Looking for an easy drive getaway this Summer? These are our top picks specially curated for you by Condé Nast Traveller.
Allow two hours to cut across the tip of Florida to the west coast, and the hushed, moneyed enclave of Naples. This is a glimpse of the state a century or so ago, full of wealthy snowbirds living in luxurious Med Revival mansions on large estates downtown. Channel your inner multimillionaire in a suite at the Naples Grande, with its huge rooms and oversized balconies; there’s a lovely, non touristy beach nearby. This is still a working port, despite the designer boutiques around town, so the seafood and fish are superb: try the oysters and crab at the waterside Dock at Crayton Cove.
Is there anywhere that captures the essence of Florida more completely than St. Pete, so relaxed (it even has a nickname), rimmed by gorgeous beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, and resolutely determined to let any visitors shuck off their worries within minutes of arriving? If you haven’t decompressed over the four-and-a-half-hour drive, make for Paradise Grille immediately, where you’ll find diner food, ice-cold drinks, and acoustic music before spending the rest of the day at Honeymoon Island or Caldesi Island state parks, two of the area’s best waterfront spots. There’s another side to the city, too: the Dali museum, a longtime anchor of the culture scene, was just joined by the Imagine Museum, which showcases the studio glass movement of the 1960s.
Speed through the Upper Keys, which are unappealingly over-touristed, and instead pause near Marathon. Go spearfishing with one of the local fishing charters, or sunbathe in the surprisingly wild Bahia Honda State Park, where there are sandy beaches—a rarity in the Keys. The historic Adderley House is an astonishing glimpse of what life was like for the Bahamian laborers who built the overseas highway here at the turn of the 20th century. On a good day, you could make it here in under three hours; decompress from the drive in a plush suite at the best hotel, Isla Bella, which sits on 24 acres just before you hit the soaring 7-Mile Bridge.
An hour or so further, the so-called Conch Republic made its name as a kooky hideaway for America’s eccentrics—it even declared independence from the USA for a few days in 1982. It retains that offbeat, end-of-world appeal thanks to enduring sights like BO’s Fish Wagon, a bar on the waterfront that could be mistaken for a junkyard, but the last decade has seen a major upgrade in the accommodations on offer here; try The Reach, the adult-aimed sister spot to the Waldorf Astoria next door, which has its own private beach. Walk over to the Bahamian Village, with its ice-cream-colored cigarmakers’ cottages, and spend a lazy brunch (heck, the whole afternoon) al fresco at Blue Heaven, surrounded by its flock of chickens.