Beachfront condos, palatial oceanfront homes, quiet sophistication with historic spaces, nature conservation, golf, shopping, and art – this section of Florida’s Atlantic Coast has a little bit of everything! There’s no rush, just a simple laid back atmosphere. You can take your time and really enjoy rest and relaxation in many ways during a road trip here! On a Florida to Georgia road trip, this is a great part to slow down at.
We’ve made this trip many times although not always as slow as I would’ve liked. I always return home to realize there was something else I meant to see or do. I’ve managed to explore many of the stops mentioned here and there throughout my trips which is how I was able to come up with the perfect itinerary for a fully impactful yet relaxed trip.
This Florida road trip itinerary visits Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, Hutchinson Island, Jupiter Island, Palm Beach Gardens, and West Palm Beach. If you want to do more than sit at the beach while still not completely wearing yourself out with activities, there are many relaxing walks, tours, gardens, and scenic areas to have the best of it all.
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Wondering about day trips to Miami or Fort Lauderdale? Take a look at some of our other posts!
Flying Into Florida
This itinerary starts in Vero Beach and finishes in West Palm Beach but the closest airports to Vero Beach are either Orlando (MCO – Orlando International Airport) or West Palm Beach (PBI – Palm Beach International Airport). Both have easily accessible facilities.
Either airport also offers several options for rental cars with all major rental car agencies operating. Many of the rental car companies equip their cars with an electronic toll transponder but may charge additional fees for its use.
WHAT’S THE BEST TIME OF THE YEAR FOR A FLORIDA ROAD TRIP?
Fall through Spring can offer the perfect opportunities for warm tropical breezes and sunny beach days in Florida. If you’re trying to avoid crowds, plan for September to early October, January, and early May for the best experiences.
Fall may not offer you the beautiful seasonal color changes like Northern getaways can but it does give you lower rates, uncrowded beaches, and a slower pace that the locals love.
If you can only travel in the summer, try early May or June before schools get out or late August after schools start back up. If hiking nature trails, remember that July and August can be scorching so hike in the early morning hours and hydrate often.
Florida ROAD TRIP FAQS
- We have a fair amount of toll roads that sometimes seem to spring up on you, especially in the Miami area. If you are using GPS, you can always change your settings to avoid tolls for extra guidance.
- Train Alternative Brightline is an express, inter-city rail system that services between Orlando and Miami with stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
- Cell Phones and Texting: it’s illegal to text while driving.
- Headlights: must be on from dusk to dawn, in fog, and in rain.
- Real Time Traffic Information: you can find out everything from detailed traffic information, traffic incidents, construction, and even traffic cameras at FL511.com or by dialing 511 on your phone.
- Paying Tolls: A Sunpass account discounts tolls and saves time. If you have an UNI (Florida E-Pass), it works in 18 states – Florida, Maryland, Rhode Island, Indiana, Georgia, Delaware, Illinois, North Carolina, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maine, West Virginia, New York, Ohio.
- Cash for Tolls: There are areas along the toll roads that DON’T accept cash.
- Coastal Islands: some have bridges that charge a fare using the same toll system.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE TAKING ON A FLORIDA ROAD TRIP?
There are certain parts of Florida that will appear to be easy to get from one place to another but if you’ve never driven through Florida, you might be surprised by some of the traffic issues you could face.
Yes, you can cross through Central Florida along I-4 taking you from Tampa to Daytona. You will pass Disney World exits as you go. But, depending on when you travel, you could get caught in Disney traffic or rush hour traffic. Expect slow downs at usual rush hour times but it can be unpredictable also.
You can also take alternate routes in different areas for a country road drive, such as taking Florida State Road 60 from the Gulf of Mexico in Clearwater to the Atlantic Ocean in Vero Beach. You’ll get to pass old Florida towns like Mulberry and Yeehaw Junction and much of the drive will be along undeveloped agricultural land.
If you plan to go from Orlando towards Miami, you may want to take the turnpike. It can cost up to $30 each way depending on your travel plans and has long stretches without exits so pay attention to rest stops for restroom access and gas.
Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway
An alternative to the turnpike or I-95 would be the Indian River Lagoon National Scenic Byway. Highlights of the cultural and nature spaces that you can encounter along the way include:
- Canaveral National Seashore
- 212 S. Washington Ave, Titusville, FL 32796
- Visit the longest stretch of undeveloped Atlantic coastline in Florida. Greta for fishing, hiking, boating, and even rocket launch viewing.
- The Harry T & Harriett V Moore Cultural Center
- 2180 Freedom Ave.Mims, FL 32754
- The Moore’s were educators, activists, and parents committed to civil rights. As founders of the Brevard County NAACP, they remained committed to equality and justice until their untimely deaths. A bomb exploded underneath their home on Christmas night 1951 and the couple was killed for their involvement in the civil rights movement. The Park commemorates their lives and brings attention to their unique contribution to the early civil rights movement.
- Maritime Hammock Preserve
- 1235 N Atlantic Ave, Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
- A good place for a stroll, dog-walking, or a picnic.
- Jetty Park Beach & Pier
- 9035 Campground Circle Cape Canaveral, Florida 32920
- A popular beach and pier that requires you to purchase either a day pass $15, 3 month pass $75, or annual pass $100 for non-residents. Pavilion rentals are also available starting at $25 – small.
- Exploration Tower
- 670 Dave Nisbet Drive Port Canaveral, Florida 32920
- Enjoy the seven floors of exhibits and interactive play spaces, as well as, indoor and outdoor observation decks on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Currently free for a limited time.
- Cocoa Riverfront Park
- 401 Riveredge Blvd, Cocoa, FL 32922
- Take in scenic views at the Cocoa Riverfront Park, go fishing, play, and walk the boardwalk.
- Titusville Welcome Center
- 419 S Hopkins Ave, Titusville, FL 32780
- Stop at the Titusville Welcome Center for bicycle rentals, tour information, and local tips.
- Wabasso Beach Park
- 1820 County Road 510, Vero Beach, FL 32963
- Wabaso Beach Park is good for swimming with lifeguards on duty and restroom/shower facilities.
- U.S. Space Walk of Fame Park & Museum
- 308 Pine Street, Titusville, FL 32796
- Take a leisurely stroll along the Space Walk of Fame.
- Environmental Learning Center
- 255 Live Oak Drive, Vero Beach, FL 32963
- Discover the environmental learning center through water activities, a touch tank, guided walks, and nature play. Each season, the works of new artists are displayed in the TIdal Gallery and additional viewing rooms. Low cost admission rates are $7 for ages 12+ and $5 for children 2 -11.
- Historic Jungle Trail
- Located off of CR 510 in Wabasso
- Take the historic jungle trail, built in the 1920’s for citrus growers to haul their produce.
You’ll find 7 EV charging stations along the way, dozens of parks, the Brevard Zoo, 3 Scenic Drive monuments, Treasure museums, and more. For a full list of all featured stops, visit the Traveler’s Guide.
THE ULTIMATE VERO BEACH TO WEST PALM BEACH ROAD TRIP ITINERARY
There are several ways to accomplish this road trip. You could station yourself somewhere in between and do day trips to certain sites by spreading it over a week. You could also make it part of a larger Florida East Coast Road trip.
DAY 1: Garden Walks
Wake up steps from the ocean, 225 steps to be exact in a private 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with manicured grounds and an elegant beach themed decor. (You could even coordinate a multiple family booking as the owners have 4 identical units here!)
Guests loved the peacefulness and cleanliness of this rental.
It’s perfectly situated less than half a mile away from Fort Pierce Inlet State Park. Within a 20 minute drive, you can head North to McKee Botanical Garden and South to Heathcote Botanical Gardens.
These gardens not only offer beautiful garden rooms for you to leisurely browse but also offer busy children’s gardens worthy of exploration with their colorful playhouses and whimsical wonderland features.
You’ll also find the Navy Seal Museum nearby where you can explore the Secret World of Naval Special Warfare and test your skills on the Obstacle Course. Be ready to hand walk, belly crawl, and swing, stop, jump your way through!
If kayaking is for you, then you have several options visitors rave about. Hop in a clear kayak, paddle the intercoastal soaking up sunset views in your clear kayak, or light up the night in a GLOW clear kayak tour.
Find more things to do in Fort Pierce.
A hearty breakfast of Shrimp & Grits or Chicken & Waffles get cooked up at the Sunrise City Cafe in Fort Pierce. For all the goodness of a Southern lunch, head to Southern Social in downtown Vero Beach. No matter what you’re looking for, you will not go hungry or sacrifice taste at all. Soak up fresh seafood with a side of scenic sunsets at Riverside Cafe. While Fine Dining with vegan/vegetarian options awaits you at The Tides. Taco Dive serves up tasty southwestern cheap eats.
Where to Stay:
Costa d’Este Beach Resort & Spa is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Oceanfront resort within walking distance to some of the popular area restaurants. Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel & Spa is a relaxing sanctuary with exceptional service serving ocean views and suites for your escape. Surrounded by restaurants and shopping, Hampton Inn & Suites Vero Beach Downtown is a great value with free parking and Travelers’ Choice midrange pricing.
DAY 1 SUMMARY
- Wake up steps away from the Beach with a great vacation rental option or oceanfront hotel choices.
- Eat Breakfast from 7AM to 2PM at Sunrise CIty Cafe.
- Head to Heathcote Botanical Garden to explore outdoor rooms like the Bonsai Gallery, Japanese Garden, or the Reflection Garden.
- Lunch or dinner at Southern Social or Riverside Cafe.
- Afternoon garden walk through the Stickwork Sculpture at McKee Botanical Gardens. Or for snorkeling, diving, and sports fields, head to Pepper Park Beachside.
- Dinner or drinks at The Tides.
- Stay at the Oceanfront Apartment Rental or Costa D’Este Beach Resort.
DAY 2: Beach Drive
- Today you’ll take A1A scenic highway to Jensen Beach.
- Drive Time: 30 – 40 minutes
Dave’s Diner or the Captain’s Galley both serve homestyle American breakfasts before you head South down A1A.
This drive will take you past Jetty Park, South Beach Park, Blue Heron Beach, Bear Point Sanctuary, Middle Cove Beach, Blind Creek Beach, Walton Rocks Beach, Herman’s Bay Beach, Normandy Beach, and Dollman Park Beachside.
Out of the nearby beaches to check out one is clothing optional – Blind Creek Beachside North and South, make sure you know which is which and head to the right beach for you. Dog lovers might want to visit the Walton Rocks Beach where canines can run free at the 24 acre off-leash dog park.
If you’re looking for a horseback riding beach moment, then the beach for you is the Frederick Douglass Memorial Park. You can ride your own horses with a paid weekly or annual permit or you can book a horseback beach tour at $50 per person for one hour.
Enjoy your beach time or take the kids to the Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast. They can be mechanics in the car care center, pirates on a Spanish Galleon, Bankers and more in this well made imaginative tiny city just for them. You won’t regret taking a leisurely stroll at Indian Riverside Park for captivating views and gentle breezes. Another great stop would be at the Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center where you can help yourself to Self-guided Exploration Sheets.
More Things to Do in the Area:
- Movie Night at the Drive-IN ( Treasure Coast Park and Watch)
- Savannah Preserve State Park
- Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens
More Places to Stay:
- Try the All-Inclusive: Club Med Sandpiper Bay. Get a customized quote for your All Inclusive stay.
- Artsy Loft Apartment on the Marina with happy hours and live music every weekend.
- Wake up to oceanfront sunrises and casual comforts at the Courtyard by Marriott Hutchinson Island Oceanside/Jensen Beach.
DAY 2 SUMMARY
- Eat Breakfast at Dave’s Diner.
- Drive A1A towards Jensen Beach and beach hop or take Horseback Beach Tour.
- Try gourmet brick oven pizza with a view at Drift Kitchen & Bar.
- Consider a stop at the Children’s Museum if you have children.
- Movie night at the Drive-IN.
- Switch hotels or stay in Fort Pierce another night.
- Lures Riverfront Restaurant is open late for Dinner after a busy day.
DAY 3: Hobe Sound & Jupiter Island
- Continue South down A1A to US-1 S.
- Drive Time: 45 min to 1 hour
Before you get on your way, add some magical vibes by heading down the Banyan Tree Tunnel in Stuart. 1 – 2644 SE St Lucie Blvd, Stuart, FL 34996
Grab breakfast sandwiches or biscuits and gravy at The Whistle Stop Hoagie Shop & Eatery.
Twenty minutes South on A1A will take you to Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge. Learn about the largest of all sea turtles, the leatherback sea turtle, at the Hobe Sound Nature Center. There are over 175 species of birds that call the Refuge home. A variety of habitats are featured here, from Atlantic Coastal Beach/Dune to Sand Pine Scrub to Mangrove Forest providing an ecospace suitable for a very diverse quantity of plants and animals.
For a $6 fee per vehicle, you can enter the Jonathan Dickinson State Park where you can rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, or bicycles for some self-guided exploration. From Thanksgiving to Easter, you can enjoy equestrian activities like guided horseback rides ($45), horse drawn wagon rides ($12.50), or pony rides ($25). Experience a scenic wilderness boat tour along an ancient sub-tropical stream, the Loxahatchee River for $25 (ages 3 – 12 $15) where you’ll spy alligators, manatees, and century old cypress trees.
If you take the Trapper boat tour ($35), you’ll visit the cabins and grounds that once belonged to Trapper Nelson, the “Wildman of Loxahatchee”, who lived off the land and built a one of a kind experience with log cabins and a wildlife zoo from the 1930’s to the 1960’s.As you continue South down US-1 heading to Blowing Rocks Preserve, you’ll pass through a large variety of Diners and restaurants in Jupiter with every type of cuisine to satisfy your palate within the 10 minute drive. Blowing Rocks Preserve is one of Florida’s best secluded beaches. Here is where you’ll find a nice spot (bring a blanket or chairs) to relax. It’s also home to many endangered plants and animals so share their home responsibly.
If you’re going to hike the rocks (which you should because it’s an amazingly unique part of Florida’s coastline), definitely check the current tide schedule and pack for an eco-friendly good time. A little roughness is what you’ll need to really see the rocks “blow”.
What are Blowing Rocks?
It’s a rock called Anastasia limestone that is usually found underground or underwater. The best time to see them is during winter when they are at their greatest height forming unique burrows and pools to explore. When waves crash against them, geysers of water shoot high into the air.
Additional recommended stops for a second day in the area or to substitute with:
Busch Wildlife Sanctuary – a great place to get up close to rescued animals and support their wildlife protection and conservation efforts. During our visit, we observed animals in positive emotional states with good housing and food. If you feel strongly about animal welfare in tourism, this is one stop that you’ll feel very good about. Another great way to support them is through their Amazon wish-list.
John D. MacArthur Beach State Park – Go for the beach, stay for the sunset views as you make the trek back across the boardwalk to the parking lot. It’s such a trek that at certain times they offer a golf cart ride for those that need assistance. It’s worth the walk though.
If you find yourself staying at Marriott’s Ocean Pointe and wouldn’t mind a nice long walk, you head south to the Easternmost Point in Florida. You won’t see anything other than the beach and ocean but you will be able to say that you have stepped on the Easternmost Point in Florida. You can stack it up in your bragging rights collection.
Explore more things to do in Jupiter.
More places to Stay:
Marriott’s Oceana Palms – hotel with ocean views and free parking.
Hilton Singer Island Oceanfront / Palm Beaches Resort – Oceanfront hotel with valet parking and private beach.
DAY 3 SUMMARY:
- Breakfast at The Whistle Stop Hoagie Shop
- Stop at the Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge.
- Then, on to Jonathan Dickinson State Park for a boat tour, water activities, or equestrian activities (seasonal).
- Lunch at one Jupiter’s many dining options.
- Continue on with a beach hike or relaxing at Blowing Rocks Preserve.
- Stay at Marriott Ocean’s Pointe or Hilton Singer Island.
DAY 4 & 5: West Palm Beach
- Continue South down A1A to US-1 S.
- Drive Time: 20 – 30 minutes
There’s so much to see and do in West Palm Beach!
I recommend staying in the downtown area hotels for easy access to everything but then, you will have to pay for parking. For hotels with free parking, you could stay closer to the highway (I-95) and Palm Beach Outlet Mall. Which brings me to shopping, there’s plenty of options for that here also.
The Square Shopping Mall offers parking and great dining options, as well as a quaint outdoor setting. For celebrity spotting or high end shopping, head to Worth Ave. There is where you’ll find Tiffany & Co., Tory Burch, Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, Raptis Rare Books, art galleries, and the Esplanade Shopping Mall. Make your way down to the Worth Avenue Clock Tower for some insta-worthy shots.
Don’t forget to take a quick stroll in Pan’s Garden, the main gate is on Hibiscus Avenue and the garden is surrounded by a coral colored wall. There are 3 distinct areas in the garden but all of the plants are native to Florida. They are Wetlands, Hammocks, and Uplands.
For beautiful light shows at night, check out the Centennial Fountain at Nancy M. Graham Centennial Square. During Clematis by Light, the surrounding Palm trees light up and dance with the fountain. When the light shows are not in use, interactive play in the fountains is fine. Every 2nd Friday of the month, you can watch Family Movies on the waterfront. Every Saturday through April 16, 2022 enjoy the fresh wares at the GreenMarket.
Society of the Four Arts – sculpture and botanical garden open to the public year round with lectures and events during the winter.
Additional recommended stops for a second day in the area or to substitute with:
- Manatee Lagoon – seasonal manatee viewing and educational center.
- Norton Museum of Art & Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens
- Mounts Botanical Garden
- Bulk Candy Store – large assortment of old fashioned favorites and candies by color.
- The Flagler Museum – gilded age estate with a 75 room mansion built for Henry Flagler including his private railcar #91 in a beautiful glass enclosed replica train station. Want to see more? Visit my Instagram posts/reels. Don’t forget to follow for more like this.
More places to Stay:
- Local 2 Bedroom 2 Bathroom Rental – premium host with city location.
- Hyatt Place West Palm Beach/Downtown – a comfortable space with a downtown location.
- Canopy by Hilton West Palm Beach Downtown – 3 star hotel with valet parking right in the center of everything.
- The Ben, Autograph Collection – walk to everything and enjoy the rooftop bar and valet parking at this gem with prime views of the Palm Harbor Marina and Palm Beach.
Where to Eat:
- For Swedish favorites and coffee– Johan’s Joe.
- For a Parisian breakfast – Paris Bakery & Cafe
- For local Cuban cuisine that’s open late – Havana
- For a casual wine bar – The Blind Monk
- For delicious tapas – Rhythm Cafe
- For cheap eats Asian/Chinese/Vietnamese cuisine – Got Rice
- For cheap eats burgers – BurgerFi
- For rolled ice cream – Crema Rolls
- For rooftop wine and bites with a scenic view – RH Rooftop Restaurant West Palm
- For an intimate upscale speakeasy – 215 Speakeasy
- Juice Shops – Alchemy Juice Co. or Meraki Juice Kitchen
WEST PALM BEACH SUMMARY:
- Explore downtown West Palm Beach leisurely.
- Go on a shopping tour from the Outlet Mall to Designer Shops on Worth Ave.
- Stroll through Pan’s Garden.
Best Tours in West Palm Beach:
- Downtown West Palm Beach Food Tour – 2.5 hours of sipping and sampling from the best locally owned restaurants.
- Land and Lagoon Narrated Musical Tour of Palm Beach – a 75 minute narrated musical tour of Palm Beach and West Palm Beach
- Jupiter Island Lunch Cruise – a relaxing afternoon on the Indian River on a 4.5-hour lunch cruise from Stuart.
- Sunset Cruise – cruise from Downtown West Palm Beach for beautiful sunset views.
- Walking Happy Hour Tour in Downtown West Palm Beach – This Walking Happy Hour Tour in Downtown West Palm Beach takes you to trendy and low-key spots where you can sample fun drinks and tasty bites, while getting acquainted with the area.
DAY 6: RETURNING HOME
Depending on how you got here and where you’re headed to next really determines how this day could be spent.
Maybe you want to circle back towards Orlando or head further down the coast towards Miami.
Before you leave, if there’s anything you missed, this drive total from Vero Beach to West Palm Beach is very short at less than 90 minutes one way via I-95. It’s still under 2 hours if you take the scenic route along A1A and US-1. That means you are easily within range to anything you want to see more of.
WHAT TO PACK FOR WINTER IN SOUTH FLORIDA
- Sweater: Very chilly days are rare but can happen, so always bring a sweater, especially if you tend to get cold. Many stores, museums, and other indoor spaces can have the AC on full blast even when it’s not the hottest day.
- Bathing Suit: A change of bathing suits is helpful if you plan to spend more time at the beaches than anywhere else.
- Footwear: You’ll want close-toed shoes for walking along rocky beaches and long nature walks.
- Rainwear: If it happens to be a rainy day, they usually don’t last too long and a rain poncho would suffice. On really rainy days, be flexible enough to switch plans to a museum day.
- Insects: We have these great little guys called no-see-ums which love to taste you and you can barely see them. If spending a lot of time outdoors, pick up some insect repellant. This is one thing you will regret not having.
Which stop did you get really excited about? Let us know in the comments below. You don’t even have to worry about bookmarking these great stops for your road trip. You’ll find these and more already saved for you on my TripAdvisor Road Trip list.
OUR FAVORITE TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
We know how important it is to save money so we can have more to spend on the things we love. Here are our favorite travel resources for saving money and planning your trips.
Booking Flights: To compare flights and set price alerts, search on Google Flights or Momondo.
Accommodations: We typically stay in mid-range or boutique hotels with loyalty programs. That way we earn ourselves free stays to help extend our vacations and getaways for free. Learn more about earning your free stays here. For vacation rentals, we prefer to book using VRBO (for the lower fees and better support than Airbnb, sorry, we’re not big fans of the alternative) You can also book vacation rentals on Hotels.com.
Travel Insurance: We feel pretty strongly about this, travel insurance is a MUST for international trips, and if you still aren’t sure why, check out our Travel Horror Stories. We recommend comparing your options with Squaremouth , learn more here.
Local Attractions: We utilize memberships to help us see more when we travel. NARM members get free or discounted access to reciprocal member Art museums, Arboretums, Historic Sites, and Nature Centers throughout North America. AHS reciprocal membership includes gardens throughout the U.S. and Canada. ASTC membership gives reciprocal access to Science Centers and Museums. America the Beautiful National Parks Pass allows entry into National Parks for $80 annually. You could spend less than $300 for all 4 memberships depending on your local museums and have access to hundreds of museums, parks, and gardens. Memberships often pop up on Groupon so always look there first.
Save more with loyalty programs, read how to get more free flights and hotels here.