Florida claims 1,800 miles of coastline – meaning a basket of peel-and-eat shrimp, waving palm trees and hypnotic sunsets are never far away.
Fort George Island
Drive the Saturiwa Trail that circles the wetlands of Fort George Island
Cultural State Park and take in the 19th-century, cotton- growing Kingsley Plantation house.
Eat: head to beach hut café, inland from Jacksonville beach, for southern-style
breakfasts (1281 3rd street south; less than £5). Sleep: try genteel Addison B&B (from £120).
Head south and before you know it, you’ll motor into St Augustine Beach,
with its fishing pier and striped lighthouse. Beachcomb or swim, or head into
downtown St Augustine, Florida’s oldest European settlement, which is riddled
with alleyways and, allegedly, ghosts.
Eat: call in at Cap’s on the Water,
a seafood house in an authentic 1940s fishing camp, for shrimp and Floridian
gumbo (mains from £7). Sleep: Our
House B&B has tasteful rooms in the main Victorian home and serves a
full-on breakfast (from £100).
Daytona Beach has a carnivalesque atmosphere on its vintage 1950s
boardwalk. Nascar’s first auto-racing dragway took place here in 1948, then the
modern Daytona Speedway opened as the fastest course ever built for stock cars.
Sit (virtually) in the driver’s seat at the Daytona 500
Eat: Down the
hatch, live bands and surf-and-turf go hand in hand (mains from £11).
Sleep: Aku Tiki Inn has a tropical kitsch
appeal (from £63).
NASA was founded here in the 1950s and it was from Cape Canaveral that
humans first landed on the moon. The Kennedy Space Center has a rocket
park and shuttle- launch simulator. Around the centre is Canaveral National Seashore; take
a dip at Apollo Bay or Cocoa Beach.
Eat: the best end-of-day views are to be had at Sunset Waterfront Café and Bar
(mains from £6). Sleep: bed down in beautiful Inn at Cocoa Beach (from £94).
Laze on its white-sand municipal beach or cycle the Intracoastal Waterway
on the Lake Trail and gawk at the swanky mansions.
Eat: gorge on biscuits and gravy, omelettes and burgers at
vintage diner Green’s Pharmacy (mains under £8; 151 N county road). Sleep: Hotel Biba looks like a cute ’50s motel but
rooms are modern (£69).
Miami is all about Latin flavour, especially when it comes to cuisine, so
don’t miss the Cuban community in Little Havana. Calle Ocho is the heart of the
neighbourhood, while cigar-smoking old Cuban men play chess in Máximo Gómez
Park. Head to world-famous South Beach, part beach-bum, part A-list glamour
girl, and home to a trove of art-deco hotels.
Eat: pick OLA for
innovative Latin American cuisine, such as lobster tail marinated in coconut
milk and citrus juice (mains from £11). Sleep: Biltmore Hotel is a grand 1920s Jazz age
survivor in the wealthy coral gables area, ornamented with Italian, Spanish and
Moorish accents (from £140).
Take a daytrip to Everglades
National Park, the US’s largest subtropical wilderness, home to rare and
endangered species. Unique ‘islands of life’ have been restored where wildlife,
such as alligators and panthers, thrive.
Eat: Robert is Here
sells ice-cream shakes, £3.50, and alligator jerky. Sleep: Long Pine Key Campground.
The article 'A Florida coast road trip' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.