Visitors have many options for getting between and around Florida’s pristine coastlines, swampy lagoons and big-time cities.
While the sprawl of Florida makes it a car-centric place, you’ll find there are a growing number options for exploring all the Sunshine State has to offer. Whether you crisscross the state by plane, hop on a train along the southwest coast or Key-hop via water taxi, the transportation mode(s) you favor will reflect how you want to explore the state’s vast terrain.
Wherever your adventure may take you, here’s how to get around Florida.
Arrive in Florida by plane at one its 131 airports
If you’re visiting Florida from somewhere else in the USA or abroad, chances are you’ll be flying in. In total, the state has 131 public airports (24 of them international), with hubs in Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Tampa, Fort Myers and Jacksonville.
Several airlines provide flights within Florida including American Airlines, United Airlines, Miramar-based operator Spirit Airlines and Fort Lauderdale–based Silver Airways.
Along with most US airports, major holidays (eg, Thanksgiving and Christmas) can bring major congestion and longer wait times at Florida’s airports, particularly as northern residents escape the colder temperatures.
Crisscross Florida north to south by train
Perhaps surprisingly, Florida boasts extensive passenger train service. Amtrak has 19 total stations in the state, serving three principal routes that generally run north to south. With 14 total stops, the Silver Meteor route starts in Jacksonville, runs to Orlando in Central Florida and then south along the Atlantic Coast through West Palm Beach and to Miami. The Silver Star route has 18 total Florida stops, also starting in Jacksonville before hitting Orlando, running west to Tampa and Winter Haven and then winding back to the Atlantic Coast via Fort Lauderdale to Miami.
For travelers either starting or ending an East Coast train adventure in Florida, Amtrak’s Auto Train is a unique offering. This overnight route between Sanford, FL, and Lorton, VA – with no stops in between – lets you take your car or motorcycle on board. Don’t worry: you can relax in the dining and lounge cars rather than having to sit in your auto the entire time.
Also operating within the state is Brightline, the modern and luxurious high-speed passenger rail system that currently connects West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami within one hour. Amid typically heavy traffic and rush hour in South Florida, this serves as a stellar option for shaving some time off a trip, with stations conveniently located in the heart of each destination’s downtown. Brightline has plans to add stations at PortMiami, Aventura and Boca Raton with a future expansion north to Orlando as well.
Florida has two commuter rail systems. Tri-Rail has 18 stations in South Florida, running from just north of West Palm Beach south to Miami International Airport. Several stations offer local bus routes that connect to their closest downtowns. Tri-Rail also has a stop at Miami International Airport for maximum intermodal convenience. SunRail is Orlando’s commuter-rail system, with 18 stations running from DeBary south to the Poinciana station in Kissimmee – providing an easy way to explore all that Central Florida has to offer.
It’s hard to resist the pleasure of traveling in Florida by boat
Lined with white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, Florida is a boating utopia. Its principal cruise ports are among the busiest in the world, including those in Jacksonville, Cape Canaveral, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and Miami – all with easy transportation connections to visit nearby towns. Cruise liners depart frequently for destinations in the Caribbean, Mexico and beyond, with trips lasting from a weekend to several weeks.
Within Florida, a number of ferry and water-taxi options provide tranquil and often scenic trips. The Yankee Freedom III ferry in Key West is the only public transportation option for accessing remote and beautiful Dry Tortugas National Park, a seven-island park that’s 70 miles off the coast of the Florida Keys.
Water taxis are popular in regions with coastal and river terrains. You can hail an aquatic ride with St. John’s River Taxi in Jacksonville, the Pirate Water Taxi in Tampa, the Naples Bay Water Shuttle, Fort Lauderdale’s Water Taxi and in Destin on the Panhandle.
For a splurge, boat rental and private charter throughout the state also beckon. Be advised that in addition to any hourly or daily rental fees, additional charges for a captain’s services, crew, gasoline, overnight dockage and more may apply. You’ll want to sort out as many fees as possible up front to avoid sticker shock when you’re back on land.
Hit the open road to discover Florida by car
Florida’s roads run the gamut from State Road A1A – which hugs the Atlantic Ocean from Fernandina Beach all the way down to Key West – to major highways. Several of the state’s major interstates have tolls – including the Florida Turnpike (Ocala to Homestead), the stretch of Interstate 75 between Miami and Naples and the Bee Line Express between Orlando and Cape Canaveral. As toll booths have become a thing of the past, tolls are collected via radio tag or billed by mail, so if you’re renting a car, consider renting a tag too to avoid extra fees.
Car rentals are widely available throughout the state to those 21 and older. (Those under 25 will have to pay a surcharge.) All car renters in Florida are required to have a valid driver license from their state or country of residence and may be required to purchase insurance upon arrival. If you don’t want to get behind the wheel, taxis and ride-share companies like Lyft and Uber operate throughout the state.
Several towns and regions throughout Florida have their own shuttle or trolley systems as well. Notably, Gainesville has an autonomous, self-driving system that shuttles folks along one of its principal streets. Trolleys throughout the Sunshine State include Clearwater’s Jolley Trolley, St Petersburg’s Beach Trolley and Tallahassee’s free StarMetro.
For exploring beyond a single town or region, buses remain a seamless option for those on a budget. In addition to national staple Greyhound, operators like FlixBus and GotoBus offer routes within the state.
Regardless of how you may navigate the state’s roads, expect heavier-than-usual congestion from October through April. This period is known as “Snowbird Season,” when an influx of folks from colder points settle in for the winter to enjoy Florida’s warmer temperatures.
Accessible transportation in Florida
Florida caters well to those with accessibility needs. Throughout the state, activities and resources – including wheelchairs, vehicles and guides – are widely available. International travelers can purchase a disabled parking pass for $15 to use during any Florida trip.