one thing, if you enjoy road trips, driving the Overseas Highway through the Florida Keys is a one-of-a-kind experience. You will see some of the most spectacular scenery in the state and wish you had time to do a longer road trip through the Florida Keys.
There are many options on how to spend your time in colorful Key West, the southernmost island in the Florida Keys. This laid-back island offers active people a range of coastal activities that include sailing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking and fishing charters.
If you need to stay out of the sun (too much time on the beach, perhaps?) Key West has a variety of interesting historical sites to visit, as well. Book-lovers can’t miss the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, with its family of six-toed cats. History buffs should see the Little White House, where Harry S. Truman and various other presidents spent time during their terms in office, and nature lovers should check out Audubon House and Tropical Gardens.
Miami day trip gear you’ll need
Miami has a subtropical climate and is usually warm all year, although it can also rain quite often. So here’s an essential list of things to take along during any day trip from Miami:
- Comfortable clothing
- A hat with a brim
- Rain jacket or travel umbrella
- Insect repellent – for no-see-ums and mosquitos
- Binoculars – especially if you go to the Everglades
- Camera – we carry the Sony RX100 (point-and-shoot) and the Sony a7Rii (full-frame mirrorless)
- Beach towels
Where to stay in Miami
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include a couple of places to stay in Miami.
- If you’re looking for a hotel, we can recommend the Riviera Suites on 20th Street in the South Beach neighborhood. It worked well for us, as we wanted a quiet place to stay within walking distance of restaurants and the beach.
- If you prefer a hostel, Generator Miami gets consistently good reviews.
Final thoughts about Miami day trips
There is such a diversity of day trips you can take from Miami, and the city makes a great base from which to explore Florida and the Bahamas.
If you don’t have much time in Miami, then it might be worth considering day trips that include transport, to make it easier to navigate your way to the different places. There are also several day trip destinations that are close enough to each other, so that you could include them in one day or make a weekend of it. For example, going to Key Largo and Marathon, or visiting Naples and Fort Myers.
Whether you’re looking for historical, cultural, or nature-based activities, you’ll be able to find a day trip from Miami that fits your interests.