Top Picks For You
Orlando Travel Guide

The 10 Best Day Trips to Take From Orlando

There comes a time in every theme park vacation when you might long to see…something else.

Orlando’s central location–more or less smack in the middle of Florida–makes it an ideal launching point for day trips to various points along the state’s Atlantic and Gulf Coasts as well as throughout its lake-dotted interior.

Whether you want to hop an airboat ride through Everglades-like surroundings to spy alligators lurking among the water lilies, catch a rocket launch streaking across the sky, or chill oceanfront with a piña colada overlooking the surf, you can easily make it happen on a day trip from Orlando.

1 OF 10

Sebring and Lake Placid

Drive around two hours south of Orlando to reach a different kind of Central Florida lake country in and around the cute towns of Sebring and Lake Placid, where sandy-bottom lakes like Lake Jackson and Lake June are a haven for swimming, renting a pontoon boat, or going tubing or water skiing. One of Florida’s most thrilling airboat rides is worth the day trip when you head out with Airboat Wildlife Adventures to speed around the absolutely gator-ridden Lake Ikstapoga (definitely not a spot to swim). Check out which auto race is upcoming at the world-famous Sebring International Raceway. And escape into the silence of nature at the incredible Highlands Hammock State Park, home to more rare and endemic species (Florida panthers, black bears, and gopher tortoises among them) than any other state park in Florida.

2 OF 10


This peaceful town home to a camp of the Spiritualist religion–a modern religion based on the idea of the “continuity of life” and that it’s possible to communicate with the “other side of life” (read: dead people)–is just 35 minutes north of Orlando and well worth the day trip. You can arrange to meet with a medium through the official camp office (also a gift shop hawking incense, tarot cards, crystals, and the like) or pop by the purportedly haunted Hotel Cassadaga for reiki, tarot readings, and more. The hotel’s restaurant, Sinatra’s Ristorante, does great Italian food and has dueling pianos two Fridays a month.  The town is full of beautiful Victorian-style homes and has a very peaceful vibe, particularly in and around Horseshoe Park and the Fairy Trail, where visitors leave offerings and notes among towering trees draped with moss.

3 OF 10

Cocoa Beach

Orlando’s favorite beach town for a day trip lies about an hour’s drive east in Cocoa Beach, where you can take surf lessons with local schools like the School of Surf or just rent a surfboard or boogie board from the famous Ron Jon Surf Shop to try shredding at the historic Cocoa Beach Pier (reward yourself after with something frosty at the tiki bar hovering over the waves at the pier’s tip). It’s worth scouting the scenery from above here, too, during scenic flights along the coastline and over the busy cruise port at Port Canaveral with Cocoa Beach Helicopters. Whatever you do, make time for fish tacos and a pina colada right on the beachfront at one of Florida’s most iconic beach bars, Coconuts on the Beach, where there’s usually live music to backdrop to the beautiful views.

4 OF 10

Titusville and Cape Canaveral

Nature and technology meet in the most fascinating way in Titusville and Cape Canaveral, about a 50-minute drive east of Orlando. Most people day trip here for the chance to spend some time exploring the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s incredible attractions, including the Apollo/Saturn V Center and Journey to Mars. The space program here has long-protected areas of stunning natural beauty around the launch pads that include Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, where you can do a self-guided nature drive to spot manatees and alligators, and the beautiful barrier island environments at Canaveral National Seashore, where sea turtles nest from April through October (you can head out on ranger-led tours for a peek at the after-dark action during the summer). The summer months are also prime time for kayaking through bioluminescence in the Indian River Lagoon on evening outings with A Day Away Kayak Tours.

5 OF 10

Sebastian Inlet State Park

If you’ve come to Florida to surf the state’s mellow but excellent waves (after all, world champion surfer Kelly Slater grew up hanging ten on the east coast in Cocoa Beach), you’re going to need to day trip from Orlando to find the surf. Drive just under two hours southeast for some of Florida’s best wave action around Sebastian Inlet State Park, home to famous breaks like Monster Hole (on the south side of the inlet) and the break called Spanish House, just north of the inlet. Snorkelers can enjoy more mellow fun at the state park, too, in a sheltered lagoon in a cove on the island’s north side, where you can look for snapper, sheepshead, and schools of jack in the protected shallows. Hit Captain Hiram’s later for riverfront views and still-flopping-fresh Florida seafood.

6 OF 10

Vero Beach

Just over one-and-a-half hours southeast of Orlando (and just south of Sebastian Inlet), the upscale beachfront town of Vero Beach is worthy of a day trip, too, with great swimming, river cruises in the Indian River Lagoon to spot dolphins, and one of Florida’s coolest little museums–the McLarty Treasure Museum–all in the mix. The latter houses a collection of treasures from the famous 1715 fleet of Spanish galleons that spilled its loot on these shores during a hurricane on the way back from the Caribbean to Spain. The McKee Botanical Garden is one of Vero Beach’s best attractions, too, with more than 10,000 plants dotting the 18-acre subtropical oasis and bird-inspired sculpture art scattered everywhere.

7 OF 10

New Smyrna Beach

After Cocoa Beach, New Smyrna Beach–about an hour’s drive northeast of Orlando–is the favorite beachy day trip to make from Orlando. There are 17 miles of hard-packed golden sands to set up on for the day here, including a stretch that’s open for cars to drive on (a throwback to the area’s racing days in nearby Daytona Beach). You can access Canaveral National Seashore from the southern end of New Smyrna Beach, too, for the area’s most pristine (and car-free) sands. And head to JB’s Fish Camp on the Mosquito Lagoon and river side of the barrier island to rent kayaks or paddle boards or just settle in for pretty views and a mighty fine grouper sandwich.

8 OF 10

Mount Dora

Inland Florida is at its most quaint and charming in the lake-lined village of Mount Dora, known for its abundant antique shops. It makes for a surprising and very serene day trip just a 40-minute drive northwest of Orlando. People come to stroll the lakefront and hit the walking trail at Gilbert Park or the boardwalk at Palm Island Park, where you’ll spot all manner of wading birds and perhaps also alligators and turtles as you stroll. For a swoon-worthy aerial view of the area, Jones Brothers & Co. Air and Seaplane Adventures does 15-minute “splash and dash” flights with views of the area’s many lakes around Mount Dora and Tavares. Make your destination restaurant for lunch in these parts Pisces Rising, a longtime favorite that does a mean shrimp and grits and overlooks the lake.

9 OF 10


It’s worth braving notoriously traffic-choked Interstate 4 to make the one-and-a-half-hour day trip (when it’s traffic-free, that is) west of Orlando to see all that’s happening in downtown Tampa. The city on the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay is particularly booming in its new downtown corridor, Water Street Tampa, where you can grab a table under an umbrella streetside at French Brasserie Boulon or Market at EDITION, or stroll to Sparkman Wharf on the shipping canal, where the city’s best chefs operate pop-ups out of shipping containers surrounding an alfresco beer garden. The 2.6-mile Tampa Riverwalk is a great place to stroll along the river, past city parks (and perhaps passing dolphins, too), all the way to Armature Works–an upscale food hall inside a former street car warehouse.

10 OF 10

Winter Garden

About 25 minutes west of Orlando, the cute town of Winter Garden sits along Lake Apopka and has a pleasant historic downtown lined with shops, breweries, and cafes. There’s direct access onto the 22-mile West Orange Trail from here, too, a popular spot to bike, jog, or stroll. The town is most lively during the Winter Gardens Farmers Market, held every Saturday all year long in and around the Downtown Pavilion. If you have kids along, they might enjoy a romp around the interactive play area outside the Winter Garden Heritage Museum, where you’ll find a caboose, 1950s-era firetruck, and vintage tractors to explore.