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Digital Subscriptions > Lonely Planet Traveller (UK) > September 2016 > Great Escape

Great Escape

Embrace Cuban culture in Miami, before delving into the Everglades, where panthers and black bears roam; next, drive south past sandbars and turquoise lagoons to the state’s capital of rum-based fun Key West, recharge in the beach paradise of Sanibel Island, before finishing in the manatee-rich waters of Citrus County.
The Green Parrot Bar marks the end of US Highway 1 in Key West, the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys

Plan your trip

1 Begin in Miami with a trip to Little Havana to celebrate the city’s Cuban culture with cigars and salsa (p50).

2 Take a knee-deep walk into the Everglades swamplands, one of the world’s most ecologically-diverse forests (p52).

3Key West is a non-stop party in the south of Florida, but it’s also a prime spot to fuel up on Caribbean food and a drop of rum (p54).

MAP ILLUSTRATION: ALEX VERHILLE. PHOTOGRAPHS: AXIOM PHOTOGRAPHIC/GETTY, AMY ECKERT/GETTY, ALEX MUSTARD/NATURE PICTURE LIBRARY/ALAMY, ULLIMI/ISTOCK/GETTY

4 Fiery-hot sunshine, pale sand and swaying royal palms – life slows down on the Gulf Coast’s Sanibel Island (p56).

5 The towns of Citrus County are home to freshwater springs and endangered manatees – the backdrop for the ultimate kayaking adventure (p58).

HOW TO GET THERE

In southern Florida all roads lead to Miami, making it the most useful entry point for this trip. BA and Virgin Atlantic fly daily from London Heathrow, while Thomas Cook flies from Manchester (from £340; thomascookairlines.com), while other airlines including American, Delta and United fly via other hub airports. Prior to travelling to the US under the Visa Waiver Program, most British travellers must complete an ESTA travel authorisation (£11; esta.cbp.dhs.gov).

HOW TO GET AROUND

Our suggestion for this itinerary is to hire cars at Miami International Airport and also at Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, near Sanibel Island (from £30 per day; hertz.com). Start by driving southwest from Miami via the Everglades to Key West, before taking a short 50-minute flight to the Gulf Coast to complete the second leg of the trip from Sanibel Island north to Citrus County. A number of carriers fly between between Key West and Fort Myers, including Silver Airways (from £60 one way; silverairways.com). The trip outlined here involves no backtracking; sticking behind the wheel instead would ensure a 700-plus mile cross-state road trip.

HOW LONG TO SPEND

With paradise beaches, bountiful nature and buzzing beach bars to explore, Florida is to be savoured slowly. It’s possible to complete this route in just 10 days, but given the long flight from the UK, a fortnight’s trip will be far more rewarding. Nature lovers will want to add an extra day or two in the Everglades and Citrus County, while bar hounds could end up frequenting the same rum joint in Key West for a week.

WHAT TO BUDGET

The US is a great country to visit for budget-conscious travellers. Petrol is dirt-cheap, food comes in mammoth portions and is easy on the wallet, and national parks like the Everglades charge a bargain one-off fee for a seven-day visit. The real cost comes from hotels, with rooms at three-star boutiques costing from £75 per night in low season – add £40–50 to that in autumn and winter. For £75–100 a day, it’s possible to eat at only the best restaurants, drink in the hippest cocktail bars and hire well-chosen, informed guides for excursions and boat trips. Factor in around an extra £20 a day for tipping.

WHEN TO GO

Peak season in the Sunshine State is from March to August, when the sun guarantees a golden tan and temperatures can get fiendishly hot in the high 30s. Summer also coincides with the wet season from July to September, when heavy tropical storms hit the coast – the same time as Orlando’s theme parks peak with families beelining from across the US and Europe. The cooler low season runs from October to December and is the best time to spot manatees in the warm shallows of the southwest coast.

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About Lonely Planet Traveller (UK)

Soak up the brilliance of the Sunshine State on a Great Escape to Florida, discover a little-known corner of Italy, dip in to Seville’s southern charms on a weekend break, have thrilling wildlife encounters on a self-drive adventure in Zambia, enjoy unique travel experiences on a modest budget, and much more
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