Think Florida and more than likely the first things that come to mind are gorgeous stretches of white sand beaches and Disney World. Although both of these are of course synonymous with America's sunshine state, there's plenty more to Florida than just sunbathing and theme parks. Stay in the glamorous heart of Miami, among the artsy culture of the state’s gulf coast towns and experience island life in some of the best resorts around in Sanibel and the iconic Florida Keys. Along the way, you’ll stop at some of Florida’s coastal gems with romantic Naples and Sarasota.
Day 1: UK/Tampa
Arrive in Tampa and, collecting your hire care from the airport, head to the aptly named Epicurean Hotel. Located in downtown Tampa, it’s a delight to the senses with wine tastings, culinary classes and an excellent restaurant. Tampa and nearby St Petersburg are renowned for their world-class beaches and first-rate entertainment with cultural influences from as far afield as Spain, Greece, Cuba and Russia.
Stay: Epicurean Hotel (Superior)
Days 2-3: Sarasota
Drive south to the white beaches and sunshine of Sarasota. Its Spanish colonial history can still be seen in its Mediterranean Revival architectural style, typified by the Sarasota Times Building. However, it’s now better known for its golf courses and thriving arts scene which owes much to modern Sarasota’s forefather – John Ringling – a circus magnate who, in the early 20th century, brought art galleries and a college to this once struggling township. His storied estate is now open to visitors. You’ll also find America’s love affair with the automobile realised in the Classic Car Museum.
Stay: Longboat Key Club (Superior)
Days 4-5: Sanibel Island
Head down the coast to laidback Sanibel. Beaches are undeveloped, locals are friendly and the best way to get around is by bike so prepare to unwind in one of Florida’s best-kept secrets. Even its mansions retreat shyly behind thick foliage while its northern half is almost entirely protected by a wildlife refuge, home to a myriad of birdlife. Perhaps charter a boat to enjoy a day on the water, fishing away the hours.
Stay: Sundial Beach Resort & Spa (Superior)
Day 6: Naples
For upscale romance, the ever-charming Naples has become something of an artist’s retreat. And it’s no surprise as its white sands are backed only by half-hidden residential enclaves and the renowned Everglades are just a stone's throw away. Famous Naples Hotel has played host to the likes of Geta Garbo, Thomas Edison and Gary Cooper while today artists have come to set up shop with the town’s art district a veritable treasure trove of workshops and galleries.
Days 7-8: Florida Keys
Drive over the striking beauty of Seven Mile Bridge as you make your pilgrimage to Florida Keys – that jutting 113-mile long archipelago that divides the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Linked by 42 bridges, its azure waters and brilliant sunsets are a picturesque backdrop to the Caribbean culture of your AAA Four Diamond resort. Make a day trip to the Key West tip; closer to Cuba than Florida’s mainland in more ways than geography, its lush vegetation, pristine beaches and brightly painted buildings are a real joy.
Days 9-10: Miami
Heading back to the Florida Mainland, you’ll reach the glitz and glamour of Miami. Staying in trendy South Beach, you’ll have the best of the city’s high-end restaurants, bars and, as always, white sand on your doorstep. Be sure to take in the clean lines and pastel colours of the city’s heritage Art Deco architecture, of which your hotel is a prime example. Visitors are also treated to exceptional restaurants and lively nightlife, with one of the best music scenes in America.
Day 11: Depart for UK
On your final day in America, return your car to the airport for your overnight flight back to the UK.
Day 12: Arrive UK
Arriving back in the UK, continue your journey home.
Blog: Best Road Trips in the USA
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