From beach breaks to urban escapes, few spots beckon like the Sunshine State when it comes to fabulous and within-reach weekend getaways. Make it a city stay in Tampa’s buzzing downtown, plan for golden sands and high fashion in Palm Beach, or get a taste of laid-back Florida style on Amelia Island. Read on for the best Florida weekend getaways, and start planning your next Sunshine State escape.
A city break close to some of the dreamiest white-sand beaches in the U.S. awaits when you spend the weekend in Tampa, a stone’s throw from the glorious Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s west coast. The city welcomed its first true five-star hotel when The Tampa Edition opened in downtown’s revitalized Water Street Tampa district in late 2022. Spend your time strolling the Tampa Riverwalk’s urban parks, museums, and restaurants, and detour to the city’s best food hall at Armature Works, a former street car warehouse reborn as a hip indoor-outdoor hangout along the Hillsborough River.
With hundreds of murals by renowned street artists enlivening its urban corridor, the new cutting-edge St. Pete Pier (complete with a rooftop tiki bar, on-site conservation center, and bay beach), and historic cotton candy-pink hotels like The Vinoy and The Don CeSar, downtown St. Pete makes for a cheerful weekend away. The Dali Museum houses the largest collection of works by Salvador Dali outside of his native Spain. Nearby Central Avenue and Bayshore Drive are lined with cafes, boutiques, and breweries to explore.
Art, fashion, Florida’s best food scene, and an international feel make Miami one of the best weekend escapes in all of the U.S. Stay in Miami Beach at a stylish hotel like the oceanfront Faena or The Setai, or go for a more urban base in downtown Miami at EAST Miami or the Kimpton EPIC Hotel. Two of Florida’s most incredible national parks — Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park — can transport you into nature surprisingly close to the urban metropolis.
Yacht spotting, restaurant hopping, and biking, walking, and rollerblading along the beachfront promenade are just a few ways to spend a weekend getaway in Fort Lauderdale, where culture awaits within steps of the sand. Park your car for the weekend and explore the town on foot or aboard the Water Taxi, with stops near buzzing Las Olas Boulevard and Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale, as well as out at the beach.
Roughly equidistant from Miami and Orlando along Florida’s east coast, Vero Beach is an upscale beach town with a walkable and compact pedestrian center where you’ll find a weekly farmers market, beachy boutiques, and oceanfront restaurants just steps from the sand. Hotel options offer something for everyone, from the romantic Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa and the Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel & Spa to the quirky Driftwood Resort.
On Amelia Island, located just south of the Georgia border, marshy grasslands stretch to the horizon, golden beaches unspool for mile after lonely mile, and shrimp and grits are a staple on local menus. Rent a bike to explore the historic sites and undeveloped beaches at Fort Clinch State Park and pedal past downtown Fernandina’s cozy restaurants and shops. The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island is oceanfront on a sublime stretch of coastline.
North of Orlando, Ocala is Florida’s horse country, home to farms and ranches (where champion Arabians are bred) and unique rolling landscapes in the otherwise flat state. The Equestrian Hotel is the place to stay, with a fabulous on-site spa, horse arenas that host regular competitions, and a glorious heated pool. Nearby, visit Rainbow Springs State Park to swim in crystal-clear spring-fed waters or paddle a canoe on the river to spot wading birds, turtles, and perhaps alligators, too.
You can pair time on the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico sands with luxury shopping and fabulous dining when you make Naples your weekend escape. For a calming gulf-front stay, it’s hard to beat Edgewater Beach Hotel or LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort. Naples is a good launching point for day trips to nearby Everglades National Park, too, which you can adventure into during boat tours from nearby Everglades City.
Anna Maria Island
About an hour south of Tampa, Anna Maria Island has a quaint, Old Florida feel, with houses painted Easter egg hues, long powdery beaches, and no chain restaurants or mass resorts in sight. Rent a Surrey bike or golf cart to cruise around the island and explore, and don’t miss the local evening ritual — gathering at the beachfront SandBar restaurant to watch the sun sink into the Gulf of Mexico.
For a Florida getaway that mixes world-class art with spectacular beaches in small-town surrounds, Sarasota is the spot. Hit the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, set on 66 tropical acres in the heart of the city, to scope its impressive European collection. Go restaurant and bar hopping in sophisticated St. Armand’s Circle, then decamp to the sands of nearby Longboat Key, where beachfront hotels like Zota Beach Resort and The Resort at Longboat Key Club beckon for swimming and sunbathing.
Whether you come to pack in the theme parks at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando or prefer to explore Orlando’s leafy downtown and nearby Winter Park, this Central Florida city has something for every type of traveler. The city’s food scene is booming, both at the parks and further afield, with Capa and omakase star Soseki among the Orlando restaurants boasting newly awarded Michelin stars. Cool off in freshwater springs during kayak outings at spots like Wekiwa Springs State Park, or try some offbeat wellness at the state’s first Beer Spa.
The Space Coast
Some of the closest beaches to Orlando await less than an hour east of the city along Florida’s Space Coast, where rockets regularly launch from Cape Canaveral and a visit to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is a must. Take surf lessons along Cocoa Beach, where pro surfer Kelly Slater grew up, or along nearby Melbourne Beach. Time your visit for the summer months for the chance to see sea turtles laying their eggs during guided evening tours along Canaveral National Seashore and within Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.
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Just a 90-minute drive south of Miami, the Upper Florida Keys’ oasis of Islamorada is a Caribbean-feeling escape complete with snorkeling on coral reefs and offshore game fishing. When you stay at Hawks Cay Resort on neighboring Marathon, you can leave right from the property’s docks for excursions and stay in private vacation villas with all the amenities of home.
Experience a historic Central Florida getaway about two hours south of Orlando in the quaint town of Sebring. Stroll the gorgeous old-growth nature trails at Highlands Hammock State Park, head out on an airboat ride at Arbuckle Creek, or watch gators cruising a pond while you do some Florida wine tasting at Secret Gardens Winery.
Destin-Fort Walton Beach
Glittering Gulf of Mexico waters and powdery sands, with lots of ways to get out into nature off the beach, too, make the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area appealing for a few days away. You can snorkel along artificial shipwrecks on the Florida Panhandle Shipwreck Trail or cycle along the Blackwater Heritage State Trail’s 8.1-mile paved route through habitats with excellent birdwatching.
Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach might be known as a spring break destination, but it makes for an inviting getaway all year long. Its beaches reach peak beauty within St. Andrews State Park, where you can go birding, set out by bike to explore, or hop a passenger boat to undeveloped Shell Island, a barrier island just offshore.
For a true Old Florida experience and some of the state’s best seafood, plan a weekend getaway to the quaint Gulf Coast hamlet of Cedar Key. On this cluster of islands fronting the Gulf of Mexico, commercial fishing is still a way of life, and flip-flops are as fancy as resort wear gets. Clam chowder, mullet dip, and Cedar Key oysters are among the local seafood specialties to try. When it comes to lodging, there are a few small inns and hotels as well as atmospheric vacation rentals perched on stilts at the water’s edge.
The Palm Beaches
Take your pick between West Palm Beach’s lively downtown (and a stylish urban stay at The Ben), Delray Beach’s laid-back surf town scene, or posh stays at spots like The Breakers and Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa. Lovers of art and culture adore this stretch of Florida for its world-class museums and gardens like the Norton Museum of Art and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Amrit Ocean Resort is set to open along the coast here in 2023, adding to the area’s luxurious offerings.
With beautiful beaches like Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, and Neptune Beach and happening downtown neighborhoods like San Marco, Avondale, and Riverside, Jacksonville has a good balance of beach and city attractions. Be sure to venture out to the Florida fishing village of Mayport to buy some Florida shrimp fresh from the boats.
With a compact and walkable downtown, the 17th-century Castillo de San Marcos, and miles of golden beaches perfect for beginner surfers, St. Augustine mixes history and fun in the Florida sun. Stay right in town at the historic Casa Monica Resort & Spa or stay about 30 miles north along the oceanfront at The Ponte Vedra Inn and Club and make St. Augustine a day trip between beach time.
There’s no need to rent a car to get around when you plan a weekend trip to Key West. Pedal a bike, rent a scooter, or ride the trolley to visit historic sites like The Hemingway Home & Museum and the island’s best deep-water beach at Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park. Take in some Key West-style cabaret at La Te Da, do the Duval Street bar crawl, or book a sublime private island stay at Sunset Key Cottages, reached by a quick private boat shuttle from the docks right near Mallory Square.
Central Florida’s Lake County is pocketed with beautiful freshwater lakes and is home to some of Florida’s best birding. Make the historic lakefront town of Mt. Dora, 30 miles northwest of Orlando, your base and spend your days shopping for antiques, heading up on seaplane tours to see the lakes from overhead, and picking juicy citrus from local farms during orange and grapefruit season.
Home to one of Florida’s best weekend farmers markets, held every Saturday morning right along the Intracoastal Waterway, and a marina full of charter fishing boats, Fort Pierce is a Florida surprise. The city’s compact, historic downtown is home to the A.E. Backus Gallery and Museum, devoted to Florida-inspired art, the Manatee Observation and Education Center, and the Sailfish Brewing Company, with beers brewed from local ingredients.
Easy to overlook when you’re not in the know, Martin County’s stretch of coastline along South Hutchinson Island sports some of Florida’s most scenic and uncrowded beaches beloved by kite surfers and sun seekers alike. Towns like Stuart, Jensen Beach, and Hobe Sound are full of spots locals like to keep to themselves, including the unusual limestone beach at Blowing Rocks Preserve, where rare leatherback and loggerhead sea turtles lumber ashore to nest.