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A Tale of Two Coasts: Sampling Both Sides of Florida on an Open Stretch of Road

A three-day road trip down the lower half of Florida’s Atlantic Coast, then across the northern section of the Everglades to the Gulf, means you get the best of both worlds: the East Coast’s waves and nightlife action and the Gulf Coast’s wildlife and sugar-sand beaches.

DAY ONE | Land in Hutchinson Island


(Left) Hutchinson Island is one of the few places in the state where you are permitted to ride horseback on the beach; (right) Drift Kitchen & Bar marries panoramic views of the Atlantic with a beach-chic atmosphere. 

3 p.m. | Smooth Liftoff

Get settled at Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa on Jensen Beach: your comfy launching pad for the journey. The resort’s clean lines, blue and white color scheme, and wide-open spaces bring the fresh air and the music of the waves inside. If in need of a bit of energizing for your road trip ahead, book the sea-inspired body renewal treatment at the on-site spa, which envelopes you with a cocoon of nourishing green tea and seaweed extracts, followed by a full-body aromatherapy massage.

5:30 p.m. | A Table with a View

Seafood tastes even better when it comes with an ocean breeze – and a Sea Breeze cocktail. Grab a table on the Ocean Veranda at Drift Kitchen + Bar, just steps from the Atlantic, and sip a cocktail crafted from house-made syrups and fresh herbs before digging into crispy local snapper with tomato jam and smoked chili oil, handcrafted linguine loaded with fresh clams and heirloom tomatoes, or Drift’s famous wood-fired pizzas.

7:30 p.m. | Equine Adventure

Straight out of a romance novel – or just about every Poldark episode – a sunset horseback ride along the beach makes for a pretty unforgettable experience. Tours on Horseback offers scenic beach rides atop a fleet of laid-back steeds (no galloping here), with customized tours available by special reservation. If you prefer a paddle to a saddle, book a serene evening on the water with Riverfront Kayaks Paradise Tours.

DAY TWO | Hutchinson Beach > Jupiter > Delray Beach


(From left to right) The unique craggy limestone shore at Blowing Rocks Preserve; Sinclairs Ocean Grill is Jupiter’s only restaurant with an oceanfront view; the charming arts enclave of Pineapple Grove lives in the heart of Delray Beach (© photo courtesy of Carl Dawson Photography for Downtown Development Authority-Delray Beach).

10 a.m. | Seek Some Refuge

Start the day off with a step back in time by visiting the grounds of the House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar, located on the southern end of Hutchinson Island. Originally built by the U.S. Life-Saving Service in 1876, 10 of these life-saving stations were scattered across Florida’s Atlantic Coast, where keepers were tasked with searching for survivors of shipwrecks, taking in injured and stranded sailors, and nursing them back to health. Today, as the last remaining House of Refuge, the site maintains a keeper’s living quarters just as you would have seen it in 1904.

12 p.m. | Rare Rocks

In a region studded with miles of sandy beaches, the unique craggy limestone shore at Blowing Rocks Preserve on Jupiter Island, located a mere four miles north of Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, looks as though it belongs in Acadia National Park in Maine. Managed by The Nature Conservancy, the preserve boasts the largest Anastasia limestone outcropping on the state’s east coast, creating cliff-like rock formations that, during rough seas or high tide, shoot water spouts as high as 50 feet in the air.

1 p.m.| Lunch with a Unique View

With dishes that focus on Florida’s abundance of fresh ingredients and seafood, Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa’s signature restaurant, Sinclairs Ocean Grill, has built a solid reputation as one of Jupiter’s best restaurants – not to mention, it’s the only one with an oceanfront view. Take a seat on the outdoor terrace and dig into a wide variety of Florida-inspired food, such as jumbo lump crab cakes and Atlantic black grouper alongside favorites including beef short ribs and Tuscan chicken.

3 p.m. | Turtle ER

If you’re a sick or injured sea turtle – or if you want to do your part to support the sea turtles that nest on 9.5 miles of shore in Juno Beach, Jupiter, and Tequesta – the Loggerhead Marinelife Center is the place to go. Guided tours offer an up-close look at the outdoor hospital, where you can learn about each patient’s story, injuries, and treatment plan. Think of it as Grey’s Anatomy for sea turtles.

5 p.m. | It’s Worth It

Okay, you’ve already done a lot today, but who doesn’t have time for a little retail therapy? Worth Avenue in Palm Beach boasts impressive architecture, more than three dozen shops, and a place in history as one of the centers of Gilded Age society. Special events are scheduled year-round, so don’t be surprised to find yourself in the middle of an arts festival, a jewelry or classic car show, or the annual pet parade.

7 p.m. | Land at the Sands

After the scenic half-hour drive down A1A, a coastal byway that runs from Amelia Island to the Keys, check in at Delray Sands Resort. Ocean-inspired motifs, coral accents, and special touches like oversized headboards create a retro-modern seaside vibe.

8 p.m. | Rock Down to Atlantic Avenue

Atlantic Avenue is the beating heart of Delray Beach, known as “Florida’s Village by the Sea” and rated “most fun small town” by Rand McNally. Admire vibrant murals as you stroll through the Pineapple Grove Arts District, and grab dinner or drinks at Sandbar, a casual tiki bar with a huge sandy patio overlooking the ocean. Or, head to the Arts Garage to catch a poetry or comedy open mic, some soulful blues, a drag show, or traditional Cuban music.

DAY THREE | Delray Beach > Naples


(From left to right) Turquoise clamshell booths and bubble-evoking décor make a meal in Latitudes one to never forget; indulge in a little forest bathing at Morikami Museum (© photo courtesy of the Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens); take your pick of a dip in the ocean or two pools at Edgewater.

8 a.m. | Rise and Shine

After taking a morning dip in the ocean, merely steps outside your guest room at Delray Sands Resort, head to breakfast at Latitudes, the resort’s on-site restaurant. With an interior that glows with light and bubble-themed décor, it’s a little like eating inside an aquarium. Along with fresh-squeezed orange juice and smoothies, choose from classic morning fare like made-to-order omelets, fruit blintzes, croissants, and french toast.

10 a.m. | Crossroads of Culture

Once home to a small community of Japanese farmers who resettled in Boca Raton in the early 1900s to grow pineapples, Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens is now a cultural landmark. Past exhibitions have showcased Japanese art forms ranging from bamboo baskets to tattoos to the architecture featured in science fiction anime films – plus there’s a permanent bonsai exhibit. If you arrive on an auspicious day, you might get to attend a traditional tea ceremony in the Seishin-an Tea House, or take a “stroll for well-being” in the gardens – inspired by Japan’s popular “forest bathing” practice.

1 p.m. | Alligator Alley

The Everglades Parkway, aka Alligator Alley, runs across the state and through the northern portion of the Everglades, so keep your eyes peeled for one of Florida’s 1.25 million alligators (possibly more, as some may not have returned their census forms yet). Just off the east end of the Alley, stop at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge to stretch your legs along a loop trail that travels through ancient oak trees and tropical vegetation to a boardwalk and overlook where you can watch for osprey and hawks, deer, bear, and, yes, the occasional panther.

3 p.m. | Home Suite Home

Take a breather on your private balcony at Edgewater Beach Hotel, looking out over the gentle waves of the Gulf of Mexico. All of Edgewater’s luxuriously appointmed one- and two-bedroom suites feature kitchens, cozy dining areas, and comfy sand-toned couches, making the hotel a true home away from home.

5 p.m. | Golden Oldie

Stroll among beach cottages, mansions, coconut palms, and banyan trees in charming Olde Naples, finding your way to Gallery Row – three square blocks of art galleries, antique shops, and auction houses (plus some excellent eateries). Check out the fresh contemporary installations at Up Art and Design Gallery and the eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture, and glass at Gardner Colby Galleries, and make sure to snap a pic of Palm Cottage, Naples’s oldest home, at the corner of 12th Avenue South and Gulf Shore Boulevard. Built in 1895, it’s constructed of tabby mortar, a handmade concrete made from a mixture of sand, shells, and water.

DAY FOUR | Naples & Departure


(Left) Cast a fishing line, dolphin-spot, or take in the scenic sunset views at Naples’s historic pier; (right) the tropical libations are always a-flowin‘ at Reflections Pool Bar.

10 a.m. | Pier Review

After breakfast at Edgewater’s on-site restaurant, Coast, wander westward to the Naples Pier at the end of 12th Avenue, built in 1888 as a dock for freight and passengers. Destroyed by fire and hurricanes over the decades, the pier has been rebuilt multiple times; the current version extends a thousand feet into the water, making it a great spot to see pelicans, dolphins, and stingrays, and to fish at any hour of the day (its bulk fishing license covers all users).

1 p.m. | Life’s a Beach

You’d be hard-pressed to find a seven-mile stretch of white sand beach as private and well-attended as the one you’ll find at Edgewater Beach Hotel. Beach chairs, umbrellas, and even cabanas are available for guests looking to set up camp on the sand, as well as kayaks and paddleboards for rent for those who want to take to the placid Gulf waters. At lunchtime, move a short hop over to the loungers by the hotel’s two pools and refresh yourself at Reflections Pool Bar, serving enticing handcrafted cocktails and entrées from the Coast kitchen.

3 p.m. | Penny Lane

Alas, your journey is coming to a close, but not before a quick stroll and late lunch at the Waterside Shops on the Tamiami Trail in North Naples. The premier shopping and dining destination – offering more than 60 shops and restaurants, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom – is named for its many water features, including cascading falls along a 550-foot-long, hand-built rock wall. In fact, the coins tossed in its many fountains are regularly donated to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

**Please confirm details with business/attractions prior to visiting due to possible restrictions.

Where to Stay

JENSEN BEACH, FL Hutchinson Shores Resort & Spa

JUPITER, FL Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa

DELRAY BEACH, FL Opal Grand Oceanfront Resort & Spa | Delray Sands Resort

NAPLES, FL Edgewater Beach Hotel

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