With its year-round sunny weather and abundance of attractions and activities, Florida is one of the best states for a road trip. Among the many scenic drives in the state, the section of U.S. Route 41 that runs along the Gulf Coast stands out with its mesmerizing ocean views, pristine beaches, and charming resort towns. A road trip from Tampa to Miami will give you an authentic and complete experience of the Lower Gulf Coast as well as an opportunity to explore the unique diverse nature found in Everglades National Park.
Get ready for time in the sun, fascinating cultural adventures, and a nature-filled experience unlike any other. This road trip is best done in a convertible, which you can conveniently pick up at the Tampa International Airport (TPA). Follow this itinerary for an unforgettable road trip in South Florida.
Drive time from TPA (Tampa Intermational Airport) to Miami: approximately 4 hours
Distance from TPA (Tampa International Airport) to Miami: approximately 280 miles
Best car for this road trip: Luxury Car
Tampa is a vibrant city that offers many opportunities for fun and entertainment. Before you hit the road, check out some of the city's popular attractions, such as the Tampa Museum of Art, Tampa Bay History Center, USF Botanical Gardens, and the Ybor City Museum State Park. If you're traveling with kids, take them to The Florida Aquarium, ZooTampa at Lowry Park, Glazer Children's Museum, and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Nicki's Omelette & Grill on West Hillsborough Avenue. Try the restaurant's famous Biscuit Debris, sweet potato pancakes, or one of its specialty omelets. Prefer to eat breakfast on the go? Grab a Cuban sandwich or fresh baked goods at La Segunda Central Bakery.
From TPA, you can get to downtown Tampa by heading south on U.S. Route 60. At the intersection where WestShore Plaza is located, follow the loop that connects to Interstate 275, which will take you to the city center. When it's time to set off on your road trip, go east on U.S. Route 60 for about 4 miles and turn right onto 50th Street, which is also U.S. Route 41.
After an hour's drive, you'll arrive in Sarasota. This city is close to some of the finest beaches on the Lower Gulf Coast. Take a relaxing stroll on the powdery white sand of the award-winning Siesta Key, spend some quiet time on the secluded Manasota Key, or search for shark teeth on Venice Beach.
If you enjoy visiting museums, check out the Historic Spanish Point, John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, and the South Florida Museum. The city is also known for its rich horticulture heritage, something you can experience at the Sarasota Jungle Gardens and the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.
Sarasota is worth an overnight stay. Head down to Pazzo Southside for an authentic Italian dinner. Enjoy delectable home-style pasta, pizza, and a variety of classic Italian dishes in a lively environment. For a special dining experience, pay a visit to the Indigenous Restaurant in Towles Court, which serves farm-to-table American cuisine in a warm, beautifully designed restored home.
Continue south on U.S. Route 41. In Fort Myers, turn right onto U.S. Route 867 and keep driving until you reach the intersection with McGregor Boulevard. Take a right and go straight until the road connects to the Sanibel Causeway. The causeway will take you across San Carlos Bay onto Sanibel Island. The total distance for this section of the road trip is about 100 miles.
Sanibel Island is a picturesque resort town known for its fine beaches and excellent shell-picking opportunities. If you want to try your hand at picking shells, the best place to do the “Sanibel stoop” is Bowman's Beach. Have your pickings identified at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum and shop for pieces of conch art along Periwinkle Way, the main thoroughfare on the island. While you're there, stop by Schnapper's Hots for a char-grilled hot dog.
Along with relaxing on the beach, you can also hike, bike, or indulge in bird and wildlife watching at the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Don't forget to check out the 19th-century Sanibel Lighthouse, one of the oldest lighthouses on Florida's Gulf Coast.
Next to Sanibel Island is Captiva Island, which offers stunning sunset views and an eclectic mix of dining options. Watch the magnificent sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico while enjoying delicious seafood at The Mucky Duck.
To get back on U.S. Route 41, make your way across San Carlos Bay onto McGregor Boulevard. Just before the Sanibel Outlets, turn right onto Summerlin Road. Take a right onto U.S. Route 865 and keep going until the you reach the intersection of U.S. Route 41. After turning right, you'll be a short drive away from Naples. The city is located about 48 miles from Sanibel Island.
After your drive, pamper yourself at one of the many luxury spas across the city or enjoy a relaxing stroll and spectacular ocean views on the Naples Pier. View inspiring artworks at The Baker Museum and bond with nature at the Naples Botanical Garden, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and the Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park.
Splurge on an unforgettable contemporary American dinner at the upscale Baleen Restaurant, enjoy an authentic French meal at the charming Bleu Provence, or savor fresh seafood and island cuisine at Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar. If you're craving a juicy burger, sink your teeth into a Donut Burger or Korean Burger at the Brooks Gourmet Burgers & Dogs.
From Naples, a 45-minute drive on U.S. Route 41 will take you to the western part of the Everglades National Park. The highway runs eastward and cuts through the central section of the park, connecting the western and eastern entry points. Along the way, you'll experience some of the most awe-inspiring natural views in Florida. The headquarters of the national park is near the southern tip of mainland Florida. Stop by the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, south of Everglades City.
Encompassing 1.5 million acres, the Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness area in the United States. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you'll get the chance to explore a vast variety of flora and fauna in many different ecosystems, including freshwater sloughs, tropical hammocks, marl prairies, cypress, pineland, coastal lowlands, mangrove, estuarine, and marine. The park is also home to an array of animal species, including the Florida alligator, manatee, bobcat, white-tailed deer, and more.
You can explore the Everglades National Park by hiking, biking, or boating. For a more complete experience, consider joining an organized tour. If you want to spend a couple of days here, you can set up a tent at one of the many camping sites throughout the park. Weather conditions can have an impact on the availability of certain tours and activities. For example, canoe tours aren't available in the summer due to the sweltering heat. Before you start exploring the park, make sure you get some safety tips from a National Park Service ranger.
Whichever part of the Everglades National Park you choose to explore, find your way back to U.S. Route 41 to complete the final leg of your road trip. Once you reach the western edge of the park, you'll be 20 miles from Miami.
While it's best known for its happening beaches, vibrant nightlife, and glamorous lifestyle, Miami offers endless sights to see and activities to do for all types of tourists. Experience the colorful history and diverse culture of the city by visiting the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Deering Estate, the Ancient Spanish Monastery, Cape Florida Lighthouse, and Coral Castle Museum. Relax and admire nature at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and The Kampong. Have fun with your family at the Miami Seaquarium, Miami Zoo, and the Venetian Pool.
Thinking of culminating your successful road trip with a fantastic meal? If you're in the mood to splurge a little, book a table at the elegant Le Sirenuse Miami and indulge in old-school Italian cuisine from the Michelin-starred La Sponda in Italy. For Southern-style food, head to Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. Here, you’ll find classic comfort food such as fried chicken and waffles. Other recommended options include the famous pizzeria Lucali, Hawaiian-themed Ono Poke Shop, Asian barbecue restaurant KYU, and stone crab institution Joe's Stone Crab.
What is the best time to visit Tampa?
September through December is a great time to visit Tampa. Hurricane season is over and temperatures are ideal, ranging from the mid 80s to mid 70s. Tourism is down during this time, reducing crowds and traffic throughout the city.
What is Naples known for?
Naples is known for its beautiful weather, world-famous beaches, and numerous golf courses. There is also a large selection of places to shop, such as Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South. Naples also has a wide variety of restaurants serving up many different types of cuisine.
What beach is best in Miami?
Lummus Park Beach is highly rated by Floridians and travelers alike. The white sand, turquoise water, and palm trees are beautiful. There is a playground right on the beach that is ideal for children and families. Plus, this beach is located off Ocean Drive, so you can easily grab a meal at the end of the day.