I think it’s about time to hear some good news about Florida. We just got back from our Florida family vacation and wanted to report back on how it was.
The past couple of months have been rough on the sunshine state. First, Hurricane Ian attempted to blow southwest Florida right off the map and inundated large swaths of the state with heavy flooding. A little over a month later, Hurricane Nicole tried to sneak one last late-season punch onto the Atlantic shores.
If you listen to overly dramatic news, you might think the whole state of Florida is hurricane battered and completely underwater. But we just spent a month traveling through the state, and we can tell you that’s just not the case. Florida and the people who call this place home are resilient.
In this post and video, we are going to take you on a little Florida road trip to show you that the sun is, in fact, still shining in Florida. So book those tickets for a Florida family vacation!
We have a week-long road trip planned to check out a few underrated gems along Florida’s north and mid-Atlantic Coast. The funny about this trip is it got rescheduled twice because of the hurricanes, but it actually worked out better than we could have even planned, but more on that later.
The 2022 hurricane season was rough on Florida, and it might have you wondering… Should you plan your winter and spring break trips to Florida this year? – Well, the answer is simple – Yes!
Hurricanes happen every year, and every year Florida rebuilds back better. The people here are resilient. Sure, Hurricane Ian was a bad one, but the area that was damaged to the point that would prevent a trip is small. The areas that still need more time to rebuild are primarily around the Fort Myers region. They will need a bit more time yet to recover.
However, the rest of the state is ready for you – and Ft. Myers won’t be far behind! Don’t believe it? We just spent a month traveling the state, and we’ll show you that the sun is still shining in Florida!
On this Florida family road trip, we are going to explore St. Augustine, Cape Canaveral, Coca Beach, and Vero Beach, with lots of fun stops along the way. Hop in the minivan, sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride as our family of four explores Florida’s north and central Atlantic Coast!
Our first stop is historic St. Augustine, Florida. Founded in 1565 – it’s actually the oldest continuously occupied European Settlement in the continental United States. In a lot of ways, St. Augustine doesn’t feel like Florida to me. Development-wise, the state is relatively new, but here in St. Augustine, you are surrounded by history.
There’s a centuries-old Spanish fort, historic wooden buildings, and beautiful architecture dating back to the day of railroad building tycoons. On top of that, there are some great beaches and lots of local charm – it’s hard not to like St. Augustine. We suggest two to three nights to cover most of the things to do in St. Augustine.
St George Street
We are going to start on the most famous street in the city, which is St. George Street—lined with historic buildings now repurposed into shops, museums, and some of the city’s best restaurants. A stroll down this street could take you the better part of the day if you are up for exploring the shops and lingering at the cafes and restaurants.
St George Inn
On this trip, we are staying in the heart of the action at the St. George Inn to make the most of our days in the city. Our windows and balcony overlook the historic St. George Street, and we are just steps away from all of the attractions, shops, and restaurants.
We have a family suit with a nice kitchen and living room to spread out, which is a must when traveling with young children. The St. George Inn has several room types, and if you’re traveling with a family, this is the place to stay! – BOOK NOW
Castillo San Marcos
On our first full day, we filled up at breakfast set in a beautiful courtyard of the st. George Inn and tried our best to keep the kids from jumping in the grand fountain. With some food and coffee in our system, we headed to one of St. Augustine’s main attractions, the 300-year-old fort, the Castillo San Marcos.
Built in the 1600s by the Spanish, the Castillo was constructed to protect the city and important trade routes. Throughout the centuries, it changed hands several times between the Spanish, British, and the United States until it was decommissioned in 1933, a few years after it received National Monument status.
We spent the morning exploring all the nooks and crannies of the old fort, but our favorite part was on the upper level. Here, along long with great views of St. Augustine, there were cool old cannons to see and turrets to hide in where the kids pretended they were pirates.
Fountain of Youth
Another Spanish relic worth marveling at in St. Augustine is the Fountain of Youth. In the 16th century, the age-old rumor of magical water that would reverse aging and cure sickness became popular among explorers. One in particular, Ponce de Leon became fixed on finding this mythical water source.
This site is said to be the actual landing site of Ponce de Leon. Since he’s not around anymore, I’m not sure the magic water worked, but there is a ton of history to check out while visiting the Fountain of Youth Archeological Park.
Besides the sip of mineraly water here, you can also get a glimpse back in time into the life of the early settlers and explorers. Around the site, there are buildings and exhibits of items found here, which are from nearly 500 years ago. This is also thought to be the site of the first Christian Missions in what is now the United States.
For the kids, there are tons of peacocks to see and feed, as well as some kid-focused archeological exhibits. Atlas was convinced we were going to find treasures here, and he didn’t want to leave. We just about to pry him away.
All aboard one of the best ways to cover a lot of city in a short time is the famous green and orange St. Augustine Tolley. The Old Town Trolley Tours St Augustine are a must.
The kids loved the ride, and we got a narrated ride and a few minutes to sit and just watch this charming town go by. It was a fun way to see the city, and it’s really the best way to see the city.
If you didn’t get enough history walking around the streets of St. Augustine, don’t worry there are plenty of top-notch museums as well. One of the most noteworthy is the Lightner Museum which is housed in what was once Henry Flagler’s grand and opulent Alcazar Hotel.
Inside you’ll find a vast and wide range of pieces on display founded by the publisher and collector Otto C. Lightner. The building itself is worth the visit, but the art and exhibits push it toward to the top of the list of places to visit while in St. Augustine.
St. Augustine Lighthouse
Another must in St. Augustine is a climb up the beautiful black and white striped classic lighthouse. From the top of the lighthouse, you can see Anastasia Island State Park, and the Old Town in the distance.
For nautical nerds, there are also several exhibits on the lighthouse and maritime history covering from Ponce de Leon to the current day – and everything in between.
For a little break from all of the history and culture of St. Augustine, we spent some time just relaxing on the beach. On top of all of the history that you can find here, there are some great stretches of sand as well. After all, it is still Florida – and no trip to the sunshine state would be complete without some time on the beach.
We finished up our time here with a visit to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoologic Park. Inside we found literally hundreds, if not thousands, of Alligators. Atlas and Isla love seeing all of the gators and other animals.
Besides all of the Alligators, there are lots of primates from around the world, exotic birds, and other reptiles. This place is a must if you’re traveling with kids or animal lovers.
This hurricane season didn’t focus its wrath on St. Augustine. The city saw some damage, but nothing that would hinder a visit to this historic gem.
Space Coast & Cocoa Beach
Next up on our road trip is a place that’s been on our radar for a while, and we finally decided to make it happen. From St. Augustine, we set the GPS for Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach to an area of the state known as the Space Coast.
It got its name from being the home of NASA’s launch site for human space travel. Here, just inland from the sandy shores, you’ll find the Kennedy Space Center, where the Apollo 11 mission launched on its way to the moon in 1969, and many other famous missions before and after that one.
However, rockets aren’t the only thing that this place has going for it – there are also some great beaches as well as many other great spots to check out.
Sunset on the beach
We made it into town just in time, hit the beach at sunset, and it was a good one. The kids played in the sand while we waited for the sun to sink behind the little beach town of Cocoa Beach.
As it did, the sky lit up in purples and pinks. Even though on the east coast, the sun doesn’t set over the water, the last rays of the sun bounce around and make some sky magic anyways.
When planning out your day and covering all the things to do in Cocoa Beach, make sure to put a sunset on the beach on there!
As the light faded, we sat down to what would be one of our favorite meals in Space coast and of this little road trip really. We had dinner right on the beach at Coconuts, a local favorite open-air spot in Cocoa Beach. everything was good, but the stand out was the Tuna Nachos.
While we ate, we could tell the whole town was a buzz about the Artemis launch attempt, military planes were flying around, and people were excited.
Artemis Rocket Launch
We had been trying to time our trip up with this rocket launch for a while now, but after being rescheduled twice, we’d kinda thought that it just wasn’t going to happen. The first launch attempts back in August and September were scrubbed due to engine issues and hydrogen leaks, and then Hurricane Ian set things back even further.
We actually had our car all loaded up, and we were ready to head out the door at 5 am the day the Ian hit, and needless to say, we scrubbed our mission two. We then rebooked everything, trying to see the launch again, and then it turned out that we were going to be in the space coast on the wrong days.
Finally, while we were road-tripping around Florida, we found out that the launch got pushed to our first day in Cape Canaveral – talk about luck. The only down side it was set for 1 am.
We sat up listening to the chatter from the NASA command center for hours, waiting, and hoping it was going to go. When the night started, it seemed like problems were going to set it back again and that we were destined to miss this launch.
But then, at almost 2 am, the announcement came that the launch was a go! We rushed downstairs from our hotel, the Cape Canaveral Home 2 Hampton Inn, to the parking lot, which had surprisingly good views of the launch from right outside the room.
Our little astronauts weren’t up to see this moment in history – which is too bad because Atlas really loves all things space. – Click here to check rates
Kennedy Space Center
The next morning, fresh off the high of seeing a rocket launch into space and a little short on sleep, we headed to the Kennedy Space Center, which is where the rocket took off from only a few hours earlier. Of all the things we did in Space Coast, this was a big hit with everyone.
Just a few steps in, we were greeted with a collection of giant rockets from all periods of space exploration in what is known as the Rocket Garden. The kids loved this area and even got to hop in a replica spacecraft full of buttons and switches to pretend for a few minutes that they were astronauts.
Everywhere you turn inside the Kennedy Space Center, there are interactive exhibits where you can practice things like your space shuttle docking skills or pretend to pilot a ship through Outerspace!
The amount of giant life-sized space equipment parked on site is so impressive and gives you a real feel for the history of space exploration. Even if you aren’t a huge space geek, you really need to put this place on your bucket list.
There is also a huge indoor playground which, of course, is space themed. This is a good place to get the kids moving, and it’s a lot of fun for both mini astronauts and kids that are on Outerspace overload.
We even got to have a snack with an astronaut, which Atlas still to this day talks about. We spent the whole day here, and I know for a fact we did not see it all!
We really enjoyed our time here in Cocoa Beach and the whole space coast – but we totally did not plan enough time here. We left more than a few stones unturned – but we know we will definitely be back here sooner than later.
There are several ticket deals, tours from Orlando, and more available to book. Click here to check rates and book online.
With history and space checked off of our list, it was time for some relaxation time on the beach. So we headed another couple of hours down the coast to Vero Beach.
Everyone we talked to seem to really love this little beach town, so we decided to check it out for ourselves. On our way to our final stop, we had a few stops planned before we planted our toes in the sand.
First up was LaPorte Farms, home to an interactive zoo filled with animals from around the world. This little gem in the town of Sebastian is a fun 5-acre non-profit farm that is a lot of fun for kids.
Here you’ll find everything from cockatoos and chickens to Zebras and Zebus. We made friends with all of the animals by feeding them by hand. There are lots of exhibits, and it’s a fun way to spend an afternoon with kids and animal lovers.
Mel Fisher Treasure Museum
We couldn’t visit Florida’s Treasure Coast without a stop at Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum. Of all of the stops on this entire road trip, this museum was the stop that surprised me the most.
I’d heard of Mel Fisher, but I really had no idea of the stories and the sheer amount of treasures he and his crews actually found. His most notable find was The Atocha, a Spanish shipwreck that had 40 tons of gold and silver onboard when it went down. When Mel’s team found it in 1975, the treasure was valued at over 450 million dollars.
I mean, just look at this bust with gold chains hanging from Mel’s neck. Inside the museum, they even have a 5lb gold block where the gold itself is worth at least $50,000 that they let you hold. However, the really interesting part is that Mel Fisher and his team only found about half of the Atocha’s treasures. A large part of the ship is thought to still be out there. Significant finds are still being made today. And if you are looking for a carer change, they are hiring full-time divers to look for treasure in Key West right now.
ELC – Environmental Learning Center
Another fun stop for kids is the Environmental Learning Center, or ELC, as the locals call it. Here we found 65 acres of pristine Florida wilderness. There is an extensive system of trails and boardwalks that bring you between different ecosystems and exhibits on the property. Boat rides can also be arranged to explore even more of the Indian river and the nature that surrounds the ELC.
McKee Botanical Gardens
One of our favorite stops around the Vero Beach area was the McKee Botanical Gardens. Stepping into these lush gardens was like walking straight into the jungle – you know if the jungle was finely manicured with coy ponds and stuff. But seriously, just look at this place.
We probably would have spent even longer here if we didn’t stumble onto the super fun kid’s area complete with splash pad, and well – we proceeded to get completely soaked – which cut our visit a little short, but definitely a worthwhile stop. It was time to head to our final stop, the beach – and to the hotel for some dry clothes.
Our final stop in Florida was actually the first place we saw any noticeable effects from any of the hurricanes in 2022. Looking down at the beach, it kinda looked like someone took a few giant scoops of sand away, and right after Hurricane Nicole, there was some road damage that washed away half of the road along the shore.
How much did it impact ou trip? not at all. The beach is still gorgeous, the sunsets are still stunning, and from a tourist perspective, life was good. Actuallythi, it was better than that – life was pretty great.
Kimpton Vero Beach
After a busy week traveling along Florida’s Atlantic Coast, it was time to settle in and relax at the beachside Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel. Our room was well appointed with a spacious living area with plenty of room for all of us. The living room led out to a balcony overlooking the pool with views of the ocean, making the perfect spot for morning coffee or a glass of wine after the kids were down.
Once we got here, it was a bit hard to leave – but that was ok with us. The Kimpton has two onsite restaurants, a spa, a nice pool, and of course – the beach. Another bonus it was within walking distance of other nearby attractions, shopping, and dining.
Of all of the fun things we did on this road trip, some of the best memories were just having some family time playing in the pool – splashing around and learning to float and jump off the edge like little daredevils. The Kimpton Vero Beach was the perfect place to end an action-pack trip.
And just like that, our family Florida family vacation and road trip is lights out like a kid that played too hard in the pool.
We hope you enjoyed traveling along Florida’s Atlantic coast with us and exploring all of the history, beautiful beaches, and the literally out-of-this-world activities. We also hope we showed you that the sun is shining in Florida, and it’s ready for your next family vacation!