If you are taking a trip to Fort Lauderdale, you can easily spend a week enjoying the local culture and beaches. However, if you want to maximize your time in Florida, a day trip outside the city can be just the thing to add more to your trip! I have compiled over thirty ideas for Fort Lauderdale day trips from inside the city, all the way to the Keys!
From quaint coastal towns to stunning natural parks and historic landmarks, these day trips offer a little something for both tourists and locals. I have provided options for day trips less than an hour, between one to two hours away, and long haul two plus hour drive day trips. These day trips are designed to be flexible, allowing you to choose the activities that resonate most with you and make the most of your time. Read on to get inspired for taking your own Fort Lauderdale day trip!
Fort Lauderdale Day Trips Less than 1 Hour Away
Whether you are visiting Fort Lauderdale from out of state or a local looking to explore, there are so many unique day trips to take around Fort Lauderdale. From Miami to Palm Beach, this first section shares exciting places along the southeast coast of Florida worth spending the day at. Here are eleven ideas for a Fort Lauderdale day trip that is less than an hour’s drive away.
1. Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
- Distance: 5 miles (10-minute drive)
- Highlights: Gardens, Historic Home, Artwork, Nature Trails
If you want a day trip that happens to be in Fort Lauderdale, the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens offers the best bang for your buck! You can easily spend half a day in and around this estate or stretch it even further if you bring a picnic.
The Museum and Gardens do not open until 11 AM, so start your day trip at the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. This land was purchased to be a part of the Bonnet House Estate but was later donated back as public land. I recommend taking a leisurely walk and then relaxing on the beach or going for a paddleboard session through the mangroves.
Once the Museum and Gardens open, head next door and start exploring this historic home. You can watch the short video to learn some history and then tour the elaborate rooms. Be sure to admire the impressive art collection, which showcases works by renowned artists such as Frederic Clay Bartlett and Evelyn Fortune Bartlett.
After touring the inside, make sure to venture outside and see the enchanting gardens. Admire the resident swans gracefully gliding through the water and keep an eye out for the playful monkey swinging from the trees. If you brought a picnic, now is a great time to enjoy it on the picnic tables. Finish off the day trip with another stroll through getting any, last-minute pictures, and then treat yourself to some more relaxing beach time.
- Distance: 15 miles (20-minute drive)
- Highlights: Beach Boardwalk, City Art, Galleries, Foodie Spots, Nature Center
For a quick trip outside of Fort Lauderdale, the next town over, Hollywood offers a taste of the glamorous beach life mixed with a vibrant arts and culture scene. Start your day with a picturesque walk along Hollywood Beach and enjoy the ocean breeze. Then make your way to downtown Hollywood, where you’ll find an array of art galleries and boutiques. Take a self-guided tour of the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project which showcases impressive murals created by local and international artists.
When you are ready for lunch, I recommend stopping at one of the many local Peruvian restaurants like Pachamanka or Cvi.Che.105. This is one of the best parts of Florida to find authentic ceviche and lomo saltado. Next, head to 3 Sons Brewery and relax with a craft beer from one of South Florida’s best! You could also take a food tour if you want a locals perspective!
For afternoon exploration, check out the Anne Kolb Nature Center, a 1,500-acre coastal mangrove wetland. You can hike the nature trails, rent a kayak, or join a guided tour to learn about the diverse wildlife that calls this area home. To end the day, head back to the beach and either watch the waves or stroll the 2.5-mile-long beach boardwalk. There are plenty of options for grabbing dinner here, finding a souvenir or just ending your day with a peaceful sunset.
3. Little Havana
- Distance: 30 miles (45-minute drive)
- Highlights: Foodie Tour, Culture and History, Live Music, Street Art
One of the many foodie destinations to take a day trip to is Little Havana. This is the part of Miami that many Cuban refugees fled to in the 1960s. because of this, it has become a neighborhood full of culture and history to experience.
We took the Little Havana food tour here and thought it was the ideal way to spend the day. You get to learn all about how the residents carved out their little niche in Miami and what Cuban traditions are still celebrated here. I highly recommend Miami Culinary Tours for getting the full experience.
Regardless of what you do in Little Havana, make sure to get a Cuban sandwich and a mojito! This is the best place to get them in all of Florida. You can always combine your time here with Wynwood or South Beach for an even fuller day trip, or just take your time exploring Little Havana.
4. Coral Gables
- Distance: 30 miles (45-minute drive)
- Highlights: Museum and Gardens, Swimming, Shopping and Dining
Though it is a quieter part of Miami, Coral Gables is still one of the best Fort Lauderdale day trips to take. There is a lot of history to see here, starting with the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. I could spend a full day here alone perusing the Gilded Age estate and its equally gorgeous gardens.
Most people will probably spend around two to three hours here and then I recommend heading to Miracle Mile for lunch. This is a popular destination to eat and shop in Coral Gables. There are so many delicious restaurants here, but my favorites are Threefold Café, Graziano’s Market, and Bay 13 Brewing.
If you want to cool off after lunch, the Venetian Pool is another can’t-miss Coral Gables attraction. This pool was built in a coral rock quarry and is open to the public for swimming. Between the waterfalls, lookout towers, and grottos, it is a pool like no other. And for those who rather not get wet, there is also the Lowe Art Museum or the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden to finish out your Coral Gables Day trip.
5. South Beach
- Distance: 30 miles (45-minute drive)
- Highlights: Art Deco Tour, Beach, Foodie Spots, Pool Parties
South Beach is pretty synonymous with Florida, so if you haven’t been here, this is this obvious day trip option. I recommend starting your day here with café con leche and a nice breakfast sandwich on Cuban bread before embarking on an art deco tour. You can take a self-guided tour of the iconic architecture or a paid one to learn even more about the history of the area.
Next, spend some time at the beach at South Pointe Park and get in some people-watching. If you feel like partying, there are plenty of pool parties to join with an entry fee. Lastly, end the day at one of the many renowned local restaurants. Whether you want a Michelin star spot or a casual post-beach meal, there is so much amazing food to indulge in on South Beach.
- Distance: 27 miles (40-minute drive)
- Highlights: Street Art, Photo-Ops, Live Music, Foodie Spots
Another iconic Miami destination that you can take a day trip from Fort Lauderdale to is Wynwood. This is a popular neighborhood known for its street art. There are so many colorful murals here and you could spend all day viewing and photographing them.
Again, either a paid or self-guided tour is a great start to a day in Wynwood. while touring, there are a variety of places to shop or dine at. Make sure to get a famous dessert like the Salty Donuts, Salt & Straw ice cream, a Taiyaki cone, or an ice cream paleta. I also love visiting the Miami breweries here like J. Wakefield and finding a place with a live DJ to relax at.
7. Key Biscayne
- Distance: 35 miles (50-minute drive)
- Highlights: Beach, Lighthouse, Snorkeling, Aquarium
For the ultimate Miami beach day trip from Fort Lauderdale, Key Biscayne is my pick of where to go. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is one of the most beautiful spots in the state for a day at the beach. I recommend driving to this state park first thing and getting there before noon.
Once at the state park, everyone has to climb the lighthouse! This 65-foot lighthouse was built in 1825 and has amazing views from the top. If you do not mind seagrass, the snorkeling around the lighthouse is fantastic with tons of fish and even seahorses swimming through the grass.
Personally, I could spend all day swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, exploring the nature trails, and biking or fishing at Bill Baggs. However, if you want a break from exploring in the afternoon, the Miami Seaquarium has some dolphins and sea lions that are fun to watch, in addition to aquariums. Finally, end your day with a unique meal, like a Peruvian one from Nahuen Gourmet Market or Mediterranean specialties from Costa Med Bistro.
8. Boca Raton
- Distance: 20 miles (30-minute drive)
- Highlights: Art Museum, Shopping, Foodie Dining, Nature Center, and Beaches
One of the more upscale cities that you can take a day trip from Fort Lauderdale to is Boca Raton, known for its art, beaches, and shopping. It’s a quick half-hour drive, and I recommend stopping at Mizner Park first to walk around.
Here you can visit the Boca Raton Museum of Art or do some shopping and sightseeing. I recommend grabbing lunch before your next destination at one of the fun restaurants here like Kapow Noodle Bar or Rebel House.
Next, a visit to Boca Raton is not complete without checking out the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. This attraction has aquariums with sharks and fish, as well as a sea turtle rehabilitation hospital. Then finish off the day at Red Reef Park for some beach time.
There is a plethora of excellent restaurants in Boca Raton, so do not hesitate to get dinner while here! I recommend a casual spot like Mystic Lobster Roll Co if you were just at the beach or an intimate, Mediterranean dinner at Trattoria Romana if you are in a fancier mood.
9. Delray Beach
- Distance: 30 miles (30-minute drive)
- Highlights: City Art, Pinball, Nature Center, Foodie Spots, Gardens
For a little bit of something for everyone, Delray Beach is a Florida town in day trip driving distance. Start at Atlantic Avenue and spend some time checking out the shops and murals of this street. There are plenty of art galleries to peruse and you can have a late breakfast or an early lunch. I love the Delray Beach Market and El Camino.
Afterward, check out an indoor activity like the Silverball Retro Arcade and Museum. This spot has all sorts of pinball machines from the 1950s and you can get unlimited plays while you are here! For something more educational, the Sandoway House Nature Center is a cool place to see sharks and reptiles.
If you are thirsty, SaltWater Brewery is a fun time for all. There are tons of yard games, frequent live music, food trucks, and brewery tours. Or for a relaxing afternoon stroll, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens are a breathtaking sight, with so much exquisite architecture and plant life to see.
That should cover a day, but there is always the beach and mini golf if you need more to fit in! I recommend heading back to Atlantic Avenue to close off the day with a bite before the drive back.
10. Zoo Miami
- Distance: 45 miles (50-minute drive)
- Highlights: Animals, Tram Tour, Feedings, Presentations, Kids Activities
If you have kids, one of the best Fort Lauderdale day trips you can take with them is a visit to Zoo Miami! It is less than an hour away and features a huge variety of incredible animals to see and learn about. Of course, all ages will enjoy a visit here, but families can probably spend the whole day, as opposed to just a few hours for adults.
The zoo opens at 10 AM and I recommend getting there right on time to maximize your day. You will want to prioritize seeing the mammals early in the day when they are most active. Giraffes, elephants, lions, rhinos, tigers, and apes are my favorites! If you do not feel like walking, you can rent a safari cycle and ride around the zoo on a quadricycle with the whole fam!
During the day, make sure to check out an animal exhibit, usually held at 11:30 AM and 12:30 Pm, to learn more about some of the zoo’s residents. You can also add on an animal encounter, and get the chance to feed and meet bears, rhinos, hippos, or tortoises for as little as $25 per person! There is even a tram tour that only costs $7 and will drive you through the Asia and Africa exhibits.
You can bring a lunch and eat it at the picnic tables out front. I usually do this, instead of paying the high price of food inside the park. Those with kids should take advantage of the splash parks and playgrounds for little ones to burn off some energy. There is even a fun factory, where a craft activity is held on the weekends for kids.
Once you have finished exploring the zoo, you can check out Doral or Kendal on the drive back. TopGolf in Doral is fun for all ages or you can cool off inside an art museum. City Place Doral is a convenient spot to end the day with dinner, with over a dozen restaurants to choose from. There is also shopping so you can get the full Miami experience.
11. West Palm Beach
- Distance: 45 miles (50-minute drive)
- Highlights: Downtown, Attractions, Shopping, and Beaches
Just north of Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach is one of the best places on the east coast to see a unique side of Florida. It is a mecca for art and culture, with so many museums, restaurants, and shops all around the city center.
There’s so much to do here, but art enthusiasts should start with either the Norton Museum of Art and history buffs with the Flagler Museum. For lunch, head to The Square or Clematis Street for Palm Beach foodie options galore.
Though the beaches are lovely, they don’t stand out to me as anything that different from Fort Lauderdale. I recommend spending the rest of the day exploring the shops and gardens of Worth Ave or taking a sightseeing or sunset catamaran cruise. End the day at the food hall Grandview Public Market and head back with that Palm Beach glow.
Fort Lauderdale Day Trips that take One to Two Hours to Get To
This next section of the list provides ideas for venturing outside of the Southeast Florida bubble. If you don’t mind driving a little further, you can experience diverse landscapes, cultural delights, and natural wonders waiting to be explored. Here are my top ten ideas for a Fort Lauderdale Day trip only one to two hours away.
12. Shark Valley
- Distance: 70 miles (1.5-hour drive)
- Highlights: Tram Tour or Bike Tour, Nature Trails
Just a 90-minute drive south of Fort Lauderdale, you can check out Shark Valley, my favorite Everglades entrance. This one offers a tram tour around Shark Valley which is an unmatched experience. We learned so much about the Everglades on this two-hour tour and loved getting to climb up to the Observation Tower for an amazing view.
I recommend booking an earlier tour and getting here first thing. There are a few trails to wander around and plenty of alligators to photograph or just marvel at if you get there early. Afterward, you can eat a picnic lunch or visit one of the Everglades City restaurants on the way back.
To make your Everglades experience a full day, there are also some nearby places for an airboat tour. Everglades Safari Park is the best bet, with its own jungle trail and shows, in addition to the airboat rides. End the night with dinner in Coconut Grove before heading back to Fort Lauderdale.
13. Biscayne National Park
- Distance: 65 miles (1.25-hour drive)
- Highlights: Snorkeling, Paddle or Boat Tours
For those who have already visited the Everglades, Biscayne National Park is another nearby National Park worth visiting. It takes over an hour to drive here, but the coral reefs and islands you can see here are exquisite. Though it is 95% water, there are so many exciting, aquatic excursions to take from here.
The best plan is to arrive early and take a six-hour tour like the Sail Paddle, Snorkel & Island visit, so you can see everything possible in Biscayne Bay. However, if you are short on time, there are shorter experiences, like 2-hour kayak or snorkel tours.
There are not many restaurants around here unless you plan to head to Miami after. To make it a nature day, I recommend bringing your own lunch. The visitors center also offers some cool exhibits, but it is not worth the drive on its own. Make sure to have a tour booked in advance to have the ultimate day trip here!
14. Peanut Island
- Distance: 50 miles (1-hour drive)
- Highlights: Boat Ride, Beaches, Nature Trails
If you don’t mind driving a little over an hour, Peanut Island is just the place for an island escape from Fort Lauderdale. This little piece of paradise is right off the coast of West Palm Beach and it only takes a $16, 10-minute boat ride to get there! Best of all, you can take your dog too.
The first boat leaves daily from the Riviera Beach City Marina at 10 AM. You can catch a shuttle every twenty-five minutes and tickets can be purchased at the dock. Make sure to pack a lunch for your day trip, as there are no restaurants on the island.
Once there, I recommend spending the day taking a walk around the island, seeing the historic buildings, and basking in the sun on the beautiful beaches. This is also a great spot for snorkeling, so bring your own mask or rent one from the shuttle boat.
Adventurous folks can also kayak here instead of taking the shuttle. Plenty of nearby places offer kayak rentals for the day. It’s only a 300-yard paddle from the marina and you can get a unique perspective paddling around the island as well.
You can have a whole day of fun in the sun and then get dinner at one of the many excellent Palm Beach restaurants afterward. This is by far one of the best beaches to take a day trip to in all of Florida!
15. Big Cypress
- Distance: 75 miles (90-minute drive)
- Highlights: Nature Trails, Paddling, Scenic Drives
For an exhilarating day trip, Big Cypress offers an escape into the pristine beauty of the Everglades. Here you can immerse yourself in the vast wilderness and see the towering cypress trees of this part of South Florida. Start your day with a picturesque walk through a cypress swamp. The Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk is an elevated walk where you can see birds, orchids, and maybe even a gator!
Next, rent a kayak or canoe and paddle along the peaceful waterways of the Turner River Canoe Trail. Keep your eyes peeled for playful river otters, sunbathing turtles, and graceful herons. For lunch, head to the Ochopee Post Office, the smallest post office in the United States, which also houses the delicious Joanie’s Blue Crab Cafe. Indulge in a mouthwatering seafood feast, savoring the flavors of freshly caught crab, shrimp, and fish.
In the afternoon, visit the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. Learn about the rich history and traditions of the Seminole Tribe, and admire their intricate beadwork, vibrant clothing, and beautiful crafts. Finally, end this Big Cypress Day trip with a scenic drive along the Tamiami Trail, also known as US Route 41. This iconic road cuts through the heart of the Everglades, offering breathtaking views of vast wetlands, towering cypress trees, and unique wildlife. It’s the perfect reminder of the beauty that South Florida holds and why these fragile ecosystems need to be protected.
- Distance: 65 miles (1-hour drive)
- Highlights: Lighthouse, Nature Center, Town Center, Beach, Waterfront
Nestled on the southeastern coast of the Sunshine State, Jupiter is a hidden gem that offers a delightful blend of natural wonders, outdoor activities, and a laid-back beach vibe. You can start your day with some of the local attractions. The Jupiter Lighthouse opens at 10 AM and offers an amazing view of the area, as well as some interesting history. If you don’t feel like climbing the stairs, The Loggerhead Marinelife Center also makes for a great morning activity. Here, you can take a tour and learn about the incredible work they do in rescuing, rehabilitating, and releasing these magnificent creatures back into their natural habitat.
When you are ready for lunch, head to the adorable Downtown Abacoa. This shopping center has tons of great local restaurants like Copacabana and Hokkaido Hibachi and Sushi. I also recommend visiting Civil Society Brewery, in its original location, if you like IPAs. If you happen to be visiting in February or March, see if you can get tickets to a spring training game. The stadium is also in this plaza!
After lunch, explore the natural beauty of Jonathan Dickinson State Park. This expansive park offers a plethora of outdoor activities, including hiking, biking, kayaking, and even horseback riding. You could go to the beach or take a scenic boat cruise! At the end of the day, enjoy dinner by the water at scenic restaurants like Square Grouper or Guanabanas. Both have an island vibe that caps off this South Florida day trip well.
17. Vero Beach
- Distance: 120 miles (2-hour drive)
- Highlights: Beach, Gardens, Shopping, and Downtown
For a relaxing day trip, Vero Beach is a tropical excursion great for Disney fans. This beach town is sleepier than some, but it makes up for it with beautiful scenery and an oceanfront Walt Disney World resort.
Before you head there, make a reservation for breakfast at either Disney’s Vero Beach or Cobalt at the Kimpton. Both hotels are beautiful spaces to walk around and it’s worth eating a late breakfast or brunch there. Afterward, head to Wabasso Beach Park for some fun in the sun.
Once you have had enough beach time, there are a variety of shops and cafes to check out by the water. I like to get a drink at Sailfish Brewing or ice cream from Amuse Bouche. You can also drive over the bridge to Downtown and check out the street art, shops, and restaurants there.
Finally, if you get done with all that before 4 PM, I highly recommend checking out the McKee Gardens. This is on the way back and is a lovely place to see some gorgeous greenery. The giant water lilies and the enchanted forest are amazing spots to take pictures of and will add some tranquility to the end of your day trip.
18. Marco Island
- Distance: 115 miles (2-hour drive)
- Highlights: South Beach, Dockside Dining, Dolphin Tours, History Museum
Probably my favorite South Florida day trip destinations are Marco Island. This is almost a two-drive away, but much of the drive is scenic. Here, the main thing to do is to experience a different beach and soak up the island vibes.
When we did our day trip to Marco Island, we started at South Beach, which had plenty of accessible parking. Then we spent a few hours soaking up the sun and saw lots of dolphins offshore. You can also find dolphin boat rides here. Tigertail Beach is the other popular beach, but depending on the tides, it can be a hike to get a beach spot.
We got lunch at the JW Mariott and then walked around the resort. However, they often do not let non-resort guests in during peak season. Other lunch options include Mango’s Dockside Bistro, CJ’s On the Bay, and Doreen’s Cup of Joe. If you have had enough beach time, you can explore the Marco Island Historical Museum, hike Otter Mound Preserve, or taste craft beer at Marco Island Brewery. No matter what, there are many ways to have a fun day trip on this laid-back island.
19. Everglades City
- Distance: 100 miles (90-minute drive)
- Highlights: Airboat Rides, Hiking, Paddling, and Local Dining
Located at the bottom of Southwest Florida, Everglades City is the gateway to the Florida Everglades. It was historically a settlement of the Seminole Indians, but they were driven from the area in the mid-1800s. Since then, this area has primarily been an agricultural community, but in recent years, there has been an increase in eco-tourism in the area.
Since you cannot take an airboat ride in Everglades National Park, this is a good spot for taking one. Captain Jack’s has an airboat and swamp buggy combo tour perfect for seeing alligators and other wildlife. I recommend starting with the tour in the morning and then taking the drive down to HavAnnA Café for a Cuban lunch.
Later, spend some more time in nature at nearby Big Cypress National Preserve. The Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center is a short drive away and has a boardwalk perfect for wildlife viewing, including manatees. From here, the Big Cypress Institute offers walking, biking, canoeing, and birding tours. Most are two hours and under the shade of trees, so it makes for an educational and active afternoon day trip activity.
20. The Everglades Gulf Coast Visitor Center
- Distance: 100 miles (90-minute drive)
- Highlights: Boat Tour, Kayak and Canoe Rentals, Ranger
If you would like to try a different Everglades National Park entrance besides Shark Valley, you can head to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. There are nine different habitats found here and a vast amount of biodiversity, including many endemic species. This section of the park is more aquatic-focused than the east coast side. There are many activities to do, including a boat tour, and kayak and canoe rentals and tours.
The Ten Thousand Islands tour is the most popular option. This 90-minute excursion provides both views and information about the park. Dolphin and manatee sightings are frequent, so be sure to bring a camera! With this tour being only ninety minutes, I recommend starting your day with it and then exploring the Visitor Center. Next, have a picnic lunch and then rent a kayak or canoe to explore the mangroves. If that does not appeal to you, be on the lookout for special ranger-led events that occur frequently. This could be anything from a free fishing lesson to an introduction to birding.
- Distance: 65 miles (1-hour drive)
- Highlights: Authentic Museum, Museum, History, Garden
For a Fort Lauderdale day trip to Homestead, you will want to prioritize checking out the delicious local cuisine. Homestead is known for its mouthwatering farm-to-table dining options, so you can indulge in fresh and flavorful dishes. Head to the Redland Market Village, a vibrant farmer’s market where you can savor the flavors of tropical fruits, homemade jams, and authentic Cuban delicacies. This works well for a late breakfast or early lunch.
Next up, pay a visit to the Coral Castle Museum, a fascinating attraction that showcases the mysterious creation of a massive coral stone sculpture by one man, Edward Leedskalnin. Here you can marvel at the intricate craftsmanship and ponder the secrets behind this remarkable feat of engineering. It’s a truly unique and thought-provoking experience.
To round off the day trip, make sure to see the natural beauty of the Fruit & Spice Park. This botanical garden is a sensory delight, offering a vast collection of tropical fruits, herbs, and spices. I recommend taking leisurely stroll through the lush gardens, sampling exotic fruits, and learning about the agricultural heritage of the region.
To finish off the day, head to Schnebly Redland’s Winery. This tropical estate offers wine and beer tastings, as well as has a full restaurant. You can either have dinner here or drive to Top Taste Jamaican Restaurants for an authentic meal. You may end the day full, but you will also be very satisfied.
22. Fakahatchee Strand Preserve
- Distance: 100 miles (2-hour drive)
- Highlights: Nature Tours, Paddling, Hiking, Scenic Drives
Nature lovers should prioritize a day trip out to Fakahatchee Strand Preserve, the largest state park in Florida! Here you can find a larger variety of plant and animal species than anywhere else in the continental United States. There is so much to do and see and if you pack a picnic lunch, you can spend the whole day!
If you visit between November and April, Friends of Fakahatchee offers a variety of tours. These include naturalist guides and biologist-led swamp tours. These tours are four hours long and cost $105 per person, so a more casual visitor will probably prefer the tram tour for $30 per person.
I prefer starting the day off with some sort of adventure, whether it be a guided tour or your own experience canoeing or kayaking (Bring Your Own Boat) in the East River and Jones Grade Lakes. After a break for lunch, head to the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk and marvel at nature from above. Lastly, end your day trip from Naples with the Janes Memorial Scenic Drive and look for alligators and birds.
If you are looking for dinner after, this is another great opportunity to stop in Everglades City and try a seafood spot like City Seafood or Camelia Street Grill. This will take you a bit further away from Fort Lauderdale, but there is not much to eat on the I-75 back to Fort Lauderdale. Make sure to stop to make the detour if you are hungry to end the day on a high note!
Day Trips from Fort Lauderdale that are 2+ Hours Away
These next twelve Fort Lauderdale day trips are not for the faint of heart. They will require at least four hours of driving round trip! However, if you are in the mood for an adventure, all of these options are well worth the drive. Make sure to leave early to beat the traffic and pack plenty of goodies for the road. These further away day trips are just the thing to make for an unforgettable Fort Lauderdale vacation.
23. Key Largo
- Distance: 95 miles (2-hour drive):
- Highlights: Coral Reefs, Seafood, Nature Trails, Bird Sanctuary, Sunset Views
Of the three keys mentioned in this post, Key Largo is the easiest to get to for a day trip from Fort Lauderdale and the best for adventurers! This key is renowned for its breathtaking coral reefs, and one of the best places to experience them is at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. You will want to either snorkel, scuba dive, or take a glass bottom tour of the area of Key Largo first thing! Keep an eye out for tropical fish, sea turtles, and maybe even a friendly dolphin.
No trip to Key Largo is complete without savoring some of the area’s delicious seafood so head to one of the local restaurants for an indulgent seafood meal. Places like Key Largo Fisheries Backyard Cafe are renowned for their waterfront dining and fresh fish.
Post-lunch, a visit to the Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is a must. This hidden gem is a sanctuary for native plant and animal species. Take a leisurely walk along the nature trails, admire the diverse flora, and listen to the sounds of nature. Conversely, you could also rent kayaks for more water time nearby.
Finish off the day trip in the shade at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation. You can see a variety of unique birds and learn about efforts to protect these species. This attraction is a bit of a drive south of Key Largo, but worth it to see the views of the overseas highway on the drive. There are also some excellent places to eat down here like Calypso and Snappers, and then you enjoy the sunset views before driving back.
- Distance: 105 miles (2-hour drive)
- Highlights: Fishing, Paddling or Scuba Charter, Waterfront Dining, Museum, Reef Garden, Sunset Views
A Fort Lauderdale day trip to Islamorada is just the thing to get a taste of island life. This island is popular for ocean activities of all types, from saltwater fishing to paddleboarding. If you like fishing, this is the ideal place to book a charter, so start the day early with a half-day fishing trip. If you rather, there are also kayaking, paddleboarding, and scuba diving tours for the morning.
A waterfront lunch is a must on an Islamorada day trip. My favorite spot is Lazy Days Restaurant, where you can enjoy a tropical fish sandwich with your toes in the sand. The views here are unbeatable, even if you just come for a drink.
If you need a break from the sun in the afternoon, head to the History of Diving Museum. This is a fascinating attraction for learning about sea exploration and innovations, even if you aren’t a diver yourself. The Windley Key Fossil Reef Garden is an alternate option for exploring some hiking trails alongside fossilized coral.
One Islamorada institution everyone needs to check out is Robbie’s. This might seem like a tourist trap, but it’s such a fun stop for art, souvenirs, and tarpon feeding, You can buy a bucket of fish and feed them to the giant tarpons here! It’s so entertaining to watch these crazy big fish jump out of the water.
To end the day, either have another seafood meal at a romantic place like Square Grouper or take a sunset cruise for incredible views. Though it is a two-hour drive back, I recommend staying long enough to see the amazing colors of the sky as the sun goes down.
25. Downtown Fort Myers
- Distance: 140 miles (2-hour drive)
- Highlights: Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Downtown Dining, Art Museums
For more of a city experience, Downtown Fort Myers is a two-hour drive west. It’s a fun place to walk around, and I recommend spending some time at the Thomas Edison and Henry Ford Winter Estates. Here you can see the historic homes of these icons, learn about their inventions and wander through the botanical gardens.
Fort nature lovers, the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve makes for an enjoyable hike, especially if you are into birding. You can also look for manatees at manatee park or take kids to the IMAG History and Science Center to learn about marine biology.
This area has some excellent cuisine, including Izzy’s Fish and Oyster and Green Cup Café. This is also where you can find the best Fort Myers breweries like Millennial Brewing and Coastal Dayz Brewery. If you want to end your day with some art appreciation, the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center has some fascinating exhibits, or you can find live music at a variety of restaurants and bars.
26. Koreshan State Park
- Distance: 125 miles (2-hour drive)
- Highlights: Pioneer Homes, Kayak Tour, Coconut Point Shopping Center
One of the most fascinating Fort Lauderdale day trips is a visit to Koreshan State Park. Located two hours away in Estero, this park offers eleven pioneer homes to explore and learn about the religious sect that lived here. This group definitely had an eccentric way of living, but it is a cool place to walk around and see live oaks. Dogs are allowed too!
We spent an hour and a half walking around and then took a kayaking tour. You can paddle three miles to Estero Bay and see all sorts of nature along the way. If the weather is cool, the Estero River Scrub is also a nice place to go for a hike.
I recommend heading to the Coconut Point shopping center after lunch. Though it has a lot of basic mall offerings, the town center is a beautiful place to walk around and there is lots of outdoor dining. I love El Nido Modern Mexican or Lehne Burger.
27. Cape Coral
- Distance: 140 minutes (2-hour drive)
- Highlights: Water Park, Nature Trails, Distillery, Local Dining
If you are looking to experience a gulf coast city with some unique features to offer, Cape Coral is two hours away. The highlight for families with kids here is the Sun Splash Waterpark. Preteens and teens will love the slides and younger kids can enjoy the splash park. It doesn’t really compare to the Orlando water parks, so I am not sure most adults would find it worth it, but it is an option if you are wanting for some water slides.
My recommendation for adults spending the day here is to go to Four Mile Cove Eco Preserve. Start with a 1.2-mile walk along the boardwalk and look for birds, butterflies, and manatees. If you visit on the weekend, rent a kayak and spend a couple of hours exploring the mangroves as well. For more nature sightings, the Rotary Park Environmental Center also has walking trails and a butterfly garden.
After your nature time, take the 2:00 PM free tour at Wicked Dolphin Distillery. Here you can taste 100% Florida sugar rum and learn about the small bath process for distilling it.
No matter what you do in Cape Coral, I recommend ending your day with a casual local meal. Cork Soakers Deck has bar food and a fun atmosphere, or Two Meatballs in the Kitchen has delectable Italian food in a cozy dining room. There are plenty of options around the Cape Coral bridge to end your day before heading back to Fort Lauderdale.
- Distance: 150 miles (2.5-hour drive)
- Highlights: Brevard Zoo, Nature Trails, Beaches, Downtown, Mural Tour
One of the most underrated Florida day trip options is a visit to my town Melbourne, Florida! A little over two hours away, this area has everything you could want out of a Florida day trip. Start the day by deciding whether you are looking for a beach or nature experience.
For the beach, head to free parks like Spessard Holland or Howard E. Futch Memorial for plenty of room to spread out on the sand. If you prefer a nature day, the Brevard Zoo is ideal. Not only can you see all sorts of animals in their habitats, but you could also choose to kayak through a giraffe enclosure or zipline through the trees for an additional fee.
Next, get a late lunch in the Eau Gallie Arts District. The Cottage Irish Pub, FM Pizza Oven, and Intracoastal Brewing Company are all excellent options. You can also take a walk around the area and admire the many murals that add so much charm to this arts district.
End the day with a fun nature excursion through the swamp! The Viera Wetlands allows visitors to drive or walk through the trail. It’s a great place to see alligators, go birding and just enjoy the fresh air.
- Distance: 110 miles (2-hour drive)
- Highlights: Nature Sightings, Downtown, Museum, Garden, Zoo, Scenic Cruise
If you are able to drive to the gulf coast, Naples makes for a stunning day trip from Fort Lauderdale. This relaxed beach town has both natural beauty and cultural attractions to enjoy. I recommend starting the day at my favorite place-The Naples Pier! This is an amazing place to spot dolphins, take pictures and even go fishing.
This puts you right near the vibrant downtown area of Naples. Stroll along the charming streets lined with boutique shops, art galleries, and quaint cafes. After a little sightseeing, get lunch at one of the nearby Naples restaurants. My favorites are Jane’s Cafe on 3rd and the Cafe on 5th.
Next, decide if you rather spend some time indoors or outdoors. If you’re an art enthusiast, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Naples Museum of Art. With its impressive collection of contemporary and modern art, this museum offers a visual feast for the eyes.
For nature lovers, a visit to the Naples Botanical Garden is a must. Take a leisurely stroll through the different themed gardens, such as the Brazilian Garden or the Asian Garden, and embrace the serenity of nature. Families with kids may prefer the Naples Zoo, although you can easily spend the whole day here.
As the day winds down, make your way to the Naples City Dock for a scenic sunset cruise. Witnessing the sky painted in shades of orange and pink as the sun dips below the horizon is a truly magical experience that everyone should do in Naples! You can grab dinner by the dock after or end your day trip on the high note of a sunset.
30. Marathon Key
- Distance: 140 miles (2.5-hour drive)
- Highlights: Snorkeling, Waterfront Dining, Turtle Hospital, Beach, Sunset Cruise
For a day in the tropics, Marathon Key offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and relaxed island vibes. To make the most of your day in Marathon Key, I recommend starting early. Bring your snorkeling gear and head to Sombrero Beach or Curry Hammock State Park, where you can swim among colorful fish and explore the stunning coral formations. Scuba Dive charters are also an option for certified divers.
For lunch, treat yourself to a delicious seafood feast at one of the waterfront restaurants or seafood shacks. I recommend Island Fish Company or Porky’s Bayside, but you can’t go wrong with the grouper or mahi anywhere on the island! Don’t forget to pair your meal with a refreshing Key Lime Pie for the perfect sweet ending.
Next, you simply must visit the Turtle Hospital. Not only do you get to see adorable rehabilitated turtles here, but we learned so much too! The tour is super engaging and you will leave a better steward of the ocean. They have tours daily on the half hour, so just make sure to visit before 4 PM.
If you still have time to spend on Marathon Key, end the day with some relaxing beach time, or a sunset cruise. You can find one that offers dinner, or stop for moe seafood in Key Largo ont he way back. Just don’t be surprised if you rather fall asleep in a hammock at the end of the day instead of driving back to Fort Lauderdale!
- Distance: 215 miles (3-hour drive)
- Highlights: Gardens, Museums, Dining, Attractions
If you are ambitious enough to take a day trip to Orlando, you will want to prioritize what type of experience you want to have. If you want to go to a theme park, that will take up most of the day and you can see my tips here. But for exploring the city of Orlando, I recommend following this itinerary.
Begin your day in the Winter Park area of Orlando with a visit to the beautiful Leu Gardens. Here, you can see an array of natural plants and trees and enjoy the outdoors before it gets hot later in the day. However, if you rather stay inside, you could also start your day at the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Science Center, or the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum.
Once you have worked up an appetite, head to Park Avenue and try one of the many excellent eateries here for lunch. I recommend Briarpatch of Prato! You can then walk around this area, and Lake Eola for some leisure time after lunch. I especially recommend doing a paddle swan boat for a view from the Lake!
I love to enjoy a midday beer and luckily Orlando has tons of great local breweries to try! I have a full brewery guide with options to choose from here, or you can take my word for it and visit Sideward Brewing. Finally, go to the iconic I-Drive for dinner and fun in the evening. I recommend a lively dinner at Cafe Tu Tangoor Mia’s Italian Kitchen. This puts you right in the center of the action, where you can finish your day with TopGolf, karaoke, or a ferris wheel view of the fireworks.It does not get more Orlando than that!
- Distance: 215 miles (3-hour drive)
- Highlights: History and Art Museums, Shopping, and Dining, Gardens
For a gulf coast destination filled with history and culture. Sarasota is a three-hour drive northwest. This city is known for being the winter home of the Ringling Brothers and now has a fantastic museum celebrating this piece of American history, as well as many art museums.
A Sarasota from Fort Lauderdale day trip should start at the Ringling Museum where visitors can explore the circus museum, the Museum of Art, the Ca d’Zan Mansion, and the Bayfront Gardens. You could spend a full day checking out each part, but I recommend focusing on two and then grabbing lunch after.
My recommendation for where to get lunch is St. Armands Circle. Here you can find all sorts of excellent Sarasota restaurants, including my favorites, Venezia and Shore. This is also a fun place for shopping and waterfront views.
End the day here with some nature, either at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens or at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. The botanical gardens here are some of the best in Florida and the Mote aquarium is one of the best places to see sea turtles on the gulf! Young and old can appreciate the unique things of Florida with a day in Sarasota.
33. Siesta Key
- Distance: 215 miles (3-hour drive)
- Highlights: Beaches, Water Sports, and Live Music
Another beach town brimming with charm that is perfect for a Fort Lauderdale day trip is Siesta Key. About three hours west, this is one of the best places for a day of fun in the sun. The beaches here are absolutely gorgeous and you could easily spend the whole day relaxing at one.
A morning start at the beach is ideal, with plenty of time to try an activity. I recommend snorkeling, renting a beach cruiser, or going parasailing. There are of course tons of kayak and paddleboard tours available too.
For lunch, venture to Siesta Key Village and enjoy the kitschy shops. Come lunchtime, you do not have to worry about being sandy, as everyone is a beach bum here! Grab a meal at a chill eatery like Island House Tap & Grill or the Hub Baja Grill.
After, adults can spend a few hours jamming to the live music at Siesta Key Oyster Bar, whereas families will want to get some dessert from Big Olaf Creamery. If you still have time later that evening, you can take a sunset cruise or electric bike beach tour to soak in the magical views.
34. Key West
- Distance: 190 miles (3.5-hour drive)
- Highlights: Historic Tours, Tourist Attractions, Tiki Bars
If you really want to maximize your time in Florida while visiting Fort Lauderdale, you can take the drive down to Key West. It will take at least three and a half hours (or five hours by bus), so it’s not the easiest day trip to take. You are better to stay a few days and experience all the fun things to do in the Florida Keys. But if you only have one day, it is possible to take a day trip!
The drive down to Key West is very scenic along the seven-mile bridge over the turquoise water. You will want to park somewhere around Mallory Square when you arrive. From here, you spend the day checking out iconic Key West spots like Sloppy Joe’s, the Audubon House, The Hemingway Home, the Key West Lighthouse, and the Truman Little White House.
Everything is within walking distance so it is the easiest way to get a taste of Key West. Just be prepared to want to spend more than a day trip here once you arrive!
Know Before You Go: Fun Ideas for Fort Lauderdale Day Trips
I hope this guide inspired you to explore more of South Florida and beyond! Fort Lauderdale is the perfect jumping-off point for so much to experience in the sunshine state and this blog post has a variety of destinations to check out. Now that you have some ideas, keep in mind the following tips for planning your own Fort Lauderdale day trips.
- These driving times should be pretty accurate, but there may be traffic during February through April with spring breakers. Also, snowbird season (January – April) can lead to some slowdowns with driving as well. Rush Hour traffic can be common on 95 near Miami as well.
- On the other hand, watch out for afternoon showers when visiting July through October. I often recommend waiting until after dinner to head back from a day trip so you can avoid getting caught mid-drive in a storm!
- While exploring, make sure to leave nature undisturbed and always pick up trash. You can take shells home if you like, but make sure there are no living organisms in the shells when you do!
- No matter what you are doing for your day trip from Orlando, you will probably want to bring sunscreen and bug spray. I like Sun Bum and these bug-repellent wipes.
- Even if you are not bringing a picnic lunch, I always recommend packing a cooler with drinks and a couple of snacks for day trips. This way you can enjoy nice, cold water or seltzer on the drive back!
- Check out the map below to get an idea of where each day trip will take you. To save the map for later, click the star next to the map name. Then go to Google Maps -> Menu -> Your Places -> Maps and you will see it.
Have you taken any of these day trips? Let me know where you like to visit! For more ideas for exploring Florida, check out my guide to the best Florida Nature Trips here.