Considered South Florida’s cultural, economic and financial center, Miami is situated between the Everglades and Biscayne Bay, encompassing about 56 square miles. Miami’s metropolitan area home to more than six million people and boasts the third tallest skyline in the United States. Miami calls itself the “Cruise Capital of the World” as Port Miami is the busiest of the world’s cruise ports. The culture of the city is influenced by its diverse population, having attracted people from all over the world.
The city has a lot to offer, from beautiful beaches, arts and culture, excellent nightlife and professional sports teams, including the Miami Heat basketball team and the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League. The city has many entertainment venues and attracts large-scale operas, ballets, concerts and musicals as well as numerous museums. Even with all that can be found in Miami, a road trip in the state of Florida is perfect for exploring the state. Within seven hours of Miami is Tallahassee, Florida’s capital city.
Home to Florida State University and Florida A&M University, Tallahassee is both a state capital and a college town, with a significant number of law firms and lobbying organizations. The city encompasses 98.2 square miles and borders the Apalachicola National Forest. There are also two large lake basins within the city. Between the two cities, you will find plenty of things to see and do.
An hour and ten min from Miami is West Palm Beach, the location of your first stop; McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary offers visitors the opportunity to view different animals up close, as well as the ability to interact with smaller species that reside there. For example, visitors can hold a baby alligator or a python, among others. The mission of McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary is to rehabilitate injured or abandoned wild animals, rescuing wildlife in all sorts of situations (birds or squirrels injured after falling from their nest, animals struck by cars, and so on).
The Sanctuary offers tours (reservations required) where you can learn more about the animals from tour guides. During your visit, you will have the chance to encounter a variety of wildlife, from alligators, tortoises, bobcats, panthers and many more.
After your visit to McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary, continue heading north for about an hour until you arrive in Fort Pierce and the Manatee Observation and Education Center. The Center offers education and wildlife viewing on Florida’s coast. Located west of the Atlantic ocean, the center straddles the Indian River Lagoon and Moore’s Creek and its site is known as a place that manatees congregate due to its warm water.
Within the Center, you can learn about Manatees and other wild animals, as well as the different habitats found in the state of Florida through tactile exhibits and displays. There are also observation areas where you can look for manatees and other wildlife, like Bottlenose Dolphins and Pelicans. The Center aims to increase understanding and responsibility for the delicate ecosystems of the Treasure Coast, teaching methods to interact with the environment that lessen our impact.
Less than one hour and 40 min from Fort Pierce is the city of Kissimmee and Wild Florida, which offers a Gator Park, airboat tours, a drive-through safari, and wild animal encounters. Wild Florida has more than 200 animals able to be viewed, including zebra, sloths, and lemurs. There is also a walk-in aviary where you can view pheasants, parrots and other birds.
Interactive programs are available where you can spend time with a sloth, or work as an animal keeper for the day. Airboat tours offer visitors the chance to check out natural Florida, where you may encounter alligators, turkeys and wild hogs among other wildlife. Wild Florida was created in order to preserve a piece of private property on Lake Cypress in the Headwaters of the Everglades and seeks to protect and conserve the diverse ecosystem of the state.
As you continue on your road trip to Tallahassee, drive for about two hours to Ocala, where you will find the next stop in your adventure; Silver Springs State Park. Known for having the charm of historic Florida along with the clear, beautiful water of one of the state’s last uninhabited spring-fed rivers, the Park is home to a myriad of wildlife around the spring and in the Silver River.
You will find plenty of things to do at Silver Springs State Park; there are glass-bottom boat tours on historic boats, kayaks and canoes available for rent, opportunities for hiking and camping, and even a museum. With nearly 5000 acres of different habitats, you are sure to catch sight of different mammals, reptiles, fish, and birds during your visit, with the river home to alligators, turtles, and manatees, along with many different fish.
After leaving Silver Springs State Park, you are a little more than an hour from your next destination; Olustee Battlefield State Park in Osceola. Commemorating the site of Florida’s largest Civil War Battle, where more than 10,000 fought a five-hour battle, the battlefield became the first historic site in the state in 1912. There is a visitor center that features historical information and relics from the war. During February, a re-enactment of the war is held, making the month a good time to visit the Park.
A picnic area at the Park is ideal to sit and relax and think about the area’s history. There is also a one-mile trail with signs that describe the battle’s events. Olustee Battlefield State Park offers the opportunity to learn about the area’s history, while also getting some fresh air and stretching your legs.
About an hour and a half from Lake City is your destination of Tallahassee, Florida. Home to Florida State University, which was ranked as the 18th best public university by the U.S. News and World Report, as well as Florida A & M University, which is the fifth-largest (by enrolled students) historically black university, Tallahassee is more than just a college town. Also the capital of Florida, the city is home to the Supreme Court of Florida, the mansion of the Florida Governor and state agency headquarters. The city also has plenty of things to see and do during your visit, with museums, performing arts and outdoor recreation.
While in Tallahassee, check out the Railroad Square Art Park, where you can view metal art sculptures and stores that sell artwork. The arts and entertainment district offers a free gallery hop on the first Friday of each month, which is a great way to spend time with others and experience art. There are also a number of museums in the city, like the Museum of Fine Arts at Florida State University, the Tallahassee Museum and the Museum of Florida History among others. Attending college sporting events is also popular in the city and there are a number of ways to spend time outdoors. Visit Fred Drake Park, for example, the home of Lake Ella, which has 12 acres of water and trails around it for walking and biking or the Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, with over 1176 acres of land to explore.
With camping options in and around the city, staying a few days to explore all that Tallahassee has to offer will be easy and affordable.