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Destination: Relaxation

Florida getaways that will give you a new appreciation for the state you call home.

As summer approaches and last-minute vacations are being planned, we decided to pack our bags and hit the road in search of the perfect getaways. All of these desirable destinations are within driving distance, allowing you to escape from the Greater Orlando area without the hassle and headaches that come with catching a plane at MCO. Here, we present seven idyllic excursions that offer a variety of experiences— from picturesque sites and alluring attractions to one-of-a-kind hotels and refined dining options—all in the name of some good R&R.

Here on Paradise Coast visitors will find the pristine white beaches and tropical waters essential for any relaxing getaway, but if their tastes are more adventurous, Naples is surrounded by several land reserves, including Everglades National Park and Picayune Strand State Forest. One of the wealthiest cities in the country, Naples features a diverse culinary scene and high-end shopping while maintaining a family-friendly reputation.
Where to Stay: The four-diamond, beachfront Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club features a championship golf course designed by Jack Nicklaus and an adults-only pool, while the Inn on Fifth has more downtown flair, complete with a rooftop pool and easy access to shopping and dining.
What to Do: The Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples provides 30,000 square feet of educational exploration—and air conditioning—for kids up to age 14, or get up close and personal with nature on the two miles of boardwalk at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. No trip to Naples is complete without shopping, from the off-beat Tin City for antiques and handmade items, to the upscale open-air Venetian Village featuring fine jewelry and home décor.
Where to Eat:
Grain de Café is an authentic French eatery perfect for a light bite any time of day, but the almond croissants are not to be missed. Get your seafood fix at The Dock at Crayton Cove where fresh fish has a twist of Caribbean and Latin influences, like the banana macadamia nut snapper with caramelized plantain and a chimichurri beurre blanc and pineapple salsa. Transport your tastebuds to Naples, Italy, at Caffe dell’Amore, for generations’ old dishes, including beef short rib ravioli and wild boar cacciatiore.

Here in America’s oldest city, visitors will find a wealth of history dating back to 1565 when it was founded by the Spanish. Historical re-enactments in the Colonial Quarter and both Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas offer glimpses into the past, while restaurants and boutique shopping offer plenty for those who prefer more modern-day appeal.
Where to Stay: Couples looking for a getaway will especially appreciate the adults-only accommodations of The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens located in the downtown district where a quaint brick patio offers an intimate spot for a cocktail. For those who want something near the water, Embassy Suites St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort has a pool for the whole family to enjoy and a complimentary evening reception.
What to Do: No visit to St. Augustine would be complete without a sip from the famous “Fountain of Youth.” The archeological park features a planetarium, a Native American village and canon demonstrations to keep everyone entertained. The Pirate & Treasure Museum has a display of artifacts and a deck overlooking the Matanzas River. Those with a respect for golf should make time for the World Golf Hall of Fame to see how the game has evolved over five centuries and play courses around the world on the golf simulator.
Where to Eat:
Al fresco dining is at its best at The Gourmet Hut, a hidden gem with garden seating serving scratch-made breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a side of occasional live music. Preserved Restaurant is owned and operated by a James Beard Award nominee who pays homage to the city with dishes highlighting ingredients from local farms like the duck breast with house bacon lardons and parsnip puree.

This destination city welcomes families and revelers alike where there is no shortage of hot cuisine, cold cocktails and educational exhibits. While the glamour and allure of South Beach remains, visitors are finding new spots to love, from the vibrant Cuban culture of Little Havana to the laid-back boho vibe of Coconut Grove. With a packed calendar of events, Miami truly offers something for everyone.

Where to Stay: Trump National Doral Miami is an 800-acre resort with villa-style accommodations. Amenities include four golf courses, a health club and a pool with a 125-foot slide. In the thick of downtown is The Betsy Hotel on Ocean Drive, a beachside boutique resort; and situated over on Biscayne Bay is The Standard, Miami’s minimalist holistic hotel, ideal for recharging your batteries.
What to Do: Kids will delight in the animals they encounter at Monkey Jungle, a 30-acre park with wildlife from southeast Asia to the Amazon. Foodies will savor every moment of the Little Havana Food and Walking Tour as they are guided through sampling the signature coffee, food and cigars. Find shopping, entertainment and dining at Bayside Marketplace, where tour boats depart regularly and bands play daily.
Where to Eat: The Design District is a mecca for things creative, and that includes cuisine. Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink offers a casual American menu with a gourmet spin. Try the raw bar for lunch, paired with a house cocktail. For something heartier, check out Kush, where craft beers are always on rotation to go well with the ground in-house burgers. Don’t leave without the quintessential SoBe experience of people-watching on Ocean Drive. Prime 112 is one of the most coveted reservations in Miami, known for its dry-aged beef and truffled lobster mac and cheese.

These two beach towns border the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay and provide travelers of every mood with something for their taste. White beaches stretch for 35 miles, from the bustling Clearwater Beach to the solitude of Shell Key Preserve, and with sun forecasted nearly every day of the year, it’s always beach weather. Visitors can explore the daily sunset celebration on Pier 60 featuring buskers and crafters or shop along Beach Drive’s local boutiques, and after the sun goes down, Central Avenue in St. Pete has plenty for the night owls in the group.
Where to Stay: The Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach is an elegant property with a pool facing the ocean, beach activities and babysitting services. In St. Pete, the RumFish Beach Resort has all the flavor of the tropics, complete with an aquarium, three-story water slide, seven swimming pools and chaperoned kids camps.
What to Do: For a dose of culture, don’t miss The Dali Museum in downtown St. Pete for an extensive collection of the artist’s work, or get lost in the Sunken Gardens, where 50,000 lush exotic plants are thriving in the middle of the city. Catch some up-and-coming baseball talent at Spectrum Field, home to the minor-league Threshers, and grab a seat at Frenchy’s Tiki Pavilion for the best view. Leave land for any one of the cruise options available, like the Clearwater Dolphin Watching Tour or the Calypso Queen Tropical Party Buffet Cruise.
Where to Eat: Along with a panoramic view of Clearwater, Crabby’s Dockside serves up a famous clam chowder and a shell bar for seafood lovers, while carnivores can sink their teeth into the signature steaks at Watercolour Grill House before having a cocktail in the piano bar. The Canopy Rooftop Lounge is the place to be seen on St. Pete’s waterfront, with private cabanas, cocktails and an extensive menu of bar bites.

There’s more to this beach town than NASCAR. It’s the perfect place for a family to find fun, from outdoor water activities to rides and games on the boardwalk. Take in free live music at the beachside amphitheater or visit the ballpark where Jackie Robinson made his baseball debut, but if racing really is up your alley, the 500-acre Daytona International Speedway complex recently underwent a $400 million renovation and is worth checking out. With all Daytona has to offer, it has rightly earned the title of World’s Most Famous Beach.
Where to Stay: The Hard Rock Hotel features panoramic ocean views, pools for kids and adults, a spa and the edgy design the brand is known for. The Hilton Garden Inn Daytona Beach Oceanfront’s pool is steps from the shore and the poolside lounge provides the perfect cocktail while you relax.
What to Do: It would be easy to spend all day at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk and Pier with thrilling rides and arcade games that will have the whole family competing. Manatees are on display at Blue Spring State Park, where the crystal clear water is a perfect haven for the mammals. If the weather happens to put a damper on the trip, head for the Museum of Arts & Sciences, which includes an interactive Children’s Museum, planetarium and art galleries.
Where to Eat: Any meal at Caribbean Jack’s ensures pleasant marina views and a lively atmosphere with tropical souvenir cocktails and fresh seafood with a spin, like the fish reuben with wild caught Atlantic haddock and melted swiss on marble rye. Finer dining can be found at The Cellar, where classic Italian dishes and an extensive wine list are served in the former home of President Harding.

This city rivals Miami for its culture of fine dining, shopping and nightlife. Downtown West Palm Beach boasts four vibrant districts with bars, nightclubs and boutiques, as well as the Kravis Center for Performing Arts where Broadway shows regularly tour. Not to be overlooked is the arts and music scene, which includes Florida’s largest art museum—the Norton Museum of Art, and the jungle setting of the Norton Sculpture Gardens.
Where to Stay: The Hilton West Palm Beach is an upscale resort about two miles from the beach, but you won’t miss it thanks to the luxurious pool that welcomes kids (and serves drinks). For something off the beaten path, Grandview Gardens Bed & Breakfast is in a historic neighborhood within walking distance to City Place. Built in 1925, the property reflects Spanish architecture in a tropical garden setting for an intimate stay.
What to Do: You won’t get any closer to wildlife than at Lion Country Safari, a drive- and walk- through tour featuring 1,000 animals with feeding experiences, rides and more across 300 acres. Both novice and advanced snorkelers will enjoy Phil Foster Park’s Underwater Snorkel Trail, internationally recognized for the abundance of sea life on display. If the no-plan plan is what you’re after, Eau Spa at Eau Palm Beach Resort is known as an adult playground. With a five-star rating from Forbes Travel Guide, this spa has everything to pamper your body, not to mention free-flowing champagne.
Where to Eat: It’s your vacation, so why not satisfy your sweet tooth with a tour of Hoffman’s Chocolates Factory and be sure to take some treats to go. Weekend breakfast at The Blind Monk features comforting items like sour cream pancakes and avocado toast, served with a prosecco mojito for good measure. And of course, you can’t go wrong with a visit to any of acclaimed chef Clay Conley’s spots, including Buccan, serving refined American dishes. Think snapper sliders and roasted cauliflower Caesar salad.

On quaint Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach offers 13 miles of beaches and is only about four miles wide, but offers plenty to keep visitors entertained. Known for its golf courses for all skill levels, the barrier island also contains a 50-block downtown historic district, nearly 100 restaurants and abundant wildlife. Go horseback riding on the sand, browse local artisan shops or unwind at one of the world-class spas—the perfect place to unplug from the daily grind.
Where to Stay: Southern hospitality abounds on this island, and the wrap-around porches with ocean views at Elizabeth Pointe are too inviting to resist. The onsite restaurant even offers picnic lunches with wine or champagne that can be enjoyed right on the beach. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort is a family-friendly find with a multi-tiered pool deck and splash playground, fire pits, mini golf (and championship golf ), nine on-site restaurants, a teen game room and a full spa—you may never need to leave the property.
What to Do: The Maritime Museum encompasses the history of the island’s seafarers, including pirates and treasure fleets from France and Spain, as well as a display of artifacts from ship wrecks and treasure discovered off the coast. If you like to stay active on your vacation, sunset offers the perfect backdrop for a guided tour of the Amelia River by Amelia Island Kayak Excursions, or rent a bike and explore the tree canopy trails at Fort Clinch State Park, however you can always get your steps in while shopping Centre Street’s eclectic, independent stores.
Where to Eat: While shopping downtown, stop in to Pozzi Coffee Wine Bar and Bistro for house-made pastries and espresso during the day or at night, enjoy charcuterie boards and wine on the outdoor patio. Espana Restaurant & Tapas highlights the flavors of Spain and Portugal—try the seafood paella and homemade sangria—with indoor and outdoor dining options. The menu at Burlingame Restaurant changes seasonally but is always fresh and from scratch. The smoked fish dip, served with house-made lavash, or signature cocktails like the aptly named Electric Ladyland with Hendrick’s gin, limoncello and grapefruit bitters, show no detail is overlooked.

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s 
May 2019 issue.