Sunrise to Sunset: A Florida Adventure Across the East and West Coast
One of the many unique features of Florida is that it’s a peninsula — this means that you can watch the beautiful sunrise over the ocean on the east coast, and then catch the stunning sunset on the west coast, all in just one day! With plenty of time to spare on your journey, you can take advantage of exploring some of the incredible spots along the way. To help you find the right coast-to-coast adventure for you, we’ve created two different guides, one for those closer to Central Florida and one for those closer to South Florida. Simply choose the guide that is closer to your location and get ready for an unforgettable day of exploring some of Florida’s most beautiful destinations.
Central Florida East to West Coast Guide
The Adventure Begins: Cocoa Beach
We recommend starting your adventure at Cocoa Beach, where you can witness a beautiful sunrise around 7:30 a.m. (for both of these adventures, we recommend researching what time the sun is going to rise on the day of your trip). This is a great destination for budget-conscious travelers as it has a couple of free parking areas. Cocoa Beach is a stunning stretch of coastline that offers the perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. The beach is known for its crystal-clear waters, perfect waves for surfing and proximity to the iconic Kennedy Space Center. Spend some time soaking up the sun, collecting seashells and enjoying the ocean breeze before we head to our next destination.
Explore the Natural Beauty of Rock Springs
Rock Springs is a natural freshwater spring located in Kelly Park in Apopka, Florida. It is a popular destination for swimming, tubing and kayaking. The water in the spring is crystal clear and maintains a constant temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Visitors of Rock Springs can rent tubes or bring their own and float down the spring, which has a gentle current that takes you along the scenic route. Rock Springs Run State Reserve, which is adjacent to the park, offers hiking trails and wildlife viewing opportunities. The park also has plenty of picnic areas, so you can enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner with family and friends. The entrance fee into Rock Springs is $5 per vehicle (3-8 people).
Discover Rare and Endangered Species at Lakeland Highland Scrub
After Rock Springs, head to Lakeland Highland Scrubs, located about an hour and a half drive away. Lakeland Highland Scrub is a state park managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and there is no entrance fee. This unique destination is home to rare and endangered species of plants and animals, including the Florida Scrub-Jay. The park offers hiking trails that lead to scenic views of rolling hills, pristine lakes, and unique flora and fauna. If you’ve been looking to experience Florida’s natural beauty up close, your search will be over as soon as you pull into Lakeland Highland Scrubs.
End the day at Clearwater Beach
As the day draws to a close, make your way to Clearwater, located about an hour and a half drive from Lakeland Highland Scrubs, to watch the most stunning sunset around at about 7:30 p.m. (research what time the sun is going to set the day of your adventure). Clearwater Beach is famous for its soft white sand, clear blue waters and stunning sunsets. The beach offers a variety of water activities, including swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking and parasailing. While you’re there you can also stop by Pier 60, a popular fishing pier and public park located on Clearwater Beach. It’s part of the Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina and offers a range of activities for visitors, including fishing, sightseeing, shopping, dining and entertainment. This spot is known for being the best place to catch the sunset and hosts a daily Sunset Festival, which features street performers, musicians, and vendors selling food and souvenirs. The pier also has a playground for children and offers a great view of the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. There is no admission fee to access the pier, but there is a fee for parking. After a day of adventure and exploration, there is no better place to unwind and enjoy the beauty of Florida than Clearwater Beach.
Total distance from Cocoa Beach to Clearwater (including stops): 232 miles.
Total driving time: around 4 hours 30 minutes.
Starting at Cocoa Beach, to watch the stunning sunrise, and ending at Clearwater Beach, for the sunset, our adventure guide takes you inland to explore the natural beauty of Rock Springs and Lakeland Highland Scrub. With the right preparation and a sense of adventure, this day trip promises to be an unforgettable experience.
South Florida East to West Coast Guide
South Florida is a beautiful destination that offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the state. With a plethora of natural parks and coastlines, you can experience the best of Florida from sunrise to sunset. Join us on this adventure from South Beach to Marco Island, with stops at Shark Alley and H.P. Williams Roadside Park, for a remarkable day.
Sunrise at South Beach
South Beach is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. Known for its iconic art deco buildings and crystal-clear waters, it’s also serving as the starting point for your adventure. Get there early to witness a beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean around 7:20 a.m. Take a stroll along the famous Ocean Drive and grab a cup of coffee or a light breakfast at one of the many cafes nearby before you head to your next destination.
Adventure in the Everglades: Shark Valley
Shark Valley is a section of the Everglades that is home to a variety of wildlife, including alligators and sharks. Take a thrilling airboat tour and get up close and personal with the wildlife in the area. With knowledgeable guides, you can learn about the ecology and history of the Everglades. Keep your eyes peeled for manatees, sea turtles and a variety of birds that call the Everglades home.
Hiking and Relaxation at H.P. Williams Roadside Park
Located in Homestead, Florida, H.P. Williams Roadside Park is a hidden gem that is often overlooked by visitors. This state park offers a variety of hiking trails that lead to stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can also enjoy fishing, picnicking and camping.
Sunset at Marco Island
As the day comes to an end, make your way to Marco Island to witness one of the most gorgeous sunsets in Florida around 7:30 p.m. Marco Island is a beautiful destination that is known for its white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and stunning sunsets. Take a stroll along the beach, collect seashells or simply relax and enjoy the beauty of Florida.
Total distance from South Beach to Marco Island (including stops): 142 miles.
Total driving time: around 3 hours 30 minutes.
South Florida is a fantastic destination that offers a variety of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. From the stunning beaches of South Beach to the natural beauty of Shark Alley and H.P. Williams Roadside Park, you can experience the best of Florida in just one day. Finish your adventure with a beautiful sunset at Marco Island and create memories that will last a lifetime.
Pack Smart for Your Day Trip: Central and South Florida
- A couple of towels
- Sneakers/hiking shoes
- A change of clothes
- Water bottle and extra water
- Bug spray
- Beach chair or blanket
- A portable phone charger or car charger
Florida is a state full of adventure and beauty, and our East to West Coast guides have showcased some of the best destinations that you can explore in just one day. Whether you’re in Central or South Florida, you can witness the stunning sunrise and sunset from two different coasts, with plenty of time to explore the state’s natural beauty in between. From Cocoa Beach to Clearwater or South Beach to Marco Island, there are plenty of destinations to discover, each with its own unique attractions and experiences.