Spring break in Central Florida conjures up thoughts of lazy beach days and theme park thrills. Yet it’s worth diverting from the norm to traverse the roads and attractions less traveled. Numerous destinations surrounding Orlando offer a welcome respite from the well-trodden lands of the area theme parks, Clearwater Beach or Daytona Beach. From history packed adventure to quaint beach towns, these alternative getaway itineraries promise something different.
Step into the Past
Delve into the past by heading east to St. Augustine, a city rich in history and European flair. Sightseeing trolley tours provide transport throughout the Nation’s Oldest City, making stops at must-visit historical sites like Flagler College, and Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th century fort and National Monument.
With an Old Town Trolley ticket, you’re free to hop on the Beach Bus shuttle, where you can climb 219 steps to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse. The area also boasts a diverse culinary scene best explored on a food and wine tour, either on foot or by horse-drawn carriage. Notable eats include Cousteau’s Waffle & Milkshake Bar and Ice Plant Bar, the latter of which is housed in a 1920s ice factory.
Preface dinner with a free tour and tasting downstairs at the adjoining St. Augustine Distillery.
Ditch the beach and make your way to the west coast where a world of culture and art awaits inland in Downtown St. Petersburg. Take a stroll along Central Avenue stopping in galleries, record shops, boutiques and eateries before making your way to the impressive Dali Museum, home to more than 2,000 works by surrealist painter Salvador Dali.
Next door, The Mahaffey Theater celebrates the performing arts with a lineup of concerts, dance, and more. Art of the liquid variety can be consumed at one of St. Petersburg’s quality craft breweries.
Perfect Your Swing
In Central Florida, a multitude of impeccable golf courses enable enthusiasts to play a new course each day. Sharpen your skills at picturesque resorts with public tee times like the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Shingle Creek Golf Club, and Villas of Grand Cypress. The latter is complete with four Jack Nicklaus-designed courses and an onsite Academy of Golf.
For the ultimate experience, head to Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge to stay and play where legendary pro golfers, including Arnold Palmer, have played before.
This golf resort is also home to the Arnold Palmer Invitational (March 12 – 18, 2018), a major stop on the PGA Tour, where you can watch the country’s best professional golfers compete. Round out your golf vacation at public courses with practice at Orange County National’s unique circular driving range and a game at the historic Dubsdread Golf Course, designed in 1924.
A treasure trove of natural beauty lies just north of Orlando, where refreshing cold springs set the stage for an aquatic-themed getaway. At Rock Springs Run, embark on a guided tour in a clear kayak with Get Up and Go Kayaking. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like otters, alligators and fish in the crystal clear water.
The waters flow to Rock Spring, a 68-degree cold spring located within Kelly Park, a popular spot for tubing. Rent a tube outside of the park to enjoy the leisurely 3/4-mile float. Resume your adventure at Wekiwa Springs State Park where you can pitch a tent at an overnight campsite, meander along hiking trails, and make a splash in the cool spring water. Or paddle the river in a canoe making a pit stop at Wekiva Island for a day spent lounging in an Adirondack chair, floating in the river, and hanging out at the onsite bar, The Tooting Otter.
Go Off the Beaten (Beach) Path
Located on the Gulf coast, Honeymoon Island State Park dazzles with turquoise water and a white sand beach rivaling nearby hotspot Clearwater Beach. Collect seashells from the shoreline before retiring to your beach chair for the day, or catch the ferry to the further secluded Caladesi Island. Located across the Dunedin Causeway is Dunedin, an artsy city with Scottish roots home to breweries, local eats, and access to the Pinellas Trail for walking and biking.
Foodies won’t want to miss The Restorative, a local restaurant with a regularly rotating menu of artful dishes.
On the Atlantic side, Jupiter beckons with the promise of natural, unspoiled beaches and tiki bars aplenty.
The coastline features a natural landscape and sparkling surf, and crashing waves at high tide send water spurting up through the unique rock formations dotting the shoreline of Blowing Rocks Preserve. Climb the 108-foot tall Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse for sweeping views of the surrounding landscape. Square Grouper Tiki Bar and Guanabanas are local favorites for seafood and waterfront views.