Whether you've got a three-day weekend coming up that you want to take advantage of or you're looking for a getaway from Miami, we have some suggestions to make the most of your weekend trip.
Sometimes, we east-coast Floridians need to escape to the west coast, and Naples is an easy place to do that. It’s trapped between the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico, and from Miami, it’s easily reached via I-75, or basically a straight shot on the slightly longer but more scenic Tamiami Trail, which takes you right through the Everglades and Miccosukee Indian Village. Naples itself appears straight out of a Vineyard Vines catalogue, and you can walk anywhere in this pastel-colored sleepy town. If you’re not tanning or boogie-boarding at the beach -- or, like all the men here, golfing -- spend your day on Fifth Avenue South for mid-range and high-end shopping, and stop for breakfast or lunch at Jane’s Garden Cafe on 3rd, or late-night Italian eats at gastropub Bar Tulia (which stays open until midnight on weekends). Sunsets in Naples are a must-see, so at the end of your day, join the masses heading to Naples Pier to get the best view.
Head here when you want to get away to the Keys, but you don’t want to drive all the way down to Key West. Islamorada (whose name is famously mispronounced: it’s “eye-luh-murr-ah-da” not “ees-la-more-ah-da”) is just as relaxing and fun as Key West -- minus the half-naked ladies at Sloppy Joe’s and tourist photo opp with a giant buoy. Post up at Lorelei Restaurant & Cabana Bar, Hog Heaven, or Marker 88 for fried calamari, grouper sandwiches, and painkiller cocktails, and spend the rest of your day on the water. Stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, and boating are all huge here, as are sunsets. Get a real Florida experience when you combine all of the above: Hop on your SUP board, paddle past the mangroves and crocodiles in Indian Key Historic State Park, and come back to shore for another painkiller while you watch the sunset.
You go to this city for two reasons: history, and because it makes you feel like you’re actually in Spain. Founded by the Spanish in 1565, it’s the oldest permanent European settlement in North America, which might be a dead giveaway when you see Castillo de San Marcos fort and its weekend cannon firings, horse-drawn carriages driven by locals in old-timey costumes, and the cobblestone roads of the historic downtown area, like the pedestrian-only, shop-lined St. George Street. The culinary scene, beaches, and proximity to world-class golfing are also viable reasons to make the trip. Your weekend will be incomplete without stops at Pizza Time, Michael’s Tasting Room, or Columbia Restaurant, and if you cross the Bridge of Lions (regal, eh?) and head south on A1A, you’ll find a totally different world: quiet, white-sand beaches lined with 21st-century villas.
Just a little over an hour from Miami is the upscale city of Palm Beach. It’s known for its luxury hotels and beautiful beaches and is considered the third richest zip code in America. But, you don’t have to be a millionaire to visit here. You can rent a room at one of the area’s many oceanfront resorts like The Breakers and enjoy amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean, as well as tons of amenities including nine restaurants, an on-site fitness center, an indoor/outdoor spa and lots of boutiques for shopping. Then hit the beach for some fun in the sun, or go out to explore exciting attractions like the Palm Beach Zoo, the Lion Country Safari or the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum.
Learn to take life a little slower and spend some quality time together on Marco Island. This small beach community is close to the Everglades National Park, where you can take a tour and learn more about this unique ecosystem. If you’re faced with a rainy afternoon, stop by the Marco Island Historical Museum to learn more about the community’s rich history. Enjoy walks on the beach as the sun goes down. Choose a private tour with Marco Island Boat Tours to go out on the water to see the pods of dolphins flipping in the water and frolicking in the boat’s wake. Enjoy fresh seafood and romantic views from the patio of Mango’s Dockside Bistro.