19 Perfect Day Trips From Orlando For Nature Lovers

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Chances are, when you think Florida, you think Orlando. Or Disney. And even if you’re planning a trip to Disney, you may want too take a theme park break with a day trip from Orlando!

While there are so many amazing things to do in Orlando, there are just as many amazing things to do within a two hour drive, which is what everything will be within on this list. A lot of it is outdoorsy but there are a few things that aren’t.

One thing that isn’t lacking in Orlando is hotels. And theme parks. And Walgreens/CVS stores. (Seriously, I’ve never seen so many of those stores in one place in my life.) But that’s not why you’re here.

When you come back from all these Orlando day trips, you’ll want somewhere nice and comfy to stay and you’ll have so many hotels to choose from whether you want to be near the theme parks or on the edge of town so you’re closer to other adventures. If you want something budget friendly and centrally located, the Rosen Inn International is perfect.

Marriott’s Grande Vista is great for families or groups since it has over 900 condos (and four pools!) The Celeste Hotel is a great modern looking choice on the northeast side of Orlando, perfect for those east coast day trips.

Aloft Orlando Lake Buena Vista is a great, hip mid-range option not too far from Disney if you’ll be visiting there as well (it’s also just a nice area). If you like to be self-sufficient (food-wise), Sonder at The Point is perfect. Finally, if you want something a little more luxury, Rosen Shingle Creek should definitely be considered.

All distances are from the center of Orlando and can vary based on where you’re staying and traffic. The times included will be give or take a bit but they will all be 2.5 hours or less.

If you do decide to travel right now, please do so safely and at your own risk.  Wear a mask, wash and sanitize regularly, check any government regulations before going, and book accommodations with flexible cancellation policies, just in case. 

Orlando day trip short list (according to me):

  • Kennedy Space Center/Merritt Island
  • High Springs
  • Micanopy
  • Clearwater

Map of Orlando day trips

Blue Spring State Park


Distance from Orlando

Blue Spring State Park is about 40 minutes from Orlando. It’s an easy drive but if you go in the winter (the best time to see manatees there), I would make sure to get there early because it gets busy and you will have to wait.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because you can see manatees! At least in the winter. In the summer, it’s a great place to swim in the iconic Florida springs. If you want to see manatees and only have one day, this is closer than Crystal River. But if you want to swim with them, you’ll have to go to Crystal River.

What not to miss

The manatees, obviously. But also the boardwalk to the spring head that gives the park it’s name. You can tour the historic house in the park and do some swimming and kayaking year-round.

St. Petersburg

fort de soto beach florida
Fort DeSoto is a great stoop on your Orlando day trip to St. Pete

Distance from Orlando

St. Pete is about two hours from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because you get to go to the beach and go shelling! Or you can explore St. Petersburg or Fort DeSoto or a bunch of state parks!

What not to miss

So, obviously what you do here will depend on what you like doing, but if I was going to advise you (which I am because that’s why you’re here) I would recommend hitting up a museum or two then the bookstores then the beaches.

Fort DeSoto, St. Pete Beach, and Pass-a-grille are three great beaches for relaxing and shelling. Maybe get out to Shell Key if you can.

As for museums, there are a lot to choose from and no matter what you like I bet you can find something. Here are some St. Pete museums (and galleries):

  • Woodson African American Museum of Florida
  • Duncan McClellan Gallery
  • Imagine Museum: Contemporary glass art
  • Chihuly Collection at Morean Arts Center
  • The Florida Holocaust Museum
  • The James Museum of Western & Wildlife Art
  • Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement
  • Museum of Fine Arts
  • St. Petersburg Museum of History
  • Sunken Gardens

Kennedy Space Center

The Kennedy Space Center is easily one of the best day trips from Orlando

Distance from Orlando

You will find the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex 56 minutes directly east of Orlando. Another super easy drive and one you’ll want to start early in the day because even with just one day here, you won’t see everything.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because space! Who doesn’t love space? If you don’t love space, I’d love to hear why. But really, if you have an interest in space, this is a must-see on any Florida trip. I mean, they launch rockets here! History has been made here and you can see it all for yourself.

What not to miss

I would spend as much timer there so you can see as much as possible. And there is a lot. Make sure to watch the Heroes and Legends film and see that exhibit, do a bus tour and see the VAB (vehicle assembly building), see the Atlantis shuttle and the Nasa Now + Next exhibit.

There is so much more but those are easy to see. And, if you’re there when it’s happening, you can even see a launch! This is like, the top of my Florida bucket list. You can see the launch schedule here. You may even be able to see a launch from Orlando but it would be so much cooler up close.

Cocoa Beach

Cocoa Beach is a classic Orlando day trip

Distance from Orlando

Cocoa Beach is just over one hour east and slightly south of Orlando.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

This is another one of those iconic Florida vacations. It’s not my number one place in Florida, but it does have some good stuff and I’d be willing to go back and do more there. You could easily explore Cocoa Beach and Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge in one day.

What not to miss

Of course, you have to go to the actual beach. You could also do a little more driving down to Sebastian Inlet State Park. Wander around the cute town of Cocoa Beach, visit Ron Jon Surf Shop, explore the Cocoa Beach Pier, and even try surfing.

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge


Distance from Orlando

Just like the Kennedy Space Center, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is 56 minutes from Orlando.

The scenic drive and manatee overlook will be a little different but about an hour as well.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because birds! And gators! And, uhh, other Florida critters! Oh my! Jut like space, who doesn’t love seeing wildlife?

I’d also like to know why, if you don’t, so let me know. Of the five national wildlife refuges that I’ve been to in Florida, this is my favorite, for sure.

What not to miss

If you’re there in the winter, stop at the manatee overlook (but don’t get your hopes up too high). The main thing to do though is the 7-mile one-way scenic drive. This is where you’ll be able to see tons of wildlife, but mostly birds and some gators.

There is also a short boardwalk at the visitor center that is pretty nice. It’s short and easy taking you through a hammock forest.

Crystal River

Photo by David Hinkel, US Fish and Wildlife Flickr

Distance from Orlando

This is one of the further day trips from Orlando clocking in at one hour, forty three minutes. It’s probably not the most eventful drive but it’ll be easy.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because manatees! At least in the winter. Again. This is definitely one of the best places in Florida to see manatees and you can swim with them here! This is number two on my Florida bucket list, in case you were wondering.

What not to miss

Swimming with manatees, of course. If you’re not a swimmer though, you can still see them. Homosassa Springs State Park is also nearby as is Cedar Key and the Lower Suwanee National Wildlife Refuge.

Cedar Key would be pushing it, but if you’re really ambitious and don’t mind a longer drive back, you could probably do it.

St. Augustine

The oldest city in the US makes for the perfect day trip from Orlando

Distance from Orlando

Just one minute less than above, St. Augustine is one hour and forty two minutes from Orlando, a little more if you’re going to the lighthouse.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because not only is St. Augustine just the cutest city ever, but it’s also the oldest city in the US! And even if you’re not a history buff (like me) it’s still really cool to visit with tons of things to do.

I mentioned Everglades City was on my “places I would live” list but I’d probably be willing to live here, too.

What not to miss

So many things! Climb to the top of the St. Augustine lighthouse, visit For Matanzas, see Castillo de San Marcos, walk around the old town, visit Anastasia State Park, relax at the San Sebastian Winery, and even do a ghost tour.


Photo by Lyndi & Jason Flickr – Cassadaga is the spookiest day trip from Orlando for sure

Distance from Orlando

Cassadaga is just 35 minutes from Orlando so it’s barely a day trip and more of just a fun place to go near Orlando. If you like the afterlife. This isn’t officially number three on my Florida bucket list, but it may as well be.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Ok, so I know this one isn’t perfect for everyone but if you’re a fan of ghosts, psychics, spirituality, or anything along those lines, this is a must visit. It may see ma bit cheesy but it’s one of those fun things you just have to do.

What not to miss

While you’re there, visit one of the even parks and meditation gardens in town, stop at the sSpiritualist Camp, and see one of the many psychics.

If you’re feeling really adventurous and want a night away from Orlando, spend a night at the haunted Cassadaga Hotel.


Gainesville is an underrated Orlando day trip

Distance from Orlando

Gainesville is one hour and fifty minutes from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Most people probably don’t know about Gainesville or only know it because of UF (University of Florida), which is fair. I always say no one comes here unless it’s for UF.

But Gainesville is actually a great city to visit in Florida and a perfect day trip from Orlando. It has some cool museums, good food, and great hikes! It’s busy but busy with people who live here, not tourists.

What not to miss

While you’re here be sure to visit the Harn Art Museum (it’s free!) and the Natural History Museum and Butterfly Garden right next door.

The Kanapaha Botanical Garden is beautiful and very peaceful. I liked it there a lot, even in the pouring rain!

Hit up La Chua Trail and Sweetwater Wetlands for a little bit of wildlife then head downtown for a visit too the cat cafe, coffee at Wyatts, and finally pizza and banana pudding at Humble Woodfired Pizza.

High Springs

High Springs is a great day trip from Orlando for hiking and swimming

Distance from Orlando

High Springs is 2.5 hours from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Nature! Springs! Ice Cream! Coffee! Antiques!

What not to miss

There are so many great things to do in High Springs are the surrounding area, namely the springs.

Some personal favorite hikes in High Springs is the boardwalk loop at Poe Spring, the river trail at O’leno State Park, and the trail to River Rise at River Rise State Park.

You could easily do all three in a day if you don’t mind a lot of hiking, probably 6-8 miles total. Before your hike get coffee at Colsie and after get some ice cream downtown followed by a beer at the brewery and dinner at Prohibition Pizza.


Caladesi state park florida

Distance from Orlando

Dunedin is 2.5 hours from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip


What not to miss

Really, there are two main things I would make this Orlando day trip for: Caladesi Island State Park and Honeymoon Island State Park. You could also go too Clearwater Beach but I didn’t like that one as much.

Caladesi is my favorite beach in Florida so far. It’s so beautiful and great for shelling. There are some hiking trails at both parks which are right next too each other.

You do need to take a boat to Caladesi but it’s totally worth it. I know there are closer beaches on the east coast but I think these are better. My opinion might change after I see more of the east coast but we’ll see!

Canaveral National Seashore

Photo by Peter and Michelle S. Flickr

Distance from Orlando

Canaveral National Seashore is about 1.5 hours from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Beaches! Again! If you want beach but maybe a little less busy than Cocoa Beach and close than Clearwater, Canaveral National Seashore is perfect.

What not to miss

Of course, beach. There is plenty of it. But you can also hike the Castle Windy Trail from parking area number three. It’s an easy trail and just 0.8 miles round-trip.

If you’re lucky, you could time your day trip from Orlando to a launch happening at the Kennedy Space Center and watch it from here! I would love to visit just because but also to see a launch.

Mt. Dora

Photo by Calmuziclover Flickr

Distance from Orlando

Mt. Dora is about 40 minutes from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

It’s close and looks cute as heck!

What not to miss

Walking around the historic downtown is a must but be sure to see the lighthouse and Lake Dora, too. Visit the Modernism Museum and the Donnelly House before taking a stroll through Palm Island Park.

Mt. Dora looks pretty small so you may be able too visit Wekiva Springs State Park on your way to or from Orlando. That would make a great combo day trip from Orlando.

Cedar Key

Cedar Key florida
Cedar Key is a great Old Florida day trip from Orlando

Distance from Orlando

Cedar Key is just under 2.5 hours from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because it’s Old Florida and very cute

What not to miss

First, take a walk through the small but cute downtown. Visit Opal & Iris for your witchy art, the coffee shop next door, the art co-op, and some other shops.

Have lunch at Steamers (the blackened grouper is my go-to) and take a walk down the pier. Rent some kayaks if you’re feeling adventurous and visit a nearby island.

Finally, head out to the scenic drive of the Lower Swuanee National Wildlife Refuge. Do the drive, hike the shell mound trail, and maybe do the Railroad Trestle Nature Trail. You could also visit the Cedar Key Scrub State Park.

New Smyrna Beach

Distance from Orlando

New Smyrna Beach is about an hour from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because it has a little bit of beach, a little bit of hiking, good food, and a lighthouse!

What not to miss

Of course there is plenty of beach to choose from here, so that’s a must, but there are a lot of other cool things to do in New Smyrna Beach, too.

Visit the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, hike at Doris Leeper, visit Smyrna Dunes Park, see dinosaurs at the Dunlawton Sugar Mill Garden, and check out the Callalisa Creek Boardwalk.

Ocala National Forest

Ocala National Forest is an outdoor lover’s paradise

Distance from Orlando

It’s almost 1.5 hours from Orlando to Silver Glen Spring in Ocala National Forest. Times will vary depending on where you go.

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because it’s beautiful! There are tons of trails and springs around here. And bears!

What not to miss

If you want a real Florida adventure and aren’t a 100% beginner, consider paddling the Juniper Springs Run. This is a most of the day thing. If that’s not for you (I get that) there’s more!

You can visit Silver Springs State Park, Silver Glen Springs (I liked it here), Alexander Springs, Salt Springs, and so much more. If you have time, you could also visit the town of Ocala, but the forest should keep you plenty busy.


Micanopy is the CUTEST little day trip from Orlando

Distance from Orlando

Micanopy is 1.5 hours from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because Micanopy is the cutest little town EVER. I’m obsessed, I love it so much. Like, I would live here. At least for a little while or part of the year. This is the ultimate Old Florida day trip from Orlando.

What not to miss

Micanopy has a bunch of antique stores which can be fun too browse. Keep an eye out for Florida Highwaymen paintings. The downtown is small but the shops are cute. They aren’t all antiques.

Be sure to stop into the Mosswood Farmstore for coffee and treats after getting a BLT and the best key lime pie ever from Old Florida Cafe.

If you want to hike while you’re here, there are a few options. First there is the Tuscawilla Trail. This is a nice easy and short woodsy trail with cool mushrooms.

Then there is Paynes Prairie State Park. You can hike to an observation tower on a short trail and take some longer ones through the woods. Be sure to stop at the Lake Waubrg viewing area, too.

If you like history, the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park is a great stop nearby, too. Follow these up with dinner at The Yearling restaurant.

The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve

Photo by Chad Sparkes Flickr

Distance from Orlando

The Disney Wilderness Preserve is an hour from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

It’s a great lesser-known place too hike on a day trip from Orlando. I didn’t even know about this until recently but really want to go.

What not to miss

There are three hiking trails here. One is half-a-mile round-trip, one is 2.5 miles, and the other is six miles. There is also a 1.5 mile drive into the preserve.

Lake Kissimmee State Park

Photo by mbarrison Flickr

Distance from Orlando

Lake Kissimmee State Park is almost two hours from Orlando

Why it’s the perfect Orlando day trip

Because armadillos, apparently. And birds.

What not to miss

Lake Kissimmee State Park is a great state park for birding and fishing. There are Geocaches in the park and 13 miles of hiking trails. There is even a paddle trail in the park for experienced paddlers.

I haven’t been here yet either but it looks beautiful and I’d really love to see more of this area! You can camp here, too, and even go glamping if that’s your thing!

Florida posts you may also enjoy:

Have you been to Orlando? What is your favorite thing to do there? What is your favorite Orlando day trip? Have you been to any of these places? Which ones?

4 thoughts on “19 Perfect Day Trips From Orlando For Nature Lovers

  1. This guide to Orlando is incredibly helpful. You’ve really thought through everything you need to know before planning a trip. Thank you for this helpful resource. Saving this guide for later!

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so glad ou found it helpful and hope you get to visit soon 🙂

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