Miami may boast some of the best things to see and do in Florida, but it's also a great base for exploring some of the Sunshine State's other highlights.

Maybe a charming town and some unique experiences will take your fancy. Or you feel the need to get away from the hustle and bustle of Miami's busy streets (especially around spring break) to some wide open spaces.

While you may spot the occasional gator wandering out of a canal or have a muscovy duck come pester you at the local park, there much more impressive wildlife encounters beyond the city limits of Miami. No matter what you want out of a day trip from Magic City, we've got you covered.

1. Meet sea turtles in Juno Beach and Jupiter

Travel time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

For one of the best family day trips near Miami, venture north to Juno Beach and visit Loggerhead Marine Life Center, dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of local sea turtles. It's a great space for seeing these magnificent creatures up close.

For more adorable animal encounters, Jupiter's Loxahatchee River Center features interactive exhibits, touch tanks, and live aquatic tanks where visitors can view and learn about local marine ecosystems. You can also head to Blowing Rocks Preserve, where you can see the largest Anastasia limestone shoreline on the Atlantic, blasting saltwater upward of 50 feet into the air.

For family-friendly eats, stop in at Juno Beach Cafe or Jetty's Waterfront Restaurant (the latter of which has a fantastic view of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse), and Jupiter Donut Factory for a tasty treat.

How to get to Juno Beach and Jupiter from Miami: It's possible to take the TriRail from Miami up to West Palm Beach and make the rest of the journey in a Lyft or cab. But the most convenient option is driving (yours or a rental).

Female snorkeler explores a coral reef in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Seeing the reefs up close in Key Largo is an incredible experience © Image Source / Getty Images

2. Explore coral reefs in three ways in Key Largo

Travel time: 1 hour 30 minutes (driving), 3 hours (public transport)

Key Largo is home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, a mostly underwater park home to brightly colored coral reefs that can be enjoyed in several ways. Get a glimpse via the underwater cam that live-streams into the nature center (and online) or book tickets for their renowned glass-bottom boat tours. Be aware these sell out quickly, but there are other glass-bottom boat tour providers near the park.

Those who prefer a closer look at the reefs are welcome to snorkel or even scuba dive in the park. You can easily spend a full day in Largo, and if you do, grab a seafood meal at a waterfront spot like Sundowners and Snooks, or something tucked away from the crowds like the quirky Mrs. Mac's.

How to get to Key Largo from Miami: If you're anywhere near the Metrorail, it's possible to take it as far south as Dadeland, board the Route 38 bus further south and then transfer to the 301 (which can take you to Key Largo). If you're short on patience, shuttle buses like Greyhound and Flixbus can take you south slightly faster. Driving yourself is the quickest option for those short on time.

Discover more great locations to snorkel in Key Largo in this guide

The canal next to Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Wander along Las Olas Boulevard to discover why Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America © Pola Damonte / Getty Images

3. Have an all-day date in Fort Lauderdale

Travel time: 45 minutes

Less than an hour's journey north from Miami lies Fort Lauderdale – the perfect option for a quick romantic getaway.

Start with a stroll through the lush grounds of the Bonnet House, a quiet sanctuary complete with a butterfly garden. From there, whisper sweet nothings to your beau aboard the Las Olas Gondola before sneaking in a romantic meal at Burlock Coast or The Katherine.

And finally, choose your own adventure: heart-pumping fun at Xtreme Action Park (complete with go-karts, laser tag and escape rooms), live entertainment at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts (musicals, plays, ballets and then some), or a bit of gambling, comedy and music at Seminole Hard Rock Casino.

How to get to Fort Lauderdale from Miami: As is the case for most destinations in Florida, having your own vehicle gives you the best flexibility. However, you can visit Fort Lauderdale by booking a ticket on the Tri-Rail or Brightline train and then using a car-share service to get around town.

Side view of an alligator swimming in river against cloudy sky in the Everglades National Park, near Miami
The Everglades ecosystem is best observed with minimum intrusion © Cassidy Athos / EyeEm / Getty Images

4. Get away from it all, Everglades style

Travel time: 60 to 90 minutes

This massive national park extends far beyond Miami-Dade County limits, and if you want to get the full experience, you'll need at least a day. Start your day at the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center to learn about the park and then walk along some of their nearby paved trails (make sure to try a milkshake from Robert Is Here or some bites at Everglades Gator Grill along the way).

Shark Valley Visitor Center is another beginner-friendly spot – you can rest your legs on a tram tour, hire some bikes and explore the area on two wheels, or even opt for an airboat ride (try Miccosukee Airboats).

You'll get plenty of opportunities to see alligators, anhingas, turtles and more at either center, but if you want a more immersive experience, drive south to Flamingo, where hiking trails, kayaking, boating, camping and even on-site dining and accommodations (Flamingo Lodge and Restaurant, should you feel so inclined) can all be found.

How to get to Everglades National Park from Miami: Unfortunately, there are no public transit options to get from Miami to any of the Everglades visitor centers. Depending on traffic, it's just over an hour's drive west of Miami.

5. Explore a Bahamian island via golf cart in Bimini

Travel time: 2 hours and 40 minutes

Whether you've lived in South Florida a while or are just visiting, you may have wondered, "Can I day trip to the Bahamas from Miami?" The answer is yes! The journey is a bit longer than the rest of these day trips, involving a quick journey north to Fort Lauderdale and hopping on a ferry to Bimini.

Once there, you can rent a golf cart to explore all you can during your full day on the island. Snorkel around the wreckage of the Sapona (a concrete ship built during WWI), dine on conch at Joe's Conch Shack or grab a slice at Edith's Pizza, snap photos of the art at the Dolphin House Museum, and bask in the sun at Radio Beach.

You can also rent a day pass at Resorts World Bimini to enjoy their casino and other on-site amenities (but be warned, this might make you want to extend your trip for another day or two).

How to get to Bimini from Miami: If you own a boat (or know someone who does), it's possible to sail to Bimini. If not, take the Brightline train to reach Fort Lauderdale in 40 minutes and then board the Balearia ferry service for quick and easy passage to the island (don't forget to pack your passport).

Ready to plan more of your trip to Miami?

Add these top experiences to your itinerary
Figure out the best time to visit
Check out our favorite beaches – beyond South Beach
Visiting for the weekend? We have the itinerary for you

This article was first published Jun 18, 2019 and updated Apr 26, 2024.

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