Located in the south of Florida along the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area, West Palm Beach is a popular getaway spot not just for tourists, but also for locals from elsewhere in Florida.
The city is known for its excellent nightlife, with a huge variety of bars, clubs and other nighttime entertainment attractions. The entire Palm Beach region is lined with over 40 miles of gorgeous beaches that keep visitors entertained and relaxed, with activities spanning from adrenaline-fueled watersports to regular sunbathing and relaxing boat rides.
If you are staying a little longer in the area, however, it can be tempting to consider one of the many day trip options available in the Southern Florida region.
Here are the 15 best day trips you can take from West Palm Beach
1. Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee – Florida’s largest freshwater lake – is only a short distance away from West Palm Beach and is full of natural beauty.
It is also well known as one of the best fishing spots in Florida and is, in particular, famous for its award-winning largemouth bass population. The fish population of the lake is large and sustainable, so you are free to fish as much as you want; you do not need to pay if you don’t catch anything, making it a great place to try your hand at fishing if you are new.
By far the largest city in the region, Miami attracts visitors from across the world. You’ll be spoiled for choice for things to do within a day trip.
The city’s famous boardwalk runs along the coast and is a natural first stop for most visitors. There are also plenty of shopping opportunities – from chains to boutiques – across Miami that will excite visitors looking for some retail delights.
Miami is also a great place to experience Cuban culture, with the small island nation having a huge impact on the city thanks to the influence migrants have had on local culture.
3. Everglades National Park
A unique environment that stretches across the south of Florida, the Everglades also attracts multiple visitors from across the US and abroad.
Most visitors opt to take an airboat around the area to explore further. You can safely do this by yourself, but there are also plenty of tours available in the area. This is, of course, one of the best spots in the country to spot alligators but you should definitely keep a safe distance from the reptiles.
If you would rather avoid the airboats altogether, there are some great hiking and cycling trails around the area and visitors centers that describe the science behind this one-of-a-kind spot.
4. Fort Lauderdale
Just south of West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale is another popular beach town on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Known as the “Venice of the United States”, Fort Lauderdale has an extensive canal system that can be fun to explore.
The Strip is an area along the beach that is full of restaurants, bars and unique retail stores that can easily fill a day trip on its own.
There are also plenty of water sports activities available, such as kitesurfing, kayaking, and parasailing.
In the evening, there are dinner cruises, and the Brazilian influenced restaurants across the city come alive with samba music and live performances.
5. Cape Canaveral
Part of America’s “space coast” region, Cape Canaveral hosts the Kennedy Space Centre. This space center has a huge visitor’s complex that will entertain guests with a keen interest in space exploration.
You can take bus tours of former launch sites and preparation facilities, visit a park designed around previous shuttles, and indulge in the history of space exploration at the museum and IMAX cinema.
On launch days, the park closes; however, it is still worth visiting to see the launch for yourself from a safe distance with the crowd of onlookers that often come to witness these events.
6. Walt Disney World
Any family trip to Florida would be incomplete without a visit to at least one of the Disney parks; if you get up early enough, it is more than easy to make it a day trip from West Palm Beach.
If this is your first time at any of the Disney Parks, Magic Kingdom is your best bet for a typical Disney experience. Here, there are a variety of rides, character meet and greets, and parades.
If you are looking to visit more than one park, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios are connected by a boat and can easily be visited together in one day. Queues can be long during peak seasons, so we suggest you take advantage of their FastPass system if you only have one day.
7. Universal Studios
The other big park in central Florida, Universal Studios is a better option if you are with older kids and teenagers. There are more thrill rides within the park and the variety of movies represented spans a wide age range. We suggest Islands of Adventure for older children and the main Universal Studios park for teenagers.
Universal CityWalk is also a free entertainment district before you enter the park, where you can pick up some fun souvenirs and grab a tasty bite to eat. There are more rides with height restrictions in Universal than in Disney, so check these in advance if you are planning to visit with smaller children.
Neither of the famous parks is within Orlando proper, and the city is often overlooked even by international visitors to the area.
The huge tourism industry in the region has brought a lot of other attractions to appeal to older members of the family, including outlet malls, golf courses, and themed restaurants.
International Drive is the main hotel strip in Orlando and is filled with dinner show venues, independent fairground rides, and discount stores. There are also some fun museums, including the Orlando Museum of Art and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
For adult tourists without kids, there is also a great nightlife scene within the city, with unique bars and cosmopolitan restaurants.
9. Boca Raton
Located halfway towards Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton has a reputation as a destination for wealthy visitors. Whilst this gives the town a safe, upscale atmosphere, it can, in fact, be enjoyed by a variety of tourists.
There are many free attractions in the city, including kids’ museums, nature centers, and even the art gallery on select dates.
There are a variety of beaches along the coast of the town, with a much quieter feel than many of the other, more famous Florida beaches.
The town also has a vibrant arts scene, with a good array of independent and large-scale cinemas as well as local art markets, boutique stores, and craft workshops.
10. Fort Myers
Fort Myers is even more relaxed and casual than other South Florida towns, and the locals truly embrace the sweet life.
The town is famous for the Butterfly Estates; here, you can view all of the native butterfly species from Florida, walk amongst exotic plants, and indulge in natural beauty.
If you want to get up close and personal with some larger animals, there are regular dolphin cruises departing from the marina, where you will be almost guaranteed to spot a few dolphins and possibly other marine life.
The town is a great gateway both to the Floridian coast and to the Everglades, and for a day trip, will provide you with a relaxing experience.
Over on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Tampa is a much calmer city compared to its east coast counterparts. The famous streetcar system will transport you around most of the city and is the number one tourist attraction within the city itself.
You can also check out the Channelside area for a variety of restaurants, entertainment facilities, and stores.
Ybor City is one of the most popular regions in the city for visitors, due to its multiethnic vibe – largely thanks to Cuban, Spanish and Italian immigrants. It is also the cigar capital of the United States.
12. Busch Gardens
Located in the northern suburbs of Tampa, Busch Gardens not only serves as an excellent amusement park, but it is also a great place to get up close to the animals in the zoo segments of the park.
Animal lovers will likely prefer this to the Animal Kingdom, as it features much more facilities for learning about the animals and better spaces for spotting them.
The roller coasters are also among some of the top rated in the country by thrill seekers – including a wooden roller coaster, one of the nation’s oldest rollercoasters, and even a coaster that used to be the largest in the world. There are plenty of tamer rides for younger children to enjoy.
13. Florida Keys
Though visiting all of the Keys within a day might be challenging from West Palm Beach, Key Largo is easily reachable and can make for a fun day trip. There is a huge coral reef surrounding the island that is just waiting to be explored.
At the visitor’s center, you can learn more about the reef and hire snorkels, scuba sets, and fishing gear. There are also plenty of picnic facilities and camping areas. Diving, in particular, is a very popular activity on the Keys and many divers regard this as one of the best places in the country to try it.
For culinary delights, you can indulge in the excellent seafood provided by the island restaurants, as well as some of the best Cuban-inspired cuisines, including Cubano sandwiches and coffee.
14. Pine Island
Only a short distance from Fort Myers, Pine Island is the largest island on the Gulf Coast and gives a very unique experience to Florida visitors.
Kayakers and canoers will fall in love with Pine Island Aquatic Preserve, which is filled with mangroves, plant life, and even fresh fruit trees. There are also plenty of fishing spots around the island, with rod hire readily available.
Other visitors will enjoy the secluded atmosphere of the island and the unique culture. The beaches feel a lot quieter and the towns are painted in pastel colors. Birdwatchers regularly flock to Pine Island Sound to check out native Floridian birdlife, and the natural beauty in the area is astounding.
Another interesting town along the Gulf Coast, Naples has a unique atmosphere that some call almost European.
The town is a great place for cyclists, as riding bicycles is actively encouraged and many of the residents enjoy it as their main mode of transport.
The Naples Pier is a free spot to fish from and is also a great place to watch the sunset or try to spot some dolphins.
Tin City is a fisherman’s wharf that was converted into a large shopping area, where you can pick up souvenirs and local handicrafts.
Like all other Southern Florida coastal towns, the beaches in Naples are breathtaking. They are also, however, a lot more peaceful than the busier beaches of the Atlantic coast.