The Best Day Trips to Take from Orlando

by Julia on September 24, 2019

As one of the most tourist-friendly cities in the USA, Orlando has a truly scintillating list of attractions to its name. But despite everything that Orlando has to offer, glimmering at its boundaries is a vast and varied state full of cultural treasures and hidden wildernesses – and you may feel as though you’re missing out by staying in just one location.

Luckily, there are plenty of towns and cities within driving distance from Central Florida that can make for the perfect day trip if you fancy taking in some historic sights or sinking your feet into a sandy beach. Here’s our guide to the best day trips to take from Orlando, to help you explore that little bit more of the beautiful Sunshine State.

Kennedy Space Center

Drive time: 50 mins

The Kennedy Space Centre, NASA’s working spaceflight facility, is a great destination if you are a fan of 20th century history and ongoing space exploration. Here you can dive into interactive exhibitions, learn about the history of space travel, simulate the experience of taking off in a space shuttle and even touch a piece of moon rock. With more than enough to keep the whole family entertained and inspired for the day, a visit to The Kennedy Space Center is well worth the journey.

St Augustine

Drive time: Around 2 hours

Known for its Spanish colonial architecture and Atlantic Ocean beaches, St Augustine is “The oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the borders of the continental United States.”

This city’s swashbuckling history of pirates, war and revolution can be felt through its narrow lanes and centuries-old landmarks, such as the Castillo de San Marcos and the St. Augustine Lighthouse. You can even discover the Fountain of Youth, an archaeological site and famous spring which supposedly has magical youth-restoring waters – hey, it’s worth a try!

Silver Springs State Park

Drive time: 1 hour and 40 minutes

Central Florida is an area full of natural beauty, but even amongst stiff competition the Silver Springs State Park in Ocala is exceptionally lovely. Famous for pristine and crystalline waters, visitors can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, paddleboarding and picnics by the waterside. Perhaps the most popular, however, are the glass-bottomed boat tours, where informative guides are on hand to explain everything they know about the fascinating wildlife that inhabits the park.

The Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center is open to the public for those wanting to learn more about the land’s history (the area was inhabited by Native Americans for centuries) and rich animal life.

Cocoa Beach

Drive time: Around 1 hour

As Orlando’s go-to beach, Cocoa Beach is sometimes levelled with the charge of being rather “touristy”. However, you shouldn’t let its popularity put you off. This area is imbued with an enchanting old-Florida atmosphere, and there’s a list of fun seaside activities that’s as long as the historic Cocoa Beach Pier.

Whether it’s enjoying Floridian seafood in an al fresco restaurant, letting your hair down in vibrant cocktail bars, or exploring the interesting museums, there’s plenty to do before you’ve even hit the beach itself. Here, you can try your hand at surfing in the famously mellow waves, catch a whopper with some deep-sea fishing and even watch space shuttles launch from the Kennedy Space Centre.

Mount Dora

Drive time: 45 mins

A short trip north from Orlando and you’ll find yourself in one of Florida’s most beloved small towns. Surrounded by stunning lakes and wildlife, Mount Dora is a laid-back getaway that draws antique enthusiasts from across the state. The endlessly explorable shops and farmers’ flea markets are full of vintage treasures and fascinating finds, while the galleries, gourmet restaurants and wineries are all charming places to idle away a warm afternoon.

Devil’s Den

Drive time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

The Devil’s Den is a natural wonder and one of the most geologically interesting places in North America. An underground spring which opens into a dry cave, the phenomenon earned its name through the steam which escapes via a cave chimney on cold winter mornings. Crystal clear waters that are warm all year round make this the perfect location for scuba diving and snorkelling – giving you a unique way to see the ancient rock formations and fossil beds that date back 33 million years.

New Smyrna Beach

Drive time: Around 1 hour

New Smyrna’s white sandy beach stands out as one of the last in Florida where you are allowed to drive your car onto the sand – but this quirk isn’t the only thing to recommend it. A hot spot for surfers, New Smyrna Beach is an appealing coastal town known for its seaside architecture and personality. There’s also a thriving art scene and plenty of intriguing local history to explore here, including a history museum which tells the compelling story of the town’s two and a half centuries of colonial past.

Crystal River

Drive time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Crystal River is one of the only places in Florida where you’re legally permitted to swim with manatees in their natural habitat – a once in a lifetime experience. Gentle giants sometimes known as Sea Cows, manatees move into the warm waters of the Crystal River when temperatures start to cool in the Gulf of Mexico. With 27,500 acres of scrub, pinewoods, hardwood forests, salt marshes and mangrove islands, the Crystal River State Park is also a fantastic destination for hiking, kayaking, paddleboarding, and birdwatching.

This post was written by the Florida enthusiasts Top Villas, who give people a great base from which to explore The Sunshine State with their luxury Orlando villas.

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